An introduction to Kailh switches, including Speed & Box

The most popular article we’ve ever published is a guide to Cherry’s MX switches, which lie at the heart of many mechanical keyboards. However, Cherry are far from the only company producing switches these days, and one increasingly popular alternative are Kailh switches made by Chinese firm Kaihua Electronics. Here’s everything you need to know.

What Kailh switches are there?

There are three main families of Kailh switches:

  1. Default: switches made to mimic Cherry’s original designs
  2. Speed: switches with shortened travel and actuation distances
  3. Box: switches with the stem surrounded by a box for protection

Like Cherry MX switches, different Kailh switches have different colours and corresponding characteristics. We’ll cover each of them in turn, explaining how their construction differs and what they’re like to use. After that, we’ll look at some other common questions and answers regarding Kailh switches.

1. Default Kailh switches (Blue, Brown, Red)

Image credit: LethalSquirrel, GeekHack

Kailh produce switches that operate near identically to Cherry’s original designs; these are legal clones. If you’re familiar with Cherry’s switches, these Kailh alternatives require little introduction: Blue is a tactile and clicky switch, Brown is a tactile switch, and Red is a light linear switch. We’ll call these Default switches, in absence of any existing nomenclature.

According to testing by Input Club, there are some differences between the average Kailh switch and the average Cherry switch: the Red switches require a little extra force to actuate, the Blue switches require a little less, while the Brown switch is subtly different as it feels a little more… tactile. Despite these changes, the overall typing experience is quite similar.

2. Kailh Speed switches (Silver, Copper, Bronze, Gold)

As explained earlier, speed switches are essentially shortened versions of existing MX-style switches, allowing for faster actuation and intended for gaming. While Cherry produce a shortened linear switch, the Speed Silver, Kailh have produced four different shortened switches: Silver, Copper, Bronze and Gold.

The Kailh Silver switch is much like Cherry’s Speed Silver: an extremely light (27cN) linear switch with shortened travel (3.5mm) and actuation (1.3mm) distances.

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The Kailh Copper switch is a soft tactile switch, with a tactile bump and actuation point just 1.1mm into its 3.6mm travel distance. Combined with its light (30cN) actuation force, and you’ve got a switch that can handle both gaming and extremely rapid typing — definitely one to try.

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Kailh’s Bronze and Gold are clicky speed switches. That’s interesting because Cherry’s clicky switch, the Blue, is also one of its heaviest, requiring the most force to actuate. In comparison, the Bronze and the Gold switches provide that same audible clicky feedback, but they have the short actuation distances and minimal actuation force of other speed switches — cool!

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The Kailh Gold is more traditional in its construction, akin to a Blue switch but requiring less force and actuating faster to make it more suitable for gaming.

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The Bronze switch is more novel, with a second spring that provides the actual click sound effect. The resulting switch is somewhere between the Gold and the Blue when it comes to the force required (30cN, 40cN & 50cN) and tactile bump distance (1mm, 1.4mm & 1.5mm).

So, to sum up, here are the four speed switches:

  • Kailh Silver: soft linear
  • Kailh Copper: soft tactile
  • Kailh Bronze: soft clicky
  • Kailh Gold: very soft clicky

3. Kailh Box switches

Identifying a Kailh box switch is pretty easy: just look for the box enclosure that surrounds the familiar cross-shaped MX style stem. This box protects the switch from dust and moisture, and provides an IP56 resistance rating. However, the mechanism means that they’re only compatible with SMD LEDs, rather than the (slightly more common) through-hole LEDs.

There are four different varieties thus far, each with a different colour: Box Red, Box Brown, Box White and Box Black. Again, if you’re familiar with the default switches, you can guess some of their characteristics: Box Red is a light linear switch, Box Black is a heavier linear switch, Box Brown is tactile and Box White is clicky.

Interestingly, each Box switch has the same travel and actuation distances: 1.8mm for actuation and 3.6mm in total. That’s a little shorter than the Default switches, and you can feel a bit of a difference when it comes to speed.

