Keychron K2 hot swappable ships with unacceptable keycaps - beware

TL\DR: Don’t buy the new K2 hot swappable, due to inexcusable choices the keycaps are unusable in normal light.

I just received my K2 hot swappable and I have to say that the keycaps are really terrible.

link to album of pictures

I’m not talking aesthetically (although they are bad also in that aspect) but from a usability perspective. The keycaps can actually be considered defective.

The problems

1 - Between the white keycaps and the black ones there is a serious difference in legibility and there is NO way to have all legends legible at the same time:

with Backlight on:

  • if the light is bright enough to make the black keys legible, the white ones are too bright and difficult to look at
  • if the light is set to be right for the white keys, the black ones are truly invisible

with Backlight off:

  • white keys are ok, black keys are invisible.

2 - The print quality of the black caps is awful: some keys have a pinkish hue in the legends and the transparency of see-trough legends is not consistent across keys. Also, without backlight they are basically black blank keys.

A case of bad design and even worse production strategy

I wonder if they even saw a prototype before approving production and shipping to paying customers.

Once realised how bad was the quality of the black caps, and how absurd the difference in legibility between white and black caps is, it would have been much better to use the white plastic for all caps.

The pictures

I previously bought a K2, not hot swappable, and the keycaps are much better, on the hot swappable they are ridiculous.

No Led, normal ambient light. See how clearer are the legends of REGULAR K2:

K2 hot-swappable - no backlight, normal ambient color:

K2 hot-swappable - low ambient light:

K2 hot-swappable - with different backlight colors:

K2 hot-swappable - if backlight too low: white caps illegible:

Apple black caps vs Keychron K2 HS:

At the moment Keychron has a blog post titled “Answer to the Confusions about Our Double-Shot Keycaps”

They go to great length to explain the process of double shot moulding and then explain that the reduced contras is just a problem of color matching.

They also show a picture (quote) “from other keyboard companies. They are also black keycaps that used transparent material in Double-Shot ABS, which also looks a bit blurry”

First of all, the “other company” keyboard looks much better than the K2, second, all picture in the post are extremely low res.

Remember the Apple keys, legible with no led, the Keychron… horrible.

There is no confusion, the Keychron black caps look nothing like the picture in the blog post. Without backlight they are practically blank.
Also, is perfectly possible to produce black retro illuminated caps that also are usable with no lighting.

what they could do

To fix this they could:
A - make a run of white caps to substitute all black caps in this first run of hot swappable K2. Just the 30 keys to substitute the black caps, and offer them for free or for a VERY SMALL fee.

B - offer the complete keycaps set, used on regular K2, to buyers of this first run of hot swappable. Again, for free or for a VERY SMALL fee.

I’m interested to know what the community think of this.

1 Like

Personally, I have no expectations of quality when it comes to shine-through keycaps.

the non swappable K2 and the white caps on the swappable K2 are ok. Non high end, but perfectly usable.

The problem here is they went with the production of the black caps anyway.

An all white scheme would have been also acceptable…

Yup, pretty much this. It’s not like the legends are really necessary to use the keyboard anyway. BUT, it does suck to get a less good product than you were expecting, that’s a big bummer.


This is about what I expected when ordering it. Still, the only hotswap competition in this layout is the Epomaker ep84, which is a rebranded Keycool kc84, which looks to be reaching the end of its production run. It’s the same price, but lacks many of the K2’s features, especially wireless and future support (Keychron expects to be fully programmable next year).

I returned my ep84, because it has terrible backligting on the pcb. Even at full brightness, I couldn’t read the legends during the day. Unlike that board, the K2 has the most recent smd leds with lenses, so if we spend 30-40 more, we can get all sorts of good backlit caps.

What you say is true of virtually all mx based backlit keycaps: they depend on the lighting to be legible, and most are illegible without it. My Ducky’s black backlit keycaps resemble the unevenness you see. It sucks when you’re accustomed to Apple’s (and many others’) keys being so darned good to look at.

Keycap upgrades are an unexpected expense, and I do hope Keychron works to remedy unhappy customers. I guess I just expected this, and just hope these keys sound ok. I second your feelings of wanting a more practical solution.

I agree with you, wireless it’s hard to beat.

I believe the true mistake was made when someone saw a test run and said "yeah, let’s go with it anyway ".

Another thing I really can’t understand it’s the enormous difference with the keycaps of not swappable K2, which are fine, there is something different about the manufacturing process of these new black caps.

The blog post? It’s verbal gymnastics, it would have been better to acknowledge the fault and say we’re sorry, this way it looks like they are taking customers for fools.

  1. Can you give me some link to good sources of backlit keycaps? I couldn’t find good ones, with apple specific keys…
  2. I emailed Keychron with my two proposals (offer white caps to make it all white, offer original K2 caps), maybe you could email them and support this, we might get a solution

Well, now that you mention it, Mac caps haven’t been on my list of priorities. Macs are like vw’s: the price of the part goes up as soon as that brand name is involved. Epomaker and Keychron are the only two I see trying to make affordable mac stuff. You might have to get into caps that are priced outside of your expectations, beyond Keychron’s pbt mac caps.

