Keydous NJ80 (Gateron Pro Yellow + Brass Plate) Review — a budget enthusiast keyboard?
The Keydous NJ80 is a relatively affordable mechanical keyboard in the popular 75% form factor with a knob. It also packs enthusiast-oriented features like hotswappable switches, south-facing PCB and PORON foam lining the case, all at a relatively affordable price point. Is it the perfect board for enthusiasts on a budget or should you look elsewhere?
Ranges between 449 CNY ~ 779 CNY, depending on configuration
Review configuration: brass plate + Gateron Pro Yellow: 699 CNY
+ Warm-white case and contrast keycaps look great
+ High quality dyesub PBT keycaps
+ Excellent typing experience out of the box
+ Enthusiast-oriented features can come in handy in the future
+ Sexy metal volume knob
+ MacOS compatibility with included keycaps
+ Really affordable for the feature set
- Included cable is sad
- No proper indicator of battery status
- Software is basic and unintuitive
- Warranty gets voided upon disassembly
- Doesn't come in black
If you know me, you would know that I am quite the cheapskate. And if you know me even better, you would know that I have been seeking for a mechanical keyboard with a volume dial for quite some time. Obviously I have personally reviewed several high-end gaming keyboards with a volume dial/knob, but I wanted something smaller. More recently, Glorious released the GMMK Pro, but refer to the first sentence. Then by lurking around on Facebook groups, I found the Keydous NJ80, a much more affordable 75% keyboard that has a volume dial.
Now I didn’t exactly skimp when I purchased my Keydous NJ80 from Taobao. I decided to reward myself with a brass plate, which you don’t always get with most mainstream keyboards. I also opted for the pre-lubed Gateron Pro Yellow switches, which should be better than manually lubing them myself. Overall, all of that added a few bucks here and there, but then again, I really deserve a new keyboard, because I have been using the same keyboard for almost 5 years now. And with that out of the way, let’s get started.
Keydous clearly didn’t pay much attention to their packaging. If I saw this on a shelf, I would probably dismiss it as some el cheapo offering. The generic font and “New Journey” tagline also definitely doesn’t help. It is however probably worth mentioning that these boards are actually made to order on Taobao, with up to a 20-day waiting period, so they aren’t actually available on shelves anywhere.
Over on the back we have some of the specifications. No English is used here but you should be able to work out most of the important stuff like the battery size, supported operating systems as well as the battery life. The switch choice is actually shown on the side. While you might notice Cherry here, Keydous aren’t offering any Cherry MX switches options for the Keydous NJ80, at least at the time of writing.
On the inside, we have the keyboard wrapped in soft plastic. If you were hoping to get some PE foam to mod your keyboard with, you might be disappointed. Under the keyboard there are alternative keycaps, for you to turn the Keydous NJ80 into a Mac keyboard, or just change up the style with different colored keycaps. Previously, I saw some people mentioning that they got their Keydous NJ80 with a second volume knob, but I didn’t get one with mine.
I must say I am not entirely convinced by this keyboard’s included accessories. The rubberized cable is pretty drab, although it does match the color of the keyboard. A sleeved cable would have been a lot nicer. Keydous did throw in a cable tie to help you with things, and there’s also a keycap puller and a switch puller. Yes, the Keydous NJ80 does support hotswappable switches.
The Keydous NJ80 is currently only available in one case color option, and that’s the off-white color you see here. I would probably have preferred a brushed black case, but I do plan on spraying it black soon. Or maybe I should just keep using it as it is? While I have only looked at it for less than a day, I must say that the softness of the warm white of the Keydous NJ80 is growing on me. I guess I am getting bored of my last all-black keyboard. In any case (pun intended), the Keydous NJ80 comes out of the box with the yellow Space bar, gold volume dial and blue Esc and Enter keys, just for that extra bit of contrast.
Keydous did a pretty good job with the keycaps, with sharp, precisely-positioned legends. These are Dye-subbed PBT keycaps, which are actually doing the RGB underneath an injustice. Yes, the Keydous NJ80 does have RGB LEDs, but as the board is South-facing, the LEDs won’t do that great a job of illuminating your regular shine-through keycaps, which often have the legends on the upper portion of the keycaps.
Speaking of which, the bronze coloration of the brass plate also doesn’t really bode well for sharp, punchy lighting. It does affect the purity of the RGB lighting, which is a slight bummer, but you can easily adjust to it. Like what I have here on my Keydous NJ80 is a slightly bluish white light, which involves me compensating on the blue channel to overcome the yellowish hue that the plate brings to the table. If you really fancy your RGB, you might want to go with the steel plate option, which is painted in white.
