Skyloong’s GK75 Optical is a perfect example of how much better budget keyboards have gotten over the past few years. $60 gets you a good keyboard with smooth optical switches, a programmable knob, and a classy transparent black ABS case. The software still isn’t great, but it’s an acceptable setback considering the price.
|+ Great value
+ Smooth optical switches and pre-lubed stabilizers
+ Programmable knob
+ Good double-shot PBT keycaps
+ “Exploded” 75% layout
|- Mediocre software
- Slightly stiff typing experience
- Only compatible with optical switches
- Slightly awkward USB-C port position
Many of us in the keyboard community lust over and hype up high-end, big-budget boards, but not everyone can drop a few hundred dollars on a mechanical keyboard. Thankfully, that’s where brands like Skyloong have come to the rescue, elevating the quality of budget keyboards to a level that would have been unheard of back in the early 2010s.
Skyloong’s GK75 Optical is another one of the company’s attempts to offer high-quality typing at a low-buck price. But what are you giving up by paying only $60 for a complete keyboard? And what about those optical switches? Let’s find out.
Packaging and Accessories
The Skyloong GK75 comes in a simple box, decorated with a line drawing of the keyboard to indicate what’s inside. It’s not a very sturdy box, but it should be adequate to survive shipping across the globe. Besides, a plastic key protector keeps the GK75’s delicate keys and keycaps safe inside the box, so the keyboard itself should survive just fine.
Open the box up, and you’ll notice that the GK75 doesn’t come with many extras. The keyboard itself comes in a flimsy plastic bag, with the aforementioned key protector (which doubles as a passable dust cover) on top. Beyond that, you get a dual-language quick guide, a USB Type-A to USB-C cable, a combination keycap and switch puller, and a bag of leftover keycaps.
The latter is a nice touch, as it lets you use the GK75’s stock keycaps on a different keyboard down the line if you desire. Let’s be clear, it’s not a package that’ll impress, but it’s sufficient and reflects the budget-friendly price.
Design and Layout
As usual, let’s start with the basics of the GK75: its design and the layout.
Design and Build
Skyloong makes a few different versions of the GK75. The basic design and materials are all the same between the various permutations: a transparent black ABS case, dye-sub PBT keycaps, and a coated brass plate. They differ based on switch type (optical vs. mechanical), keycaps, and whether the knob is hot-swappable.
I received the TiGrey Optical with white backlighting, which is the most affordable at $60. It comes with Skyloong Optical switches and a fixed, non-hot-swappable knob. There’s an RGB version for $70, which may be a worthwhile purchase if you like RGB lighting (I don’t).
The keyboard looks and feels great, much better than the $60 that this TiGrey Optical version would suggest. I really like the case: it feels like a high-quality product with its thick ABS and translucent finish. The latter adds some visual interest since it showcases the white switch plate; it’s a look that sets the GK75 apart from the budget crowd.
Skyloong’s GK75 is a “shallow gasket” mount keyboard that, in Skyloong’s words, “eliminat[es] the traditional [gasket mount] design’s drawback of lacking support on the main typing area.” Like the Skyloong GK61, the GK75 sports Skyloong’s Lite Gasket between the switch plate and PCB, which adds a bit of cushioning and helps reduce bottom-out noise.
And if the Lite Gasket wasn’t enough, the GK75 comes with a layer of case foam between the PCB and bottom case to further eliminate noise. Overall, the construction does a great job at reducing noise, although the typing feel isn’t quite as pillowy as a standard gasket-mount keyboard. But more on this later.
With so many layers to the construction, it’ll be no surprise that there’s no flex to the GK75. It’s a solid keyboard, and its 959-gram (2.11-pound) weight gives it the sort of substantial feel that used to be uncommon for budget boards.
My biggest misgiving with the Skyloong GK75’s design is the location of the USB-C port. It’s in a recess underneath the keyboard, which makes it slightly awkward to (dis)connect the cable. I prefer having the connector on the rear of the keyboard, especially as it makes swapping keyboards easier.
However, I acknowledge that not everybody rotates keyboards every few days. If you’re not an inveterate keyboard-swapper like I am, then the extra few seconds it takes to connect the GK75 won’t be an issue.
Skyloong did at least build a cable channel (with three outlets) into the bottom case to help with cable management. It helps keep your cable neater, which is quite important when you’re stuck with a wired connection.
Skyloong’s GK75 adopts the “exploded” 75% layout that’s become all the rage over the past couple of years. Unlike the Vissles V84, which used a traditional 75% layout, the GK75 spaces the keys out for a much more comfortable and aesthetically-pleasing experience.
This isn’t new, of course, but it’s nice to see on a cheap keyboard like the GK75. The highlight of the GK75’s 75% layout is the Glorious GMMK Pro-style rotary knob in the upper right. It’s a nicely-knurled knob that feels like aluminum, although I’m not 100% certain on that.
There isn’t much else to say about the GK75’s layout, as it’s essentially the same as the Keychron Q1 and GMMK Pro, down to the 1u-sized modifier and Fn keys to the right of the spacebar. If you like the exploded 75% layout, you’ll like the GK75’s layout. If you don’t, then this won’t do anything to change that.
