[Review] Slim and Affordable: Armaggeddon SMK Series Low-Profile Keyboards
How low can you go? Let's find out with Armaggeddon's new SMK series low-profile keyboards.
Low-profile keyboards? What? Why?
For the uninitiated, "low-profile keyboards" is pretty much a catch-all phrase referring to keyboards built to be as slim as possible - it could be a keyboard with a slim body and regular keycaps, one with a regular body and slim keycaps, or in this case - both a slim body and slim keycaps, making for a truly low profile typing experience.
You might wonder, 'why should I choose a low-profile keyboard?' The first thing that comes to mind is better ergonomics - using a low-profile keyboard reduces the need to lift or arch your wrists, making them more uncomfortable and less strenuous overall. Another perk would be portability, as low-profile keyboards are significantly less chunky than their standard-sized counterparts, making them easier to stow into a backpack on the go.
3 options for different needs
Singaporean peripheral maker Armaggeddon has released a new lineup of low-profile mechanical gaming keyboards - the SMK 12R, SMK 6C, and SMK 2C. All of them feature Kevlartech concave keycaps and hot-swappable Oetemu switches, which is a great option if you decide to swap to a different switch down the line.
Now, let's take a look at each model in the SMK series and what makes each one unique.
Armaggeddon SMK 2C: Affordable tenkeyless
The 2C is the cheapest of the lot, going for just RM119, which is pretty cheap considering it's a mechanical keyboard with RGB lighting after all. It's tenkeyless, which saves you more space on your desktop if you don't really use the numpad all that much. This model only comes in Oetemu Blue switches, which are tactile and clicky for better feedback. It also has single-height extendable feet and a detachable cable, which is great for convenience - however, it is Micro-USB and not USB-C.
As the lowest-end model of the series, it unfortunately also has pretty cheap build quality. The chassis is plastic with tons of flex, and there's a disturbing metallic ping when you type.
On the bright side, it has full NKRO and 9 built-in back-lighting effects. The lighting zones are predefined, however, so you'll get the same 6 colours in each row, just in different configurations.
Overall, the SMK 2C is a good choice if you're looking for something with a small footprint on both your desk and your wallet.
Armaggeddon SMK 6C: Solidly-built midpoint
Like the 2C, the 6C also only comes with Oetemu Blue switches - however, that's where the similarities end. The chassis has gotten an upgrade - it has absolutely no flex now, thanks to some reinforcements from within. It's also a full-sized keyboard, so you'll have a numpad at your disposal if you work with numbers a lot.
The metallic pinging of the keys has also reduced drastically, though it's still audible in a silent room. The RGB lighting options remain the same, with 9 lighting effects to cycle through.
The cable is no longer detachable, though I'm willing to make that concession if it means getting a far sturdier chassis. If you have the extra RM40 to spare, I'd highly recommend upgrading to the 6C if only for the reassuring solidness you'll get.
Armaggeddon SMK 12R: Full-on RGB and more switch options
The highest end of the lot is the SMK 12R. Priced at RM209, what you'll get are extra switch options - instead of just Oetemu Blue, you can choose from Red and Black options as well. However, for low-profile keyboards I'd still recommend tactile and clicky options, as linear switches coupled with the short travel distance just don't feel reassuring enough due to the lack of feedback.
The chassis is the same as the SMK 6C's, which means it feels solid and sturdy, but also suffers from the lack of a detachable cable. However, you now have the perk of 16.8 million RGB lighting, which definitely looks much more premium than the standard 6-colour lighting on the 2C and 6C.
Not only does it do fancy stuff like rainbow waves, but you can also program each key's colour individually. While this is a great perk that makes for interesting lighting effects, do note that all programming is done on-board without any software to help you visualise and mass select keys.
Instead, you'll have to program them one by one by painstakingly cycling through 7 available colours - yes, you won't get the full spectrum of RGB at your disposal for custom lighting designs, but it does make sense as it helps you make sure they're all properly matched.
Oh, and the metallic pinging is completely gone on the 12R (as far as I can tell), which is an absolutely blessing for those who are sensitive to sounds.
Now that I've covered the differences between the models, let's talk about the features and quirks they all share. First of all, yes, all of them come with integrated media keys which allow you to control music playback and volume, as well as quickly bring up commonly used apps like the calculator, file browser and more.
They all also use rubber cables, which are understandable at this price point, and they all have 5 levels of brightness. While I enjoy being able to adjust the brightness, I find that the 4th and 5th brightness levels are nearly identical to the third, making them redundant.
But most importantly, how does typing on them feel? Overall, my experience with the SMK series was a mixed bag; while the low-profile design felt great and allowed my wrists to feel comfortable even without a wrist rest, I did find the contour of the keyboard a little flat for my liking.
Even with the feet folded out, the keys didn't have the nice tiered slope that I'm used to - every row is pretty much the same height, making it uncomfortable to reach for keys nearer the top of the board as you have to stretch unnaturally forward and down. I did experience increase in my input error rate, but that may also be attributed to the unfamiliarity of the keyboard height.
Buy or no buy?
If you're looking for an affordable low-profile mechanical keyboard, Armaggeddon's SMK series is pretty easy on the pocket. Even the lowest-end model of the series offers the option to swap out your switches, which is a nice feature if you're fickle-minded or enjoy experimenting between different keycaps.
At the other end of the spectrum, the 12R offers up different switch options and decent RGB lighting customisation for those who place importance on the aesthetics of their keyboard. Finally, the 6C offers a nice midpoint between the two options - no-frills, but with a sturdy and reliable chassis.
If you're keen on trying one of these out, you can head on over to Armaggeddon's official Shopee store to check 'em out.