I understand where you’re coming from about the backlit caps. It was a rude awakening to me to find that the most popular backlit mechanical keyboards essentially suck compared to my 10 year old Macbook. It’s because the switch takes up the center, and the caps must be thick by nature. In Keychron’s (english perhaps as second language) post, they’re awkwardly trying to tell you that this is an industry standard, at least for hotswap. The bulb is below the switch, in the only place they can cram it. The only mechanical switches on the retail market with lights in the center are Omrons in Logitech and Das keyboards. They look great.

If you get a non-hotswap mx mechanical keyboard, the led bulbs can be mounted above the switch base, so the light is immediately below the keycap. Even then, the caps look unevenly lit compared to a Mac keyboard. It really is the nature of the beast: you need the backlight for mx style see though, at least on a budget, and it will never exactly match those evenly lit flat chicklets.

Earlier, what I was trying to say is: As long as I can read it with the brightness cranked in the daylight, then reduce brightness at night, it’s considered a quality cap/light combination. The darker colors simply aren’t made to be seen without backlight. Compared to more expensive competition, the legends on these caps are very nicely done. The blurriness is inherent to most of these darker types of caps, as long as they’re thick enough.

As an introduction, all budget keyboard manufacturers need to be much more clear about this, and always offer a model that can be seen without backlight, alongside these popular options.

1 Like

Imagine a MT3 backlit Mac compatible set …

All things considered, the keycaps on a not hot swappable K2 (in the comparison photo I made they are readable without led) looks like the best compromise…

They look a lot better, but I can’t stand the sound of such a thin keycap. Then again, I have Box Navies, thin caps make them sound terrible.

So far as I’ve seen, the only way to do caps like the standard ones is to make them very thin. The caps on the hotswap look thicker than those on the standard, is that actually the case? I had assumed that blurriness meant they had made the caps thicker, like on my Ducky.

Yes, they are thicker, and the material looks different.

The fact that apple can make a legible legend on black retroilluminated caps makes me think only cost is a factor here, not feasibility.

You could make the cap thinner only where the legends are, for example

Actually, that’s exactly what I was talking about. The new phrasing, I’m sure reflects some new tech, but the bottom line is exactly as I said: Those tiny, flat chicklet keys are much, much easier to illuminate evenly, especially considering there’s no space between the cap and the light. If you’re looking for shine-through keycaps for an mx switch, you’re not going to find something as clean. If something like that does exist, it likely costs more than this keyboard.

Sure, with enough work, and money, anything is possible. This is a relatively tiny company doing what they can with existing tech, mostly from a very niche hobby industry that has only recently gained enough popularity to attract mainstream users. And for this price, no matter how you cut it, it’s a great deal. You can’t get the parts seperately for this.

didn’t consider that.

I think the best fix for now, would be a “integrating set in white”

So the thing here is that I owned an Epomaker gk68 and prior to that the Keychron K6 which I sold the keyboard just felt that these boards are quite bad for me. My thought here is that never buy a prebuilt keyboard from chinese makers…they are just for the mass market and not really good for enthusiast like us. That said, I know there is this brand called Niz which I heard good reviews about but that’s a topre clone.

apart from the horrible black caps the keyboard is fine, what bothers me is that with a simple and easily avoided decision they made the experience significantly worse.

Well, I’m typing this from my just-arrived K2 Hotswap, and I must apologize: You were absolutely correct, the black keys simply aren’t close to the same standard as the white ones, and there are visibility issues. The white keys are very attractive, the black keys have a great font, etc, but they really need work. Compared to the white, and to my Ducky’s, they’re dull and blurry. You’re right; the best thing they can do is replace these keys with a similar look, the contrast in legibility is jarring. Tomorrow, I’ll take some pictures with Ducky keycaps vs these to illustrate.
This presents issues in a sunny office (or wherever you take this wireless kb). If I turn off the backlight, I can clearly read the darker legends on the white keys, but can’t read the black keys. If I turn up the backlight, I can read the black keys, but no longer the white keys. It’s unnecessarily annoying, and you were right to post this complaint.
It’s a great keyboard, and will just get better, but this is a design flaw that could have been avoided, and should be rectified with early adopers like us. I’m sorry I doubted what you were saying, and I join you in asking Keychron to offer keys to at least replace the black ones.

Thanks for your view on this.
I wonder what we (early buyers) can do to rectify this.
My email proposing a white set to substitute the black caps has had no answer from Keychron.

I also posted this on Reddit, but I suspect the critical mass of traction and exposure for an action from Keychron.
It’s really a shame, because apart from that it is a very nice product.

Every time I see a picture of the original K2 caps, in daylight, perfectly legible, I feel bad…

1 Like

Yeah, me too. I guess the good news is that, compared to most of this hobby, it’s not a terribly expensive fix. I swaped a few keys with my Ducky and KC84, whose keycaps can be matched by most 20-30 dollar sets. I don’t like the steno’d font on the cheap sets, but using a black set to replace just the black keys would really help here.
There are also some decent sets in different colors for around 30 or so. Again, they have a broken font, but could be used to add some color alongside the white. Thankfully, this has oem profile keys, so there are lots of options for mix and match. Most hobbyists eventually get non-shine-through keys after a while, because this design can only make them so good.
These white abs keys are the best shine through I’ve seen, Keychron should not have sacrificed this quality for color choice.

Hey, i want to ask when you use the white backlight, are some of the keys has a little bit of pink hue? Cause mine has a little bit of pink hue to it on some keys when i choose the white backlight

Yes, a little bit of pinkish/magenta hue.
But just a little bit, almost unnoticeable

I suppose that these will the same for the K4V2?