ANALYSIS: Blitzwolf BW-KB1 - The best value for money in Bluetooth keyboards?
A keyboard with everything to be the best cost-benefit, but...
We received for review the keyboard BlitzWolf BW-KB1, a compact model of this Chinese brand. The BlitzWolf is considered by many as one "competitor Xiaomi in electronics", although it is considerably smaller and does not make smartphones. It appears to offer good headphones (both TWS and Bluetooth headphones), Bluetooth speakers, and various accessories at competitive prices and with a level of quality that is usually higher than other "unbranded" products.
The Blitzwolf BW-KB1 is the brand's offering for the mechanical keyboard industry, featuring high-quality Gateron switches, wired/Bluetooth connection, 60% layout with arrows, ABS Double-Shot keycaps, 1900 mAh battery supposed to last 10 days, software with macros, etc. All this, at one of the best prices among Bluetooth keyboards: in the $50~55 range, considerably less than competitors like the Anne Pro 2.
Does he deliver all of this? That's what we're going to find out.
Visually, there's nothing too flashy about the Blizwolf BW-KB1. It's just a 60% keyboard with arrows, where some of the keys are removed (Menu, right CTRL) and others reduced in size (ALT, FN, Shift) to fit the arrows.
This makes the keyboard a good deal easier to get used to when we talk about gamers (since there are games that use the arrow keys, whether for movement, menu, or for specific functions). However, it makes it harder to get sets of keycaps compatible with it (although they do exist).
At the same time, you also need to get used to the off-set position of the Interrogation, or you can, like me, use Blitzwolf's software to swap the function of these two keys - the choice is yours.
As for its case, the Blitzwolf BW-KB1 has nothing special. It is a floating keys keyboard (keyboard sides are exposed) and, unlike some other floating keys, it does not attempt to use the backplate (the metal plate on which the switches are mounted) as a front cover, although this does not make it in no way inferior to keyboards that do. It just means that if you touch the plastic sides of it, you won't get a shock.
Its ABS plastic back case is quite thin, and the backplate is extremely light - as evidenced by the weight of 553 grams, which is less than some 60% High-End (battery-less) keyboards.
But it's exactly what I'd expect at this price point, and it's not something that will affect the keyboard's usability or durability in the long run. The important thing is that there is no flex (the keyboard doesn't "bend" when you apply a little force on its case).
On its back, the Blitzwolf BW-KB1 is slightly above average. There are a lot of rubbers and the smaller ones are leveled so they hold the keyboard in place even when lifting, which is great. Just a small detail, but where Blitzwolf really got it right.
On the back, we can also see the power button, which turns on/off the keyboard's Bluetooth mode.
Just like almost any other mechanical keyboard today, we have a USB-C connector.
There is no "stress relief" mechanism, and the keyboard's USB-C connector doesn't appear to be "reinforced" from what I could see inside. Therefore, I recommend the owners of this keyboard to be very careful with this connector, to prevent it from being damaged.
Coming to keycaps, we have an ABS Double-Shot kit, which is normal for white mechanical keyboards in this price range. These are generic Chinese keycaps with a nice readable font that make the keyboard look really nice when its backlight is on.
Something I noticed about the Blitzwolf BW-KB1, and that I'm sure mechanical keyboard enthusiasts and some common users will also notice, is the amount of wobble on some of its keys (how much they move when trying to "sway" them). More specifically larger keys like "Right Shift", "Backslash" and "Caps Lock".
These keys are already more prone to wobble because they are larger and yet lack stabilizers ("suspension" systems to provide better stability and key response), but the generic ABS Double-Shot keycaps make this wobble even bigger than the one. there are on other keyboards.
Is it something most of the public will notice? No. Is it something that will get in the way? Probably not. But it still wouldn't be acceptable if this were a more expensive keyboard.
Anyway, the construction of the Blitzwolf BW-KB1 is very good for its price range. There's an insane amount of rubber to hold the keyboard in place, regardless of whether you use its height-adjustable feet, there's no flex in its construction, the ABS Double-Shot keycaps are great for a keyboard in this price range.
It has some details that would be considered "flaws" if this were a more expensive keyboard, but for its price range, there's no problem.
The first thing you notice when opening the Blitzwolf BK-KB1 is that this is an extremely easy keyboard to open. There are screws just under the keys in the numeric and spacebar rows - 6 screws in total. It even seems that the keyboard was purposely designed to facilitate modifications and/or maintenance, which I don't doubt.
The second thing to notice is its battery which, underneath this hard plastic tape, claims to be 1900 mAh, although I don't have the necessary equipment to verify if this is true or not.
