Aorus K9 Optical keyboard senses strokes with infrared light

Most people seem to prefer mechanical keyswitches over rubber-dome offerings. Dome switches require you to mash a key pretty forcefully for it to register, and they get progressively less reliable with use. Mechanical keyswitches are more reliable (so much that they'll likely outlive the keyboard's practical usefulness) but they're still vulnerable to moisture and corrosion. Aorus' new K9 Optical keyboard, which we saw briefly at Computex this year, uses optical switches that have no physical switch mechanism. As a result, the company claims the keyboard is spill-proof.

The keyswitches used in the K9 Optical are called Flaretechs. They work by using an IR sensor that detects when the key stem approaches the baseplate. Since the sensing is optical, the switches are essentially immune to key bounce and chatter. As a result, there's little need for complicated debouncing circuits found on other keyboards, and the bounce time is listed at only 0.03ms. That also means that keypresses should be registered faster and can be repeated more quickly than on keyboards using traditional switches.

Thanks to the lack of a physical switch mechanism, the Flaretechs should last essentially forever—Gigabyte says they're good for up to 100 million keystrokes. Even though the K9 Optical doesn't boast an IP certification, Gigabyte is so confident in its water-resistance proprerties that it claims the keyboard can be used underwater.

You can choose between "blue" or "red" variants of the K9. The designations have the same significance as on Cherry MX keyboards: models with blue switches are clicky, while models with red switches are linear. The steel springs used in the keyswitches require 55cN of force to actuate, once again not that different from similar MX models. The Flaretech keycap stems are also Cherry-MX compatible, so you can easily swap out your favorites to replace the K9's ABS caps.

Besides the fancy switches, the Aorus K9 has RGB LED backlighting, N-key rollover, a 1000 Hz polling rate, and a braided cable. You can use the Aorus Graphics Engine software to manage the RGB LED backlighting. The real question mark about this interesting keyboard will be its price. The only other optical-switch keyboard that we've seen is Tesoro's Gram SE, and that goes for $120 on Amazon despite lacking the K9's waterproofing. Hopefully Gigabyte can hit that mark or below.

Comments closed
    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    I don’t understand people who think a keyboard is okay to use after it’s had a drink spilt into it.

    Sure, if you only drink de-ionized, filtered water it’ll feel fine again once it dries off, but in most cases what happens is the keyboard needs a full disassembly and careful cleanup, regardeless of whether it’s waterproof or not.

      • just brew it!
      • 2 years ago

      Yeah, given that it obviously still has plungers and springs, anything with sugar in it is going to gum up the works. Keystrokes may still [i<]register[/i<] properly, but it isn't going to feel right.

    • ozzuneoj
    • 2 years ago

    Great, now a keyboard can suffer from infrared LED failures that disable part of the keyboard?

      • mcarson09
      • 2 years ago

      infrared LED failures? Experience that a lot?

        • ozzuneoj
        • 2 years ago

        I guess I meant the LEDs and the circuits made to run them. Something has to make them work. Having replaced failing surface mount LEDs before and nearly losing my mind, I can say that I’m not convinced that this is an upgrade with no compromises. Not to say it’s less reliable than a standard keyboard, just being realistic about a keyboard that could last “forever”… everything has a finite life span and may or may not hold up as intended after years of use.

          • LASR
          • 2 years ago

          What is your point? Solid state LEDs would last orders of magnitude longer than your regular mechanical switch, no? “Essentially forever” or practically forever would be that it lasts longer than you want it to last. For so many reasons, I would probably not want to use a keyboard that’s older than 10 years even if it worked. I think these would have a pretty solid chance of making it that long.

          If it wasn’t a problem worth mentioning with mechanical, why is it a problem with optical?

    • UberGerbil
    • 2 years ago

    So there’s still a metal spring. So there’s still an opportunity for wear, corrosion, and breakage. Small, granted — I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a modern keyboard having a spring fail — but it’s not like the switch contact is the only place where any of that can occur.

      • just brew it!
      • 2 years ago

      Some of the RK-9000s suffered from weak solder joints where the switches were attached to the PCB. The joints would fracture and fail after some number of weeks or months of pounding.

      Way back in the day, Hall effect keyboards were not uncommon. Seems to me that would be even more foolproof than optical, since an optical sensor could malfunction due to dust or liquids getting into the optical path.

      • mcarson09
      • 2 years ago

      The G910 with the ROMER-G keys gives me that Model M feel without all the damn noise and will be hard for me to replace. I don’t spill crap on my keyboard outside of a few drops of water, so I can’t say I’ve experience key failure on a keyboard that I’ve owned. I have replaced keyboards on laptops with bad keys.

    • UberGerbil
    • 2 years ago

    Missed their opportunity to make the entire thing out of tempered freaking glass.

      • Takeshi7
      • 2 years ago

      Now that I think about it, tempered glass topped keys would feel awesome.

        • mcarson09
        • 2 years ago

        I’d be too temped to punch the crap out of out just so I could say I shattered my keyboard.

      • mcarson09
      • 2 years ago

      Those will comes after they wrap Monitors and TVs in tempered freaking glass….
      Seriously how stupid is it to put that crap on phones?

    • chuckula
    • 2 years ago

    We have almost reached the goal of keyboards with freakin’ laser beams on them.

      • bill94el
      • 2 years ago

      We get the keyboard and we hold the world ransom for… ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

      • mcarson09
      • 2 years ago

      But it still doesn’t make me breakfast!!

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