Today we’re looking at the Sahara Gaming R20, a familiar-looking tenkeyless mechanical keyboard for gaming or typing. The board features a number of nice features, including per-key RGB backlighting, macro keys and n-key rollover, at a very reasonable price point. That should be enough to translate into a firm recommendation, but does this board stick the landing? Let’s find out.
Specifications & features
|Switches||Outemu Cherry MX-style switches
(Brown, Blue, Black, Red)
|Extra features||Macro, media + Win lock keys via Fn layer|
|Form factor||Tenkeyless (88-key)|
|Dimensions||359 x 135 x 38mm|
|Net weight||ABS w/ lasered legends|
The R20 is an elegant tenkeyless keyboard, meaning it comes with only 88 keys and excises the usual number pad. This compact layout provides more space for your mouse and allows for a more ergonomic position while working or gaming.
The board is built around plate-mounted Cherry MX-style mechanical switches produced by Outemu floating above a black metal base. You have the option for Brown, Blue, Red or Black switches, which are tactile, clicky, soft linear and linear, respectively. We generally recommend linear switches for gaming and tactile or clicky switches for typing, but this is all a matter of preference and you can of course type comfortable on linear switches or game on clicky ones. The clicky switches are the loudest, with the other options a little quieter, but all produce a familiar report that can annoy nearby family members or coworkers.
Each switch is topped by an ABS keycap, with lasered legends that allow the RGB backlighting beneath to shine through. Unlike most other mechanical keyboards, Sahara Gaming has selected a stylish capitalised typeface to label their keycaps, and have opted to spell out most keys (e.g. the Windows key is WIN, not a Windows symbol). This produces a consistent and stylish look that we really dig.
A function key in the lower right allows the use of five macro keys. There are also media keys, volume controls, PC shortcuts and a Windows lock key accessible via the same function layer. The backlighting controls are located on the right side of the keyboard; it’s possible to switch between 14 different modes, adjust the speed and brightness of the animation, as well as choose from “9 highly recognisable colours”. No software is required to configure the keyboard, which is very handy.
One particularly nice touch is that the keyboard’s backlighting will change when the function key is pressed, showing you which keys have secondary functions.
The bottom of the keyboard reveals three potential channels for the braided USB cable: left, centre and right. This isn’t entirely necessary for most setups, but it’s a nice inclusion nonetheless. You can also choose to use little flip-out legs to angle the keyboard, or use it flat — ergonomically, I would suggest the latter option.
We used the R20 as our primary keyboard for a period of one week, replacing a similarly-sized Xtfry K4 TKL.
Our review unit came with Red switches, which offer a low actuation weight and smooth, linear action. This makes Reds a nice middle-ground switch, good for both typing and gaming, although this is largely a matter of personal preference. We also found that the switches produced a noticeable ping sound during rapid typing, although this is common to many keyboards and not a dealbreaker in our eyes. The ABS keycaps had a pleasingly smooth texture, and their low weight produces a nice feel when typing. However, PBT keycaps are seemingly preferred by many mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, so you may wish to install replacement keycaps when you can afford to do so. Thankfully, the layout is quite standard so finding replacements is straightforward.
The lighting modes on offer are good value. The keyboard has a nice little animation when it first starts up, with the keyboard gradually lighting up from the outside in. Afterwards, you have your choice of a rainbow wave, a colour-changing clockwise rotation, a ricochet of colour, a raindrop effect, etc etc.
You can also have these modes activated at the same time as a base colour, so you can have raindrops falling along a blue backdrop, for instance.
The R20 is an excellent keyboard, offering exceptional value for money at the £60 level. We have certainly seen cheaper mechanical keyboards on the market in recent years, but all of these displayed one or more significant flaws: unusual layouts, weird stylistic missteps or disappointing build quality issues.
Conversely, the R20 doesn’t suffer from any significant issues, while hitting all of the most important points: a choice of all four common Cherry MX-style switches, well-implemented RGB backlighting and a compact yet convenient tenkeyless layout. This is a keyboard that you could recommend to almost anyone, although more premium options may provide slightly better build quality or more unusual features.
All things considered, the R20 is a super solid mechanical keyboard for the money and we’re happy to recommend it.