Here’s a YouTube video by Kailh that shows off the new switches:

Once again, here’s the summary:

  • Kailh Box Red: soft linear
  • Kailh Box Black: heavy linear
  • Kailh Box Brown: tactile
  • Kailh Box White: clicky

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you pronounce Kailh?

Kailh is usually pronounced the same as kale, that leafy cabbage. However, it’s a Chinese word and other pronunciations are relatively common.

Are Kailh switches as reliable as Cherry ones?

Based on on our own testing and general sentiment in the mechanical keyboard community, Kailh switches are every bit as reliable as those made by Cherry. The company has been making switches for decades, and its new models show the company’s interest and skill in this area.

Are there other Kailh switches?

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Yes, for sure. There are tons. For example, the switches above are clicky low-profile switches — an interesting combination that brings to mind the best laptop keyboards!

However, these three main groups are the most commonly available and/or interesting to talk about. If you’d like us to cover a different Kailh switch, let us know!

Wrapping up

I hope you’ve found this guide useful! Let us know what you think in the comments below, and if you have any questions or spot any inaccuracies then please get in touch. Thanks for reading, and we’ll catch you on the next one!

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Back to school: five keyboards to consider

School is starting up again soon, and whether you’re heading off to primary school or university you deserve to have a top quality keyboard to make your job easier — and a little more fun! Here are five of our favourites.

5. The keyboard Apple should have made…

We’ll start with what 9to5Mac said is the keyboard Apple should have made… but didn’t. It’s the Matias Bluetooth Aluminium Keyboard, a full-size counterpart to Apple’s famous Magic Keyboard. This keyboard gives you a number pad, making it a perfect choice for anyone that is working with numbers, whether that’s doing data entry, working in science or engineering, or taking care of your finances. The keyboard is Bluetooth, so it works with basically every Apple device on the planet: iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and desktop Macs of all kinds. You can pair with up to four devices simultaneously, so you only have to go through the pairing process once per device. It includes function keys, it has a full year of battery life and it’s available in four gorgeous colours: silver, gold, space grey and rose gold. Awesome!

More information >>

4. The super-portable mechanical

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Next up we have one of the smallest mechanical keyboards on the market: the Filco MiniLa. Standing for ‘minimum layout’, this 60% size keyboard fits easily into your bag to accompany laptops, tablets and phones — but of course, it will work on desktop PCs too! The mechanical switches provide a sumptuous typing or gaming experience, while the clever layout allows easy access to a number pad, arrow keys, media controls and more. You can get the MiniLa in both wired and Bluetooth variants, so choose the one that’s right for you!

More information >>

3. An ergonomic mech for sore wrists

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I called the Matias Ergo Pro my favourite ergonomic keyboard when I first had the chance to review it back in 2015, and I haven’t changed my mind since then. This ergonomic keyboard is a welcome relief to aching muscles, tendons and joints, providing a comfortable split design that is often far less painful than a traditional keyboard. The two halves are fully adjustable too, with a range of angles and orientations possible so you can find the most comfortable and convenient position for you. Best of all, unlike most ergonomic keyboards, this one comes with Matias Quiet Click mechanical switches. These provide great tactile feedback without the clattering noise of most other mechanical keyboards, making this a perfect choice even for a busy office. The Ergo Pro is also available in both Mac and PC layouts. If you need to type for work or school but you’re struggling with carpal tunnel or other symptoms, the Ergo Pro is well worth a try.

More information >>

2. The ultimate luxury keyboard for writers

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Topre’s Realforce line of keyboards are beloved by keyboard fans for their gentle, almost pillow-y feel. That’s down to their unique electro-capacitive switch design, which provides tactile feedback like a Cherry MX switch but with a soft and smooth feel. Realforce keyboards aren’t cheap, but they’re often the ultimate destination for mechanical keyboard fans who have tried it all. Whether you want a full-size keyboard or a more compact Tenkeyless layout, you’re sure to find a Topre keyboard that suits you.

