mk typist

Posted On 09/05/2019 By In Keyboard Reviews, Reviews

The MK Typist Review: Boring In The Best Way Possible

The MK Typist was made for people like me, who are boring. I am the sort of person who was genuinely overjoyed to purchase a minivan. But like a great minivan, which is actually a luxury vehicle (fight me and my heated leather seats), the MK Typist feels luxurious. It’s comfortable; eminently functional for typing; and unbothered by glaring lights, goofy colors, and chassis angles that only a space marine could love. If Johnny Cash wanted a mechanical keyboard, this is what he would choose.

Don’t mistake the simplicity with shortcuts on quality: It’s not that the MK Typist is missing features, it’s just that it doesn’t have any superfluous ones. And that helps keep the price low–just $89, marked down from $99.

The price, plus the branding, would normally give one pause: The MK Typist is, after all, part of the house brand of an online retailer. Surely there’s no way it can be of any reasonable quality, right? But in this case, that online retailer is MechanicalKeyboards.com, which is a godsend to many a keyboard enthusiast, and the OEM of the MK series is none other than Ducky. 

In fact…the MK Typist is just a Ducky One with a different sticker on the back. But the specific combination of colorway and (lack of backlit) legends is unique to MK.com. 

A Closer Look

Like the Man In Black himself, the MK Typist is dressed in the absence of color. It’s a black chassis with black keys that have (doubleshot) white legends. Instead of the ever popular floating key design, the MK Typist has a top panel that covers the backplate, so the keycaps nestle into it. It’s a standard 104-key layout save for the four dedicated keys–one of the keyboard’s only extra features. 

The four additional keys speak to the nerdiness of the MK Typist. They include volume mute/unmute, volume up, volume down, and…a calculator hotkey. Oh MK/Ducky, you know us so well. (I actually use the calculator key almost every day.) The four keys are way up on the right side of the keyboard, easy to find at a glance, and in a place where they don’t impact the rest of the layout. “Why waste that space? Put something useful there,” you can almost hear Ron Swanson say.

mk typist

The only four LEDs on the whole keyboard are located beneath these four keys, in turn. It seems like they’re supposed to be white, but they have a distinctly purplish hue. They’re ridiculously bright, either way–do not look directly at them when lit. Trust me.

The chassis is plain Jane but arguably more pleasing to the eye than the Ducky One 2’s curious front look that we photographed in detail in our Ducky One 2 Mini review. The top and bottom panels are plastic, which can often be a turnoff because the feel can be a bit off, but after weeks of using the keyboard, I’d completely forgotten about the plastic. It hasn’t faded one iota, looking as new as the day I unboxed it.

Underneath the MK Typist is a pair of two-stage flip-down feet. They give you three total angles to pitch the keyboard, if you count the default position as one. There’s also a metal badge indicating the brand and model name, and a cable trough runs across the width of the MK Typist. The cable is removable and has a USB 2.0 Type-A end for your computer and one USB Type-C on the keyboard end. 

mk typist

Not that this USB Type-C port does anything; it’s really just about the port itself, which is sturdier than micro USB and is easier to plug in. My only qualm about it is that there isn’t adequate room to pull the cable out without having to apply some upward pressure, which is going to cause damage at some point. 

You’ll also find the DIP switches on the underside of the MK Typist. These let you easily turn on 16 different layouts. 

Programmability

In my humble opinion, the manual is a little confusing, so here’s perhaps a simpler explanation for how to program macros: First, make sure all the DIP switches are set to Off. Then, you need to switch from the default profile to any of the others–profiles 2-6–because you can’t program macros on the default profile. To switch to a different profile, simply press Fn + 2 (or 3, 4, 5, or 6). The LEDs will flash to indicate that you’re in a different profile.

To enter MK Macro mode, press Fn + Ctrl and hold them for three seconds. The “M” LED will blink slowly to show that the keyboard is ready to record. Then press whatever key you plan to use to activate a given macro. (Note that there are only so many keys you can use for this. More on that in a bit.) The M LED will flash rapidly. 

Then you punch in your macro, whether that’s a single key, Windows function, multi-key string, or whatever. 

Next, you need to choose which “macro implementation option” you want to use. All that means is you can set it to go once when you press the macro-activating key (Fn + Q); or press the key to start the macro, letting it run until you press the key again to stop it (Fn + W); or press the key to run the macro repeatedly until you release that key (Fn + E).

Once you’ve selected one of the above “macro implementation options,” you can opt to change the speed by pressing Fn + 1-6. (By default, it will simply capture your typing speed and record that along with the macro.) You can set the speed incrementally, from 0.02 seconds up to one second, based on which number you combine with Fn. So for example, Fn + 1 = 0.02 seconds, Fn + 2 = 0.1 seconds, and so on. 

Then, press Fn + Ctrl to stop recording. Or, you can press Fn +Alt to keep recording more macros. 

And if you hate what you’ve done, you can press and hold Win + Spacebar for three seconds to reset the current profile. 

It’s quite a few steps and key combinations to remember, but it does eliminate the need for separate software and working with a UI. (I wouldn’t mind a UI myself, but so it goes.) Here’s a simple sample with all the steps. Let’s say you wanted “X” to produce “yay” when pressed.

  • Press Fn + 2 to enter Profile 2
  • Press and hold Fn + Ctrl for three seconds to enter macro mode
  • Press X–this is the key you’ll press to execute the macro
  • The LEDs will blink more quickly
  • Type “yay”–this is the output of the macro
  • Press Fn + Q so the macro runs once when you press X
  • Press Fn + Ctrl to stop recording
  • To run the macro, press X

That’s the basics. Again, you can add more complex macros, and Windows functions, and so on, and you can change the macro commands and speed, too. And again, you have five empty profiles you can use to stash your macros. Not every key is available for programming macros, though–you can’t use the F keys, number keys, arrow keys, or the bottom row. The rest of the alphas, modifiers, sys req cluster, the four extra media keys, and numpad are all fair game, though.

