Every now and then, I like to give an off-brand, cheaper mechanical keyboard a look. Just in case. And so, I’m giving the 1stPlayer Bullet Hunter MK6 a whirl.
I’ve long been mildly obsessed with inexpensive tech as a counterpoint to alternatives that cost an arm and a leg more. Like the original iPod touch that they used to give away free with MacBooks, which bridged the gap for me when I couldn’t afford a smartphone but wanted all that app-y goodness, or the Acer Chromebook C720 that I bought for $200 five years ago and still use from time to time when I need a laptop that’s super portable with all-day battery life.
The Bullet Hunter MK6 does not quite fall into that category of super-cheap-but-pretty-awesome tech that warms my heart. But unlike other cheap mechs that I’ve reviewed that I could not wait to be done with, this one grew on me somewhat. Even so, as I spent more and more time with the Bullet Hunter MK6, I felt that it was a decent enough product, but I wouldn’t want to spend $100 on it. Or even $80. But when I checked for a price online, I was surprised to find it for $55 on Amazon. Now you have my attention, 1stPlayer.
Speaking of 1stPlayer, I’d never heard of this company before, so I did some checking. It’s been around since 2010 and is based in China (Guangzhou). They have a product stack that spans many PC parts and pieces, including peripherals, cooling, audio, PSUs, and accessories like mouse pads. They started reaching across the ocean to sell their wares back in 2015.
Their mechanical keyboard roster comprises a curious mix of somewhat-similar-but-not-really keyboards, plus an oddball or two like this funky typewriter-inspired model. The names are the most interesting part; it’s like they used an AI name generator (like this magnificent thing) and fed it aggressive-sounding words. Actual product names include “Black Sir,” “Fire Rose,” and “Steampunk Master.” And of course: “Bullet Hunter.”
I do genuinely love these names, though. They’re a little silly, which is to say, 1stPlayer doesn’t seem to be taking itself too seriously. That’s not a bad thing; it’s a refreshing change from marketing that breathlessly asserts that this new keyboard is the world’s greatest fastest gaming esports RGB mechanical keyboard that will change your life and make you the king of all gamers with speed and lights. (There is what amounts to a mission statement/poem on this page, but again, it feels more playful than anything.) The Bullet Hunter MK6 is just a mechanical keyboard with some standard frills, like a volume roller and backlighting. And some shiny keycaps.
We’ll get back to those keycaps. First, here’s a closer look at the 1stPlayer Bullet Hunter MK6.
- A Closer Look
- Switches & Keycaps
- Lighting & “New Invader” Software
- The Verdict
- Where To Buy
A Closer Look
The Bullet Hunter has a top plate with the switches and keycaps perched on top, which is a classy design choice that unfortunately doesn’t do much to make the keyboard actually look classy. The materials just don’t look premium. It wasn’t apparent until closer inspection that the top plate was even aluminum, for instance; I could have sworn it was plastic. It has a sort of speckled black finish, with a silver rim around the whole top lip that I’ve only ever seen on cheap keyboards. The bottom of the chassis is plastic, with the same finish.
There’s a curious screw on the upper left corner. It’s the only screw of its size on the whole keyboard, and it’s the only screw that’s visible (the rest are all hidden by the keycaps). It doesn’t inspire confidence in the Bullet Hunter’s construction.
On the upper right corner, you’ll find four dedicated media buttons. Three of them are the standard play/pause, skip forward, and skip back. The fourth is actually a toggle button that ties into the adjacent roller; press the button to switch between volume control and brightness control. Then roll up or down. The roller is stepped, not smooth, and the brightness dials up or down by just five increments between maximum brightness and being completely off.
The keyboard slid around a little more than I’d like without the feet on the bottom extended, which made me feel like I didn’t have much of a choice in my typing angle. A minor issue, to be sure. The cable is wired into the keyboard on one end and USB Type-A on the other.
And the LED under the F1 key is dead.
Also odd is that the lighting under the dedicated volume/brightness key looks dimmer than its neighbors, but only when it’s set to controlling volume. It’s nice to have two-stage lighting there as an indicator for when it’s set to volume or brightness, but it’s kind of distracting when it’s dim.
I wasn’t exactly inspired by any of the above, but once I started clacking away, I surprised by how sturdy it felt. There’s a bit of flexion if you twist the Bullet Hunter, but no give at all when you type. It’s solid.
