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Optical keyboards entered the mainstream last year with Razer’s Huntsman Elite. But as I noted at the time, Razer was far from the first company to explore optical keyboard switches. A few years back I started noticing a company called “Bloody” showing up at every trade show, fronting huge booths full of keyboards—ones equipped with optical switches.
Why it’s taken us so long to review one of Bloody’s keyboards, I’m not sure, but we’ve finally gotten our hands on one. Bloody recently sent us its B975, one of its more recent (and more refined) models. I’ve spent the last few weeks typing on it, and you know what? I like it—even if Bloody’s claims about optical switches are a bit overblown.
Note: This review is part of our best gaming keyboards roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.
Don’t cut yourself on that edge
First, it’s worth noting that “Bloody” isn’t actually the company name, or at least not where the brand started. Bloody has its roots in the much more reasonably named A4Tech, a company that’s been around a long time. I guess Bloody seems more…gamer-friendly? Kind of like Kingston and its HyperX sub-brand?
But suffice it to say: Any company that names its sub-brand Bloody has a certain aesthetic in mind, and much as I enjoy typing on the B975 I can’t say I’m a huge fan of its looks. First and foremost you have to get over the fact that the word “Bloody” is forever written on your keyboard, along with the accompanying faux-bloody handprint logo. You’re definitely going to draw some strange looks if you use the B975 in an office, I can tell you that. Be prepared for comments from anyone who visits your house too, at least if they’re left near your keyboard for any length of time.
Then there’s the lettering on the keycaps, which looks like an homage to the legendary mall-goth typeface Bleeding Cowboys . (Appropriate, given the brand name.) Not only is it “edgy” in a somewhat embarrassing fashion, it’s nearly illegible on certain keys including Home, Delete, and Print Screen. The B975’s still usable, but those keys in particular look worn-out even fresh from the box, like pre-faded jeans or something.
The rest isn’t as iffy, but odd choices still abound. There’s a strange bolt-head to the side of the NumLock indicator for instance. It stands out because it’s the only one of its kind on the entire keyboard, to the point where at first I thought it must have some purpose. But no, as far as I can tell it’s just the same faux-industrial look used by Cougar (for instance), only applied here in a somewhat random fashion.
Don’t worry, you’ll get your fill of screws though. The B975 ships with a detachable wrist rest, and anyone who’s ever touched a keyboard knows what that means: It clips in with little pieces of plastic, right? Wrong. Bloody intends for you to hold the B975’s wrist rest on with two tiny screws—and not thumb-screws either, but ones you need to dig out a screwdriver to turn. “Detachable” is a generous description here. Once this wrist rest is hooked in, you’re never going to take it off.
In theory, screws are better, sure. They’re more durable, more permanent, and won’t suddenly unclip from the keyboard like those tiny pieces of plastic. But you know what? I’d much rather take two seconds to snap those plastic bits in than two minutes messing with finicky little screws.
The B975 also comes with an alternate piece of plastic for the wrist rest—bright red, instead of the default black. And wouldn’t you know it: That’s also held on by two tiny screws. Bright red’s not my style, so I just didn’t bother replacing it. (The photo you’ll see below was taken by simply placing the alternate wrist rest on top of the original.)
And then there are the odd metal lines that separate the keyboard into a handful of distinct zones. There’s one underneath the Function row, two at either end of the keyboard, one between the main keyboard zone and the Arrow Keys/Home block. Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t really bother me, but nor would I say it’s a beautiful detail.
The B975 is odd. That’s all. It doesn’t feel chintzy like the bargain-bin keyboards you’ll find on Amazon. The feet have a bit of flex, but overall the build quality is excellent. It looks somewhat cheap though—very much “Gaming Peripherals Circa 2007,” not circa 2019. Some people still love that aesthetic, but personally I’d rather have something a bit more minimalist. Hell, even Razer’s peripherals look more upscale, and I’m including the Huntsman Elite and its flashy RGB wrist rest in that pool.
It’s worth noting that the B975 is Bloody’s most normal keyboard, as well. I’m almost happy we didn’t source a review unit until now, because some of Bloody’s older designs are a real eyesore. I don’t know what the hell those plastic tumors on the B318 are for instance, but I hate it.
