A Premium Mechanical Option Under $100
A gaming keyboard with Kailh Blue switches and RGB lighting
In the past year or two we have seen a number of sub-$100 mechanical gaming keyboards on the market, and several of these have passed through our hands here at the PC Perspective offices. The latest of these to garner our attention is the ZALMAN ZM-K900M, a premium gaming design featuring RGB lighting effects and Kailh Blue key switches, along with a 1000 Hz polling rate and full N-key rollover. It currently retails for $89.99, though it can be found for as little as $79.99 (currently, at least) with a little googling. How impressive is it in person? Read on to find out!
The ZM-K900M offers a variety of RGB effects
The ZM-K900M certainly checks the right boxes as a gaming keyboard, with the above-mentioned 1000 Hz polling rate (which ZALMAN calls 'Z-Engine') and customizable RGB lighting, supports simulanious key presses for the full 104 keys, and offers programmable macro keys. All of the keyboard features are controlled via hot keys on the ZM-K900M itself, eliminating the need for software.
“The ZM-K900M requires no software installation and is universally compatible with any operating system. The macros automatically remember the time interval between the inputs and run exactly as you typed. The keyboard stores the data inside the keyboard so you can instantly run your macros on any computer.”
Features and specifications from ZALMAN:
- Simple and minimal design
- Equipped with Z-Engine
- Supports USB and PS/2 connection
- Intelligent hardware macro with option to add mouse clicks
- Multimedia hotkeys
- 4-stage macro speed adjustment
- 6-key and N-Key rollover
- Option to lock Windows key or entire keyboard
- High quality laser-etched keycaps
- Model: ZM-K900M
- Keyboard Layout: 104-key
- Key Switch: Kailh Blue mechanical key switch
- Keyboard Matrix: USB & PS/2 N key rollover (anti-ghost function)
- Key cap type: Step Sculpture 2
- Interface: USB
- Cable length: 5.6 ft
- Dimensions: 17.32 x 5.51 x 1.34 inches, 2.75 lbs
- ZALMAN ZM-K900M Keyboard: $89.99 – Amazon.com
The keyboard arrives in a colorful box (it's an RGB keyboard, so this is only fitting) and inside the box the keyboard was well protected and accompanied by a USB to PS/2 adapter and a paper manual.
And now a look at the keyboard itself:
The ZM-K900M is all plastic, but it felt quite solid and had minimal flex and no audible creaking when twisting it with both hands.
The underside of the keyboard has soft rubber pads to keep it firmly in place on your desk or table, and the pop-out rubber feet are capped with the same soft material.
The cord is just about 5 1/2 feet long, and while terminated in a USB port a PS/2 adapter comes with the ZM-K900M in case you prefer (or need) that connection.
While everyone has their own preference when it comes to mechanical key switches (and ZALMAN offers versions of this keyboard with blue, black, brown, and red), it is the blue variety of switch that our review unit arrived with, and I must admit I enjoyed them a lot more than I was expecting to. The key caps themselves felt very good, and the action of the keys was very smooth and quite solid. It has a premium feel, with each keypress devoid of any loose or unsteady feeling you might find with some of some ultra-budget designs out there. While $89.99 is still a lot for many people (though really not for a mechanical keyboard), the quality of this ZALMAN design is apparent with use, and I was very impressed with it after exclusively typing on it for a few days.
The key caps are laser-etched and have a solid feel
Most of the keyboards I encounter have the ever-popular brown switches (be it Cherry MX, Kailh, or other), and brown switches offer a pretty balanced experience. What I've been missing (not using blue switches) is a delightfully clicky, tactile typing experience. And while I would never use this keyboard at night in the same room as a sleeping spouse or child, there is an intoxicating quality to the feedback and sound of such keys, and these Kailh Blue switches won me over.
ZALMAN calls this key incline 'Step Sculpture 2'
The special functions of the keyboard worked properly, and while I didn't get really into macro programming I experimented with several RGB patterns and effects (I settled on a color wave effect with 'Key Touch' to illuminate the pressed key). The intensity of the key backlighting is also adjustable, and for those who don't like RGB lighting there is the option of setting the keys to a single color of your choice – or disabling the backlight entirely.
In closing, gaming-oriented features such as a fast polling rate, N-key rollover, and even PS/2-only 4-speed key repeat-rate adjustment are great to have at your disposal, but it was the overall experience using this keyboard that convinced me that this should absolutely be considered if you are looking for a mechanical option and can spend $80-90. The ZALMAN ZM-K900M features solid construction, many impressive features, and an excellent, tactile typing experience from the Kailh Blue key switches. The lack of any software means the keyboard works equally well with any operating system, though cycling through the various options is always a little more involved without software. We can't have everything, of course.