Poker II Review
Hello everyone. Welcome to another Rhinofeed review! Today we're going to be looking at the KBC Poker II, the revised version of the ever-so-popular Poker keyboard.
Included in the box is the following: a wire-type keypuller, a USB cable, a 4-page (non-English) manual, the keyboard itself, and last but not least, thick PBT RGB mods! You can find a English version of the manual here. (Thanks Marin, on the Geekhack forum, for posting the English PDF file)
As always, we'll start with the switches. This particular keyboard uses Cherry MX Reds. Because I type fast and I've used Reds enough to know where they actuate even though they are linear, I find that they are great for both typing and gaming. You may prefer the tactile bump found on the Browns and Blues. Cherry MX Blacks, Blues, Browns, and Reds are all available on this keyboard.
The Poker II uses a English 61-key ANSI layout, but don't worry, you will not lose any functionality even though the layout is smaller. You'll find all of the missing keys available on an extra function layer, with labels for each function printed on the side of each keycap. It can take a little bit of getting used to, but after about a week or two you should become proficient enough to not lose time accessing these functions.
Other than your standard F1-F12, Home, End, PrtSc... etc, you'll also find a dedicated calculator key, volume up and volume down keys, and mute buttons. Also, the Program key has taken place of your context menu key, which is now available by pressing "FN" + "X".
Did I mention this is a very compact keyboard? The dimensions are 11.61 x 4.01 x 1.49 in. (29.5 x 10.2 x 3.8 cm.). I'm going to bring this along with me anywhere I go.
This particular model includes thick PBT keycaps with no backlighting. The printing method is laser-engraving with infill. The infill color is not white like you would expect, but a light tan color. There is another model that includes backlighting, but it uses UV coated ABS keycaps. However, if you would like backlighting on the PBT model, and you are a little bit handy, you can simply purchase LEDs and solder them in! There are 7 levels of brightness if you have LEDs on your keyboard.
Folks complain about the font choice: Bank Gothic. Also found on the Das Keyboard, Bank Gothic is a "rectilinear geometric sans-serif." Personally I really like the font choice — it blends capitalization and bold quite well. Plus, small caps. How can you not like small caps?
While I haven't owned an original Poker to make a comparison, I believe KBC has really improved the build quality of the Poker II. They now include a dual-layer PCB, which is great, but the biggest improvement is the now-included plate! The typing experience is, therefore, extremely solid, especially with the thick PBT keycaps. You can listen to my sound test below to get an idea of how solid this thing is.
The cable is removable, but does not have gold-plated connectors. It is 1.5 meters long, and it has a standard mini USB B connector, so it can be easily replaced with your own custom cable!
There are also four dip switches on the underside of the keyboard which change key layouts and functions. There are no dip switches to swap the Left CTRL key with the Caps lock key. You can do this in programming mode, but you will have to permanently enable the programmed layer other-wise the extra key press defeats the purpose of swapping them. Therefore, I found it more effective to do this through software.
- DIP 1 swaps Caps lock with Windows Key - DIP 2 swaps Right CTRL key with ' and tilde ~ - DIP 3 makes Left Windows key Left FN key (no Windows key, two function keys) - DIP 4 locks programming
Speaking of programming, I know many of you are really interested to see how it works. You can find all of this information in the manual, but I'll write it here for easy reference.
- Press PMode (FN + Right CTRL) to enter the programming > mode (Spacebar right LED flashing)
- Press the key you want to program (Spacebar right LED on)
- Key in the programming content and then press PN (Spacebar right LED flashing again)
- Repeat step 2 and step 3 to program other keys
- Press PMode(FN + Right CTRL) to exit programming mode (Spacebar right LED off)
After you've programmed the key you want, you can simply press Pn + the key to use that new programmed function. Everything is saved in the keyboard's onboard memory, so you don't have to worry about special driver software if you move the keyboard from system to system.
Personally, I think the functionality of this programming layer is very limited. There is a 14 character limit in programming mode, so you can only execute very basic commands. For instance, I wanted to create a shortcut to automatically open up Team Fortress 2 by pressing Pn + T. To do this, I wanted the Poker II to automatically press Win + R for me (to open up the Run dialog box), enter "steam://rungameid/440", and then press Enter. This would open up TF2. Unfortunately, because of the character limit this was not possible.
On the plus side, you can switch your keyboard around to support Colmak or Dvorak if you like to use those layouts. You can permanently enable the programmed layer so that you don't have to hold down the Pn key while typing. To do this, you just press Fn + Right Shift. A LED will light up on the left side of the spacebar.
One thing to note is it keeps the secondary shift layer along with the key you program. For instance, if you program the letter "Q" to an apostrophe to change it to the Dvorak layout, the keyboard will also change the shift layer of the "Q" key to quotes when in program mode.
Overall, I really love the Poker II. It's my new favorite keyboard (not my new old favorite, that's the IBM Model M). This keyboard is a great option for gamers, average computer users, and also travelers who can't go without a mechanical keyboard on the road. It's as small a keyboard as you're going to find with a standard ANSI layout.
So there you have it; thank you very much for reading my review. Leave a comment below if you have any questions!
Seriously though, whoever thought it'd be cool to print "ENJOY YOUR FEELING" on the spacebar has got to trip on a crack in the sidewalk.