iQunix F97 Mechanical Keyboard Review

iQunix F97 Mechanical Keyboard Review

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Epblogs verdict

The full-size iQunix F97 keyboard is a portable device with a lot to offer. It significantly outperforms the F96 in practically every aspect. A good, enthusiast-grade mechanical keyboard is expensive, but it is well worth the investment.

Quick Summary

The F97 by iQunix stands in contrast to the rest of the mechanical keyboard market, which appears to be contracting, to remind us that full-size layouts may be just as fantastic. The F97, a keyboard that brings tri-mode connection and enthusiast-grade typing, is the popular F96’s replacement. Hot-swappable switches, more switch options, significantly longer battery life, and characterful keycap designs are just a few of the unique features it includes.

The F97, which retails for $245, has a premium pricing but provides a top-notch typing experience, making it one of the best wireless keyboards you can buy. However, because it lacks software, its programmability and illumination options are constrained. gamers may want to pause a little longer. However, it makes up for what it lacks in macros with responsiveness. If you have the money to spend more, the F97 is a wonderful option.

iQunix F97 Mechanical Keyboard Design and Construction

Compact full-size keyboard with a 96 percent layout, the iQunix F97. In essence, it is a full-size keyboard that has been compressed, eliminating key gaps and infrequently used buttons. What’s left is a grid, complete with a number pad, function row, and arrow keys, but no distinct Insert, Pause, or Scroll Lock keys.

The Fn button gives you access to all of these features as well as many more as secondary commands. The grid conserves desk space and, depending on your preferences, may look organized or crowded.

This keyboard places a lot of emphasis on aesthetics. Each of the six alternatives has a very distinctive appearance with keycaps that are heavily themed. It’s a sure bet that you’ll like its layout if you ever get around to making a purchase because the designs are so distinctive that potential customers are much more inclined to take their time examining them.

The F96 suffered from the same problem, but iQunix has improved its keycap printing, and the new patterns are more intricate than before. I received the Hitchhiker and Cosmic Traveler models for my review, both of which are space-themed yet different from one another in terms of appearance and typing experience.

These models’ discrepancies go beyond surface level. Cherry profile keycaps are used in all of the Cosmic Traveler, Variable X, Typinglab, and Dark Side versions. Most individuals should feel instantly at home with these because they resemble the keycaps used on the majority of gaming and productivity keyboards.

The Hitchhiker and Wintertide models make use of a special KDA profile that sharpens the corners and increases the center scoop. The keycaps on the Variable X and Typinglab versions are made of ABS rather than PBT plastic, which enables them to have brighter colors. However, this increases the likelihood that they may age prematurely. While all other models employ Costar stabilizers, the Cosmic Traveler edition uses stabilizers in the Cherry style. Before making a purchase, it is definitely worthwhile to read the complete product listing for each model.

Beyond these differences, the keyboards offer the same feature set, complete with upgrades from the F96. Keeping with the keycaps, iQunix uses high-quality PBT plastic and dye-sublimated legends on most models. The walls are thick and there is a very slight texturing to the surface. These keycaps look, feel, and sound great. I wasn’t able to test any of the ABS variants, but if the PBT keycaps are any indication, they should be equally high quality.

The aluminum used in the F97’s case gives it a pleasing heaviness and premium feel in the hand. Beyond the single USB-C port, there are no other connections for connecting to your PC, and the feet are fixed in place so you can’t change the angle. The only tiny switch to switch between wired and wifi connectivity is on the rear. It is reliable but straightforward.

The case is not invulnerable to damage simply because it is made of metal. Both of the models I received were painted, not anodized, and they were easily scratched. Simple switch removal along the number pad resulted in minor finish blemishes. You should exercise caution, but if you utilize this keyboard’s hot-swap capability, scratches appear unavoidable.

Another recent innovation is switch sockets that can be hot-swapped. Even though they aren’t really new at this time, it’s excellent to see iQunix include them in their lineup. Using the provided keycap and switch pullers, you may quickly unhook the switches from the PCB in order to replace them without having to desolder them. It’s a great feature to have if you want to experiment with different switches or if you need to replace a broken switch after a spill.

Despite how nice it is, I don’t think I’ll ever switch switches. Along with the standard Cherry MX Red, Brown, Blue, and Pink switch selections, iQunix has also introduced new switch options from TTC, such as Gold Pink, Speed Silver, and ACE.

All of the TTC switches are linear and pre-lubricated at the factory to provide greater smoothness. The Gold Pink and ACE switches I tested are far superior to Cherry MX Red in terms of sound and feel. There is absolutely no scratchiness or spring ping. Just provide tactile and clicky choices for these switches, iQunix.

The F97 models feature Costar stabilizers for their larger keys, with the exception of the Cosmic Traveler. The advantage of this type of stabilizer is that it is significantly less rattly than Cherry stabilizers (see here for a detailed essay on the differences), but it also makes it more harder to remove keycaps for these keys (really, don’t take them off).

Having tested both designs using my two review samples, I found that neither style rattled, but the Costar stabilizers had a superior sound. Their design also has the advantage of requiring less re-lubing over time.

The F97 combines two layers of foam and silicone rings beneath the keys to muffle typing noises. The metal switch plate and the PCB are separated by a layer of plate foam. Between the PCB and case, there is another layer of foam underneath that.

