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GREAT VALUE Mid-tier 60% Wireless keyboard. Redragon K530 Draconic

Key Features:

1) 60% Standard Bottom Row Layout,

2) Wireless Bluetooth connection (3 switchable pairings),

3) High capacity 2400mAh Battery,

4) Hot-Swappable OUTEMU Box Brown Switches,

5) Macro Support, 6) RGB Lighting

Redragon K530 (Hot-Swappable OUTEMU Brown Switches): Bluetooth RGB 60% Keyboard, with USB-A to Angled USB-C cable

STANDARD REDRAGON KEYBOARD FEATURES:

• Double-shot ABS keycaps, N-Key Rollover, Standard Bottom Row, MX Stems
• Most user settings including MACRO recording via key combinations directly from the keyboard.
• User settings are remembered by the keyboard, can be unplugged and plugged back in later, retaining settings.
• Flip-out feet and rubber pads are sturdy and adequately sized.

STANDOUT FEATURES
• 60% Standard Bottom Row Layout. TINY desktop footprint, 4" x 11.5" (10.2cm x 29.2cm). Very portable, ergonomic, and space-saving.
• Wireless Mode: Bluetooth 4.0, lower power consumption (improved battery life); able to pair with 3 separate devices.
• Excellent battery life: Large 2400mAh battery, with up to 10hrs of continuous operation with RGB OFF. Auto low power mode after ~4m55s of inactivity (sleep mode). Expect weeks of casual operation on a single charge.
• Battery status indicator (Color change GRN to RED for low power). Can display Battery Level in % when viewing Bluetooth status on the connected devices.
• Wired Mode: Includes flexible DETACHABLE USB-A (PC) to angled USB-C (KB) cable to charge and connect the keyboard to your PC.
• HOT-SWAPPABLE Switches = End user-customizable / serviceable switches; longevity even when switches break or wear out. Appear to be REDRAGON rebranded OUTEMU Brown Box Switches.
• BROWN Switches = Tactile and responsive feel on down-stroke, no additional audible 'TICK' that may be noisy for some; happy medium for touch typists.

DESIGN CHOICES (As intended, but could be improved)
✩ CapLk key is NOT RGB, has RED LED, doubles as top-side status indicator light - not part of the RGB lighting array. Stands out with animated RGB lighting.
✩ FN2+'0' would be better used as a COLOR CYCLING COMBO to pick a solid color for "Normally on" RGB mode. FN2+'0' to toggle RGB lighting seems wasted, easily duplicated with FN2+'-' x4 presses.
• RGB lighting options using key combos are much limited compared to other Redragon RGB keyboards. Optional Software and WIRED mode REQUIRED to set the desired single RGB color.
• Icons for FN2+9..FN2+'+' RGB functions, should be printed on the TOP of the key, like the FN2 lettering for the G1-G6/REC functions. Not on the front of keys as with the FN1 functions.

POSSIBLE FIRMWARE ISSUES
✩ MACRO recording replaces the numeric key function. Activating G1-G6 is not on another layer; eg, FN2+'1' does not activate G1 MACRO it does nothing under regular typing mode.
✩ Booklets say keys with MACRO recording should light up green to show it has an associated recording.
  The key is only green while in REC mode (FN2+7), not in standard typing mode. Very confusing to figure out.
✩ MACRO recording process can be tricky (FN2/MENU + ESC, see below) can result in Bluetooth disconnect that is troublesome to re-establish.

mini bluetooth mechanical keyboard

LOOK and FEEL (Nice aesthetic touches)
✩ Keycap font is elegant, the same as the K556. Less edgy like the gamer-ish font used in other flashy keyboards.
✩ Side LEDs are multicolored. Bluetooth Pairings 'Draconic -1' blinks RED when pairing, 'Draconic -2' blinks GRN, and 'Draconic -3' blinks BLU. Battery indicator RED when low power, blinks GRN when charging, steady GRN when fully charged.
• Solid feel, despite mostly plastic construction, metal base plate limits any flexing.

