It’s an exciting time to be a keyboard shopper. There are more and better options than at any time in recent memory, and increasing competition is driving prices lower and availability higher. That’s definitely the case today with the new Epomaker Theory range of mechanical keyboards. With hot-swappable, pre-lubricated Gateron Pro switches, silent stabilizers, and a design that emphasizes sound quality and value for money, they’re a quality line of products that every new buyer should consider. We’ve been testing the TH66 and TH80 for the last two weeks and are ready to give our verdict on how well they hold up at their exceptionally affordable prices. What, if anything, is being sacrificed here?
- Current price:
- Brand: Epomaker
- Arrangement: 96%, 75%, 65%
- Switches: Gateron Pro Red, Black, Yellow, Brown, Blue (all pre-lubricated)
- Hot-Swappable: Yes, compatible with 3-pin or 5-pin switches
- Keycap Material: PBT Keycaps
- Keycap Profile: MDA
- Connectivity: USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0, 2.4GHz
- Battery capacity: 2200mah (TH66), 3800mah (TH80), 3000mah (TH98) 3800mah
- Programmable: Yes
- Anti-Ghosting: Supports NKRO in all modes
- Weight: 1kg
Epomaker Theory Keyboards Overview and Design
Epomaker has been one of the more exciting brands to launch in recent years. We started our coverage of the brand with the GK68XS almost two years ago, and the brand has had many releases since then. All of them shared a similar design ethos: enthusiast features at a discount. So far they have been successful, and the same approach continues with this latest release. What’s different this time around is that the market is significantly richer with entry-level options for budding keyboard builders and gamers.
So let’s take a closer look at what these keyboards have to offer. The theory series, TH for short, is available in 65%, 75% and 96% layouts. Each board features hot-swappable Gateron Pro switches that come pre-lubricated from the factory. Each is fitted with a plastic case and contains a layer of sheet foam between the plate and the PCB and a second layer of foam inside the case to reduce voids. The keycaps are dye-sublimated PBT in a gray and yellow color scheme that looks pretty nice. Each is also available as a barebones kit if you want to bring your own switches and keycaps, and are $20 less if purchased that way – but spend the extra $20 and get the set from Gateron Pros. They are slick and quite comfortable to use; Put Cherry’s to shame.
These boards are built with a “modified gasket-like structure”. Here is what Epomaker has to say about the:
The TH66 is neither a traditional seal structure nor a typical sandwich mount. Instead, the TH66 tries to find the balance point between the traditional seal design and the sandwich structure to meet the demand for soft touch and typing stability.
It adopts the seals on the edges of the lower case as the main contact point, which is said to bring soft tactile feelings and quieter sounds. Meanwhile, a couple of screws are used to secure the plate and circuit board, eliminating the common complaint of using a traditional gasket-mount keyboard – lack of support in the central typing area and instability when typing hard.
In fact, the keyboards are intended for tablet mounting, meaning the board/PCB assembly screws into posts that are built into the lower case, but use a series of silicon strips where the PCB meets the upper and lower cases . For typing, this means that keystrokes sound muffled and quite pleasant. There’s not much flexibility to speak of, so you don’t get the “bouncy” typing feel that’s typical of fully sealed keyboards. Instead, it’s all about isolating those vibrations so you hear less from the case and more from your switches.
All keyboards also feature triple-mode connectivity. You can connect with a wired connection, via Bluetooth (three profiles that can be swapped on the fly) and 2.4 GHz for wired gaming performance. Curiously, the battery capacity is different in all three models. The smallest keyboard has the smallest battery at 2200mAh, the TH80 has the largest (3800mAh) and the largest of the group falls in the middle at 3000mAh. There’s no stated battery life, but you can see a battery indicator with one of the switch LEDs to know where you need a charge. I found that with a few hours a day at full RGB brightness, I needed to charge about once every 4-5 days.
