Kinesis TKO Gaming Keyboard Review

Ergonomic keyboards come in all shapes and sizes, including 60 percent designs for esports. The $175 Kinesis Gaming TKO is a portable keyboard from Kinesis, the company behind some of the strongest split keyboards on the market. It doesn’t have as many ergonomic features as the Freestyle Edge RGB, but it does have a few exclusive features for a small keyboard. The TKO rises to the top of a growing esports keyboard heap as an Editors’ Choice pick thanks to these features, as well as a decent interface and consistency construction.

Let them down with a thud

The TKO is a real 60 percent keyboard, with just 63 buttons. That means it lacks the feature row, utility keys, and arrows, which are considered necessary by full-size and tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard fans. The actual keys might be gone, like they are on several 60 percent keyboards, but their functions are still accessible through an increased number of Feature (Fn) key shortcuts. About every key has a secondary feature that you’ll want to remember, in addition to media and onboard programming controls. Thankfully, the TKO extends an olive branch to newcomers in the form of sidecap legends depicting the Fn combos for each main.

While the main cuts make typing more difficult, they allow for a more streamlined design. The TKO isn’t the lowest 60-percenter I’ve used, measuring 1.44 by 11.63 by 4.44 inches (HWD), but it is smaller than several recent gaming keyboards of this size, including the Fnatic Streak65 as well as HyperX Alloy Origins 60. Since the TKO takes up less desk space than a full-size or TKL keyboard, you can tilt it into a more ergonomic gaming place.

Despite deleting a large number of buttons, Kinesis managed to install a few new ones. Rather than utilizing a standard spacebar, three “thumb keys” replace the space in the bottom row that was previously allocated for the long, central key. By default, all of the keys are set to spacebar. You will further configure one of the most ergonomically accessible interface pieces by breaking the spacebar into several keys.

And while clicking on a regular basis, splitting the space bar button produces two dedicated macro keys in the center of the keyboard. It’s easier, in my opinion, than making a macro row on one side of the keyboard, and it’s particularly useful in a form factor where the vital keys can be relegated to shortcuts. Where credit is due: This isn’t the first time I’ve seen anything like this. Nonetheless, it’s a unique and extremely useful function that straddles the border between flashy and useful.

That is the true secret to the TKO’s progress. It’s the first keyboard to have an RGB underglow pack, which is a ring across the base and sides of the keyboard that highlights and lights up the desk or table. In the functional hand, it’s the first 60 percent keyboard I’ve checked with four sets of feet, allowing you to set it up in the most ergonomic way possible.

Through bringing two feet in front of the TKO, you will undo the tilt. When you couple the keyboard with a wrist rest, you may reduce wrist tension. Additionally, you can tent the keyboard by raising one side’s front and back. Which relieves shoulder and forearm strain. While I wouldn’t label the TKO a “ergo keyboard,” these features are almost exclusively used in equipment designed for that function. They could be much more popular because of their smooth incorporation into the TKO.

In line with esports patterns, the TKO is extremely lightweight. The keyboard not only connects to your PC with a detachable USB-C cable, as is now pretty normal, but it also comes with a dedicated carrying case. The hard shell case has a handle and a pocket for spare bits, as well as a snug fit for the keyboard and cord. I’m not sure how many people want a safe and reliable method of transporting a keyboard, but this does the job.

Functionality without a driver

Kinesis has a special approach to keyboard tuning and apps—its products run without drivers. This is technically a positive thing, because it ensures there’s one fewer app running in the background on your PC. Regrettably, this allows the setup phase a little more difficult than normal.

The TKO uses an app named SmartSet to remap buttons, reprogram lighting, and adjust settings. The program doesn’t appear as sleek as other setup apps including the Corsair iCue, Logitech G Hub, or Razer Synapse, but it’s simple to tweak. However, there is a catch: You can only make improvements to the TKO via SmartSet when it’s attached to your PC as a remote drive if you don’t have drivers. It’s a quick three-key shortcut—Menu+Right Shift+V—to bind the “V-Drive,” but you’ll have to keep the keys down for a second or two while it links. Manual saves are still needed for the driverless device, and you can only preview adjustments by using Preview Mode with the V-Drive attached.

Champion Featherweight

The Kinesis TKO is a 60 percent keyboard that does a variety of stuff that other keyboards don’t. It has improved ergonomics, incorporates more keys into a sleek build, and also has a carrying case. If “esports” hardware would become the future of gaming keyboards, as it appears to be, the TKO will serve as a north star for companies to use to guide their evolutions in the coming years.Despite its high price tag of $175.00, the TKO is a PCMag Editors’ Choice select for 60% keyboards.