The Epomaker SK61 is a budget-friendly mechanical keyboard that uses optical switches that are super smooth, has PBT keycaps, and RGB lighting.
For those who are new to mechanical keyboards, this is a great option to consider because being hot-swappable allows you to change up the switches without desoldering and soldering.
The optical switches also reduce latency and gives you an advantage if you’re a gamer as well.
You can see how the SK61 compares to other awesome 60% keyboards in this post.
The Verdict of the Epomaker SK61
The Epomaker SK61, which is also available on Amazon here, is a budget-friendly 60% mechanical keyboard that uses optical switches. It is available in three colorways with RGB lighting and will fit your desk setup quite nicely.
It competes with well-known optical boards such as the GK61. There are many benefits to the Epomaker SK61, and we’ll discuss that in this review.
Despite it being a budget-friendly keyboard at around $65, you can modify the keyboard to feel and sound much better.
What’s In The Box?
The Epomaker SK61 comes in a box with several accessories to improve your quality of life when it comes to using this keyboard.
Plastic Keycap Puller
The plastic keycap puller is standard. It’s not recommended to change your keycaps using this style of keycap puller because you can damage the outside of your keycaps very easily.
Using a wire keycap puller is much safe for your keycaps and their durability. A good one can be found here on Amazon for an affordable price.
Metal Switch Puller
The metal switch puller is also pretty standard. It is quite large and may be hard to maneuver between switches when you’re trying to replace them. However, in a situation where it’s all that you have, it will work.
Using a more cushioned and larger keycap puller such as this one from Amazon will save your fingers if you’re replacing all of the switches.
Mac Compatible Keycaps
You also get three additional keycaps for Mac: Command, Option, and Control. This mechanical keyboard is compatible with Mac and Windows.
I’m not an experienced Mac user, but I think that only having one of each keycap may not be enough to change your entire bottom row to appear appropriate for Mac.
Braided USB-C cable
The braided USB-C cable is silver and quite stylish. It has accented port coverings that are silver as well. Compared to other mechanical keyboards, this is probably the most stylish cable we have ever encountered.
Build Quality: Sturdy But Hollow
The overall build quality of the Epomaker SK61 is quite nice, but there a few issues we found. Let’s take a closer look at what this keyboard does right and where it misses the mark.
Sturdy and Solid
Overall, the keyboard feels very solid and rigid, which is definitely a good thing. You pick it up and try to twist it and it does not budge, very impressive.
The case is made out of a thick plastic and has a metal plate on the inside that the switches are mounted to. This keyboard is built like a tank, even without a metal case.
Due to the height of the keyboard and the optical switches, there is a lot of empty space within the case. When typing, this allows a lot of reverb and echo from the bottom-out sounds of the switch.
It produces an unpleasant sound. However, this can be fixed by putting a layer of foam within the case to reduce the amount of space available for sound waves to move.
The keyboard is stuck at the angle that it is at because there are no adjustable kickstands on the back. The original angle is not bad, but this limits the amount of customization for different people.
The Epomaker SK61 comes with a host of different features that we found to be quite impressive. We’ll break down each part and go into detail.
The Epomaker SK61 comes with several pre-programmed RGB effects onto the board itself. You can also download their software to edit the effects as well to suit your needs.
To change the lighting effect, you press FN and right bracket or FN and backslash. To change the speed of the effect, it’s FN and semi-colon or apostrophe. For brightness changes, it’s FN and p or left bracket.
Some of the effects are listed below:
- Spectrum cycling
- Rainbow wave
- Circular wave
- Green static lighting with arrows in red
- Reactive single key
- Reactive row
- Reactive wave
- Reactive spectrum
Full N-Key Rollover
The SK61 has full N-key rollover and 100% anti-ghosting. Press as many keys as you want at once, and the keyboard will register them all.
The PCB (printed circuit board) is made in a way that makes it waterproof. You can spill some water or soda on your keyboard without worrying that it’ll be dead.
It is not recommended to submerge your keyboard just to test this feature.
There are three programmable layers on this keyboard that you can change to recorded macros or different key combinations and functions.
Inside the manual, it says that to access these different layers you can hit FN and W/E/R. To edit these layers easily, download the associated software with Epomaker that also allows you to edit the RGB lighting profile.
Having programmable layers is extremely convenient on such a small keyboard because it allows you to have all of the functions that a full-sized keyboard may have and more.
Three Different Colorways
The SK61 is available in three different colors. We have the one in white and light grey. There is another one in dark and light gray, and the third one is pink and white.
All can be seen on the Epomaker product page. They all also have a different accent color for the Escape key.
