Arctic cooling k381 keyboard

The most striking feature of the Arctic Cooling K381 keyboard is the fact it's so compact, almost like they've simply taken a laptop keyboard and given it a case.

Another way of looking at it is that it's a cheap impersonation of the Apple keyboard but at a fraction of the price, with wires and not built quite so well.

Putting that to one side, borrowing the chiclet key style – used so widely now from Apple laptops through to Sony and Samsung models – that it's easy to overlook the keyboard's shortcomings, which is backed up well with the slim-line, minimalist design.

Let's not beat around the bush, build quality is at best average.

The plastic feels cheap, it's easy to flex the entire keyboard and the keys have a cheap 'click' to them. That's certainly not to say it's bad, the keys have a decent response and don't stick.

In use those keys also respond well, the chiclet actually provides more surface area for each key than a traditional key design, but this can take a little while to get use to.

The Arctic Cooling K381 also offers the usual twelve office keys that double as the function keys, along with volume controls and a sleep key.

There's no additional media controls but the numeric keypad and arrows keys are all full size.

Its wired USB connection is a lengthy 173cm. Encouragingly the key decals seem relatively hardy but it's hard to judge how long they may actually last.

Finally the main omission from the keyboard is any rear height adjustment, a solid bar is built into the back of the keyboard but there's no additional way to raise or lower it.

We liked:

The chiclet keys make for easy use and good typing, even under multiplayer-deathmatch pressure. This is backed up by the minimal design that takes up as little space as possible on your desk or in your LAN-party bag.

It's a full keyboard, which is always handy, though part of us would like to see just a basic keyboard without the numeric pad.

We disliked:

The build quality is the biggest disappointment or more likely worry.

It flexes easily when twisted and the lack of any additional height adjustment could be a real and literal pain for some people.

Final word:

A no-frills keyboard that provides style and good function but don't expect much else.