Switches & Keycaps
The Bullet Hunter MK6 comes with Outemu Blue switches. It appears that these are your only option, so linear lovers need not apply. The switches have a sharp snap and thocky sound when you type. The thock is pronounced and aurally dominates the click of the switch. Depending on where you’re positioned, the spring noise is audible. If you’re typing somewhat gently, you’ll hear it much more than if you’re banging away on the thing, because the thock will drown it out.
The specs are nearly identical to the Kailh Blue (KT) switch, but although the listed weights for actuation and pressure point are the same (50gf and 60gf, respectively), the Outemu Blues felt just a bit stiffer and heavier to me. Per a test with EK Switch Hitter, the keyboard appears to have full NKRO.
The switches are “BOX”-style, with that protective, uh, box around the cross stem. They’re also hot swappable. 1stPlayer included four extra switches and a puller in the package just for fun. The swappability is as you might expect–firmly seated, but they come out without too much trouble. The keycaps are almost harder to pull off than the switches.
Easily the best part of the Bullet Hunter MK6 is the keycaps–or rather, the interplay of the keycaps and lighting. The keycaps are doubleshot ABS plastic, with the same texture on top as the rest of the chassis. But the sides are shiny and reflective, such that they not only reflect the light emanating from under the adjacent keycaps, you can actually see the switch housings reflected in them, too. It gives the whole keyboard a vibrant, colorful, shiny effect without the need for a reflective top plate. It’s a Darth Vader’s Helmet Effect™.
There are issues with the keycaps, though. The sides are easily scraped, so you have to be careful when you’re removing them. Definitely use a wire keycap puller instead of the hard plastic-pronged kind.
I take some issue with the keycap legends, too. The font is stylized, but it just looks a little cheap in my opinion. The lower case characters don’t seem to match the upper case ones, and there’s some size inconsistency creating some ugliness, too. Although the translucent sublegends on the number keys are well-positioned, such that they get equal backlighting, other sublegends are opaque and just don’t match. Half of the sublegends are just white and painted on.
Granted, some of them are for onboard lighting controls, like the teeny tiny numbers on the Ins/Home/PgUp, etc. cluster. Those numbers are for selecting various lighting effect presets, which we’ll get to further down the page. But others are inexplicably redundant. For example, F1-F8 have media controls as secondary functions. But there are dedicated media buttons elsewhere on the Bullet Hunter MK6. The controls on the F keys are more detailed, but why would you put multiple sets of media controls on the same keyboard?
Also, the F2/volume down control doesn’t work.
Lighting & “New Invader” Software
I do enjoy seeing things on keyboards that I’ve never seen before, but I definitely did not see this one coming: The Bullet Hunter MK6 comes with…a mini disc. It’s an actual piece of physical media that contains the configuration software. I no longer own a computer with an optical drive, so I had to (literally!) dust off the external ODD I bought years go for just this eventuality. (How long has it been since I used it? The disc I’d left inside it was from a product review I did 4.5 years ago.)
Once you locate an optical drive or a time machine, the installation process takes just a few seconds. All that’s on the disc is an EXE file; double click it, click through a couple of screens, and it’s all set. And then you may launch the software, which, for the record, has the marvelous name of “New Invader.”
The New Invader software does not look pretty. It’s a little clunky, and some of the text is spaced incorrectly, so a lot of items in the window are squished together. The GUI of the keyboard is very nice, but it’s all so small, and you can’t click a corner of the window and enlarge it. All the screenshots I’ve included here are actual size.
There are three profiles available, and you can configure key assignments, macros, and lighting for each of the three.
I was impressed to find that you can make key assignments and create and assign macros with New Invader. Again, the interface is a bit ugly, but it is quite easy to use. Just click a key in the GUI, and press any other key to assign it. You can alternately choose to assign media controls and other system miscellany, or macros, to any given key.
Making macros is easy enough, depending on what you’re doing. For example, if you’re putting in just a string of alpha characters, it’s as easy as pressing Record, hitting those keys, and clicking Stop. But creating an Alt+Tab macro was a mite ridiculous. After I hit Record, I had to press and release each key in turn: Alt (press and release), then Tab (press and release). Then I had to select each action and re-order them to make the command work. Otherwise, pressing Alt+Tab performs the Alt+Tab function, recording only Alt (press) in the software. It’s nice that you can edit the macros, though, including the delay or lack thereof.
You have to tick a box (it’s misspelled) to show the lighting controls, but there’s a lot you can play with when you do. And 50 points to 1stPlayer for making the software enact changes automatically, without the user having to click anything, necessarily. (In some cases you do have to click “Apply.”)