More information >>

1. The gold standard in mechanical keyboards

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When it comes to mechanical keyboards, the Filco Majestouch has been the gold standard for a long time. Filco was one of the first companies to produce long-lasting mechanical keyboards that focused on the typing experience, rather than superfluous keys or fancy lighting. You just get a rock-solid keyboard that feels great to use, and is easy to customise with keycaps, o-rings and other modifications. There are plenty of different Filco Majestouch keyboards available, with a range of Cherry MX switches, layouts, colours and sizes, so check out the full collection below.

More information >>

Wrapping up

We hope our selections have been helpful! If you’d like a custom recommendation to meet your needs and specifications, then please leave a comment below or contact us directly via Facebook, Twitter, email or phone. We’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch!

Thanks for checking out the article, and stay tuned for more mechanical keyboard goodness over the coming weeks, months and years!

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Full-size, TKL, 60% and more: a guide to mechanical keyboard sizes

When I was a boy, keyboards only came in one size: large. 104 or 105 keys were the norm, and anything less would make you feel a little short changed! As mechanical keyboards have exploded in popularity, keyboard makers have created new layouts (and repopularised old ones!) with far fewer keys. We’re talking about Tenkeyless keyboards with 87 keys, or keyboards with 75%, 60% or even 40% of the keys you’d expect on a full-size keyboard.

In this article, we’ll show you some of the most popular keyboard form factors, tell you about their strengths and weaknesses, and suggest some of our favourite keyboards of that type.

Full-size (100%)

Full-size keyboards. These have 104, 105 or even 108 keys depending on whether you’re talking about ANSI (USA), ISO (EU) or JIS (Japan) layouts.

Generally the alphanumerics, navigational cluster and number pad are separated horizontally, with the F keys running along the top.

This keyboard comes with an integrated number pad, typically on the right side, which is great if you’re inputting numbers frequently or you need the maximum number of keys at your disposal (for complex games like flight sims, for example).

RECOMMENDED KEYBOARDS:

See all 100% full-size keyboards

1800-Compact

1800-Compact is an alternative full-size layout that has the same number of keys as a full-size keyboard in a slightly more compact arrangement. Here, the arrow keys are squished below the Enter key, while the other navigational keys go above the number pad.

The result is a keyboard that looks unique, has all the keys of a full-size keyboard and takes up a tiny bit less space. Of course, you will need to relearn where those relocated keys have ended up, but it’s not the end of the world!

Tenkeyless (TKL, 87%, 80%)

Tenkeyless or TKL is the most common compact keyboard layout, available from many mainstream mech manufacturers like Filco, Corsair, Razer etc. This layout is just a full-size layout without the number pad, resulting in 87 or 88 keys with about 80% of the width of a full-size keyboard — hence the alternate names for TKL being 87% or 80%.

Tenkeyless keyboards are a popular choice because they are easy to use (and manufacture); you don’t need to learn a new layout, you just need to accept the loss of the number pad. In exchange for giving up the number pad, you get several advantages: the keyboard takes up less space on your desk, allowing you to adopt a more ergonomic posture and giving more space for your mouse. The reduction in size also means a reduction in weight, making it easier to lug your mechanical keyboard around. Finally, having fewer switches also means your keyboard should be a little cheaper to manufacture, although the industry standard is not to charge less for a TKL layout.

RECOMMENDED KEYBOARDS

See all Tenkeyless keyboards

75%

75% is the common name given to keyboards that have a compact layout, roughly 70 to 75% of the width of a full-size keyboard, but retain the F key row at the top.

75% keyboards are popular because they only shrink or remove a few keys compared to a TKL; most of the space saving is done by reducing the gap between different areas of the keyboard and placing keys like Insert, Delete and Home in a single column on the right side of the keyboard. However, these changes mean that finding replacement keycaps is sometimes difficult.

RECOMMENDED KEYBOARDS

60%

60% is perhaps the most common layout after full-size and TKL. As well as ditching the number pad, 60% keyboards also lack a F key row at the top and the navigational cluster on the right — you just get the alphanumeric zone.