The metal standoffs in the case are further isolated from typing sounds by o-rings. Compared to the F96, it has a less hollow sound and emphasizes the sound of the switches more. Although an additional layer of foam and o-rings may not seem like much, it improves the typing experience and acoustics.

This generation’s RGB illumination is significantly brighter and more colorful. It is easily visible even in a brilliantly lighted space, which wasn’t the case on the F96. You are confined to the keyboard’s built-in effects and colors because there is no software.

There are 18 lighting animations available, covering the gamut from static colors to dynamic lighting effects and rainbow waves. Many of these can be color-customized by choosing from eight distinct tones, or the entire keyboard can be changed to a rainbow of colors. If illumination isn’t your thing, iQunix offers an F97 model for $20 less without RGB.

iQunix F97 Mechanical Keyboard Typing Experience

The F97 keyboard offers one of the best pre-made keyboard typing experiences. For this review, I was able to try two different versions. The Cosmic Traveler and the Hitchhiker both have TTC Gold Pink switches with Cherry profile keycaps and stabilizers (which uses Costar stabs, KDA profile keycaps, and came with TTC ACE switches). Set your expectations high because your typing experience may differ based on the switch and keycap profile you use.

Both versions were outstanding. Typing was dampened but not overly muted like some foam-filled keyboards can become. The materials iQunix used to provide the dampening effect allows just enough sound travel to allow you hear the unique characteristics of each switch and eliminates unpleasant sounds, like pinging throughout the case. There’s just no room for it here.   

The stabilizers on each keyboard were also excellent. They come generously pre-lubed from the factory, completely eliminating any rattle or ticking sounds. The Costar stabilizers were the best. Due to how the wires attach directly under each keycap, there’s less room for that wire to move and create unwanted noise. They feel almost tighter when compared side by side with Cherry stabilizers.

The Hitchhiker’s KDA keycaps were incredibly comfortable to type on. My fingers were supported and directed toward the center by the rounded borders and spherical scoop in the middle. The Cosmic Traveler’s Cherry profile keycaps felt comfortable and simple to use, but iQunix’s KDA keycaps are definitely something special.

The ACE and Gold Pink switches are at opposite extremities of the sensitivity spectrum. Both feature a 2mm actuation point and a 4mm travel distance, however the Gold Pinks feel significantly lighter to the touch. They require only 37 grams of actuation force to trigger compared to 60 grams for ACE switches.

The Gold Pinks were also extremely excellent, but I prefer a stronger switch and also prefer the slightly deeper sound of the ACE switches. I advise choosing the ACEs if you type quickly to prevent mistakes and unintentional key presses in games.

Because of their increased weight, I found I was more accurate when typing with the TTC ACE switches. Across ten tests on MonkeyType, I averaged 109 WPM with 98-percent accuracy. With the Gold Pink switches, I averaged 111 WPM with 96-percent accuracy. Those results are close, but I found I felt more accurate with the heavier switch and was able to stay in a groove with less backtracking on actual documents.

Responsiveness for typing was top-notch. There was no discernible delay when typing over Bluetooth or 2.4GHz wireless, so the only time I found myself plugging in was when I wanted to recharge after that first week.

However, the layout requires some getting used to. I stumbled when it came to arrows since some keys were too small and others had different shapes. I frequently press 0 instead of the right arrow key because I touch type and don’t frequently glance at the keyboard while I’m working. Not a major deal unless you disable Num Lock, in which case 0 becomes Insert and screenshots are pasted into your document.

After a day or so, this became less of a problem, though it was first aggravating. Overall, I believe this to be a really practical layout that strikes a good balance between space and utility.

iQunix F97 Mechanical Keyboard Gaming Experience

The F97 can be used to play games but isn’t what I would call a gaming keyboard. It has excellent 2.4GHz wireless responsiveness, and the addition of a number pad makes keyboard-intensive games like Microsoft Flight Simulator possible. Its weakness is that it can’t be programmed, but if you don’t want those functions, you’ll find that it works fine for the majority of gaming setups.

I mixed Red Dead Redemption 2, Doom Eternal, Elder Scrolls Online, Battlefield 2042, and Microsoft Flight Simulator while using the keyboard. Even in a very competitive first-person shooter like Battlefield, there was no discernible difference in response between playing wirelessly or wired. Performance felt comparable when compared to my Corsair K100 gaming keyboard.

If you utilize large mouse sweeps, you could get into problems. Although the F97 is smaller than a conventional keyboard, it nevertheless occupies more desk area than a TKL. It wasn’t a problem for me because I don’t use these broad sweeps, but if you aim with broad arm movements, you might need to incline your keyboard.

Bottom Line

The F97 improves on what was successful with the F96. The end result is a superb (albeit expensive) mechanical keyboard that will surely satisfy. The new tri-mode connection and longer battery life make wireless gaming and productivity more responsive than ever. It sounds and feels amazing to type on. With the right maintenance, it should last for many years despite its disappointing susceptibility for scratches.

Find the F97 a bit too large? The iQunix A80 Explorer is a great alternative that gets rid of the NumPad but keeps the tri-mode connectivity and excellent typing experience, starting at only $169. The Akko 3098B/N is another outstanding option with a similar 96-percent layout. It trades the metal case and unique design for a much more affordable price of only $109 (and still manages to look great).

The iQunix F97 is a worthy sequel with a lot to offer, even though it builds on rather than reinvents what the business began with the F96. Although expensive, it provides significant enhancements across the board to enhance your typing experience, particularly when using TTC switches.

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