OVERALL: GREAT VALUE Mid-tier 60% Wireless keyboard. Classy styling and brown switches make this suitable for office use and space-saving gaming.
Hardware features are excellent. Some software/firmware implementations (MACRO FN2/menu popup, RGB) can be improved on.
RATING: 4 out of 5 (-1 star for MACROs related issues, limited RGB, picking a color requiring the use of software).

ALTERNATIVES with a similar feature set
ROYAL KLUDGE RK71 70% (BROWN) = [WIRELESS] Bluetooth 71 Key Layout, Win/Mac compatible. Not a Redragon Product, but available at redragonshop.com.
K596 (BOX RED, Hot-Swap) = [WIRELESS] Ten-Key-less (TKL) with LEFT side MACRO Keys, braided detachable cable
K587-PRO (OPTICAL BLUE, Hot-Swap) = [WIRED] top-tier Ten-Key-less (TKL) version of K586-PRO, with LEFT side MACRO Keys, detachable cable
K561 (BOX BLUE) = [WIRED] mid-tier Ten-Key-less (TKL) floating key style keyboard, braided attached cable, metal top frame.

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Below is more in-depth discussion of some of features that sets this keyboard apart, generally in order of feature importance.

✩ FIRST IMPRESSIONS
This is my experience with a 60% keyboard. First thoughts, VERY Small and Compact. This keyboard will fit anywhere, given the dimensions (4" x 11.5") it's is very portable.
The angled connector on the detachable cable is a nice touch and keeps the connection out of the way. Keycap font is classy and appropriate for office settings.
The brand logo is on the front of the casing and not very obtrusive. The modest heft is due to the large battery and the central metal base plate.

First power-up... I thought the CapsLk LED was broken, as it didn't light up with the RGB animation on start-up. As will be discussed later, it's not broken - it is as designed.
I mention this here because it's not clearly stated in the documentation anywhere. It would have allayed some anxiety if I knew this ahead of time.

First, the two special features of this keyboard, 1) the 60% layout, and 2) the Wireless Bluetooth mode.

✩ COMPACT 60% LAYOUT (Modifiers and Layers)
The 60% keyboard layout eschews the number pad, cursor control keys, and the functions keys - all to reduce the size of the footprint. The K530 allows for the cursor control functions via special keyboard combinations. Using FN and MENU as two new modifier keys, a few of the keys are remapped with new functions - referred to as a new 'layer' over the standard key function.

Example: '`/~' is located to the left of the '1' key on a standard keyboard. On the K530, that key returns ESC - a far more used function. to access the '`/~' character, the FN1 layer is accessed by holding down the 'Fn' key and pressing the ESC (FN1+ESC) = '`', to access the tilde key, FN1+SHIFT+ESC = '~'. This is the basic idea of accessing the layers on a 60% keyboard.

Cursor manipulation is mapped on the FN1 layer to the WASD keys, the INS/DEL/PGUP/PGDN/HOME/END are mapped to the symbols on the right. Moving the cursor using FN1+WASD is not difficult to access. It is also simple to access CTRL at the same time to move the cursor by words rather than single characters. FN1 access of the DEL/HOME/END functions are also doable with a little practice.It will take a little practice to get use to the new combos to access these characters and cursor functions while typing in a text editor.

CAPSLK KEY - The CapsLk key has multiple special functions.
The CapsLk LED is SEPARATE from the RGB lighting array. So despite the software showing it in RGB colors on screen, disappointingly, its LED only lights up in RED. It does NOT light up in RGB colors.

The RED LED serves two functions. 1) CapsLk light - it will light up RED when caps lock is engaged, even when RGB brightness is set to OFF. 2) it will Blink RED to indicate the keyboard is in a special recording mode, RGB memorization mode, or when the limits of the brightness levels (high or low) has been reached. When the RGB lighting is turned off, the status light nature works well. However, when animated RGB lighting is active, the dis-congruity of the CapsLk lighting can be jarring.

MAGIC FN - The CapsLk key when held down for longer than TWO seconds, becomes a layer modifier key. By default it is FN1. So you can operate the cursor with WASD using the left hand only, or the DEL/HOME/END functions with two hands. The two-second hold down required makes this more appropriate for special cases and not as useful for touch typing.

