Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Gadgets

RedMagic Gaming Keyboard and Mouse review: An impressive debut


You might be familiar with RedMagic as a brand that makes some of the fastest gaming phones on the market, but it’s not a brand that comes to mind when you’re shopping for a keyboard and mouse.


RedMagic is working to change that, with the introduction of its first-ever PC peripherals, along with a 4K gaming monitor, which looks like a bit of a stunner in its own right.

It’s the keyboard and mouse that we’re focusing on today, though, and they have all the flair and high-end specifications that you’d expect from a RedMagic product.

RedMagic Gaming Keyboard

RedMagic

Redmagic Mechanical Keyboard (GK001J)

RedMagic’s first-ever mechanical keyboard is an impressive one, with lubed switches, a gasket structure, tri-mode connectivity and a unique compact layout. Its software needs some work to make it truly shine, though.

Pros

  • Great aesthetics
  • Satisfying sound and feel for typing
  • Versatile connectivity options
  • Useful mini display
  • Good battery life
Cons

  • Unusual layout
  • Software needs work
  • RGB lighting could be improved

Design

  • Compact 100-key layout
  • Translucent PBT keycaps with contrasting faces
  • Programmable RGB backlighting

The RedMagic Mechanical Gaming Keyboard has a sci-fi cyberpunk look, with transparent elements, just like you’d find on one of the brand’s high-end gaming phones. It’s mostly constructed from plastic, but there’s a brushed aluminium top plate, as well as aluminium panels on each side.

RedMagic Gaming Keyboard GK001J (23)

It’s reassuringly weighty, as most mechanical keyboards are, and there’s very little lateral flex to the deck. The keyboard has 100 keys, including a full numpad, but it’s a compact layout with minimal spacing between the arrow keys and the modifiers. This means some of the keys are non-standard, such as the smaller right-hand shift key and the fact that there’s only a single Windows key.

The idea is that you get almost all the functionality of a full-sized keyboard, but it takes up less desk space, so there’s more room for mouse movement. There are some compromises with this design, which I’ll get into later, but fewer than you’d find working with a 60 per cent deck, so it all depends on which keys you use most frequently.

The keys themselves have a PBT top layer with tinted transparent sidewalls (probably ABS) which allow the backlighting to shine through. The legends are printed, rather than being etched, so the backlighting is purely for aesthetic purposes and is unlikely to help much with typing in the dark – though I’d suspect most people who are looking to buy a keyboard in this price bracket are comfortable enough with touch typing.

RedMagic Gaming Keyboard GK001J (22)

Of course, this backlighting is RGB, and it offers per-key customisation as well as animated lighting effects. It looks decent, but it’s far from the most impressive lighting that I’ve come across. A combination of the dark tint of the keycap sidewalls, and the lack of diffusion, means that the brightness output isn’t the most impressive and the light is concentrated around the actual LED units, rather than being dispersed evenly around the keys.

The keyboard has two levels of height adjustability, using flip-out feet on the underside. There’s nothing unusual to report about its height or incline, it’s very comparable to my daily driver Ducky One 3, and most other mechanical boards. There’s no included wrist rest, but the height matches perfectly with the Cooler Master pad that I tend to use across all of my keyboards, so comfort was no issue. I’d definitely recommend looking into something similar if you’ll be using the keyboard for long stretches, though.

Features and software

  • RedMagic Cloud PC software
  • 1.47-inch control screen and smart knob
  • Wired, 2.4G and Bluetooth connectivity

The RedMagic Gaming Keyboard offers tri-mode connectivity, which means it can be plugged in with a USB-C cable, connect over Bluetooth, or with its included 2.4G dongle. I mainly used the keyboard with my gaming PC, and primarily with the 2.4G wireless dongle, but the inclusion of Bluetooth means that it’s easy to set up with a phone, tablet, or laptop with limited ports. It’s a very flexible design and I had no issues connecting to a variety of devices with each method.

RedMagic Gaming Keyboard GK001J (11)

There’s a switch on the rear to choose between wireless and wired connectivity, and when in wireless mode, a combination of the FN key and 1, 2, 3 and 4 allows you to quickly switch between up to 3 Bluetooth devices, with the number 4 always being the 2.4G dongle.

If you prefer a wired connection, the RedMagic Gaming Keyboard comes with a very nice coiled and braided USB-C cable in the box. This is the first time I’ve come across a coiled cable being the default option. These types of cables are popular with mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, but they’re normally purchased as an aftermarket upgrade – it’s a very nice touch to see it included in the box.

One of the standout features of this keyboard is its 1.47-inch colour display, positioned at the top-right above the numpad. It’s effectively the next step up from the classic Steelseries monochrome OLED. To the right of the display, there’s a knob that allows you to access the menu and various functions of the tiny display. You twist it to scroll through options and click it in to select. It can also be remapped in the RedMagic Cloud Driver software for PC and Mac.

RedMagic Gaming Keyboard GK001J (17)

By default, the display shows a static image until you click in the control knob. Then, you’ll see a menu system with your connection mode and current battery percentage at the top right. The menu allows you to access volume control, performance data, numerous RGB lighting settings, menu language options and change whether the display shows an image or boots straight into the menu.

The display is a cool touch, but at present, its functionality is quite limited. The lighting effects are quicker to access with the keyboard shortcuts (FN + INS changes lighting mode, for example) and having to choose the volume option before being able to change volume is an extra step that’s a little frustrating. It seems like you should be able to change the knob’s primary function using the desktop RedMagic software, but mine just seems to revert back to its default mapping after a few minutes. This might be a firmware bug that can be addressed in the future, but temper your expectations for now.