These missing functions are accessible via a Function (Fn) key, usually near the bottom right side of the keyboard. Generally the F keys are accessible by pressing the corresponding number key (e.g. Fn + 1 = F1), arrow keys are accessible via WASD (Fn + W = Up) and navigational keys are spread along the right hand side of the keyboard (Fn + P = PrtSc)… but plenty of variation is possible between different manufacturers and models.

 

60% keyboards are a little more challenging to learn, but provide excellent space and weight savings compared to TKL and full-size keyboards. That makes them super portable and they just plain look cool as well.

RECOMMENDED KEYBOARDS

See all 60% keyboards

40%

40% keyboards are generally thought of as the smallest usable layout. 40% keyboards ditch the number row, leaving just the letters and the modifiers… and due to the small number of physical keys, there are multiple layers accessible via special keys.

These keyboards aren’t yet made by mainstream companies, so if you want one you’ll generally have to buy the parts and build it yourself… or get someone else to make it for you at considerable expense. While the layout is challenging, these keyboards do look incredible, with a sweet retro style.

Tenkey (number pad)

These tiny dedicated number pads usually have 21 keys, giving you all of the keys on a normal full-size keyboard’s number pad plus a few extras — perhaps for functions like Escape, Tab or Backspace.

These are the perfect complement to Tenkeyless or smaller keyboards, as they eliminate one of the weaknesses of a compact layout without permanently taking up desk space. Having a separate Tenkey also means you can place your number pad on either side of your keyboard — and if you’re right-handed, placing it on the left means that you still get all of the room for your mouse.

RECOMMENDED KEYBOARDS

5%

These keyboards aren’t really keyboards — they’re basically switch testers that you can hook up to your computer to use as extra macro keys. However, if you find yourself desiring macro keys without wanting to switch to a full-size mechanical gaming keyboard, picking one up can make sense.

RECOMMENDED KEYBOARDS

Binary Keyboard

This isn’t exactly a common layout, but it’s so brilliant that I had to include it. The binary keyboard is the creation of /u/duckythescientist on Reddit, and it’s got three buttons: one, zero and enter. You enter the binary representation of the corresponding ASCII or Unicode character that you want, then press Enter to send it to the keyboard. I don’t think this layout will take off, but it’s certainly an engineering triumph!

Wrapping up

OK, so there we have it! Keyboards from 108 keys all the way down to three. I hope this guide has proven useful! If you have any feedback or questions, please get in touch via the comments below.

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Cherry XS industrial keyboard family review: XS Complete, XS Trackball, XS Touchpad

Cherry are well known for making their MX mechanical switches, but they also make a nice range of keyboards themselves. Today we’ll be looking at three Cherry keyboards in the XS family: the XS Complete Keyboard, the XS Trackball Keyboard and the XS Touchpad Keyboard.

These keyboards are designed for industrial or medical use, but can be used anywhere you need a compact and durable low profile keyboard!

XS family for industrial and medical

As you can see from the photo at the top of this article, each member of the XS family starts the same way: a compact ISO / UK layout, including the F keys and arrow keys, packed into the space of just the alpha-numeric keys of a full-size keyboard. The design of the right side of the keyboard depends on the model you have:

Each of these rack-style keyboards use Cherry ML switches, a low profile variant of Cherry’s MX design. These switches have a tactile feel and actuate at 45~50 cN of force, like a Cherry MX Brown, but have less travel distance. They’re also incredibly robust, rated for 20 million key presses in their service life.

When typing on the ML switches, you get much of the same excellent tactile feedback as you would expect on a full-size mechanical keyboard. The keys are a little smaller, but it’s still possible to type with speed and precision.

The choice of a number pad, trackball and touchpad is also quite helpful, as it means you only need to invest space, time and money into a single device, rather than needing to find a separate mouse and keyboard.

Durability and longevity

These keyboards largely resemble their office peers, but there are some small touches here and there which show the care Cherry have put into designing the ultimate industrial / medical keyboards.