You can also switch to many different layouts thanks to the DIP switches. Here’s a handy chart:

Key LayoutDIP 1DIP 2DIP 3DIP 4
QWERTY (default)OFFOFFOFFOFF
QWERTY (not programmable)ONOFFOFFOFF
ColemakOFFONOFFOFF
NormanOFFOFFONOFF
WorkmanOFFOFFOFFON
DvorakOFFONONOFF
MiniMak 4OFFOFFONON
MiniMak 8ONOFFONOFF
MiniMak 12ONONONON
AlphabeticalONOFFONON
QWERTY (swap Alt/Win)ONONOFFON
Colemak (swap Alt/Win)ONONONOFF
Norman (swap Alt/Win)ONOFFOFFON
Workman (swap Alt/Win)ONONOFFOFF
Dvorak (swap Alt/Win)OFFONONON
MiniMak 8 (swap Alt/Win)OFFONOFFON

You can find this chart in the MK Typist manual, along with illustrations of each layout so you can see them at a glance.

Switches, Keycaps, and Lighting

Although you can get Cherry MX Brown or Cherry Mx Silent Red switches on the MK Typist, the unit I have bears Kailh Box Whites switches. I know, I know, *gasp*. Because of the age of this particular keyboard, I know that the Box Whites on the MK Typist I’m currently banging on are the old (version two) switches that caused so much consternation. 

mk typist

I first switched (pun) to the MK Typist from the 1st Player Bullet Hunter (hey, even cheapo keyboards deserve a review every now and then), and the Box Whites on the former were noticeably softer than the Outemu Blue switches on the latter. You don’t often stumble across such disparity by accident, but so pronounced was the difference that I made a note to myself about it. 

The keycaps on the MK Typist are PBT with doubleshot white legends. I have almost no complaints here at all, save for the fact that some of the non alphas had some inconsistencies. A few lowercase C and E characters looked oddly smaller and fainter than the others on keys like PrtSc, ScrLk, and Home. 

mk typist

After many weeks of use, the keycaps have next to no shine at all. This, compared to way too many thin black ABS keycaps that look like oil slicks after a day of typing. (Razer, I’m looking at you.)

mk typist

The keycap legends are not backlit, but then again, there are no LEDs under the keycaps anyway. I admit that a little bit of backlighting is preferable when I’m typing away late at night, but otherwise I didn’t miss the backlighting at all.

Teardown

The top cover of the Typist comes off with a bit of gentle but firm work with a spudger or small flathead screwdriver. Three Philips screws hold the bottom part of the chassis onto the PCB assembly from the back, and two more teeny tiny ones need to be removed from the top. (They’re hiding under the plastic cover.) From there it might just a little bit of persuadin’ to come apart. There’s not more to pulling the Typist apart than that.              

mk typist

The bottom of the chassis is unremarkable–just standard black plastic that’s not especially rigid. The PCB enjoys a 1mm steel backplate for support that has a curved lip design that appears to increases its resistance to flexion.

The PCB, replete with a Ducky logo, is clean as a whistle, with precise soldering. There’s an internal USB connector that runs from the PCB to the port on the back of the chassis. 

The MCU is a Holtek chip, although the actual SKU is obscured by an orange mark (thanks guys). There’s also a flash memory chip (HH1647 25Q40CT), and of course the DIP switch module.

There’s an LED controller on board (the MBI5042GP). This would seem to pretty much be a waste, because there are just a few LEDs on the Typist, but there are two reasons it’s there. For one, I believe that the PCB is likely the same used for the LED-backlit MK Night Typist and also other Ducky One models that may support more lighting. More importantly, you’ll need those LEDs as indicators when you’re fiddling with profiles, layers, and macros.

The Verdict

I’ve long resisted to the temptation to admit when I really like a product I’m reviewing. I’ve always tried to objectively state the pros and cons of a given product, injecting subjective observations where warranted, but leaving it to the reader to weigh those benefits and negatives for themselves to make a buying decision.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the MK Typist. I really like it, in fact. Granted, it suits my tastes and needs–there’s nothing I need, nor especially want, that it doesn’t have. And objectively, there isn’t anything I can really say against it–the top panel design traps crumbs kind of? That’s the worst thing I have to say. The price is tremendous too, at just $89. I’m admitting my bias here in the sense that I fell in love with this keyboard, so take my words for what they’re worth. But this is a keyboard very few people would regret purchasing.

ProsCons
Simple, practical designMaybe you'd like a nice UI
for creating and editing macros?
Solid constructionKeycaps not immune from damage
if the TSA tosses your bag
and doesn't replace the plastic cover
that you so very carefully
wrapped into place on the
keyboard so that very thing
wouldn't happen
Low price
Significant macro and layout options

Where To Buy

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only place you can buy the MK Typist is directly from MechanicalKeyboards.com. You can get the Kailh Box White version for $89. For another $5, you can go with Cherry MX Brown switches, or add $10 for Cherry MX Silent Reds. And if you just can’t live without a little night light, you can grab the backlit MK Night Typist, starting at $99.

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Seth Colaner

Editor in Chief of Keychatter. Irrepressibly interested in things. Loves devices that click and clack. Data nerd. Proud Midwesterner. Pass the buffalo chicken dip.

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