It’s hard to believe, but at one time the name Philips meant something very different than it does today. Once an electronic powerhouse that could easily sit alongside names like Sony, Panasonic and even acquired Magnavox back in the day, but has largely ceded many of the electronic markets it once competed in to emergent rivals like Samsung and others. However, when you think of Philips now you most likely know them of innovative lighting products or appliances, which is convenient given that we’re here to talk about their little-known entry into the world of PC gaming accessories, a piece of which is their G614 Wired Mechanical RGB Gaming Keyboard (i.e. SPK8614) under their “Momentum” brand.
Yes, you read that correctly: a gaming keyboard from the company best known these days for producing smart bulbs and electric shavers is vying for your gaming dollars. We have to get the obvious out of the way first, however. Anyone who’s ever spent time online searching for a “cheap” mechanical keyboard is probably all-too-familiar with the endless choices available from questionable Chinese vendors promising a “professional” keyboard for pennies on the dollar. Take a chance on one of those deceptively “cheap” products, however, and you’ll soon wish you had your pennies back.
Looking Good, So Far
First impressions matter, and after spending a few minutes with the SPK8614 keyboard it did remind us an awful lot like one of those Chinese products. Bad English on the box and a typo-riddled manual didn’t help inspire much confidence either. However, after spending a week typing away on one these initial impressions did change somewhat as it does feel like Philips sifted through their options and chose the best possible product to announce their entry into an increasingly crowded market dominated by the likes of Corsair, Razer, Logitech and so many others.
Let’s get right to it: Can a budget-friendly mechanical keyboard possibly compete, let alone distinguish itself from more feature-packed competitors that often cost multitudes more? In just about every essential way the look and function the SPK8614 doesn’t disappoint. This is a full-sized QWERTY keyboard with full-sized keys and a nice number-pad on the side. While the base of the SPK8614 feels like plastic, at least it’s nice plastic as every backlit key is situated on a brushed aluminum backing that looks impressively stylish sitting on even the most cluttered and messiest of desks (where most keyboards like this are destined to end up, truth be told). Two plastic legs on the back let you angle your typing experience slightly while a very generous 5-foot gold-plated braided USB cable connects to your computer (PC or Mac supported).
For added comfort, the included magnetized hand rest props up your poor typing hands for some relief against carpal tunnel. It’s not a very powerful magnet, mind you, and the hand rest can easily pop off when you pick the keyboard off the desk.
The only additions to its otherwise generic, yet perfunctory appearance are the included control knob and three M-buttons on the top-right corner that function as either brightness or volume controls, depending on what mode is active.
That’s right – modes! One thing you’ll notice straight away is that the SPK8614, unlike pricier keyboards, doesn’t require or even use bonus software. This can be seen as either a plus or negative, depending on how you feel about bonus software and how much you’re hoping to customize its customizable features. Everything programmable about the SPK8614 is handled via button long-presses or combinations. There is a Windows Key-lock, which can be activated with a quick Function+Windows press (just make sure to turn it off when finished!) while that control knob can be changed from lighting and brightness adjuster to media adjuster with a simple 3-second long press. Programming those lighting effects, however, is a bit more complicated as I’ll try to explain below.
Lighten Up Your Typing Experience
About those colors…Philips calls them “RGB” and while the acronym is technically true, pairing it with the words “gaming keyboard” can be a little misleading. Yes, every single key here is completely backlit and radiating colors from the red-green-blue spectrum, but those colors are hard-coded to specific keys and can’t be changed or modified. How this boils down when it use is actually a bit playful as colors have obviously been grouped toward function.
Function keys are all blue, baby, while your standard horizontal number/symbol keys are cherry red (the number-pad versions, however, are yellow). Print Screen, Delete and Home keys are green while almost all of the standard keys are cyan. The only exceptions would be gaming favorites WASD and arrow keys, which are purple. While the colors themselves can’t be changed, how – or if – they’re lit can be modified by either pressing the control knob to cycle through 19 available preset lighting effects or choosing from three gaming-centric M1/M2/M3 preset buttons.
Philips calls these “Ambiglow” effects, which basically means your colors will mimic the typical chromatic lighting effects like breathing, waves, or individual key spotting. All neat stuff, though I prefer that my keys stay a nice stable solid (which is also available, thank goodness). Twisting the control knob can also dim or brighten the intensity levels while executing a complicated series of presses in conjunction with the M buttons can allow you to “program” your own color scheme. Heaven knows I tried my best to program them but I was never successful. I suspect most people using the SPK8614 will find a preset they’re happy with and that’ll be that.
So the SPK8614 looks pretty sitting on your desk and seems stable enough, but how does it feel to type on it? Pretty good, actually. This may be a budget-friendly keyboard, but I experienced zero lag and had no problems quickly acclimating myself and achieving my maximum WPM. That’s more than I can say for some higher-priced models, especially those with less-than-ideally placed keys or different configurations. While I usually prefer my mechanical switches brown (or if I must, red), typing on the SPK8614 was still a very pleasant, satisfying experience.
But the box says “gaming keyboard”, and while there’s a few gaming-friendly touches included (such as some of the preset lighting and Windows Key lock) there really isn’t much here for a serious gamer to consider. Programming basic lighting patterns proved too cumbersome (at least for me) and the lack of onboard profiles seems like a big omission for an industry that loves its button-mapping. I won’t get into the nerdier aspects of what hardcore gamers really want from their accessories, but the lack of authentic Cherry mechanical switches will obviously mean something to the purists out there.
Be warned, however: as you’d expect from a mechanical keyboard sporting blue-colored switches typing on the SPK8614 is seriously LOUD. Every press, every click, every intense gaming session translates into a barrage of clickety-clicks that never seem to stop. I realize some of you are probably salivating over the idea of scratching that particular Pavlovian itch that only blue mechanical keyboards seem capable of, but rest assured the SPK8614 easily fits that bill.
That Engrish, tho…
It may sound a bit petty, but if Philips wants to be taken at all seriously in markets outside of Asia they desperately need to up their documentation game. There’s almost no information about the SPK8614 available online – even on Philips’ own website. The only way consumers can learn about it – apart from reviews like this – is reading the Amazon product page, which is littered with so much embarrassing and hilarious misinformation it’s more likely to turn people away.
Just one example concerns the keyboard’s main selling point – it’s mechanical switches. The Amazon page describes them as “silent but deadly” before referring to them as “whisper-quiet”. First, it’s never a good idea to use a euphemism meaning “fart” when bragging up your product. Secondly, these are mechanical switches we’re talking about here, right? Big, beautiful blue switches are famous for making loud CLICKS when pressed. For blue switch aficionados those volume levels are features, not bugs.
It’s difficult to recommend Phillips’ G416 Wired Mechanical RGB Gaming Keyboard to hardcore gaming enthusiasts based purely on its marquee “gaming” features, but there’s still enough here to make budget gamers or anyone looking for an inexpensive mechanical keyboard take a second look. If you pair it with the accompanying G413 Gaming Mouse it does look pretty sitting on a desk, especially when all its RGB lights are glowing bright. Plus, those blue mechanical switches, while not authentic Cherry switches, still offer a superior typing experience over membrane keyboards and even some similarly priced alternatives. Small issues with the language barrier aside, it may be time to start taking Philips seriously again.