All versions of the Skyloong GK75 ship with OEM-profile, double-shot PBT keycaps. The ones I got with my TiGrey GK75 are a two-tone off-white and grey, with orange (Escape and arrow keys) and teal (Enter) highlights.
While they’re supposed to be double-shot keycaps (and most of them are), there’s an odd quirk with the printing on the grey keycaps. The off-white caps use double-shot construction throughout (even for secondary icons), but the dark grey caps have pad-printed secondary and tertiary legends instead.
The pad printing sticks out (literally; you can feel the printing under your fingers) and reminds you of the GK75’s budget-conscious price. This quirk aside, the keycaps are acceptable and enjoyable to type on. The PBT feels like it should, and the legends are crisp and clean. There is some slight “ghosting” visible around the legends on the off-white keys, but it’s not significant enough to be bothersome.
Skyloong’s double-shot PBT keycaps are relatively thick, on par with most aftermarket PBT keycaps you’ll find on the market. The black inner layer makes them look thinner than usual, but they’re on par if you look closely.
Switches and Typing Feel
Now we get to the meat and potatoes of any keyboard: the typing experience. I’ll discuss the switches and stabs first before offering some general thoughts on the typing feel of the GK75 at the end of this section.
Switches and Stabilizers
My Skyloong GK75 came with pre-lubed Skyloong Glacier Optical Silver switches. These Optical Silvers are a slightly heavier than average (48 – 52 gf actuation force) linear switch with 1.2 mm of pre-travel and 3.8 mm of total travel.
While they’re not good enough to trouble most of the best linear switches, these Optical Silvers are surprisingly decent to type on. They’re smooth, and the slightly increased weighting (compared to, say, a Cherry MX Red) helps make up for the potentially bothersome short actuation. The weight also makes them more satisfying to use than MX Red-style linears, in my opinion.
I have no complaints here. The Optical Silvers are more than adequate for the price, and I think most budget-conscious buyers will be more than happy with the switches. They’re great for gaming and general use and feel OK for more serious typing too. No, I don’t think they’re as enjoyable to type on as a good tactile switch, but they’ll do.
My colleague received a GK75 with Skyloong’s Optical Browns, which he found very satisfying overall. The Skyloongs have a more consistent travel than Gateron Browns with a much more satisfying bottom-out feeling. The Optical Browns are also heavier than the Gaterons, despite having identical specs on paper.
That said, the tactile event on the Optical Browns is still nonexistent, so they’re not for those who want tactility (or hate Cherry MX Browns).
Like the Skyloong GK61 I reviewed previously, the GK75 comes with clipped and lubed stabilizers. They work great, with the stabilized keys operating smoothly and quietly. I didn’t notice any rattle or mushiness, which is what you’d hope for from pre-modded stabilizers.
Here’s a typing demo of the GK75, recorded from about a foot away with an Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser microphone:
Note that while the Skyloong GK75 is a hot-swap keyboard, this $60 optical version is only compatible with optical switches. Skyloong offers several Skyloong Optical switches in the GK75, the specs of which you can see below.
If these don’t appeal to you, you can always drop some extra cash and buy Gateron opticals like the Optical Yellow and Optical Brown. That somewhat harms the value proposition, but it’s a valid option if you want something different.
Overall Typing Experience
The Skyloong GK75’s “shallow gasket” mount means that it has none of the flex and give you get from a typical gasket-mount keyboard. If Skyloong hadn’t pointed out the construction, I’d have happily assumed that the GK75 was a traditional plate-mount keyboard. Is that a good or a bad thing? Well, that depends.
Those who know and like the typical gasket-mount keyboard experience won’t find much to enjoy here. I’m not one of those people, but even I felt that the GK75 was stiff when typing and bottoming out. There’s a noticeably harsh bottom-out that you don’t get with a more flexible gasket-mount keyboard.
Of course, the problem likely lies with me; I’m used to typing on heavier switches designed to bottom out (Topre and buckling spring), so the idea of not bottoming out is quite alien to me. You’ll probably enjoy the Skyloong GK75 much more if you’re a light typist capable of not bottoming out ~50 gf linears. I may try swapping switches down the line to see how they change the typing experience; I’ll be sure to update this post if I do.
That’s not to say I hated typing on the GK75, though. While I never learned to like the bottom-out feel, it did get to the point where it stopped bothering me. It’s not brilliant, but neither is it a deal-breaker. I’d rather type on the Skyloong GK75, even with its stiff bottom-out, than the slightly mushy and scratchy Vissles V84, for example.
The knob is fine, with a nice feel to the touch and good tactile feedback when turning and pressing it in. It wobbles noticeably, but it’s not too bad. It’s perfectly OK for the price.
And that sentiment extends to the whole typing experience, really. If you’re used to higher-end keyboards (like I am), then the GK75 likely won’t impress solely based on typing feel. But the shortcomings are much more palatable if you bear the $60 price in mind.
