While most gaming-centric mechanical keyboards go whole-hog by larding up their feature-sets with more functions and bullet point checkboxes than most human beings could (or would) ever use, the concept of bringing the joys of mechanical typing to the masses – for cheap – is still an aggravatingly difficult proposition. Often, we see models that would satisfy even the snobbiest of typing enthusiasts saddled with the “gaming” label, which may have the unintended effect of driving them away (hint: gamers don’t always make the best first impressions).
This appeal to users on a budget is fascinating, as economical realities force manufacturers to completely evaluate and – as we discover – to lop off anything that isn’t essential to the mission. Reduced to their basics, it’s remarkable how something like Redragon’s KUMARA Mechanical Gaming Keyboard can offer such a great typing experience, given its bottom-barrel price. You might think it’s a knock-off; you’d be mistaken!
Cheap, Yet (Pretty) Good?
The first thing you’ll notice about the KUMARA is how small and compact it is: at just 13.9 x 4.8 x 1.5 inches and a (relatively) svelte 2.2 lbs it’s easily one of smallest mechanical keyboards on the market. But that sleekness comes with compromises, the first being the exclusion of the full number-pad on the right, and by extension the additional Enter and equation buttons (+, -, =, /). This means a considerable adjustment for those of you hardcore typists with muscle memories or those who spend most of their lives in front of spreadsheets; to be honest, that’s not who this keyboard is intended for, and it’s not going to adapt to you.
Also worth noting is the font Redragon uses on the keys; if you’re wondering what else they cut to achieve that low, low price, it’s probably by using this retro-grade font. It’s visible, and while there’s not much to complain about, the font isn’t the most attractive and, unless you’re the best touch-typist out there, don’t be surprised to find yourself peeking at the keys (especially the numbers) for symbols and digits.
I can’t argue with the body construction build, which is cold aluminum, and the plastic ABS keys are all nice and solid. There’s nothing special about the overall design, with only the slightest of bezels wrapped around the base. There’s no wrist rest to add some luxury, with the backing only having two extendable rubber-capped legs helping elevate the typing angle somewhat.
A word of caution: perhaps owing to the relative “cheapness” of the KUMARA, or a defect in the manufacturing process, my review build had a defective wobble that I traced to either one of the extendable legs, or perhaps a defective body. I’m not entirely surprised, given the price (I’m too used to defects in the knock-off market), but this doesn’t appear to be universal. If your model is wobbly, return it quickly and you’ll probably get a working unit. DO NOT, however, pick one up if a return isn’t possible. Just don’t do it.
The KUMARA is a backlit keyboard, with juicy red (red for Redragon?) LEDs blazing out rather brightly beneath those keys. I’m not the biggest fans of the color (memories of 80s movies have scarred me for life), but the mono-red used here isn’t unpleasant, and the larger keys help keep the illumination focused almost entirely through the keycaps, with only a slight ‘bleeding’ coming from underneath. There aren’t many options to adjust the lighting, except to brighten/dim and – if you’re really feeling fancy, to give them a creepy “breathing” effect.
And, as we’ve come to expect, there’s a RGB variant for those of you who need more prism in their lives: the KUMARA-RGB. It’s only twenty bucks more, considerably cheaper – and safer – than going the full chemical hallucinogenic route.
A single row of Function keys help give some additional control to your experience, if that sort of thing appeals to you. Function+ gives you media controls, mail, internet, calculator easy access, and brightness adjustment for those lovely red keys. Sadly, these functions (including, bizarrely, the brightness adjustments themselves) aren’t illuminated, making them clumsy to use in darker rooms.
Despite this being labeled a “gaming” keyboard, there isn’t much to qualify it as such. There’s no USB passthrough or USB routing options, no macro keys, or much else. This isn’t a problem, as the focus here is on the actual typing experience. The only concessions to gamers are the Windows-lock function, which keeps accidental presses from jutting you out of the action, and arrow-branded WASD keys that are swappable with WASD-branded arrow keys. The key-lock is especially essential, given how interlinked the ‘sport’ of gaming is with caffeinated beverages. Oh, speaking of that, the KUMARA sports ‘splash proof’ design, if spillage becomes or is a big issue.
Typing Experience: Feels Like Cherries!
Despite whatever reservations you might have when considering the price, the KUMARA is a true mechanical keyboard, with truly mechanical switches. They’re just not authentic Cherry MX switches, but a (much) cheaper knock-off (what brand, we’re not entirely sure). Redragon calls them Cherry MX Green “equivalents”, but the actuation feels (and sound) closer to Cherry MX Blues. Plus, thanks to the included key-puller, we see they’re colored blue, too. Did I mention how LOUD they are, too?
It’s hard to argue with the crispness and accuracy of a mechanical keyboard, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with the KUMARA, as long as you don’t lament the loss of the numberpad. That being said, I’ve never been able to achieve my maximum typing speed with “clickier” Blue keys, and that’s also true here, though my accuracy improved. I suspect others will find similar results using it, too, and the smaller size and comfort could make this a desirable secondary (i.e. travel) keyboard when outside the office or on-the-road.
Don’t fear that low price: the Redragon KUMARA Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a decent mechanical keyboard that offers up a fantastic typing experience that punches above its pay grade. True, you won’t be getting any of the frills and features of more expensive models, but you won’t be paying through the nose, either. The red backlighting is bright enough for most rooms, and while the switches may not be authentic Cherry MX, those seeking the comfort and clicky noise of Cherry Blues won’t be disappointed. For the money, the KUMARA is among the very best deals out there.