Walton's forays into making computer parts have been a series of hits and misses.
On one hand, their SSDs are a great budget option for those who want a faster boot drive. On the other hand, their peripherals to date have been subpar at best.
However, recently, the company quietly released —what appears on the surface— a fully mechanical keyboard in the market, and we got our hands on one to see if it's any good.
Cost-cutting done right
Unlike many other options at this price point, Walton's budget board sacrificed cosmetics for functionality. The keyboard lacks many of the "gaming" features such as RGB lights, braided cable or macro keys.
Instead, what it does have is an alloy metal surface backed up by a steel metal backplate. The resulting hefty combination not only keeps the board planted on the desk but also completely eliminates the infamous "deck flex" issues.
The surface of the board features plenty of drain holes to quickly evacuate the occasional liquid spillage. There is also a built-in wrist rest with plastic "padding" for the left arm.
Though it has only one backlight, it is adjustable (use FN+PGDN); and the blue does nicely illuminate the cyber graphics on the sides.
The keycaps are of double-shot injection mould with a very readable English-Bangla font. Moving to the switches themselves, the stems contain no extra support for the caps, so they are a bit wobbly.
Walton provides no information about which mechanical switches they use, though inspection of the switches suggest them to be Content/Outemu Blues - a lesser-known, slightly louder Chinese clone of Cherry MX Blue.
However, according to Sohel Ahmed Jony of Bangladesh Mechanical Keyboard Community, taking the keyboard apart reveals it to be semi-mechanical in nature.
In his post, he claims —with photographic evidence— that Walton used a "long-handed spring" to mimic the look and feel of a mechanical keyboard. But instead of actuating a mechanical switch, the button used a long plastic pole to press down a membrane pad hidden under the mechanical facade.
If true, this makes the WKM001WB a semi-mechanical or "membranical" board, not an actual keyboard. One that does a decent job of replicating the look and feel of an actual mechanical board.
It should be noted that in light of the controversy, Walton changed the website description of the keyboard from "High Precision Mechanical Keyboard"to "Semi Mechanical Keyboard ''. However most other online sites still list it as the former.
Along with all the good stuff, there are some annoying bits too. Firstly, Walton went for a European key layout, which will take a bit to adjust if you are used to using the US layout with the "backwards-L shaped" enter key.
The lock key lights are not labelled and have no partition in between, meaning you have to directly look into them to figure out which lock is on. Quality control is also an issue, as the one we are reviewing came with the Walton logo detached from the keyboard.
Finally, for some bizarre reason, Walton did not include a keycap puller with the packaging. This makes simple tasks such as cleaning the keyboard much more bothersome.
The typing experience
Despite lacking the mechanical switches, the clever layout Walton used on the board is pretty good at mimicking the look and feel of the mechanical keyboard.
If you're transitioning from membrane or much more conventional "membranical" board, you will have to retrain your finger muscles to get used to the travel time and key resistance. You also might find the louder typing sound to be a bit annoying.
That said, all three "issues" mentioned above are also the same reasons most people opt for a mechanical keyboard. If you find them annoying, it's alright. Mechanicals are not for everyone, find yourself a nice membrane board that fits your taste.
Experienced mechanical keyboard users will find this keyboard underwhelming. Though that point is moot as at this price point this board is not really marketed toward them.
As it is, Walton's budget offering is a great intro to mechanical keyboards. It combines all the good elements of a well-designed board with an affordable price tag.
That being said, the fact that the company allegedly lied about the nature of the keyboard cast a shadow on the entire concept. If Walton had been truthful about the board from the beginning, it would have been much more positively received.
Walton also provides only six months of replaceable warranty with the product, which puts its long-term reliability into question.
Overall, if you want to get a taste of what it is like to own a mechanical keyboard, at Tk2,350, this is a good start. Just keep your old keyboard around in case this one prematurely expires.
Note: The review has been edited to reflect recent findings.