During the early days when mechanical keyboards were starting to get mainstream, we all got ABS keycaps with pad printed legends. Not long after that, the keycaps were etched for backlights to shine through. Fast forward some time and now we arrive at the era of PBT keycaps. There are more and more keyboard brands that are selling boards with PBT keycaps pre-installed, and the latest variant of the Ducky One is one of them. This is the Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps – codenamed DKON1687 too.
In terms of the hardware, the Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps is the same as the Ducky One DKON1687S that we reviewed here. There are fine tweaks here and there that differentiates them from each other.
Digging further into this product’s history reveals that this is actually a result of Ducky and Akko’s collaboration that was announced back in Computex 2017. With this new collaboration, they both created a new keycap brand by the name of “Hardcap”. However, we’re unable to confirm if this Ducky One TKL is using Hardcap’s PBT keycaps.
Firstly, the box itself is different. The brand new Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps’ packaging design is a lot flashier than the old one, giving it a little more flair and character to the whole brand. For one, the Ducky logo has been debossed, reduced in size, and placed at a corner instead. The “ONE” series of Ducky boards got a new logo too, and it has also been debossed.
Personally, I’m not sure what Ducky is thinking with the colored rectangles, squares, cubes, and oblong cubes. At least they’re more colorful than before.
At the back of the packaging is there some of the specs are written. The back is just as plain as before, but now with debossed logos.
Opening the box reveals the same contents as before – the keyboard itself with a clear plastic dust cover, the Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps itself, a gold-plated micro USB cable, a wire keycap puller, warranty, user manual, and an extra set of ABS keycaps.
Personally speaking, I don’t really care about the extra set of keycaps. I don’t know why Cooler Master included a few extra red ABS keycaps for their PBT keyboard too! They’re PBT, and I don’t see why customers would want to change their PBT keycaps for these 8 keycaps. Furthermore, Ducky somehow included a numpad enter keycap instead…
One nice thing is that Ducky included a wire keycap puller this time with the brand name of Hardcap – though it’s a short one. Removing longer keys longer than 1U is an issue, though.
The overall geometrical design of the Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps is pretty much the same as before. The rubber feet and are the same.
Even the USB port and cable management trough are the same.
The shape of the casing is the same. The casing’s finish, however, is different. Here’s a comparison between my personal unit of the Ducky One TKL that I’ve modded custom LEDs and the new Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps.
It’s easy to see the difference with this lighting – the one of the left is the new one – and it has a smooth finish compared to the old one on the right. The old one has a matte finish, which is difficult to clean when there is grease on it. As you can see that my own keyboard is pretty used and abused. However, it can’t be scratched that easily compared to the smooth finish on the new Ducky One TKL.
Ducky opted for the same finish at the back of the Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps too, but left the Ducky logo with the same matte finish as before.
The brand new Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps actually has the exact same features as the old DKON1687 – hence the new PBT keycaps version has the same codename too – DKON1687. The user manual is still the same, and the DIP switch located behind the keyboard still does the exact same function, too.
We’re not sure if the Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps has the exact same PCB as the older Ducky One TKL. If it does, then you can mod the new PBT keycaps version to have custom single-color DIP LEDs like what I did to my personal unit of the DKON1687 too.
The function key modifier performs the exact same features as the original Ducky One TKL, so there’s nothing much to talk about here. You may refer to our full review of the DKON1687 here – just ignore the LED part.
The PBT keycaps
As mentioned in the intro, these keycaps are made in collaboration between Akko and Ducky, forming the brand called “Hardcap”. The wire keycap puller that was included with the Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps has the Hardcap branding too, by the way.
The PBT keycaps used here are from Hardcap too, as the initials “HC” are found behind the keycaps. They’re all single-shot PBT with side printed legends. The keycaps has quite a big QC issue when it comes to the removing the keycaps themselves from the mold.
Seriously, the cuts are unclean. All of the keycaps on this keyboard has the same jagged edges. There are other OEMs that sell PBT keycaps with much cleaner cuts compared to what Ducky (technically Hardcap) has done. I may be nitpicking, but it’s something worth highlighting.
Then comes the ABS keycaps. It’s worth noting that both the PBT and ABS keycaps have the same roughness as the ABS doubleshot that the earlier versions of Ducky One have.
Still, I have no idea why they included the numpad enter keycap there.
Wrapping up the Ducky One TKL with side print PBT keycaps review
Some of you may have realized that I skipped the review section where I describe how it is when I used the keyboard. For all I can tell, it’s exactly the same feel as the original Ducky One TKL – minus the LEDs and now comes with a smooth plastic finish instead. Is it bad? Definitely not. It offers a nice entry point to those who want PBT keycaps included with the keyboard itself.
For the price of RM359, it’s pretty good – considering that it is using Cherry MX switches and comes with side printed PBT keycaps. Though, I would personally prefer matte finish enclosure instead of the smooth finish that it has now. Your mileage may vary, of course.