At the speed of light
I hope Bloody continues to tone down its aesthetic though, because the B975 is otherwise a fantastic keyboard.
For those who didn’t read our Huntsman Elite review, first let’s do a recap on optical switches. Your traditional mechanical switch works like this: You press a key, metal touches metal, that completes a circuit, and your keystroke is registered. Layman’s terms, but those are the basics. Optical switches basically cut out that “metal touches metal” portion, replacing it with light. Underneath every A4Tech LK Libra switch there’s a laser beam, interrupted by a piece of plastic. When you press a key this plastic dips out of the way, the two sides of the beam connect, and that in turn registers your keystroke.
According to A4Tech/Bloody, this gives you a competitive advantage. After all, the signal is being sent at lightspeed! That sounds cool and futuristic, yeah?
But as I said with the Huntsman Elite, it’s doubtful anyone can tell the difference. Sure, electrical signals travel slower than the speed of light. That’s fact. They don’t travel that much slower though, and the distances we’re talking about are a few millimeters long at most. It’s certainly not a difference you’d notice while typing. You might be saving a single millisecond at best—keeping in mind your PC’s overall latency is likely 30 to 60 milliseconds. A millisecond isn’t nothing, but for practical purposes it might as well be.
That said, optical switches have some cool advantages that I wish Bloody (and Razer) would focus on more instead of trying to force this Elite Gamer Switches narrative. They’re much more resilient, for starters. The connections in standard mechanical switches wear out over time. It’d take years for you to notice, but they do. Most Cherry switches for instance are rated for a lifetime 50 million keystrokes—an order of magnitude more than rubber dome switches, but there’s still an end in sight.
Light is light, though. You don’t “wear out” light. A4Tech rates the LK Libra switch for 100 million keystrokes, and I have to imagine you’d wear a hole through the B975’s keycaps before reaching that number.
On a similar note: They’re spill resistant. It’s not impossible to waterproof a standard mechanical keyboard, but it’s difficult. Corsair’s K68 accomplishes it by semi-sealing the area around each switch with a rubber rim, for instance, but all that engineering work can still be defeated pretty easily. Because an optical keyboard’s circuitry is housed in the chassis, it’s relatively easy to seal up. The B975 isn’t entirely waterproof, but you can probably bleed all over it and it’ll be okay. (No such promise for whether you’ll be okay.)
But as with the Huntsman Elite, it’s really the switch itself that I’m most enamored with. Most of the time there’s an adjustment period when moving between switches, maybe a day or even a week where you get used to the resistance, the actuation point, all the small characteristics that separate one switch from another.
The LK Libra required no such adjustment period from me. Our Bloody B975 came equipped with the LK Libra Orange switches, which blend the tactile clicky feel of a Cherry MX Blue with the gaming-first mindset of something like the MX Silver.
What do I mean? Well, for the real keyboard nerds: The LK Libra Orange features a travel distance of 3.5mm, an actuation of 1.5mm, and requires 40 grams of force. Those numbers are much closer to the MX Silver’s (3.4mm, 1.2mm, and 45 grams) than they are to MX Blues (4mm, 2mm, 50 grams). And yet the LK Libra Orange also has the tactile click feel and sound I associate with MX Blues—and the keystrokes are smoother, to boot.
They’re a joy to use. I still think I prefer the longer keystroke of a Cherry MX Blue for day-to-day typing, but this gives me somewhat of the same feel while also being slightly better suited for gaming. It’s a decent compromise, and I could definitely see LK Libra Oranges becoming my switches of choice in the long-term. At the very least they’re in the top three.
Using LK Libra Oranges means using one of Bloody’s keyboards though, and at the moment that’s a more questionable proposition. I don’t hate the B975 by any means, but I’m also not in love with the whole aesthetic. It’s better than Bloody’s past efforts, for sure, but there’s still only so far you can go with a bloody handprint branded on every keyboard. I think I’d prefer the old A4Tech branding. It’s not catchy, but at least it wouldn’t call so much attention to itself.
That said, if you can look past the aesthetic choices (or even like them), the B975 is a fantastic keyboard. And at a perpetual Amazon sale price of $150 it’s a fair amount cheaper than the Huntsman Elite. If you’re looking to get started with optical switches, this is probably your best point of entry.