The accompanying software allows changing the MAGIC FN to operate the FN2 layer. However, while recording CapsLk is a record-able function, and it loses this MAGIC FN binding.
So binding FN2 to MAGIC FN is of limited value.

✩ WIRELESS MODE / BLUETOOTH
The keyboard can operate in wireless mode on battery power. Accompanying booklet claims a full charge after 10hrs of charging. This might be a typo and instead is likely up to 10hrs of continuous use. Charging from 75% (out of the box) charge to 100% took less than an hour. Redragon states that the K530 contains a 2400mAh battery. The same size as the one used in the K596. I have been using the K596 daily for over 5 weeks on a single full charge, and it has yet to show a low battery. The K596 operates on the 2.4GHz band. So the K530 should operate just as long if not longer on a single charge over the more efficient Bluetooth protocol.

Unlike the K596 wireless keyboard from Redragon, the battery status indicator is much better implemented here. It is GREEN when full charge, blinking GREEN while charging, and will change color to RED when low charge. The one minor quirk is the steady green light that stays on once the battery becomes fully charged. It doesn't go off even when WIRELESS IS OFF, and the keyboard is in wired mode.

Bluetooth 4.0 (5.0?) is supported. The product description claims Bluetooth 5.0, while the accompanying booklet states Bluetooth 4.0 'and above'. My device only supports Bluetooth 4.1 so it doesn't support the low energy extensions. If your device supports Bluetooth 4.2 or Bluetooth 5.0 the pairing could use even less power.

Pairing is simple, turn the keyboard ON. Select the desired paring BT1/BT2/BT3. For BT1, the indicator light blinks RED in the process of pairing. BT2 changes the light color to GREEN, BT3 switches to BLUE. Very nicely implemented. On the target device, the keyboard shows up as 'Draconic -1', 'Draconic -2' or 'Draconic -3'. The Battery level in percent is also displayed.
Pairing is remembered even when the keyboard is 'Factory Reset' using the FN1+ESC (hold for 5sec) combo. To re-initiate Bluetooth pairing, hold FN2+ESC for 5 secs instead.

* Note that since Bluetooth is not active during a PC's initial boot process, it can NOT be used to send F2/DEL to enter UEFI BIOS. While the K596 can do so wireless over a dedicated USB 2.4GHz connection.

Overall the wireless status and power status are much better implemented for much-improved user experience on the K530 than on the earlier K596.

Next feature of importance would be the key switches.

OUTEMU ANTI-DUST BROWN BOX Switches

The K530 comes with "REDRAGON" Brown Box Switches. They appear to be rebranded OUTEMU, and otherwise appear identical to corresponding OUTEMU Brown switches used in other Redragon keyboards. The 'box' around the (+) keycap stem helps to prevent dust from entering the switch when depressed. The switches are hot-swappable, so can be replaced with OUTEMU 3-pin switches using the included switch puller.

NOTE: that OUTEMU 3-pin switches have thinner copper contact pins that fit the smaller sockets on the keyboard, so other brands will not fit without DIY modification.

The OUTEMU Brown switches are rated the standard 50 million key presses for mechanical switches. If one should fail, they can be easily replaced without the need for soldering. Thanks for the hot-swap sockets. Four extra switches (one each of BLUE, BROWN, RED, BLACK type) are included with the keyboard. They can be used to try out the different switch types available on the market. And used to replace a failed switch.

Briefly, there are 3 kinds of switches, TACTILE and LINEAR. TACTILE are switches that provide a bump sensation upon key press. BLUE switches are TACTILE switches that also 'CLICK' and produce audible feedback. BROWN switches are TACTILE switches, but do not 'CLICK'. RED and BLACK switches are LINEAR. These switches are 'smooth' and provide no chance in the force required to push down until stop. RED switches are lighter, while BLACK switches are heavier to push down.

A longer discussion of switches can be found here.

