The Zalman Z-Machine ZM-K650WP Gaming Keyboard

The design of the ZM-K650WP truly resembles that of a typical mechanical keyboard and could easily mislead even trained eyes until a close inspection. It features a modern design, with straight lines and acute angles forming simple geometric shapes. The all-plastic body is slightly tall and, in combination with the tall keycaps, helps the K650WP mimic the appearance of a mechanical keyboard. The plastic body is greatly prone to fingermarks and gets dirty quite easily. It is interesting to note that the K650WP is a PS/2 keyboard, with Zalman providing a USB adapter for it.

The K650WP is a standard full-size ANSI keyboard but with four extra keys above the numpad. The four extra keys offer volume control (higher, lower and mute), while the fourth key is the “game mode” that locks the Windows buttons. The keycaps are tall, cylindrical and with relatively large characters printed on them. An extra LED in line with the three regular “lock” LEDs indicates whether the game mode is activated or not. The keycap characters are pad printed and will wear over time. In comparison with mechanical keyboards, the keycaps of the K650WP wobble a lot, but not unexpectedly so for such an inexpensive design.

    

Beneath the keycaps we found the plastic guides that account for the “almost-mechanical” tactile feeling of the K650WP. Blue guides have been placed on membrane domes, offering the keys a straight travel of 4 mm. Some companies refer to this design as “half-mechanical switches” and a few even made their models compatible with the keycaps of mechanical keyboards. For the K650WP, the plastic guides that they use are incompatible with any other keycap than itself.

Under the keyboard we found five rubber anti-skid feet, typical for such a keyboard. Drain holes can be seen to the sides of the keyboard, which is where the liquids come out of, making the K650WP waterproof. Note that the despite the keyboard being on display at Computex being used underwater, we could not get our keyboard samples to work when submerged or when it is too wet; it is meant to be rinsed and then used once most of the liquid exits the keyboard or dries.

Inside the K650WP we found a standard rubber dome layer sitting on an electronic plastic membrane sheet. A metal sheet provides mechanical support, ensuring that the rubber dome mold and the membrane sheet will stay firmly attached to each other. Zalman placed the rest of the keyboard’s electronics inside a small plastic case and shielded the cable with a generous amount of silicone.

The three-layer membrane sheet is by default waterproof, as the circuit traces are sandwiched between the top and bottom membranes. The reason that the K650WP cannot work submerged is not because the liquid shorts the circuit, but because it can slip in between the rubber dome mold and the membrane sheet. The membrane sheet is very pressure-sensitive, so the presence of the liquid is causing misclicks. That is unlikely to happen with just a drink spilling on it or even while rinsing it beneath running water, the keyboard needs to get submerged for the liquid’s pressure to let it work its way in between the membrane and the rubber dome mold.

Introduction, Packaging & Bundle Final Words & Conclusion
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  • Morawka - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    pretty decent setup for $30 tbo. i might order one just for the hell of it and see how well it handles drinks and soda pop. Reply
  • lefty2 - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    Hope it's beer proof too. It's many a keyboard I have lost by spilling beer on it Reply
  • eek2121 - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    lol you beat me to it. After killing 2 very expensive Razer keyboards I learned my lesson and started buying $20 chinese knock-offs Reply
  • bill.rookard - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    I already know I need several of those... here at work... dang kids. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    Thanks for reviewing a membrane keyboard! I do agree that membrane boards are better with shorter key travel distances, but there's a sweet spot to be found as some keyboards on thinner laptops now have, I feel, insufficient depth to offer a good tactile experience. Besides cooling, thats one of the other reasons why I think making electronics as thin as possible is detrimental rather than beneficial to the consumer/end user/whatever after a certain point.

    Zalman's mistake appears, based on photos alone, to be ignoring the natural strengths of membrane keyboards to offer shorter travel distances. If that was done intentionally to emulate mechanical keyboards or if it was a byproduct of adhering to the fairly standard 101-key designs we dealt with in decades past it was still probably a mistake.
    Reply
  • Veixtheboy - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    Meh.. It isn't the best looking keyboard and the 30 dollars isn't super cheap for it. Pay 10 dollars more and get an AULA Wings of Liberty. It's waterproof too + its mechanical. They may not be the best switches in the world but it both functions and looks better than this. http://gaminggearhub.com/gaming-keyboards/mechanic... Reply
  • Eredu - Friday, November 18, 2016 - link

    If I'm going cheap the only choice is scissor switch keyboards. Shorter travel distance and lesser key-wobbling is essential (for me at least).
    I really miss the Logitech UltraX (and curse the lack of true alternatives)...
    Reply
  • plonk420 - Friday, November 25, 2016 - link

    RIP 3+ UltraXes (and a $30 black friday low profile backlit logitech) due to drinks :I ...i'm back to my original PS/2 UltraX with a soft M key and inconsistently working spacebar. this or the AULA are compelling, but i'll miss the low profile keys Reply
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