The performance monitor is probably my favourite mode – it works via wired connection or 2.4G, but not with Bluetooth as far, as I can tell. The most useful metric, for my needs, is the FPS counter, but you can also access things like CPU frequency and temperature in here. In my testing, the only options that were working properly were CPU frequency, FPS and current memory usage, and I’ve seen similar reports from other users, so this feature definitely needs some work.

RedMagic Gaming Keyboard GK001J (19)

The same can be said for the RedMagic Cloud Driver software as a whole. It works as expected, for the most part, but there are numerous instances of non-translated Chinese text appearing in drop-down menus and as pop-up dialogue boxes, which can make it difficult to understand what’s going on. It definitely needs a bit of polish, and some features, such as per-key lighting control, just didn’t seem to work for me, in its current state.

Performance

  • TTC Speed Silver V2 switches
  • Hot-swap design and gasket structure
  • 4000 mAh integrated battery

While the software could use some tweaking, RedMagic has nailed the hardware. The RedMagic Gaming Keyboard feels amazing to type on, and it sounds wonderful, too.

RedMagic Gaming Keyboard GK001J (3)

This is thanks to the use of TTC Speed Silver V2 switches, with pre-lubricated stems and stabilisers, along with its gasket structure design. The result is smooth predictable keystrokes with a distinct ‘thock’ sound. It’s delightful to use.

As the name suggests, the speed silver switches have a very quick actuation and only require a light push, making them feel nimble and responsive for competitive gameplay. It can take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re coming from a more traditional tactile switch, but I think they’re a great option for gaming.

The aspect I found the most difficult to adapt to was the layout. As I mentioned up top, it’s a compact space-saving design, and that means that some of the keys aren’t where you’d expect them to be. The biggest offender is the delete key, which is pushed up to be in line with the function row. In its place, you’ll find the end key, and that meant that I was frequently hitting end instead of delete while touch typing, which was extremely frustrating.

RedMagic Gaming Keyboard GK001J (7)

Thankfully, this is easily solved with the RedMagic software, I never use the end key, so I just remapped it to be an additional delete key and that went a long way to fixing my layout gripes. After that, it was just the arrow keys that took some getting used to, as they’re squished in, mostly underneath the enter key. It’s challenging for a couple of hours, but I was able to adjust quickly enough. Personally, though, I’d have preferred a full-size or TKL design rather than this non-standard layout.

RedMagic Gaming Mouse

  • PixArt PAW3395 sensor
  • GM 8.0 Black Mamba Micro Switches
  • Tri-mode connectivity, 450MAh battery

I’ve mainly focused on the keyboard for this review, as I feel it has the most interesting design and feature set, but RedMagic also offers a gaming mouse, which is sold separately for $99.

RedMagic Gaming Mouse (6)

The mouse has a similar aesthetic to the keyboard, it’s mostly made from glossy dark-tinted transparent plastic and it has an intricate sci-fi skeleton underneath. The left and right mouse button contrast in an opaque matte black finish, and the scroll wheel has a black rubberised coating. The are three RGB lighting zones, one positioned behind each mouse button, and a central RedMagic logo on the rear.

I wish that the tint of the transparent areas wasn’t so dark, as at a glance it just looks like a glossy black mouse, especially in dim lighting. I can tell how much work went into designing the interior panelling, but you can barely see it through the outer shell and that’s a great shame.

RedMagic Gaming Mouse (2)

It offers tri-mode connectivity, just like the keyboard, and it’s compatible with the same desktop software. Within the software, you can set macros, adjust the polling rate, DPI and lift-off distance as well as tweak the lighting settings. At present, the lighting settings are all in Chinese, so I’m not sure what they’re supposed to do. I was able to change the colour, but otherwise, the lighting seemed to be always on when the mouse was static, and off when in use, no matter which option I chose.

Aside from the software niggles, the mouse performs excellently. It packs the esteemed PixArt PAW3395 sensor and weighs just 75g, which makes it perfect for lacing flick shots in CS:GO. The PTFE skates are extremely quick, and there’s a spare set included in the box for when they wear out, along with some optional adhesive grips.

RedMagic Gaming Mouse (5)

It has the classic medium-sized mostly symmetrical shape, and claw-grip FPS players will feel right at home using. There are the usual mappable side buttons on the left-hand side, but no buttons on the right, so even though it’s symmetrical, left-handers will probably want to swerve this one.

Verdict

RedMagic’s first foray into the PC peripheral space is an impressive one, and the keyboard in particular goes above and beyond what we’d expect from a brand so new to the area. The sound and feel of this board are exceptionally premium, the tri-mode connectivity makes it extremely versatile and the inclusion of novel features like a coiled cable and colour display only serve to increase its appeal.

It’s not perfect, unfortunately, and my main gripes stem from the software, which really needs some polish. There’s no reason to have untranslated text elements in the software when the product has been available at retail for months, and I really hope that RedMagic addresses this promptly. I also found the compact layout challenging to adapt to, so you’ll have to consider if you’re willing to put in the effort required.

The RedMagic Gaming Mouse is another excellent performer, but I don’t feel that it does much to stand out from its ocean of competitors, and the same software gripes make it hard to recommend over the competition. Still, it’s a solid product, especially for a first attempt, and it has me excited about what RedMagic will bring to the PC market next.



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