James Donkey RS2 review: Retro styling, modern substance

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Put a donkey on it

Yes, James Donkey. A relative unknown in the keyboard world, better known for some dodgy gaming mice than gaming keyboards.

Despite that, we were pretty excited to test the RS2, the retro styling is something we haven’t seen much lately, and the hot-swappable switches are still fun, so let’s see what James has to offer .

Amusing name aside, this keyboard promises a lot. Not only is it a full-size hot-swappable card, but it also uses a gasket-mounted design, and we haven’t seen much of it come through the WePC desktop. So let’s see how Jim’s stallion does.

James Donkey RS2 Specifications

James Donkey RS2 1

James Donkey RS2 mechanical keyboard

Switch type

Gateron Brown

Form factor

100% full size

Connectivity

USB Type-C, 2.4GHz

Hot-swappable?

Yes, with 3 or 5 pin Cherry style switches

Advantages

  • cool retro styling
  • The labels around the sockets are very practical
  • Gasket type mounting allows for a softer bottom
  • Tactile and thick typing experience

The inconvenients

  • No RGB
  • Volume wheel mutes sound instead of pausing it

Yes, with 3 or 5 pin Cherry style switches

Box contents and configuration

  • James Donkey RS2 mechanical keyboard
  • 2.4GHz USB stick
  • USB type A to type C cable
  • User’s Guide
  • key puller
  • key switch puller

Most small-brand wireless mechanical keyboards are usually limited to Bluetooth, which is perfectly functional but tends to be a bit awkward to use on a PC.

Indeed, few PCs have built-in Bluetooth, which usually requires a Bluetooth USB dongle or PCI-E expansion card. So this has always been our pet peeve so you can imagine our delight when we saw a good old fashioned 2.4GHz dongle in the box which meant we didn’t have to worry about pairing of a new device.

Aside from the excitement at the sight of a dongle, the unboxing experience was very good, especially when you remember that this card is expensive less than $100.

The James Donkey RS2 comes in a fashionable white box, with a sort of glossy lithograph-like outline of the keyboard on the front, with some of the features listed on the sides, and a fully annotated image on the back.

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Opening the box we’re greeted by the keyboard, wrapped in a soft plastic bag that works like a mini manual as it contains diagrams showing how to use the board’s basic features, like pairing and how the controls work. multimedia.

In terms of packaging safety, James Donkey did well here. We were initially worried because when you open the box, the keyboard is right there, tucked away in a plastic shell, in the aforementioned bag, with no extra padding in sight.

These worries were solved when we realized there was a layer of dense foam inside the lid, so when the box is closed and sealed, this foam immobilizes the board, preventing damage.

Design

That’s where a lot of the interest in this specific card will come from, as it has a pretty unique design that marries a retro colorway with modern keyboard functionality.

It’s hard to describe, but the visuals of the James Donkey RS2 are somehow “out of retro”. This means that there are some subtle differences that set it apart from the usual copy of the IBM Model M keyboard.

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The brown accent keys and a sort of brown/grey legending on the lighter keys gave this keyboard an overall coffee color scheme that we love. Although some might say we’re beyond retro, we find it hard to agree when we look at this chart.

Another thing that gives the James Donkey RS2 a classic look is the 100% full-size layout. While we generally prefer small form factor keyboards here at WePC, they don’t look right in an old-school retro color scheme.

There are also other hints of modernity here. The volume wheel above the number pad has a knurled silver border that provides a satisfying tactile feel, and the on/off switch and USB Type-C port on the back of the hidden keyboard on the back also help bring this card into the 21st century.

James Donkey, perhaps showing some self-awareness, has kept the RS2’s branding to a minimum. The only immediately visible instance is below the number pad on the front of the keyboard and it’s in the same grey/brown color we mentioned earlier. You also get another logo on the sticker under the board.

Another subtlety we didn’t immediately notice was the difference in legend coloring between the keys. The brown keys have black legends contrasting the brown/grey color of the lighter beige keys.

In terms of lighting, the James Donkey RS2 is definitely lacking. This is made painfully obvious as we’ve been spoiled by copious amounts of RGB, and when you put the RS2 up against other modern cards it just doesn’t hold up.

James Donkey RS2 50

The RS2 only has white LEDs. They are per key which allows for some fun lighting effects, however you might be disappointed as the lighting isn’t very bright and there are no transparent keys or other gaps to pass through. can shine.

It’s the best-looking gaming keyboard we’ve seen in a long time, and we’re seeing plenty of keyboards here at WePC. However, looks can be deceiving, so we need to look a little deeper.

Manufacturing quality

This keyboard feels great in the hands, very good in fact, especially when you remember the $100 price tag. However, it’s not without a few issues, thankfully none of which affect the user experience, although they can be a concern in the long run.

There’s definitely a bit of flex to the top plate, and even more from the joint mounting design, although it’s only noticeable when pressing a key with considerable force.

NOW READ: Guide to Cherry MX Switches

We suspect this is the result of pushing hard enough to maximize gasket compression, which then causes the PCB itself to flex. Fortunately, this is not detectable during normal use.

As for keyboard nerds, we have the default dual-socket PBT, which results in sturdy and durable keys. It’s especially nice to see for a keyboard like this, where a specific aesthetic is largely the reason for purchase, meaning it can be difficult to maintain the look with aftermarket replacements.

Speaking of which, our friends from Mechkeys will sort you out with replacements if you are in need.

Typing and gaming performance

This is where the James Donkey RS2 really comes into its own, as it’s one of the best mechanical keyboards we’ve tested, tied for 1st place with the fantastic Mountain Everest 60.

We received Gateron Brown switches in our sample, but you can get the RS2 with Gateron Reds, or no switches at all, as this keyboard is compatible with 3-pin or 5-pin Cherry-style switches.

James Donkey RS2 17

When replacing a key switch, you will notice the gasket the switches are mounted on, which contributes immensely to the feel and sound of the James Donkey RS2.

We’ll start with tactility, this may vary depending on your choice of switch, but the experience of a Gateron Brown switch combined with a joint mount is unlike anything else, with 2 distinct touch points, the second being a much softer bottom than you would otherwise have.

The sound isn’t quite what we’d call thocky, more like a slight click. It’s still quite audible, though, with a few people in the WePC office commenting on how good it sounds, which doesn’t happen often, despite how often new cards arrive here.

James Donkey RS2 30

If you decide to swap out the switches, you’ll find a feature so criminally underutilized and easy to implement that we’re not sure why this is the first time we’ve seen it: a labeled switch plate.

Anyone who’s swapped out switches or keys on a keyboard knows how painful it is to put all the keycaps back in the right place, with most of us taking a picture before disassembly and using that as a guide.

James Donkey has done the courtesy of printing the key name under each socket, thus removing the risk of errors and speeding up the process.

James donkey RS2 28

The volume dial is also a great addition, and something we’d like to see more of on future keyboards, but for some reason it mutes rather than pauses when clicked, despite the manual d instructions to the contrary.

For gaming, the James Donkey RS2 is perfectly crisp, however, those of you low DPI pro-FPS gamers might find the 100% form factor too greedy for mouse space.

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James Donkey RS2: final word

What James Donkey has done here is fantastic. A fully hot-swappable, gasket-mounted wireless keyboard for $100 is a rare giveaway and one we highly recommend.

Sound, tactility, and expandability are all top-notch here, making it one of the best keyboards for typing/general use we’ve ever tested.

The retro theme won’t be loved by everyone, but it’s a strong look so it was never going to be universally loved. Either way, it’s nice to have something new that isn’t just matte black or brushed aluminum.

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