Release after release, gaming keyboard manufacturers retread familiar ground. Under-the-hood advancements are always welcome but few brands go against the grain to provide anything beyond the usual gamer aesthetics. This is where Akko fills in the blanks with varied and striking designs.
While the Akko ACR59 BOW aims to save as much space as possible, the ACR98 Mini is much more concerned with finding a balance of style, form, and function. But the ACR98 Mini still suffers the same pitfalls as its smaller sibling.
Nuts and bolts
Akko’s ACR98 Mini is unlike most common gaming keyboards in multiple ways but the most obvious is its 98-key, F-rowless design that riffs on the 1800 layout. An 1800 design typically features close the same amount of keys as a full-size keyboard—between 104 to 190—but in a more compact design. Akko’s ACR98 Mini shaves off the top row to make things even lighter on the desk but retains the numpad. Aside from its somewhat alien form factor, the ACR98 Mini boasts a fairly traditional gaming keyboard feature set. Users get everything from onboard RGB customization to macro recording and a hot-swappable PCB.
A few features that stand out right off the rip are the USB-C connection via rubberized coiled cable and the double-shot PBT keycaps. Both of these features are found on most quality gaming keyboards, including those from Razer, HyperX, and Corsair.
Having a USB-C connection is a no-brainer at this point, but the coiled cable is a nice bonus depending on your stylistic preferences. A gripe with the cable is that it was folded instead of rolled, leading to stubborn kinks that will take time to work out. The double-shot PBT keycaps feel nicely textured here and aren’t quite as textured as Razer’s but still avoid the smoothness of HyperX keycaps.
While the keycaps aren’t shine-through like most gaming keyboards, the ACR98 Mini still offers onboard customization for its RGB lighting. Onboard customization can sometimes rub people the wrong way if it’s done hamfistedly, but Akko keeps it simple and makes it easy to switch up lighting on the fly after a few minutes worth of reading the included literature.
Beyond customizing the lighting, a feature that can add major value to the ACR98 Mini is the ability to customize the feel of the board with the hot-swappable PCB. Using a hot-swappable PCB allows you the option to swap out the included switches for another compatible type of switch. This feature can add value for those who are curious about non-traditional switches or for those who don’t know what they like in a keyboard yet. For those who are certain of their preferences, this feature will add little value.
Some support required
Aside from its core feature set, Akko’s ACR98 Mini is missing one major feature: built-in flip-up feet. Unlike most traditional gaming keyboards, the ACR98 Mini doesn’t feature an adjustable typing angle. It may not be as tall as the ACR59 BOW, but the angle can be a bit of an issue while gaming.
Akko provides stick-on dual-layer feet in the box but they don’t nail the landing. Instead of being an easy solution, these feet fail to lock in place. No matter which way you stick them on, the feet just don’t want to stay locked in place when flipped up. To be clear, these stick to the board just fine, but it’s the actual feet that don’t stay in position.
Without the adjustable feet, the only viable option is to run a wrist rest. The need isn’t as dire as it is with the ACR59 BOW, but it will likely help make the typing angle a bit more neutral for those who aren’t used to dealing with a fixed angle board.
ASA profile learning curve
If its form wasn’t striking enough, the ACR98 Mini’s style is sure to leave an impression. But with that strong impression comes one of the larger pitfalls of this keyboard. Akko uses ASA profile keycaps that fall somewhere between DSA and Cherry or OEM profile keycaps. ASA keycaps are taller and rounder than Cherry and OEM keycaps.
The ASA profile keycaps make the ACR98 Mini more aesthetically pleasing than standard keyboards, but their height and shape can get in the way of gaming without a wrist rest. Luckily for the ACR98 Mini, it doesn’t feel quite as intrusive as the ACR59 BOW. You might be able to skate by without a wrist rest, but it’s still recommended if you’re into competitive gaming and wish to avoid the embarrassing fat finger or two.
A massive bonus of the Akko ACR98 Mini is the number of keycaps that ship in the box. Not only does Akko include the 98 keycaps necessary for the ACR98 Mini, but it also packs in keycaps for most popular keyboard forms from 60 percent up to full-size. This makes it easy to transfer the ACR98 Mini’s style to any keyboard that supports the ASA profile.
Heavy lies the switch
Beneath the decked-out keycaps are Akko’s Jelly Black switches. Each colorway of the keyboard comes with a color-matched switch and this option shipped with switches to match the black and pink theme of the board.
Akko’s Jelly Black switches provide a decent balance for gaming and typing with a slightly heavier operating force and a reasonably fast activation point. The Jelly Black switches require 50 grams of operating force and have an activation point of 1.9 millimeters. For reference, Cherry MX Reds—one of the most common switches for gaming—has an operating force of 45 grams and an activation point of two millimeters.
The slightly heavier operating force and on-par activation point make the Jelly Black switches marginally more forgiving than the familiar Cherry MX Red switches when it comes to gaming and typing. Overall, these switches feel responsive and won’t wear your fingers out despite the five-gram weight penalty. Jelly Black switches are also less scratchy than Akko’s faster, lighter Jelly White options, which is something to note if you’re particularly sensitive to the feel of a keyboard.
Is the Akko ACR98 Mini for you?
If you’re looking to move away from a standard-looking full-size keyboard, the Akko ACR98 Mini is a solid starting point, provided you have the patience to learn to game with the ASA profile keycaps. The streamlined take on the 1800 layout sacrifices some functionality by removing the F row but retains the numpad, which is a divisive design choice.
The unique blend of functionality aside, there are some pitfalls to consider here just like the ACR59 BOW. The keycaps and fixed typing angle will be the main issue for most, as Akko’s adjustable stick-on feet aren’t versatile enough. Additionally, those who are unfamiliar with other keycap profiles may have difficulty adjusting to the ASA keycaps. But if you’re interested in trying something new, adding a wrist rest will take care of these woes.
- Unique aesthetics
- Modified 1800 layout
- Double-shot PBT keycaps
- Additional keycaps for popular layouts
- Hot-swappable PCB
- Jelly Black switches well-balanced for gaming and typing
- ASA profile keycaps present a learning curve
- Stick-on feet don’t lock
- Lack of F row might not be for everyone