In general, BROWN switches are quieter than BLUE switches, while providing the tactile feedback that is lacking in red switches. As such, they are suitable for touch typists and general-purpose computing/gaming. Note that should preferences change, compatible RED/BLUE/BLACK 3-pin plate mounted switches are available online for about 1/3 cost of a new keyboard (for 60-90 switches).

✩ MACROS
Because there are no extra keys to use as dedicated MACRO keys, not even function keys, they are mapped to the existing numeric keys. The idea of onboard MACRO recording is appealing especially for a small keyboard with a limited number of keys. Automation can lead to increased efficiency and capability.

However, the implementation of K530 has some severe limitations. Also, the required use of FN2/MENU key in the process, and that FN2+ESC 'broadcast' function appears to reset the Bluetooth connection to the computer.

MACRO mode is entered with FN2+'7', CapsLk blinks. FN2+'1-6' picks the key you want to remap to a MACRO. It's not clear from the instructional booklet, but assigning a MACRO to 'G1' means the '1' key becomes 'G1'. pressing '1' will only activate the MACRO and there will be no way to type the number '1' until the MACRO is removed. This was tested while in MACRO recording mode, and also after exit to normal typing mode.

This renders the MACRO feature useful only when the number keys are not needed at all. For a 60% keyboard without a number pad, this is basically never. This is true for both touch typing in an office situation, or while gaming with number keys needed for function selection.

The UI for MACRO recording also needs more refinement. The booklet describes that the key with an assigned MACRO will light up in GREEN. This is true, but only while in MACRO recording mode. Once exiting MACRO recording mode to the normal typing mode, there is no indication that the '1' key does NOT type out a '1', but instead will playback a MACRO.

SUGGESTION: Because the G1-G6/REC labeling is on the TOP of the keys, they imply that the G1 is activated with FN2+'1' while in normal typing mode. This would allow the use of the number '1' while providing access to the MACRO.
Hopefully, this can be implemented in a future firmware update.

Another problem encountered multiple times while trying to figure out the MACRO recording feature is related to the FN2/MENU key. A quick tap of the FN2/MENU results in the normal function of popping up a contextual menu, the same as the RMB on a mouse. Holding it down like a modifier key activated the FN2 modification. While making MACRO recording it is best to HOLD FN2, and tap '7' then '1' to start recording on G1. If done as separate FN2 activation (FN2+'7', then separately FN2+'1' again), the MENU function can activate and a contextual menu pops up on screen, WHILE G1 recording has started. If you attempt to dismiss the pop-up menu on screen at this time, by pressing ESC - the keyboard apparently interprets this as FN2+ESC (hold 5 seconds) and activated Bluetooth 'broadcast' function, and resets Bluetooth, and disconnects the keyboard from your device.

Once disconnected, it takes repeated factory resets and turning Bluetooth ON/OFF on both the keyboard and the device to re-establish the connection. This is obviously frustrating and makes the MACRO recording process risky to perform.

Both of these issues 1) Replacement of Numbers, 2) Risky Recording Process makes MACRO a tricky feature to utilize - and not one I would count on using.

Hopefully, the user interface can be reworked and the firmware updated in the future.

✩ RGB LIGHTING EFFECTS
Although the lighting effect keys labeling is on the front of the keys 9/0/-/=, they are accessed via the FN2 modifier. (Inconsistent labeling) From the keyboard the RGB options are limited to:
1) thirteen lighting presets [FN2+'9'], 2) Brightness OFF/FULL toggle [FN2+'0'], 3) Decrease Brightness [FN2+'-'], 4) Increase Brightness [FN2+'=']. There are no onboard combos to change color or animation direction. This is much limited when compared to earlier Redragon RGB keyboards that support 18 presets with 7 color variations, with directional and speed options all from the keyboard.

* the 13 presets are mostly animated RGB lighting effects. For those looking for a solid color, there is only (violet-tinged) WHITE (#2 Unnamed lighting preset), or ORANGE (#12 'Surrmount'). The 'Normally On' Preset, for steady RGB defaults to multi-colored spectrum and not a solid color. WHITE and ORANGE are the only two solid color choices when setting RGB from the keyboard.