On the bottom of the keyboard, there are places for two plastic feet to be inserted. Once plugged in, they’ll stay at a constant angle, unlike the folding feet on office keyboards that will sometimes sag over time.

The USB connection has also been upgraded for industrial use, with a thick cable that stretches 2.5 metres.

As well as the feet, you get some paper instructions. Additionally, the XS Complete comes with a PS/2 adapter; the other two models require USB as they are both a keyboard and mouse in one package.

These keyboards are ultimately built to last. The mechanical switches should last a long time, and the keyboards are rated for use between 0 and 50°C. They come with a two year warranty as well.

Available now at The Keyboard Company

All three models are available now at KeyboardCo. For more information or to place an order, please take a look at the product pages linked below.

If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment below or speak to our team: 0845 205 5555 or sales@keyboardco.com.

Thanks for checking out the article, and have a great day!

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V60 Plus Dual Backlit 60% Speed Switch Keyboard Review

Today we’re looking at another new arrival at the Keyboard Company, the KBP V60 Dual Backlit 60% Speed Switch Keyboard. There’s a lot to unpack there, so let’s start with what makes this keyboard unique. There are three things:

  • It is a compact 60% size design in a UK layout
  • It comes with dual-colour LED backlighting
  • It is available with new Cherry MX Speed Silver switches

Let’s put this new KBP keyboard to the test!

Design

We’ll start with a quick look at the design of the keyboard. The V60 is a very compact keyboard, comprising of about 60% of the keys of a full-size keyboard with a numberpad. The layout, which is UK (ISO), dispenses with dedicated keys for F1 – F12, navigational keys (Insert, Delete, etc.) and the number pad, with these functions instead accessible via a Function (Fn) layer.

The smaller size results in a portable design which takes up minimal desk space, and it looks cool too. Despite the small number of keys, this keyboard is hardly lacking in functionality. Its comprehensive Function layer includes media controls and volume adjustment, LED backlighting controls and more.

The keyboard includes a unique dual-LED backlighting system, wherein each key is backlit by both a red and a blue LED. These LEDs can vary in intensity, allowing for full red, full blue, or a number of pinks and purples in between. This is a nice halfway house between a full RGB keyboard (which generally requires more complex controls and more expensive components) and a simple single-colour backlighting system (which might not fit your preferred colour scheme). This way, you have some flexibility without the cost or complexity of a full RGB system.

The flexibility theme continues if you have a look at the back of the keyboard. On the right side, you’ll find six tiny DIP switches. Look them up in the manual, and you’ll find that you can customise the positions of the modifier keys extensively — you can have Fn replacing Caps Lock (!), Escape swapping positions with Grave (`) or Alt and Win swapping places (to support a Mac layout).

This is helped by the inclusion of nine additional keycaps, which ensure your keys remain accurately labelled. In addition to the replacement keycaps and the manual, a Mini USB cable and a key puller are included in the box. Finally, the keyboard’s firmware can be upgraded over USB, allowing the keyboard’s functionality to be improved and bugs to be fixed after purchase.

Of course, we couldn’t discuss this keyboard’s design without also covering the switches that lie at its heart. It’s possible to get the V60 Plus Dual with several different switches, but for the UK layout keyboard you have a choice of the old reliable Cherry MX Brown and the new, exciting Cherry MX Speed Silver. It’s the latter that we have in our review unit, so let’s cover the basics.

The Speed Silver is a linear mechanical switch designed to actuate very quickly, making it ideal for the rapid key presses you might need while gaming. The actuation distance has been shortened from 1.5mm to 1.2mm, while the total travel distance has been reduced from 4mm to 3.4mm. It has a clear body, allowing the LEDs below to shine through. Finally, it uses the same springs as the Cherry MX Red, giving it roughly the same actuation force of 45 cN.

Now that we’ve covered the design and features of the keyboard, let’s get into our first-hand impressions after using this keyboard for a week or two!

