File this one under “Didn’t see that coming.” Biostar announced the GK3, its first mechanical keyboard--that part was expected after the company rolled out its first gaming mouse back in September--but the surprise is that the keyboard uses Outemu Blue switches.
It’s likely that many outside of the keyboard enthusiast community have never heard of Outemu switches. Like Kailh switches, Outemu switches are Cherry clones, and indeed, they often have compatible keycaps. However, there are some key differences, most notably in the top of the switch housing. Outemu LED switches have a clear top, which ostensibly means that they’ll work with backlighting.
We have not yet tested any Outemu switches ourselves, and the keyboard community seems a bit mixed on their quality. What we do know is that they are less expensive than Cherry switches. You can see that in the price listings on Mechanical Keyboards here and here.
Keeping Costs Down
The second data point about the Biostar GK3 that may cause you a double take is the price: $45. For a mechanical keyboard with multicolor lighting (it does not appear to be full RGB--likely one color per row only), that’s absurdly low.
So how is Biostar able to sell these things so inexpensively? This is purely speculation, but we would guess that there are two possible reasons (and maybe both are at play): First, the company may be selling them at a loss, for now, in an attempt to gain a foothold in an incredibly crowded keyboard market.
The second possible reason is that Biostar may be skimping on QA. Most well-known keyboard companies perform quality assurance tests on the switches they acquire before they stick them on their keyboards. One company told me, in fact, that QA is about one-third of its total manufacturing costs.
There are other “cheap” mechanical keyboards out there that are similarly inexpensive. Many of them are equipped with Outemu switches, too. On one Lingbao keyboard we evaluated, we found chatter on about 20% of all of the switches.
And All The Rest
The GK3 has a Corsair-ish aluminum top panel design, with the switch housings mostly exposed. Biostar said in its press release that the GK3 has seven backlight modes as well as “pre-defined lighting styles for popular titles such as COD, LOL or other similar games.” Oddly, the release mentions that the keycaps are Alps- rather than Cherry MX-compatible.
Another surprising feature is waterproofing--or perhaps more accurately, “sort of” waterproofing. Biostar stated that the keyboard has drain holes to route spilled liquid away from core components and that the electronics on the underside of the PCB has “a special waterproof coating.”
It does not appear that the GK3 is available yet; indeed, it’s not even listed on Biostar’s site at press time.
|Type||Full size, 104-key|
|Switches||Outemu Blue-Actuation: 2mm (+/-0.3mm)-Full Travel: 4mm-Actuation Force: 50gf (+/-5gf)-Peak force: 60gf (+/- 5gf)-50 million click lifetime|
|Lighting||-6-color-Effects/Modes: Starlight, Wave, Breathing, Ripple, Static, Single, Adjustable|
|Material||Aluminum (top plate)|
|Dimensions||459.5 x 204.25 x 36.8 mm|
|Weight||1,139g (+/- 10g)|