Photos and Features

When doing my initial research on the ES-87 and KeyedUpLabs one of the big things they pushed was that they started making keyboards to bring out a higher quality keyboard. The second I got the ES-87 in my hands I see well feel what they were talking about. The ES-87 is from the outside just your normal ol TKL keyboard, but in hand you can feel just how heavy duty it feels. It is by far the heaviest TKL I have ever handled. Aesthetically from the top is has a clean design much like the CM Quickfire Rapid’s but the outside bezel is slightly wider down along the bottom. The factor finish is a slightly textured black plastic without any weird rubberized finishes or anything. From the top point of view, you can’t really even tell what keyboard it is because there aren’t any distinguishing marks or design features really. It isn’t until you get to the side of the keyboard does the ES-87 have a little of its own style.

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It’s a little hard to see with the black on black but on the side profile of the ES-87 there is a two-layer style where the top lid of the keyboard fits over the keyboard base. The shape carves out a little in between the front and back along the bottom of the side giving the keyboard a look like it is thinner with legs holding it up on the front and back. This same design happens on the back of the keyboard as well only it is clearer to see on the sides. Beyond that the only thing that can be seen on the back are the three exit holes for the USB cable that let you have it come out in the middle or on the left or right.

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The ES-87 doesn’t have macro keys or many of the weird keys you find on gaming boards. KUL kept things simple with just a set of media keys up in the F keys. To use the media keys you have to hold the function key down in the bottom row and then you can start and stop your music or videos as well as flip between songs. It also has audio controls with volume up and down and a mute button.

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Beyond the media controls the ES-87 has a very standard key layout. This means a standard bottom row that is easy to swap in other keysets without having to order special kits. Rather than using the windows logo for the media key KUL kept things neutral with a diamond shape for the OS key. This diamond key also doubles as the KUL power mode key. Power mode turns the windows key into a control + Alt and Control + Shift keys. Remember though that KUL did include a few replacement caps as well, those keycaps were included to let us swap a few things like caps lock and left control, tidle and escape, and backspace and backslash. While most of the keyboard doesn’t have backlighting, there is an LED behind the Caps Lock, Left Ctrl, Esc, and Scroll Lock keys. Most of those are normal but the LED behind the escape key is interesting.

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Beyond the oily fingerprints in my photo the KUL ES-87 has a few things going on the underside of the keyboard. For starters the bottom isn’t completely flat, the front edge is actually angled to match the angle of the keyboard when you flip out the back feet. Speaking of that for feat the ES-87 has four-inch-wide rubber feet on the front alone, two for when running angled and two for flat. Then on the back there are two smaller rubber feet as well as the flip out legs to angle the keyboard, those also have rubber on the end to keep the keyboard from sliding around.

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The bottom has a notched area where you can plug in the included detachable USB cord. They went with the larger mini USB rather than the micro USB that a lot of companies have been moving too. There is some talk that a mini USB connection is a little stronger, personally I have had both break. The USB cable has three options. You can run it straight out the back or you can run through the track to the left or the right to have it come out a little closer to your PC side. I like having that option because running out at the center can sometimes run into your monitor when in a tight space, like at a LAN for example.

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The most interesting thing on the entire bottom of the keyboard through was the tiny hole up near the top left foot. That hole gives us access to a set of dip switches that help customize the ES-87. Most keyboard would use software for a lot of this but going the dip switch route is the best way to do it. Not only does having to fuss with software suck, but doing it with hardware is the most stable and it will work in any PC you plug into. So what do the dip switches do? Well lucky for us KUL left us a sticker on the back with a list of how it all works. The first switch just changes from windows mode to OS X mode for apple users. The second, third, and fourth switches all are different options for flipping keycaps (remember the extra caps that were included). Switch five switches the function key with the menu key. Switch 6 lets us flip between a low and high polling rate. Then switch 7 can give us full N-key rollover over USB. The reason it’s important to have a switch for this is because some BIOS don’t like USB NKRO. The last switch is open currently for future expansion.

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The ES-87 has a black steel backplate to give the keyboard a very solid feel and for keyswitches they exclusively use Cherry switches. I’ve seen ES-87’s with MX Reds, Browns, Blues, Blacks, Greens and for ours clears. That means you have a light and heavy spring option in all three tactile, clickly, and linier, short of people who prefer Gaterons this should hit most preferences. When KUL sent out our board I went with clears because I like the tactile feedback and the clears have a unique design that gets firmer the father down it goes making it a little harder to bottom the keys out. 

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For the longer keys that require a stabilizer KeyedUpLabes went with Cherry stabilizers. In the enthusiast communities they typically prefer Costars for smoothness but I personally like Cherry stabilizers. They are installed under the plate and don’t require you to fuss with the small clips when removing and installing keycaps. This makes keeping your keyboard clean much easier in my opinion, typically I will dread fighting with a costar stabilizer but have no problem pulling all of the keycaps off of a keyboard with cherry stabilizers.

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For keycaps the ES-87 has an OEM keycap profile with caps made out of ABS. Given the focus on high end with the rest of the keyboard I was surprised they didn’t go with PBT but I think they know a lot of enthusiasts are going to swap out the keycaps anyhow. The legends are lasered then infilled white and the caps themselves aren’t very thick but to give them a little more strength each cap is thicker in the corners.

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garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #37533 08 Jan 2016 23:16
With registration opening why not take a look at a TKL keyboard that I think is a great way to add a little personalization to your setup at the next LAN. Check out the ES-87 from KeyedUpLabs

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