Tired of your laptop’s chiclet keyboard? Epomaker believes it has the answer with its new NT68 wireless keyboard. Designed for travel, it’s designed to sit “magically” on your laptop’s built-in keyboard, giving you a full mechanical keyboard experience wherever you go, including full lighting and macro programming. Starting at $ 89 for the Super Early Bird rate, is this a product worth your hard-earned money?
- Current Price: From $ 89 (Kickstarter)
- Layout: 65%
- Switches: Gateron, Gateron Low Profile, Epomaker Chocolate
- Hotswap Support: Yes, 3 or 5 pin switches
- Keys: PBT
- Captions: Sublimated
- Connectivity: wired (USB Type-C), Bluetooth 5.1
- Bluetooth profiles support: 3 profiles
- Backlight: RGB per key
- Programmable: remapping, macros, RGB backlighting
- Operating System Support: Windows, MacOS
- Dimensions: 12 x 4 x 1.25 inches (LxWxH)
Introducing the Epomaker “Magic” keyboard
Epomaker has become a household name here in the MMORPG. We have reviewed a number of their keyboards and, with rare exceptions, have always found them to be excellent value for money. There is a common DNA between his boards, often with similar color schemes and characteristics with one or two major elements that set them apart. It’s the NT68 in a nutshell: it carries the biggest selling points of its older siblings, the GK68XS and GK96S, and packs it in a new portable layout designed to replace your laptop keyboard.
The NT68 is made for travel. It features a 65% low-profile layout, removing the feature row and navigation and editing cluster, for a compact design that sits on a slim aluminum (top and sides) and plastic (bottom) body. It is also available with low profile switches for further fine tuning. It comes with a foldable magnetic case that helps it slide easily into a bag and protects the key caps from coming off. Equally important, the case is able to support a phone or tablet for typing from a PC via Bluetooth or can fold up to disappear under the keyboard and bring it to a more average height if you find it. too low.
The biggest selling point is its “magical” design. The NT68 is designed to be placed directly on your laptop keyboard. The size and position of the rubber feet are just right to avoid pressing the built-in keys. The USB-C port is also positioned on the left side and the included cable is just long enough to connect without excess length on your table.
Of course, you can just as easily connect wirelessly via Bluetooth. The keyboard supports three devices and can be hot-swapped between each using a quick combination of Fn + Z, X, or C. There is a slight delay of about five seconds when the keyboard changes devices, but once it is paired it remembers the connection and maintains it reliably.
If Epomaker’s marketing is any indication, he really hopes to woo Mac users with the new design. The keyboard comes with alternate keys to match the macOS layout, and the function row has shortcuts identical to your common MacBook. The keyboard still works fine in Windows and can be quickly swapped between Mac and Windows layouts with Fn + W and Fn + E.
This feature, however, is identical to older Epomaker keyboards, and it’s not the only thing. We see the return of the brand’s excellent dye-sublimated PBT keycaps. They are made in Epo’s GK profile, which is reminiscent of SA in their rounded shape but are much shorter and easier to type. The caps have crisp legends and thick walls for a solid and satisfying typing experience and the assurance that these keys won’t shine with prolonged use.
Below these keys you will have the choice between Gateron switches or Epomaker’s own Chocolate switches. If you’d rather swap yours in, you can do so without the need for soldering thanks to the built-in hot-swappable sockets. My device came with Epomaker chocolates, which are very tactile but also deaf and softer to the touch.
Finally, for gamers and RGB fans, the NT68 supports full programming. The per-key backlighting is bright and customizable with 16.8 colors for each key. However, there are over a dozen preset effects built into the card, so you don’t need to spend more than a few minutes to make the card look great. Almost any key can be remapped or assigned to a macro, and so you don’t lose functionality, it also supports multiple profiles which can also be moved with another key combination.
Using the NT68: travel, typing and games
Considered a normal keyboard – special features aside – the NT68 is impressive for its money. The typing experience is excellent. There is no feeling of emptiness in the keyboard. In fact, it’s surprisingly dense, which makes typing and sounding satisfying. The stabilizers were factory lubricated and even felt lightly padded, although there was no padding that I could see. The lubricant application was a bit uneven (my backspace key needed a bit more) but the other keys were okay right out of the box.
I would also recommend all Cherry MX Brown fans to try Epomaker Chocolates. They’re much more tactile and have a padded bottom that doesn’t feel mushy. This cushion has a silent effect. Even though they’re not labeled as a silent switch, they end up being. I’m not generally a fan of silent switches, but these are surprisingly good.
There is a certain quirk in the design that takes some getting used to. Epomaker moved the Fn button to the lower left corner, where the Ctrl key would typically be positioned. It’s great if you like to use shortcuts on the second layer. I regularly map IJKL to the arrow keys, surrounded by Home, End, Previous page, and Next page to quickly navigate Word documents. This positioning works much better for keeping your hands at home.
Unfortunately, that also means not practicing using this key for Ctrl. Even now, two weeks later with the keyboard, I still have Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V only to find that I had actually pressed Fn + C and Fn + V. This is especially annoying when connecting via Bluetooth, as Fn + V resets your Bluetooth connection to the third device. This is something that has improved over time, but I would have much preferred to see Fn instead of the Windows key.
When it comes to travel, Epomaker has succeeded. The keyboard is small enough (12 x 4 x 1.25 inches) that it fits easily in my messenger bag next to my laptop. The magnetic case is also very nice, protecting the keys from bursting inside a bag. It also has multiple folding points and three rubber tabs that can create a shelf for a smartphone or tablet. I have written several articles using only the NT68 and my Samsung Note 20 passenger in the van on family trips. I wish the keyboard had built-in tilt feet, but the case can also be used to tilt the keyboard. It is an essential accessory.
The magic function works well but is only recommended for compact laptops of 14 inches or less. This is a bit of a letdown since many Windows laptops (especially gaming laptops) use 15.6-inch screens. This is another indicator that Epomaker had in mind Apple users for this keyboard.
I’ve seen comments on how useful a feature like this is, as laptops already have working keyboards. In this way, the “magic” of this keyboard will be much more limited. That said, I’ve never used such a typing laptop and the programmability makes it a much better fit for gaming if your manufacturer doesn’t support macros and remapping.
If you plan to use these features, be prepared for unpolished software. The NT68 uses the same software as the GK68XS and, while functional, is not intuitive. Figuring out how to remap the keys and save them to the keyboard’s built-in memory took trial and error when these functions are straightforward on larger name keyboards. This is an area that could certainly be improved upon but will do the job until it is.
Last but not the least, we have the battery life. Inside the shell, the NT68 has a 1900mAh. Without backlighting, Epomaker quotes 2-5 weeks of use. With the backlight, this drops to 20-80 hours, depending on your mode and light level. I have used the keyboard primarily via bluetooth for the past couple of weeks, mixing RGB when on the go and the rainbow wave with full brightness at home. There’s no easy way to know on the fly how much battery life is left, but during that time I haven’t seen the low battery indicator yet so it’s safe to say that you won’t need to charge often.
Although the “magic” function will be more limited for Windows users, the NT68 is still a great little travel keyboard. Its compact size and magnetic case make it one of the best keyboards I’ve used for writing and playing on the go. If you can get past the unrefined software, this is a great little portable mechanical keyboard.The product described in this article has been provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.