Then we have your PCB, in which unfortunately we find some surprises:
For starters, the welds appear to be done manually. It's not uncommon on cheap mechanical keyboards to see "through-hole" type soldering being done manually, and there are even brands that can do a good job even though it's manual, but unfortunately, this type of service ends up introducing the inconsistency factor. Some welds may be perfect, others may be less than desired, and that's what happens here.
Solders that don't complete the pads, solders improperly "redone" to plug the hole in the pad, solder remnants all over the PCB. Some welds are perfect, others are "globs", in others there was almost no weld...
What scares me is not the solders that were almost done badly, but the level of inconsistency between the solders performed on the keyboard.
However, let us not panic. The Workshop Net conducted an analysis of the same keyboard and although their keyboard also has not been "exemplary", was much better than ours.
Therefore, it is doubtful how much these soldering problems will really affect all keyboards. This problem appears to be caused by some employees performing a process that, in fact, should be automated as much as possible. But above that, the Quality Control of Blitzwolf should have rejected this board, and it is this failure rejection that really should not happen.
Anyway, we have an HFD2201KBA controller performing almost all the keyboard functions, be it lighting control, key recognition, and USB communication. Using a single MCU for this function tends to make keyboards cheap, but it also means that it is completely incapable of making very "advanced" lighting effects (eg reacting to the music, integrating with games, etc...):
The Bluetooth module is produced by Cypress, which showed excellent performance while using the keyboard:
And then we have Gateron mechanical switches, which are some of the best mechanical switches on the market and excellent for a keyboard in the price range.
Features and Extras
- Excellent price
- ABS Double-Shot Keycaps
- Great battery life (about 10 days with LEDs off)
- High-Quality Gateron Switches
- Works both via Bluetooth and Wired
- Does not have FN Layer configuration
- Our unit has Quality Control issues
Let's talk about its features now, starting with the software :
What we have here is very simple and lightweight software, even a little "too simple" in some parts, but here we go.
This software is unable to work with the keyboard via Bluetooth, which is normal for keyboards of this type. You must first connect the keyboard via the USB-C cable and configure it the way you want, as the settings are saved in the internal memory.
By pressing any of its keys in this menu, we have access to the configuration of each key, where we can define a keyboard function (ex: key), mouse (ex: click), a macro, combination, run a program, multimedia or Windows function (eg ALT + F4), or disable it by choosing "Forbidden".
We have the effects tab, where we can choose some like color, direction, and brightness. You can also turn off the lighting to increase battery life. All these lighting control settings can also be done via the keyboard itself.
The effects aren't something "spectacular" as they are on Ducky One 2 Mini or the Razer Huntsman Mini keyboards, but it does the basics. And for a keyboard that costs 1/3, the basics are what I expect.
We have the "Game Mode™" tab, where the keyboard has the amazing function of disabling combinations such as "ALT + F4" and "ALT + TAB".
This function was all that was needed to make this one of the best keyboards for "gamers™". But seriously, if you were to implement some decent function in this tab, at least the debounce adjustment should be present.
And finally, we have the macros tab, where we have a simple but decent system:
It is possible to edit macros after recording, adjust the position of each action, change the function of each action, adjust the delay after recording... Anyway, it has all the "basic" functions that all macro software needs to have.
We've now come to what many people will consider its main feature, Bluetooth.
As with almost any other Bluetooth keyboard, it is not possible to configure the keyboard software wirelessly. You need to wire it to your computer. The keyboard allows you to have up to five Bluetooth profiles, and you can switch between devices (ex: cell phone and computer) choosing different profiles (ex: BT1 and BT2).
As we saw in the internal build, the Blitzwolf BW-KB1 has a battery that supposedly delivers 1900 mAh. This is the same capacity as Anne Pro 2. Whether this battery delivers this capacity is a good question for which unfortunately I have no equipment to find out.
With this battery, it supposedly delivers up to 20 continuous hours with the LEDs on (but brightness is not mentioned ), and 10 days of use with the LEDs off (but it is not mentioned how many hours of use per day). The runtime with the LEDs on may seem small, but it is normal for wireless keyboards to have a drastically reduced runtime when the LEDs are turned on.
In our tests, the keyboard easily went from 10 hours of use with minimum brightness, lasting about four days with heavy usage (~ 8 hours per day). It was not possible to calculate how long his battery will last without the LEDs, but the promise of "10 days" appears to be real.
It's important to mention that the keyboard turns off the backlight after 1 minute of inactivity (just press a key to turn it back on), and it disconnects after 30 minutes of inactivity. However, just press any key for it to connect again.