Testing

These Speed Silver switches were the biggest draw when I first heard about this keyboard, so I’ll share my impressions of these first. Generally, I find them to be a superior version of the Cherry MX Red, equally light but just a little bit faster to use. That can make it a bit easier to make a typo, but the increase in speed (whether actual or psychological) feels substantial. I found this really helpful in games like Counter-Strike and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), where you really want to improve your reaction time wherever possible. Choosing a high refresh rate monitor and a precise mouse makes it easier to respond in-game, but so too does having a super quick keyboard.

I expected the Speed Silver switches to be a little difficult to type on, but happily I didn’t find that to be the case at all. The switches are light, sure, but not more so than a Cherry MX Red, and the increase in typing speed made up for occasional typos. I was able to hit 104 words per minute when playing on TypeRacer.com, and my average across ten races was 92 words per minute, compared to my lifetime average of 87 words per minute. Not bad!

Whenever I use a compact mechanical keyboard, I always worry that one of my most-used keys will be hidden somewhere in the Function layer, causing me to waste time tracking it down each time I need to use it. Happily, that wasn’t the case with the V60 Plus.

I didn’t miss having the function keys available, as I rarely use them outside of a few game commands (e.g. quick save and quick load in an RPG, for example); similarly I rarely use a number pad so I didn’t mind that either. The only thing I really pined for were the arrow keys while writing. At first I used the arrow keys on the right side of the keyboard (Fn + P L ; ‘ ), but I found that a bit difficult, so I used the DIP switch on the back to change the Caps Lock key (which I never use) to another Fn key. That let me use Caps Lock + W A S D to move around in text, which was quite intuitive.

Otherwise, I didn’t have any issues with the compact size of the keyboard, and I certainly appreciated the light weight and small size when taking the keyboard on the train to work. It also gave me tons of room for my oversized mousepad; this is the ultimate upgrade for (nerd alert) low-DPI-setting Counter-Strike players. The small size also just looks cool, particularly when combined with the blue to purple to pink to red backlighting.

Overall, I really enjoyed using the KBP V60 Plus with Dual Backlight and Speed Silver switches. There’s always a keyboard or two that I’m hesitant to give back after I’ve finished reviewing them, and the V60 Plus is certainly one of them. It doesn’t have the crazy backlighting of the Type R Polestar, but the compact layout, Speed Silver switches and pinky-purple backlighting are an awesome combination.

Links

The KBP V60 is available now at The Keyboard Company! The exact model I reviewed is available in a UK layout with Cherry MX Speed Silver or Cherry MX Brown switches via the links below:

You can see all of the KBP V60 keyboards via the link below. They’re available in a wide range of styles, with lots of different layouts and switches to choose from:

Finally, you can see all of our 60% size compact keyboards, including some real crackers from Filco, Matias and Varmilo via the link below:

Thanks for checking out the article, and be sure to let us know what you think of this keyboard in the comments below! If you have any questions, we’d also be happy to answer them if we can. Thanks again and enjoy your week!

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Limited Edition Pink Filco Mechanical Keyboard available now!

“Cute.”

“Delightful.”

These are the genuine reactions to one of our latest arrivals, the Pink Filco Majestouch-2 Tenkeyless mechanical keyboard. As you’d guess from the name, this compact mech comes with pink keycaps, a pink cable and a pink case for a full-on pink look. This stylish keyboard is perfect for all princesses at heart, or just fans of this particular shade of lightish red.

Inside, you’ll find the most popular mechanical switches: Cherry MX Browns. These tactile switches feel nice for typing or gaming, with a light actuation force that is comfortable for hours on end.

The compact layout is also a draw, omitting the number pad to provide more space for your mouse. This is brilliant for small desks, and also helps to save weight if you plan on carrying this keyboard to work or LAN parties. (Of course, if you do need a number pad, you can always pick up a separate one that can be positioned to the left or right of the keyboard as you prefer.)

There have only been positive reviews of the Pink Filco from our customers so far, with users praising the cute colour, great performance and comfortable compact layout. We’re sure you’ll like it too, so if you dig the colour scheme then take a look at the product page for more information!

