Conclusion

Unfortunately, we could not perform our usual quality testing on the K650WP due to the design of the keys. It truly does look like a mechanical keyboard, but that’s where the similarities end. It would be a grave mistake to compare its function or feeling to that of a mechanical keyboard. With mechanical keyboards, the keys have a specific travel pattern and they actuate generally about halfway between the top and the bottom of the travel length. The membrane dome keys of the K650WP do have a long travel length but they require maximum force at the very beginning of their travel. Once the keypress force overcomes the key’s initial resistance, the key will inevitably plunge all the way down the bottom of its travel distance, where it will actuate. Due to the high initial force, it is virtually impossible to prevent the finger from bottoming down every keystroke.

Although I always try to use every keyboard that we review as my personal keyboard for at least a week, I used the K650WP for only three days, as they were more than enough to remind me of the merits a mechanical keyboard has. My typical weekly usage includes a lot of typing (about 100-150 pages), a few hours of gaming and some casual usage, such as internet browsing and messaging. The very high actuation force followed by the immediate long travel until the key hits bottom can be very tiresome for very long typing sessions, which is why professionals prefer scissor or mechanical switches. This effect was twice as apparent with the K650WP due to the very long key travel that mimics a mechanical keyboard. For a person that is used to mechanical and chiclet switches, typing for several hours straight with the K650WP will be very uncomfortable, even painful.

The ZM-K650WP is being marketed as a gaming keyboard but it does not really offer many gaming-specific features other than the “game mode” button that locks the Windows buttons. Nevertheless, this is still better than the majority of gaming keyboards around its price range, which are normal membrane dome keyboards without anything that would separate them from a typical office keyboard other than a fancy appearance. I found that there was little to no difference between using the K650WP and a mechanical keyboard for gaming. The high initial force that the key requires is compensated by the high speed of the travel, meaning that there is very little difference to one’s actual response times. This process however can be very uncomfortable for long gaming sessions, with the backlash from the keys violently bottoming down to the flexor and extensor tendons. The height of the keyboard and the keys can be very tiring for long gaming sessions without a wrist rest as well.

As for its waterproof capabilities, the K650WP can truly survive very harsh punishment. We spilled glasses of water on our test sample while it was still plugged in and it did not even glitch or stopped working. You should be very cautious with other liquid though, as they leave back residue that will degrade or damage the keyboard. We tried spilling some Cola on the K650WP and, once the Cola started drying up, its sugar made many buttons on the K650WP sticky and unresponsive. A quick rinsing returned the K650WP to its original state. Any liquids other than water should be cleaned as soon as possible, which is not hard at all to do with a keyboard that can be rinsed with running tap water.

Zalman designed the ZM-K650WP in order to offer a durable product that mimics a mechanical keyboard to casual users who are unable or unwilling to purchase a real mechanical keyboard. Although it does mimic the appearance of a mechanical keyboard, it would be a grave mistake to compare the performance and the feeling of their keys. The extended key travel actually makes the K650WP even less comfortable than shorter membrane-based keyboards. However, it is very durable in relation to other similarly priced products and, as the company promises, it can withstand liquids, even rinsed with running water. If what you are looking for is a durable, no-frills low cost keyboard with a classic design for casual everyday use, the K650WP is a reasonable choice.

The Zalman Z-Machine ZM-K650WP Gaming Keyboard
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  • Morawka - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    pretty decent setup for $30 tbo. i might order one just for the hell of it and see how well it handles drinks and soda pop. Reply
  • lefty2 - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    Hope it's beer proof too. It's many a keyboard I have lost by spilling beer on it Reply
  • eek2121 - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    lol you beat me to it. After killing 2 very expensive Razer keyboards I learned my lesson and started buying $20 chinese knock-offs Reply
  • bill.rookard - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    I already know I need several of those... here at work... dang kids. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    Thanks for reviewing a membrane keyboard! I do agree that membrane boards are better with shorter key travel distances, but there's a sweet spot to be found as some keyboards on thinner laptops now have, I feel, insufficient depth to offer a good tactile experience. Besides cooling, thats one of the other reasons why I think making electronics as thin as possible is detrimental rather than beneficial to the consumer/end user/whatever after a certain point.

    Zalman's mistake appears, based on photos alone, to be ignoring the natural strengths of membrane keyboards to offer shorter travel distances. If that was done intentionally to emulate mechanical keyboards or if it was a byproduct of adhering to the fairly standard 101-key designs we dealt with in decades past it was still probably a mistake.
    Reply
  • Veixtheboy - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    Meh.. It isn't the best looking keyboard and the 30 dollars isn't super cheap for it. Pay 10 dollars more and get an AULA Wings of Liberty. It's waterproof too + its mechanical. They may not be the best switches in the world but it both functions and looks better than this. http://gaminggearhub.com/gaming-keyboards/mechanic... Reply
  • Eredu - Friday, November 18, 2016 - link

    If I'm going cheap the only choice is scissor switch keyboards. Shorter travel distance and lesser key-wobbling is essential (for me at least).
    I really miss the Logitech UltraX (and curse the lack of true alternatives)...
    Reply
  • plonk420 - Friday, November 25, 2016 - link

    RIP 3+ UltraXes (and a $30 black friday low profile backlit logitech) due to drinks :I ...i'm back to my original PS/2 UltraX with a soft M key and inconsistently working spacebar. this or the AULA are compelling, but i'll miss the low profile keys Reply
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