There are 18 preset lighting modes of various kinds that you can select. A 19th mode is actually a superset of modes–FPS, MMO, MOBA, and RTS–that are presets that light just the keycaps that are most germane to those game types. Included in those presets is six empty profiles you can customize.
The custom lighting interface is a little confusing at first, but it’s actually pretty simple once you catch on. The middle color option called “Basic color” is the primary solid color for all the keys. Then, you can select a different color under “Color” and click any of the keys in the GUI to change them to that color. Repeat to change additional keys to additional colors. To undo a color, click the little eraser icon next to the GUI and click the offending key, and it will reset to the background color.
There are 19 preset colors you can choose from the palette, but it’s a bizarre set. One is black, which is to say, “off.” Four of the options are just shades of gray. (?!) The gray, and some of the other colors like light blue and light green, look suspiciously similar. I can’t detect any difference between them at all.
There’s a custom color picker here as well. It gives you a nice array of preset colors to choose from or adjust; a palette to click and drag around in; and the ability to punch in R, G, and B numbers. But I strongly suspect that the Bullet Hunter MK6 is not capable of full RGB, even though it’s labeled as such.
The color mixing of the LEDs is painful to behold. White is not so much white as it is reddish gray, and you can clearly see the red, blue, and green desperately trying to mix into white. I just snapped this image with my phone to see if I could capture it. Lo and behold, first try:
Outside of the software, there’s much you can control lighting-wise on the keyboard itself. The arrow keys let you increase or decrease the LED brightness, change the direction of a lighting effect, and cycle through colors. Ins, Home, PgUp, Del, End, and PgDn all have numbered sublegends. There are the six different pre-programmed lighting effects, which include a rainbow effect, wave, reactive, and so on.
A total of thirteen small Phillip head screws hold the Bullet Hunter MK6 together. That includes the aforementioned vestigial one that is a different size than all the others and appears to serve no purpose. A rep told me it was there to “secure the backplate,” but I don’t understand why or how the other screws aren’t already doing that.
It’s worth noting, though, that 1stPlayer did a fine job of hiding the other screws. You’ll never spot them until you start popping off keycaps. (Which makes the presence of the lone, obvious screw that much more baffling.)
I thought I had them all removed, but it turns out that 1stPlayer managed to hide one final screw really well. I found this out the hard way, after I wiggled and tugged the top plate enough to…rip a bracket off of the screw that was holding it, and bending the top plate in the process. The screw was hidden under a plastic piece of the volume roller. Apparently the plastic piece pops right off so you can access and remove the screw.
But then I encountered additional types of Phillips screws that were holding the volume roller’s PCB assembly onto the back of the chassis. A few more twists of the screwdriver later, that too was free.
With the Bullet Hunter MK6 fully undressed, there’s a small cable connecting the PCB to the assembly that provides a lit logo, and another connector for the USB cable. You can see in the images that the PCB is respectably tidy, but what you cannot see is the printing on the MCU or LED controller. Both are (inadvertently) obscured, so I was unable to identify them. A 1stPlayer rep told me that both are made by a company called Eevision.
The top plate and PCB are each about 2mm thick. Somehow the aluminum top plate feels much thinner. The keyboard uses Cherry-style stabilizers, and the keycaps are approximately 1.5mm thick.
On the whole, the Bullet Hunter MK6 feels fine under my fingers. And I like the effect of the backlighting on the shiny-sided keycaps, and the onboard lighting controls and included software are reasonably full-featured. But mechanical keyboards are all about small details adding up to a complete whole, and there are many unfortunate details on this keyboard. The dead LED, vestigial screw, inconsistent keycap font, iffy backlighting, and ugly software are 1,000 cuts, as it were.
A saving grace is the price. At $55, you should be expecting a cheap keyboard. Considering some of the features the Bullet Hunter MK6 does have, like controllable “RGB” backlighting and a nifty keycap look, it’s a decent price. If you want to get into a mechanical keyboard but don’t have much cash to spare, you could do worse than the 1stPlayer Bullet Hunter MK6. That is, if you can live with that keycap font.
|Shiny keycaps are fetching||Odd, inconsistent, and/or redundant font, legends, and sublegends|
|Surprisingly powerful software||Backlighting does not appear to be full RGB|
|Solid typing feel||Software UI is ugly|
|Low price||Dead LED|
Where To Buy
You can find the 1stPlayer Bullet Hunter MK6 on Amazon in the U.S. for as low as $55.
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