I’m writing this on a keyboard I ordered from Drop quite some time ago, the Morgrie RKB6801. My daily driver up until now has been an also-recently-acquired Keychron K3. Both of these keyboards use slim switches; prior to this, I was using another Keychron keyboard with full-size Keychron optical switches. I do much of my writing/whatever from bed, and the way I configure myself doesn’t really work out well with a traditional mechanical keyboard; the overall height is just too chunky. Fortunately, a lot of progress is being made in the mechanical keyboard space; simply getting a Bluetooth model was an exercise in frustration but a few years ago.
I should say that I am a clicky-clacky typist. My favorite switches ever are the IBM Model M buckling springs, but in a modern setting I gravitate toward Matias’s take on the Alps switch. Few keyboards/keycaps are designed around Alps, so the next best switches for me are Cherry Greens. This is the sort of baseline that I’m working with for this post-that-approximates-a-review. As I mentioned, I had been using a Keychron K6, with Keychron’s optical simulacra of Cherry Blue switches. Blue is already a step down from Green for me, but I was making do with it. Optical switches are conceptually quite interesting to me; the core mechanical elements that provide the tactile satisfaction can be left in place while changing the electronic element to something solid state. Had I not wanted to dabble in this, I could’ve bought the hot-swappable version of the K6 and swapped in some Cherry Greens. I’m glad I didn’t, because as I mentioned, the keyboard is just too chunky for the intended use-case. You mention this sort of thing around mechanical keyboard groups, and you get chastised, because of course it’s chunky! The big fat switches make the magic! Which… both things can be true. It can be an unfortunate reality while still being… the reality.
The optical switches themselves were… okay? Most of the keyboard was fine, though not quite comparable to Cherry Blues, but the wider-than-letter keys? They squeaked like a poorly-oiled mouse. It was quite annoying. Yet the concept still compelled me enough that I opted for the optical switches on the K3 as well. These switches are definitely better in that they are not squeaky! And overall, they feel less mushy as well. Putting aside the size advantage, these actually feel better to type on than the full-sized Keychron optical switches. The other keyboard that I received, the Morgrie, uses traditional mechanical switches, albeit in a slim form-factor by Kailh. While this post is the first long(ish) thing that I’ve typed on the Morgrie, I have put time into testing it, using it for day-to-day typing, speed tests. And I have thoughts about both keyboards…
Size, and form factor
Initially, I was put off by the size of the Morgrie. It is approximately the same depth as the K3, but noticeably wider. Despite this, it has a full row fewer of keys; the K3 has an actual function row. I use function keys fairly infrequently; I think my most common usage is F2 to edit tags in Acrobat1. I’ll touch on this more in the layout section, but it’s worth noting that there are just many more keys on the smaller keyboard. The reason the Morgrie is so much larger is that it has a fairly prominent bezel surrounding the keys. I feel like this might annoy me on a desk, but it’s kind of nice having a place to rest the ol’ thumbs when typing in bed. The thick aluminum (I believe) bezel also makes the Morgrie heavy compared to the K3. It is solid. It feels well-built; the K3, while perfectly fine, feels flimsy in comparison. Overall, I don’t mind the size of the Morgrie as much as I expected, but the K3 gets the credit for its ability to cram far more into a noticeably smaller footprint.
These are both compact keyboards without number pads. They both have cursor keys and a right-hand column for page navigation keys. My laptop has a similar configuration. One thing that I’ve learned is that this stack of four keys on the right-hand side is a common decision for navigation keys – but unlike traditional layouts, nobody has decided on a standard for this. The three keyboards have these four keys from top-to-bottom:
- Laptop (HP Spectre 360)
- Home, Pg Up, Pg Dn, End
- Additionally, the upper row contains Insert, PrtSc, Delete
- PrtSc/Insert (fn), Home/Pg Up (fn), End/Pg Dn (fn), Delete
- As mentioned, the Morgrie has no upper row
- Keychron K3
- Pg Up, Pg Dn, Home, End
- Additionally, the upper row contains PrtSc, Delete, and Backlight
I don’t have much of an opinion between my laptop and the K3 except that I wish they were consistent. I guess the K3 makes more sense to me, but they’re both fine. The Morgrie, on the other hand, is nonsense. Delete is at the bottom, as far from Backspace as possible. This is ludicrous. Less egregious, but annoying to me is Pg Up and Pg Dn being on the function layer instead of Home and End. I’d also prefer Insert be on the primary layer instead of PrtSc, but at least it has Insert – this key cannot be input from the K3 (this keyboard only comes backlit, and wastes a perfectly good key on this). Considering WSL2 seemingly has no direct interaction with the Windows clipboard, and I have to rely heavily on ShiftInsert… this was miserable.