* The [FN2+'0'] combo would be better implemented as a color picker by cycling through available color options than as a Brightness OFF/FULL toggle. That can already be performed by the [FN2+'-'] and [FN2+'='] combos.

The K530 does offer per-key RGB optimization via the MR (maybe stands for 'Memorized RGB'?) function by pressing [FN2+Backspace]. Once in this mode, a second press of [FN2+BS] entered recording mode. In recording mode (blinking CapsLk), each key can be pressed to cycle through 7 colors or OFF. When complete, press [FN2+BS] to exit the recording. To exit out of this per-key RGB mode, pick an RGB preset with [FN2+'9'].
It reminds me of the [FN+'~'] per-key RGB on some Redragon full-sized RGB keyboards. It can be very tedious if all you want is solid BLUE lighting.

The limited RGB customization from the keyboard prompts the installation of the software package for the K530.

✩ REDRAGON KEYBOARD SOFTWARE
The keyboard software is usually an optional install for Redragon keyboards and mice, as most features were accessible by keypress combos. For the K530, the software provides customization that is otherwise not available from the device itself. On execution, the software checks for a WIRED K530, it will not launch if the keyboard not connected. So there's no way to check out the software before deciding to make a purchase. Also, note that it will NOT launch if the keyboard is connected via Bluetooth. The software only works in USB WIRED mode.

Like other Redragon keyboard software, the GUI allows setting single key settings, more complex key MACROS, or assigning a key with a standard OS media function (such as sound volume, calculator, etc). MAGIC FN can be set to FN1 or FN2. In English, the field name is cut-off so only 'FN.' and 'FN:' shows in the dialog box. Also, note that both 'Okay' and 'Cancel' confirms the chosen setting. So check your setting before exiting that dialog.

RGB Customization is activated via a checkbox. Below is a list of the available presets and associated options: 

[x] Lighting

 

 

The trial of light

Brightness / Speed

 

Unnamed

(Violet-tinged WHITE)

NONE / NO OPTIONS

Breathing

Brightness / Speed

Color Picker, Colourful (Multi-Colored)

Normally on

Brightness

Color Picker, Colourful

Go with the stream

Brightness / Speed

Color Picker, Colourful, Direction L >R<

Clouds fly

Brightness / Speed

Color Picker, Colourful, Direction L >R<

Winding paths

Brightness / Speed

Color Picker, Colourful, Direction L >R<

Flowers blooming

Brightness / Speed

 

Snow winter jasmine

Brightness / Speed

Color Picker, Colourful

Swift action

Brightness / Speed

Direction Up >Dn<

Both ways

Brightness

Color Picker, Colourful

Surrmount

Brightness

Orange, Yellow, Green, Turquois

Fast and the furious

Brightness

Direction In >Out<

MR -> Coastal

Brightness

Color Picker, Basic color Picker, Tool Pencil / Eraser, FPS/MMO/MOBA/RTS/CUSTOMIZE1..CUSTOMIZE6)

Demo of lighting on-screen shows the caps lock with RGB lighting, but physical hardware does not light up as shown on screen.

Using the software allows customizing RGB colors via a color picker. The primary 7 rainbow colors are vibrant, but customized colors can appear washed out. The software goes a long way to correct the deficiencies of onboard RGB customization of the K530.

Given that the K530 is capable of the above RGB lighting effects, it again shows that the [FN2+'0'] would have been better used as a color picker than as a redundant lighting toggle.

Available for around $60, the K530 is less than half of the price of name brand keyboards with a similar feature set. The hardware construction is well put together. The design fits well in an office environment as well as the living room.The hot-swappable / customizable BROWN switches provide an excellent typing experience. The large 2400mAh battery allows extended operation on a single charge.

The onboard RGB functionality is limited compared to other Redragon keyboards, and require software to be installed to take better advantage of more RGB customization. The firmware and some user interface elements definitely need more work, especially the implementation of on the fly MACROS recording.

OVERALL: The K530 is a great value 60% keyboard from Redragon.
4 STARS: Minus 1 for inadequate MACROS implementation, and RGB functionality that requires software to take full advantage.

Author: Robhi


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