Looking for other pink keyboards? Why not take a look at the Pink Topre Type Heaven or the Matias Bluetooth Aluminium Keyboard in Rose Gold?

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Thanks for checking out the article and be sure to let us know what you think of this keyboard in the comments below! Stay tuned for more keyboards, blogs and guides in the future by following us on Twitter or Facebook.

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KBParadise V60 Type R Polestar Edition review

Today we’re looking at a gorgeous new compact mechanical keyboard: the KBParadise V60 Type R Polestar Edition. As you can probably guess by its long name, this special keyboard has some unique features that really set it apart from the crowd: It’s fully programmable, it has a transparent bottom cover and full RGB case lighting. That makes it an eye-catching keyboard that you can customise exactly the way you want. Let’s take a look in our hands-on review!

Design & Features

The V60 is a compact keyboard, about 60% of the size of a full-format keyboard (hence the name). The number keys, number pad, navigation and cursor keys are all relegated to a Function layer, making them easy to access without moving your fingers too far away from the home row. It also makes the keyboard super portable; you can easily use this keyboard with a tablet or laptop on the train without issue — or just enjoy plenty of desk space when you’re using it at home with a desktop PC.

The V60 Type R Polestar Edition comes in USA layout only at present, meaning you have a wide Left Shift key and a wide Enter button. (Of course, if your Windows or Mac layout is set to an ISO layout (e.g. UK, French, Spanish, Swedish, etc) then you’ll still be able to press almost all region-specific keys in their normal position, e.g. you can type £ by pressing Shift + 3 when your computer is set to a UK layout.

The keycaps are made of ABS, and have dual laser-etched legends. The legends on the top provide the normal function of each key, while the legends on the front show the effect when the key is pressed with the Fn key held down. This makes the keyboard easy to use, even for newcomers to compact layouts, and it looks cool too. Each key is backlit in white, so you can use this keyboard in low light without any issues.

The case of the Type R Polestar is made from semi-transparent plastic, allowing you to see the circuit board underneath. Of course, it also allows the keyboard’s glorious RGB lighting to be fully appreciated.

A series of LEDs throughout the case light it up entirely, either in the single colour of your choice or through a constantly-switching spectrum of colours. There are also modes that vary the brightness of both the case and key backlighting, in rhythm with your typing or a heartbeat. Of course, either or both kinds of lighting can also be disabled if you prefer.

Unlike most keyboards with RGB lighting, you can choose exactly the colour you want without needing to install any software, as there are dedicated keys for increasing and decreasing the amount of Red, Green and Blue used. This makes it easy to choose your favourite colour, letting you match your PC and other peripherals or just swap to whatever shade catches your fancy.

The Type R Polestar is currently available with a choice of four Cherry MX switches: Red, Brown, Blue and Clear. Red switches are soft and linear, Brown soft and tactile, Blue hard and clicky, and Clear hard and tactile. Clear switches are still quite rare, so it’s great to see them on the Polestar.

We mentioned earlier that the keyboard is fully programmable, which comes courtesy of an ATMega32u4 controller and open source TMK firmware. This is a fairly involved process, but it allows you to have precisely the keyboard you want so it’s well worth exploring. You can find instructions here. Programming mode is enabled by pressing the button on the bottom of the case, so don’t press it by accident!

The Polestar connects to your PC using a removable Mini USB cable, which is provided. You’ll also find an instruction manual in the box.

Testing

Now that we’ve covered the keyboard’s design and features, how is it to use? We wanted to find out, so I used this keyboard for a period of one week, starting with a five hour train journey from Bristol to Yorkshire.

My first impressions of the keyboard were very positive. The layout immediately makes a lot of sense, and allows for a very portable keyboard indeed. Despite the small number of keys, all of the normal keys are included and there are even keys for adjusting the volume: Fn + B, N and M.