Are you a budding keyboard hobbyist or a budget-conscious shopper looking to upgrade from a cheap membrane? If so, you’ll likely be delighted with the typing experience on the Skyloong GK75. Sixty-dollar keyboards have come a long way.
The Skyloong GK75 uses the same software as the GK61, which means it has all the same issues I highlighted in my GK61 review. It’s usable but is undoubtedly the weakest part of the user experience.
Thankfully, the basics are easy enough to do. To remap, just click on the key you want to remap in the top keyboard display and then select the function you want to assign on the bottom keyboard. It’s slightly tedious if you want to remap multiple keys, but it works fine.
You remap the knob like any other key; the knob has three mappable functions for clockwise turn, counter-clockwise turn, and press. By default, the knob’s mapped to volume up, down, and mute, respectively.
To remap the function layer, you need to click on the Fn key, which exposes the Fn layer bindings in the top display. Note that the software has a minor quirk regarding remapped keys and the Fn layer. If you remap a key in the bottom layer, you’ll also want to remap it in the Fn layer.
It’s not a huge issue, but it’s something to bear in mind if you encounter weird behavior on the Fn layer.
It’s also worth noting that you can’t remap the keyboard’s standard layout. Instead, you’ll have to remap one of the three extra layers. This isn’t a huge deal, as three layers should be more than enough for most users. However, I did have to manually switch the keyboard to the first “Windows” layer before it would remember to stay on it every time I reconnected the GK75.
If you plug it in and it’s using the default keymap, switch to the right layer with the right key combo (which should be on the little quick guide sheet that comes with your GK75).
You assign macros from the lower-right section of the main Configuration screen. Select a macro (you can search or use the drop-down menu), choose a key, then press “Set” (thankfully renamed from “View” in the earlier version).
Recording the macros themselves is quite easy. Switching over to the dedicated “Macro” screen shows a list of categories on the left, with the central area of the screen showing a grid of all the available macros in said category. You can add a macro to a currently-existing category or create a new one.
Either way, once you’ve created a macro, just press the record button (which, awkwardly, uses the “play” symbol) and type in your macro.
The software provides three delay modes: “recording delay,” which records the delay between your inputs faithfully; a “minimum delay” setting that sets a constant delay of 5 ms; and a custom delay setting that lets you set a universal delay between all your key presses. And, yes, you can set the custom delay to 5 ms, making the minimum delay setting redundant.
Skyloong’s inscrutable lighting setup is much the same as when I last tried the software. It uses .LE files, which you load and edit in the software. My GK75 is a white backlight model, so there wasn’t much incentive for me to mess around with the lighting modes. Skyloong has a short video guide to setting up lighting, which I recommend you watch if you’re interested in tweaking the backlight on your GK75.
Awkwardly, you’ll have to go back to the main Configuration screen and move to the standard layer to apply lighting schemes to your GK75. Note that selecting the standard layer to do this means that all the keys return to default behavior. That’s not a big deal in the software, but make sure to go back to your custom layer (if you have one) before you close the software.
Why Skyloong couldn’t implement a layer-agnostic lighting selection option is beyond me, but issues like these are common with when buying budget keyboards. Proprietary software usually has a gentler learning curve, but they often have quirks and strange UI/UX decisions that make them more frustrating in the long run.
I can’t criticize the Skyloong GK75’s software experience too severely considering the price. It’s broadly acceptable if you’re just looking to do the basics, but it’s miles behind open-source solutions like QMK and TMK.
Vs. The Competition
The Skyloong GK75 Optical doesn’t have much competition in its price bracket, at least as far as exploded 75% keyboards with knobs go. There are a few other sub-$100 boards with a similar layout and materials, like the Akko 5075B. However, those cost closer to $100 instead of the $60 of the base GK75 Optical.
Does spending that extra $40 get you more? Definitely. The Akko, for example, has RGB, wireless connectivity, and 5-pin mechanical switches. But it’s an unfair comparison, as the Akko competes more directly with the mechanical Skyloong GK75. Even then, the Skyloong is the slightly better deal at $10 less.
If you’re shopping based on price, there isn’t much out there that offers what the GK75 Optical provides for $60. Yes, the white backlight is a bit boring, and it sucks not to have access to all the best tactile switches out there, but it’s excellent as a starter or second keyboard.
If you’re OK with limiting yourself to optical switches, then the Skyloong GK75 with optical switches is a great-value keyboard. It looks and feels great, with reasonable-quality keycaps and a solid (if slightly stiff) typing feel. I’m not going to claim it’s a giant killer, but it’s certainly better than I expected for $60.
I think the base GK75 is good enough that I can recommend you consider the pricier ($80) mechanical versions if you want more switch options. There’s also a full-on aluminum GK75 kit, although it’s a bit of a tougher sell at $170 without switches or keycaps. But the option’s there if you like what you’ve seen here and want the full-fat semi-DIY experience.
That said, I’d recommend sticking to the cheaper versions to maximize the bang for buck you get from the Skyloong GK75.