The frame features a mild incline, which is pretty standard. There’s actually a slight texture to the plastic that I wanted to show you guys, but it is really too mild to be picked up by the camera. You might also notice that the keycaps here do not stick out from the frame as much. The included keycaps are of the Cherry profile variety, which is slightly lower profile than the OEM profile keycaps that you usually get with mainstream keyboards. AND LOOK AT THAT KNOB!
On the underside we have the 2.4GHz dongle slot, which oddly enough comes in black. There’s also the power switch here. The rubber feet are white, which will inevitably collect dirt and change color… They are very grippy, so you don’t have to worry about the Keydous NJ80 moving around your desk during furious typing sessions.
Keydous NJ80 Specifications
|Layout||75%, 80 keys + volume knob|
|Body material||Plastic case, Brass plate|
|Keycaps||Dyesub PBT keycaps, Cherry profile|
|Connectivity||USB 2.0 Type-C, 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 5.0|
|USB report rate||1000Hz (wired) / 125Hz (2.4GHz)|
|Switch type||Gateron Pro Yellow
Actuation force: 50g
Travel distance: 4.0±0.4mm
Lifespan: 50 million keystroke
|Lighting||RGB, SMD LED|
|Microprocessor||Yichip YC3121-L, 32-bit RISC MCU
Beken BK3632 Bluetooth 5.0 + 2.4GHz SoC
|Cable||1.5m USB-C rubberized cable, detachable|
|Battery||Li-Ion 4400mAh (approx. 88 hours without RGB, 28 hours with RGB)|
|Dimensions||325 x 141 x 42mm|
|Weight||1026g (without cable)|
Since the manual is entirely in Chinese, let’s translate it first. Here are the list of hotkeys and key combos in the manual:
Wired, Bluetooth 5.0 or 2.4GHz wireless
One of the main reasons why I got the Keydous NJ80, aside from the fact that it had a volume knob, was the fact that it connected via 2.4GHz wireless. As we all know, Bluetooth is great for efficiency and pairing with multiple devices like smartphones, but 2.4GHz wireless has the upper hand when it comes to latency. I did test the Bluetooth connection on the Keydous NJ80, and while some Bluetooth 4.0 wireless keyboards I tested exhibited severe latency issues, to the point of being a whole word behind when I am typing furiously, the Keydous NJ80’s Bluetooth 5.0 played well with my ROG Crosshair VIII Hero (WiFi)’s built in Bluetooth, powered by the Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 adapter.
There’s still a slight latency, but it is acceptable enough for casual typing, even at my usual 90+WPM. Overall, I still prefer the 2.4GHz wireless connection’s better responsiveness. it’s almost indistinguishable from a wired connection. The polling rate is not mentioned but I don’t think you will actually run into any issues with the polling rate on a keyboard, unlike a mouse where a low polling rate will result in less-than-ideal tracking of your movements.
Keydous claimed a battery life of about 28 hours with the RGB on, and while I can’t verify that by using the keyboard for 28 hours straight, it lasted two full days in my normal use. That involves quite a bit of typing/gaming throughout the day, and I didn’t use turn it off manually, instead just letting it go to sleep. I would have appreciated a battery life indicator in the software would be nice, but unfortunately that’s not available. All we have is the F12 key that blinks red to indicate low battery. I must also mention that I didn’t see the low-battery indicator, because it seemed to have run out of juice sometime during the night. I woke up to a flat battery. Oh well.
Very limited software
While you might be tempted to use the Keydous NJ80 without a USB connection to your PC, you actually need one, if you want to customize the keyboard via the software. The software is very limited, with most of the options available on the keyboard itself, but you can reassign all the keys on the Keydous NJ80, with the exception of the volume knob and Fn key. The volume knob can only adjust the volume and mute it with a press.
The first thing I did was to reassign the Del key as a PrtSc key, so I am a happy camper. For the record, the default hotkey for PrtScr is Fn+P. So there technically is a PrtScr button on the Keydous NJ80. You can also assign shortcuts and macros to key combos involving the modifiers, and the macro recording portion actually works pretty well. However the key assignment could probably be better if you can assign it to have a secondary function when pressed along with a modifier key.
RGB settings is not the greatest we have seen either. No per-key RGB settings are available, but you get quite a number of common RGB effects that you will find with most gaming keyboards in the market. One thing worth noting is the terrible translation and typos you will find along the way, like Converage. Overall, not the best software. Customization options are really limited, but it should be good enough if you are coming from mainstream mechanical keyboards.
[Driver Update 2/1/2021: Fn layer editing is now possible!]