The two smaller models are also equipped with aluminum rotary knobs for volume control. In truth, therefore, the TH80 appears on the surface to be a “plastic GMMK pro”. Of course, it’s not a true gasket-mount implementation, but the GMMK Pro’s thin gaskets made it almost as tight anyway. The Theory keyboards also don’t support screw stabilizers, meaning enthusiast favorites like Durock V2s are out of the question. The included stabs aren’t terrible and can sound pretty good with the right lube. See the Performance section for more information.
These keyboards are also fully programmable using Epomaker’s software suite. It’s rough around the edges, as it always was, and certainly isn’t the most intuitive to use. As a keyboard aimed at budding enthusiasts, it would have been nice to see QMK support added to this new lineup, but sadly it’s still missing. Still, the software gets the job done, and once you’re programmed, you don’t have to bother with it unless you plan on making changes.
Epomaker Theory Keyboards – Performance
Let’s start with how these keyboards actually work. It’s not bad. The sound and feel are actually surprisingly good. The layers of foam, plastic casing, silicone strips, and pre-lubricated switches all work together to produce an exceptionally smooth typing experience and a well-dampened and pleasing sound. I actually like it quite a bit!
But like most of these entry-level keyboards, they’re best viewed as a platform for improvement. With some simple mods, you can make these keyboards sound and feel a lot better, and you don’t even have to open any switches to do it!
With that in mind, I was happy to see Epomaker using Gateron Pro switches. The TH80 was shipped to me with used Pro Black Switches, which are mid-weight linears. The TH66 used Gateron Pro Red switches, which are lightweight linear switches. The greasing work on these is immediately noticeable. They glide like they’re on the air, have absolutely no bouncing, and sound pretty good for a budget switch that you can just plug in and have a good experience with. I really hope Cherry is taking notes here because Gateron is handing them their lunch.
The stabilizers in these keyboards are generously pre-lubricated, but like most pre-lubricated stabilizers, they are dabbed on the outside of the case with very little internal where the clatter comes from. On both boards I had stabilizers left with some rattling and others that were fine. Luckily, they’re easy to take out, add a little more and then they’re ready to go. These stabilizers won’t blow your mind, but they’re pretty decent and sound better than most gaming keyboards available today.
The silicone pads handle the cushioning, but it’s not as good as it could be because there are still posts in the center of the lower case. These transmit vibrations directly downwards and result in a firmer typing feel. On the product page, Epomaker says it uses these posts to address “the general complaint” of “lack of support in the central typing area and instability when typing hard.” I dont know. In fact, I think Flex is a fairly easy selling point for many custom keyboards. But different designs, and they cushion keystrokes, so it’s still better than a plastic shell mount.
The sound of both keyboards is pretty light at the beginning. At this point in my keyboard career, I prefer a deeper sound that’s also a bit louder than many silicone/foam-damped keyboards offer natively. To improve the sound, I added two layers of painter’s tape to the back of the board. Both boards responded very well to this, coming into the acoustics with more depth and pop without sounding muted. I would definitely recommend potential buyers to try this out. Simple, cheap and a noticeable upgrade!
For gaming, the keyboards performed great. I didn’t notice any difference in responsiveness between connecting via a cable and using the 2.4GHz dongle, so you can safely unplug without fear of wireless lag. The software also gives you the ability to record macros and create multiple layers of keymaps for different games. I wish it was more sophisticated, but it’s serviceable and not too difficult once you get used to what makes these effective keyboards for PC gaming.
Priced between $89 and $109, these keyboards offer a lot for the money. If you’re sensitive to stabilizer rattle, you might want to go back and add a little more fat, but the out-of-the-box experience is good. It’s clear that Epomaker is stepping up its game on what kind of typing and gaming experience you can expect for the money, and that’s a win for everyone. If you’re looking for a solid platform to build a great sounding, great typing and gaming experience, the Epomaker Theory series is a safe bet.The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some items may contain affiliate links and purchases made through them will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not addressed to the author or linked to remuneration in any way.
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