Despite the Morgrie displaying symbols for brightness, transport, volume, &c. on the function layer seems to send the codes for Function keys. I could go either way with this, as I really only miss having Mute as quick access, and as previously mentioned, I only really use F2. A second function layer would have been nice here; my old K6 (which also lacks a function row) worked this way. Esc and `/~ share a key, with the latter on the function layer. Despite my heavy
vim usage, I don’t touch Esc much. Since I remap Caps Lock to Ctrl on every machine I own, Ctrl[ is less of a stretch despite being a chord. With this in mind, I’d prefer `/~ on the primary layer, but I understand the decision. The extra row of the K3 pays off here.
The only other notable difference is the location of the Fn key; next to Space on the Morgrie and one to the right (between Alt and Ctrl on the K3. I use these modifiers infrequently, and don’t really have a preference, though again… standardization would be nice. Overall, it’s hard to say which layout I prefer; they each have a unique critical failure: the lack of Insert on the K3 and the absurd positioning of Delete on the Morgrie. Utterly bizarre decisions.
Switches and keycaps
TL;DR: The Morgrie wins on both fronts. The keycaps are PBT and feel great; K3 has ABS keycaps with extremely visible sprues. I got the Morgrie in white with orange lettering, and it’s rather pretty. Depending on which backlight you get, the K3 keys are either light or dark grey, with clear lettering for the backlight. They’re unoffensive, but the white Morgrie is just… kind of fun. I don’t know my way around keycap profiles very well, but the K3 uses slightly curved chiclet-style keys, while the Morgrie is more traditional. I don’t have a super strong opinion on this; I find that I orient myself more easily but get lost quickly on chiclets, and therefore type more quickly overall on more traditional caps.
I mentioned that the slim Keychron optical switches are nicer than the full-sized Keychron optical switches. This is certainly true, but the Morgrie’s Kailh Choc switches are much nicer than both. The Kailh Whites supposedly have a lower actuation force than the Keychron Oranges2, but it feels higher. All in all, I find the Kailhs to be a much nicer typing experience. If I sell off some stuff, I might try the traditional mechanical Gateron version of the K3. At the very least, if I found myself preferring the size/form-factor of the K3, I could replace them with Kailh switches now that I know I’m a fan.
The K3 switches have one very cool thing going for them – they accept regular Cherry keycaps. Obviously full-sized ones will be a bit chunky on the board, but still at a lower profile than the same caps on full-sized switches. More importantly, it’s just… an obvious standard. It’s wild to me that both Cherry and Kailh opted to come up with new, incompatible keycap mounts for their low profile switches. This was always a problem with Alps as well; so many people use Cherry that caps for anything else are hard to come by. The K3 switches are also hot-swappable, and optical switches of course don’t rely on a mechanism that will wear. I doubt this is really a sticking point. Finally, one of the keys on my K3 was improperly assembled from the factory, the spring was all out of place; I easily disassembled this and repaired it myself, but… shame I had to.
I mentioned the K3 only comes backlit. There are two versions: RGB- and white-LED backlit keys. I opted for white; RGB LEDs just… don’t look very good, in my experience. Being a touch-typist, I tend to disable backlighting anyway, and would prefer a version with a useful key and no backlight in lieu of a key I accidentally press constantly, forcing me to cycle through a bunch of ridiculous effects. Lastly, while there is an option to turn the backlight off entirely, there is no option to turn it on entirely; the closest thing is an effect where every key is on, but any given key briefly shuts off when you depress it. This is silly. Oh, there’s also no brightness setting. My laptop, by comparison, has no ridiculous effects and two brightness settings. This is useful!
Both keyboards have Bluetooth, both support three devices. The K3 uses a function layer for this, whereas the Morgrie has three dedicated buttons. I have no preference on this. I haven’t had any issues with Bluetooth on either board yet, though I also haven’t really stress-tested it. Unlike my Bluetooth IEMs that I pair to my phone, I don’t really have a need to test how far I can stray from my device. Both keyboards charge via USB-C, and can in fact be used wired via USB-C. The K3 has a switch to go between wired and wireless, the Morgrie does not. I’m sure there’s an advantage to one of those approaches, but I’m not going to try to suss it out.
The Morgrie has a nice tactile pushbutton for power on the back, while the K3 has a tiny slide switch. Both are fine, but the Morgrie is nicer in my opinion. The K3 will go into a sleep mode quickly; the Morgrie does not seem to, with the company claiming to have one of the longest standby times. I’d rather the keyboard just go to sleep. The K3’s bezel-less, chiclet design makes for easy cleaning; despite this, it came with a thin plastic cover. Neither of these things is true of the Morgrie.
Ultimately, I really think I prefer the Morgrie, and I’m tempted to buy another in the lovely powder blue color. It’s just very nice to type on. The solid build, the Kailh switches, the comfortable keys… I get on with it well. I sure do think that Delete placement is regrettable, though.
- Historically, I was keen on F5 to refresh content in a browser. I’ve been trying to retrain my muscle memory to CtrlR as it feels like less finger-work despite being a chord. Keeping in mind, of course, that I universally map Caps Lock to
- The clicky slim Keychron optical switches come in two barely-different actuation forces, with orange being the heavier of the two. Despite being the heavy one, orange is nearly comparable to a Cherry Blue. ↩︎