So I am not exactly sure when this update was released, but I was tinkering about with the Keydous NJ80’s foam and stabilizers, then decided to update the drivers and firmware. So apparently an update was pushed that now allows you to edit the Fn layer. The keys you see in red are the keys that can’t be edited, so it’s quite a bummer that you can’t edit Fn + knob functions… But for the rest, you can edit, and I do think that this allows for some sweet macro capabilities, if you are into that sort of thing. For me, I am just going to add more media controls to the row below the knob.
Sweet, sweet typing
My personal favorite switches are usually the tactile switches, but the Gateron Pro Yellow switches in the Keydous NJ80 are really quite nice. Prelubed, these switches are really smooth, while the 50g springs provide that additional resistance that made me not miss the tactile bump of my usual Cherry MX Brown switches. There’s no flex to speak of with my brass plate version of the Keydous NJ80, for better or worse, but since I came from mainstream gaming keyboards, I don’t feel like I am losing out on anything. I will report back when I get a chance to play with gasket mounts in other keyboards. In any case, have a listen to the keyboard.
The Keydous NJ80 definitely shines out of the box, with well-lubed, balanced stabilizers that do not exhibit any of that annoying ticking that you get on your average keyboard. Even much pricier boards than the Keydous NJ80 often have much noisier Space bars, which makes this a great board for the average keyboard warrior to get. Great out of the box, with the option of further customization down the line.
Onto the volume knob. It is made of metal, with light machining marks on the smooth gold finish. It has tactile notches when turning. Each notch is 2% of volume in Windows, although I did notice that if you spin the knob too quickly it will skip some notches. It doesn’t work well if you want to quickly raise or lower your volume, which is a slight bummer. A tap on the knob mutes the audio, giving you the option to quickly silence your PC.
The first thing that you will realize is that Keydous put a warranty sticker over one of the two screws under the flip-out feet which you need to undo to open up the keyboard. While this is standard practice for most pre-built boards, this is not what you want to see on a enthusiast-oriented board. However I have an inkling that Keydous doesn’t really consider the Keydous NJ80 as one. It’s just something that cheapskates like yours truly wants to believe. In any case, the disassembly process is very easy. The top half is held down by the exposed plastic clips on the sides, which are very easy to unlatch with a spudger, or even with a fingernail.
Once you lift off the top half of the case, you will have to disconnect the two cables from the volume knob’s daughter board and battery to completely take the PCB and plate out of the case. Lining the case is a 2mm thick layer of PORON foam, which helps enhance the sound profile of the keyboard, contributing to the rather solid sound profile you hear above.
As mentioned earlier, the Keydous NJ80 supports hotswappable switches. With Kailh sockets and support for “5-pin” switches, the Keydous NJ80 supports virtually any mechanical switch in the market, unlike Oetemu-based hotswap keyboards. The PCB is south-facing as well, which opens up the avenue to use Cherry profile keycaps without worrying about interference. For those who plan on experimenting with stabilizers instead, the Keydous NJ80 oddly enough seems to have support for screw-in stabs for the Spacebar, but none of the other stabilized keys have the holes for them.
Of course, hardened enthusiasts will probably not be interested in the Keydous NJ80, with there being no options for other mounting methods other than the rather basic tray mount out of the box. Not to mention that there’s no QMK/VIA support, which limits your customizability to what Keydous offers in the very limited software. However if you are upgrading from a run-of-the-mill mechanical keyboard, the Keydous NJ80 is definitely an excellent option.
I do believe that at 699 CNY (~RM449), you will be hard-pressed to find a better pre-built keyboard that sounds this good out of the box. Obviously you can make it even better, which is probably half the fun. Do keep in mind that the price I mentioned above doesn’t account for the conversion fees and shipping that you have to pay when getting the Keydous NJ80 from Taobao, so the total will run in at around RM480. Keydous is also offering the Keydous NJ80 as a kit now without switches and keycaps, so if you are a bit more experienced, you can get one of those instead.
Even if you are planning to get the Keydous NJ80 and use it out of the box without any mods, I do think that the Keydous NJ80 is a great option. Provided that the PCB is actually well-built, the Keydous NJ80 can essentially last forever. The switches can be replaced when worn out, and even if the battery fails and you can’t find a replacement, the Keydous NJ80 actually works over USB-C, without the battery connected. And most importantly, it has RGB. If only the software wasn’t as crappy, it would have been perfect. With that said, would I still buy the Keydous NJ80, even if I somehow managed to read this review before I bought it? Yes. I do wish it was available in black though.
My thanks to my wallet for buying me the Keydous NJ80 for use and review.