Epomaker HS84 Review 75 Percent 5 Pin Hot Swap Keyboard

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

For as long as there has been hardware and software, there has been modding, including making mods of computer games, modifying cars and even computer peripherals. Keyboard modding, in particular, is a neat way to upgrade a keyboard without buying a new one. If you like the idea of modding and fancy going beyond just upgrading the keycap upgrade, you want to get a mechanical keyboard with 5 pin hot swap sockets like the Epomaker HS84. 

The Epomaker HS84 is also a 75 percent keyboard, which means 20 keys have been omitted to make the keyboard smaller than a full size 100% keyboard (104 keys). You can even get smaller keyboards such as 60 percent keyboards and TKL (tenkeyless), which are even smaller with lesser keys, making 75 percent keyboards a good compromise between space saving and functionality.

Not all keyboards have swappable switches that you can pull out from the PCB socket. The Epomaker HS84 switches are not soldered on; instead, they clip onto the top plate and connect to the PCB via two long thin pins.When removing the switch from the socket, you really want to use a gentle wiggle (not brute strength) to prevent bending or breaking the pins.
Removing switches can be tricky unless you know what you are doing because not all switches are equal. Some switches are pulled from the left/right side while other switches are pulled from the top/down side. Some switches, like Gateron, have tiny clip latches that you need to undo before you can take out the switch. Kaihl switches, for instance, can be pulled from either left/right side or top/down side, making them the easiest type of hotswappable switches.

The Epomaker HS84 keyboard you see pictured has Gateron blue 5 pin switches but you can choose different Gateron switches (e.g. Gateron black switches, Gateron yellow switches, Gateron red switches and Gateron brown switches) when checking out via Epomaker's website.

You can also replace the stock switches with any 3 pin or 5 pin switches but before going ahead and buying third-party switches, it's a good idea to first check compatibility because the Epomaker HS84 keyboard uses raised SMD leds, which means the leds sit above the PCB (rather than flush) so, you won't be able to use some aftermarket switches such as JWK switches because of the different led cutout.

As far as the LED lighting, it comes directly from under the PCB and not from the actual switches themselves, which are just transparent to allow light to shine through. This means, there aren't any leds inside the switches so, it won't matter whether you have a single color backlit keyboard or RGB backlit keyboard.

The bottom mid-section of the Epomaker HS84 keyboard has a semi-transparent diffusing finish so, you can see through into the PCB board, although you cannot make out details (e.g. chip number) - a bit like looking through a frosted window. The leds are located around the base edges and along the mid-frame of the keyboard like a halo ring, which looks cool. The frosted finish helps disperse the lighting closed by,in such a way that it produces a cool aura around the keyboard.

On the bottom, you will also find four rectangular rubber feet and two rubberized kickstand legs for height adjustment. The kickstand legs are slightly longer than average, which rises the front of the keyboard more ergonomically for typing. If you don't like the extra height, you can simply retract the legs and have it sit flush against the desk since the keyboard has already a natural front incline.

On the base of the keyboard, there is also a square cutout concealing the recessed USB-C input port, which is tucked right under. There is also a small cutout (in the front center of the keyboard) for routing the cable from the USB-C port, which helps keep the base of the keyboard flush against the desk.
You can change the RGB lighting, as well as configure macros, adjust brightness and change the speed effect, right from the keyboard without the need of software; hence you don't have to worry about OS compatibility. There is software you can download though from Epomaker, which makes easier performing functions at a click of a button without having to keep referring to the user guide, unless you memorize all the functions. That said, the software is only compatible with Windows 10 computers.

The keys and halo ring are individually addressable, meaning the key switches and halo ring led strip can be individually lit up; hence you can have a different zone colors and effects.You can also have the halo ring lit up while the switch keys are turned off, which produces a cool effect. This level of lighting customization isn't found on most standard RGB keyboards so, anyone who is really into their RGBs will find the Epomaker HS84 keyboard very appealing. If you prefer a more subtle RGB design, check out the newer Epomaker TH66.
What's also nice about the Epomaker HS84 is the lighting effect selection, which is extensive and includes a "key press effect", which is activated when pressing a key, which lights up for a second and then automatically turns off. There is also a "row effect", which lights up the entire row of keys where the key is pressed.

The Epomaker HS84 weighs a total of 700 grams, including the USB-A to USB-C detachable cable, which measures 1.8 meters long and has a firm (stiff) braided outer sheath. The Epomaker HS84 is entirely made of plastic; hence no metal top plate. That said, the keyboard has a thick, stocky construction so, there is no noticeable keyboard "flex" when typing on the keyboard. The keyboard measures 32cm long, 13cm wide and 3.7cm high.
The Epomaker HS84 keycaps aren't PBT keycaps, which are more resilient against developing a greasy shines but, the HS84 keycaps are made of double shot ABS keycaps; hence two layers rather than one layer of plastic. There are a total of 84 keys on the Epomaker HS84 and all keys have a standard concave shape, aside from the flat space-bar, which has Epomaker branding etched on it. Accessories include a switch puller and keycap puller, which has a quirky design reminiscent of a whisk. You can buy the HS84 keyboard from Epomaker and amazon. Check out the review of the EPOMAKER TH80 X keyboard and Epomaker CIDOO V65

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