The Switches: Gateron Optical Hot-swappable
The Epomaker SK61 comes with Gateron optical switches that are also hot-swappable. Usually you only get to pick one, hot-swappable or optical, but with this keyboard, you get both.
Optical switches tend to be extremely smooth. The Gateron Optical Black switches in our keyboard were extremely smooth. The spring force is not as much as Cherry MX Blacks, which makes them mildly strong.
There are many benefits to using optical switches, and one reason is latency. Optical switches actuate via light. When you press on the key, the switch will move and obstruct the light. Thus, they have a more reliable and consistent latency.
Another benefit is being water resistant. Optical switches do not have electrical parts in them that will become damaged when exposed to moisture.
For gamers, optical switches are useful to react the fastest. Optical switches, however, are not as common as mechanical switches. At least not when it comes to variety.
If you pick optical, there are less than a handful of companies that you can purchase optical switches from, including Gateron and Keychron. When it comes to mechanical switches, there are way too many to even list (Cherry, Kailh, Gateron, NK, ZealPC, etc).
Having hot-swappable sockets is extremely nice, though, because you can change switches without desoldering and soldering.
The great thing about optical switches is that there is no misalignment of the pins because there are no pins. You just pop them back in.
The SK61 comes with 3 different Gateron optical switch options: red, brown, and black. Red and black are both linear, with black being slightly heavier. Brown is a tactile switch.
For more information on how to replace hot-swappable switches, see this guide. Keep in mind that optical switches do not have pins in the bottom.
The Stabilizers: A Bit Loud
The stabilizers are Cherry-style stabilizers that come pre-lubed from the factory. They are very loud, but they are not rattly.
This is probably because of the same reason that the switches sound so loud. There is a loud of space underneath the bigger keys around the stabilizers, which makes them sound louder.
The keyboard has a big of echo to it when typing, which is more due to the structure, but that has a big impact on the stabilizer feel and sound.
The Keycaps: Thick PBT Plastic
The keycaps on the SK61 are a thick PBT plastic, which is oil-resistant and durable over time.
The walls are approximately 1.5mm thick. The profile is GSA, which is unique to Epomaker. This is similar to XDA.
The keycaps are a uniform profile, which means they do not vary from row to row. Each keycap is similar to the next one. At the top, there is some concavity for your fingertips to sit on. However, if you’re not used to a uniform layout, it may take some time to get used to.
For more information of different keycap profiles and materials, see this guide we wrote here.
The keycap legends are thermally sublimated, which will avoid rubbing off and wear over time. The dye is within the plastic itself.
The legends are extremely easy to read with the high contrast and large font.
It is also a standard layout, so replacing the keycaps shouldn’t be too hard. Almost all keycap sets will fit this layout.
A downside to the keycaps is there are no sublegends for things such as the arrow keys, function row, and navigational functions.
While looking clean and being easy to use with other keyboards, this means that you would have to memorize the functions that you use most often and then refer back to the manual for functions that you don’t use often.
For an affordable keycap set that has shine-through and double-shot PBT, we recommend the Drop Skylight keycaps available here.
Other Great Options from Epomaker
Along with the SK61, there are many other options that Epomaker offers at different price points.
Epomaker SK61 ABS
The SK61 ABS is slightly cheaper at $59, but it has ABS keycaps instead of PBT keycaps. A benefit of this, however, is that the legends are shine-through, and there are sub-legends on the keycaps themselves.
The ABS keycaps are less resistant to oils, but they are in an OEM profile, which is sculpted and vary from row to row, making finding where you keys are a little easier than on a uniform profile.
For $10 more than the SK61, the SK61S comes with Bluetooth 5.1. It can connect with up to three devices and change between them extremely easily.
This keyboard has all of the same features as the SK61 other than that.
The SK64S has 3 more keys than the SK61 and has Bluetooth 5.1
The primary different is that it has dedicated arrow keys. However, the right shift is much smaller than on a regular layout.
For such a budget-friendly mechanical keyboard, the Epomaker SK61 has a ton of features and serves as a great entry-way into mechanical keyboards.
Upgrading the entire feel of this keyboard just requires some elbow grease in putting foam inside the case, modding the stabilizers, lubing the switches, and changing the keycaps to your liking.
For more hotswappable mechanical keyboards and our recommendations, see this list of the best hotswap keyboards.
For additional reading on mechanical keyboards, we recommend the following articles:
- Linear vs clicky vs tactile switches
- Gateron switch guide
- Best Budget 60% mechanical keyboards under $50
We did get this product as a sample to review, but our opinions about the board are our own. We did not get any monetary compensation to write this review.