Like other Bluetooth keyboards, it's hard to recommend them for competitive gaming. It is possible to use, especially in games that do not require instant keyboard response (eg Cyberpunk 2077, Yakuza 3 Remaster, Gears of War 5...), however, to save energy, these keyboards have a reduced communication rate compared to keyboards that are wired or use 2.4 GHz protocols made especially for gaming (eg Corsair K63 Wireless, Logitech G915 ).
This will mainly affect actions that need to be done quickly with high precision (eg strafing in CS: GO ) or in rhythm games (eg Muse Dash ). For casual use, Bluetooth problems are not noticeable, but they become more noticeable when you need to enter specific commands accurately and quickly, which can end up causing keys not to be recognized after being pressed (especially if multiple keys are pressed quickly) and/or there is a delay in recognition.
Still, among the Bluetooth mechanical keyboards I've tested (Drevo Calibur, DAREU EK820-68, Anne Pro 2, Motospeed K83), the Blitzwolf BW-KB1 really was one of the best. I didn't notice noticeable lags in games, I didn't have problems with keys getting out of order or failing, as they do on some of the other keyboards, in the spacebar click test there was no loss of performance between wireless and wired mode...
However, as it is not an optimized protocol for low delay, I do not recommend the use of Bluetooth mode, whether in this or any other, if you are focused on competitive use. When doing this, just connect the keyboard by wire.
The Blitzwolf BW-KB1 has what it takes to be an excellent choice in today's market. It operates both wired and Bluetooth, even being a 60% keyboard, has a very easy layout for gamers to adapt due to the arrows, and doesn't have an inflated price per name/hype, as is the case of the Anne Pro 2 (which is an excellent keyboard, but it hasn't been a "CxB" option a long time ago).
It uses high-quality mechanical switches from Gateron, has Double-Shot keycaps, a sizable 1900 mAh battery, and while the software isn't fantastic, it's a little better than the average for this price range. Its specs for a $52 keyboard are excellent.
Several reviewers, whether on YouTube or other platforms, already claim it as the "best value for money among Bluetooth keyboards", and I also wish I could do the same.
It could be even better if it had been set up for the FN Layer. The best 60% keyboards on the market allow you to completely configure the FN Layer (and even other additional layers) so that you can create the shortcuts you want - be it to make Caps + WASD to be arrows, that most used keys like Print Screen stay in easy-to-access combinations (eg Caps + E) and that the keyboard is complete "to your liking".
Keyboards 60% have few keys and, if you can't edit the keyboard shortcuts layers to take better advantage of these keys, you end up having to get used to the limitations imposed by the manufacturer instead of adjusting the keyboard to your liking, which provides a better experience and productivity.
While it's possible to configure quite a bit of Blitzwolf BW-KB1, it lacked the FN Layers configuration. And for this reason, if you are only going to use the keyboard in wired mode, the Geek GK61 (which is not Bluetooth) might be a more interesting choice than it, as it also uses high-quality switches ( Gateron Optical ) and has a more complete software with FN Layers configuration, although the quality of such software is quite questionable, according to some reports I've read.
"Ah, but I want a keyboard that is Bluetooth and also has FN Layer setting!". In that case, you can opt for the Kemove Snowfox 61, which costs $25 more.
However, let's not ignore the main problem with this keyboard, which is Blitzwolf's flawed quality control. Our unit's solders are not "exemplary" and there is a lot of inconsistency between them, in part because this process appears to be done manually.
But I won't be ridiculous to the point of saying that "all BW-KB1 will have problems with time". This is not true. The fact that the unit received by Oficina da Net doesn't have the problems of this one is proof of that, and I'm sure I'll see comments in this review from people with this keyboard for almost a year without any problems.
We already had several other keyboards with "inappropriate" soldering in our reviews, but after contacting the brands, it was noticed that the RMA index of the majority was extremely low, be it the Galax Xanova Pulsar, Cougar Vantar MX, or others.
It is possible, and I want to believe, that most BW-KB1 keyboards will have no problems. I also want to believe that, after publishing this review, Blitzwolf will take steps to improve the quality of their keyboards in future batches.
However, many people do not like to play with luck, especially when we are talking about a keyboard imported from China and with an extremely short warranty (when there is no warranty), and when there are competitors like the Geek GK61, which may not have Bluetooth, but it's in the same price range and uses optical switches - which won't have problems with switch solders (as they don't use through-hole solders ).
It is unquestionable that, if we consider the issue of soldering, the Geek GK61 is a keyboard superior in durability.
In the end, I am conflicted with the note I should give this keyboard. He had everything to have the gold seal and, if he was a little more sophisticated in the software, he could have the diamond seal. However, Blitzwolf's quality control flaws keep me from giving it such a high rating. I hope that Blitzwolf takes action so that, in the future, I can change the rating of this review.