December 22, 2015 - kenshinjeff

End 2015 Mechanical keyboard buying guide

After yet another Amazon Black Friday impulse buy on Corsair Vengeance K70, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on mechanical keyboards. (Yes, I understand that usually people do the research before buying, but you know, it WAS a good price with free shipping.)

K70

Corsair K70

I’m the kind of purchaser that must have the best bang for the buck value, so it may come as a surprise to you that I have decided on a Topre Realforce keyboard, well, mainly because a Topre keyboard is _not_ the same as a Cherry MX keyboard, and it costs 2 to 3 times as much.

Realforce 104UB-DK

Realforce 104UB-DK

Let me do a brief explanation: Realforce is the brand of a Japanese keyboard. Topre switches are made in Japan (aka high quality and expensive), they are market as “electrostatic capacitive non-contact” switches. Mambo jambo aside, all you just need to know these switches are pretty much famous for their typing qualities. The Realforce keycaps (removable keys) are also made of dye-sublimated PBT.

If you have ever heard of the Happy Hacking KeyBoard, and ever wondered why it’s so expensive, it’s mainly because they are considered a “luxury” keyboard, which uses Topre switches as well as dye-sublimated PBT keycaps.

Keyboards with Topre switches
CM Storm – Novatouch TKL (45 gram switches, Cherry MX Stems)
Leopold FC660C (45 gram switches, Topre OEM stems)
Topre Type Heaven Keyboard (45 gram switches, Topre OEM stems)
HHKB (45 gram switches, Topre OEM stems)
Realforce Keyboards (45 gram or variable weight switches, Topre OEM stems)

Keyboards with Topre clones
Noppoo EC108 Pro (35 or 45 gram switches, Cherry MX stems, PBT Keycaps)
Royal Kludge RC930 (Cherry MX Stems, shitty ABS doubleshot keycaps)

What is TKL keyboard?
Ten KeyLess, ie. Without the numberic pad on the right of most keyboards. You’ll see some of those below.

What is PBT, why should I care?
Higher boiling point than ABS plastics, harder, most durable, and not subject to yellowing from UV light.
– ABS: Filco Majestouch, WSAD, Rosewill, Leopold, Dell, etc.
– PBT: IBM Model M, Realforce, etc.

What is Cherry MX stem, and why should I care?
Most, if not all mechanical keyboards uses the Cherry MX switches. They look like this:

topre cherry nova switches

The most obvious advantage of the Cherry MX stem, is that if you feel like replacing the keys on your keyboard, you can practically do this:

01

Or this:

03

Or this:

Or even this:
00

You get the main idea right? But wait, why are the fonts different? Fonts on keycaps are referred to as “Legends”, it’s really up to the keycap designers to put whatever they want.

Hold on a second, why does that last image look like it’s slightly warped on under the escape key? That’s because it’s using a different keycap profile. What are those you ask? Well, the best way to explain would be to show you a photo.

KeyProfile

It’s one of those things, that if I don’t mention it, you probably won’t mention it. But, now that I have incepted your mind, you will always see it. (Sorry, not sorry.)

Cherry MX profiles and DSA profiles are quite similar.
SA profiles and “High Pro” profile are _somewhat_ similar.
More profiles from the company called “Signature Plastics” or “SP” in short: http://www.keycapsdirect.com/key-caps.php

TL:DR; 

If money is not an issue and you don’t mind having boring aesthetics, buy a Realforce, Leopold FC660C or Topre Type Heaven Keyboard.

If you want to replace keycaps, buy a CM Storm Novatouch or Topre Clone.

If you are l334 hax0R, most probably you will buy a Happy Hacking KeyBoard. It’s pretty popular with vim/emacs users. Disclaimer: I love vim but that horrible keyboard layout is simply not for me.

If you can’t deal with this Topre nonsense, and you love your Cherry MXs, some popular keyboards with mods are the Poker 2, Poker 3, Filcos, and something which I’ve forgotten.

Good luck, and happy hunting!

GMK SNES Keycap Set

Useful links and references:

All photos/pictures belong to their respective owners, sorry for not using them without asking for permission first. Let me know if you want any of them removed.

geeky stuff / really cool geeky stuff buying / keyboards / realforce / topre /

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