The only thing that wasn’t particularly intuitive was the placement of the arrow keys, which are in the Function layer either on WASD or on the right side of the keyboard near the Enter key. It took me an hour or so to get to grips with this placement, but after this initial period I found it quite sensible. If you already know where WASD is through gaming, then finding the cursor keys without looking isn’t difficult after a little practice.

The small size of the Polestar meant that I had no problems using the keyboard on top of my laptop perched on the tiny tray table, and the rainbow backlighting amused me (and passing passengers) to no end. The keycaps also felt good, neither too slick nor too scratchy under the finger.

Of course, your choice of mechanical switches also makes a big difference when testing out a new keyboard. Our review unit came with MX Clear switches, which are essentially a stronger version of the popular MX Brown switch. This was one of my first times using these switches, and I got on with them very well. They require 65 cN of force to actuate, compared to 45 cN for Brown. The higher force and faster return make it easier to not bottom out while typing, a trait shared with Cherry MX Blue switches. Overall, I found it to be a brilliant switch for typing that still performs well in games, and it’s not too loud either. They’re definitely worth trying, and the Polestar is the perfect platform to do so.

Ultimately, I had a good time testing out the Polestar, and I suspect that this will be one of the few mechanical keyboards that I end up buying for myself after the review period is over. The sensible layout, gorgeous backlighting and option for reprogramming down the line make this a very attractive keyboard. The Clear switches are also really nice, and I’ll be looking for them on future keyboards as well.

Links

The KBP V60 Type R Polestar is in stock now at KeyboardCo! You can choose from Cherry MX Clear, Red, Brown or Blue switches, all in USA / ANSI layout.

I hope you’re a fan of the Type R Polestar — we certainly are! If you’d like something a bit different, why not take a look at the other KBP keyboards we stock in all different shapes and sizes, or just take a look at our full selection of mechanical keyboards?

Thanks for checking out the article, and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below! If you have any questions, we’d welcome those too.

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The latest arrivals at KeyboardCo: Filco numpads and flag keycaps, Das Keyboard 4 for Mac

Hey folks! I thought we’d take a look at some of the recent arrivals at The Keyboard Company, including new mechanical keyboards, new accessories and more. Let’s get right into it!

Filco Mechanical Numberpads

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The coolest new addition in my eyes are the Filco numpads. These tiny mechanical numpads are the perfect choice for anyone that has a Tenkeyless (TKL) or smaller keyboard, as they allow you to use the numpad for spreadsheets or calculations, without taking up valuable desk space when you don’t need them. If you have been considering a TKL keyboard but you don’t want to give up the ability to enter numbers quickly, this is the perfect accessory.

The numpads are available in three varieties: white with tactile switches (Cherry MX Brown), white with silent soft linear switches (Cherry MX Silent Red) and black with silent soft linear switches (Cherry MX Silent Red again). The layout of the numpad doesn’t change between American and European keyboards, so these numpads can be used with any keyboard on the market without issue.

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Just plug it in using the provided detachable USB cable alongside your original keyboard, and you can type in numbers and mathematical symbols with speed. There’s even a row along the top that gives you easy access to Escape, Tab, Equals and Backspace — awesome!

Filco Flag Keycaps

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This is a brief one, but still pretty cool. Filco have made their own national flag keycaps, with options for the UK and USA. The US get a cool Stars and Stripes keycap to replace Caps Lock, while the Brits get the Union Jack on either Caps Lock or Tab. These keycaps are inexpensive and a ton of fun, so check ’em out.

Das Keyboard 4 Professional UK for Mac

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The Das Keyboard is one of the first mechanical keyboards to kick off the trend in the West, making its name with gloriously unlabelled keycaps and a stylish design. Things have moved on quite a bit since then, and now Das are producing the Das Keyboard 4. The Professional version of the keyboard comes with fully labelled keycaps, and this particular model has a UK layout and Mac legends, making it the perfect upgrade for iMac, Mac Pro or MacBook user.

The keyboard has gold-plated Brown switches and dedicated media controls including an oversized volume knob in the upper right. The keyboard is also a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed hub, allowing you to conveniently connect mice, gamepads, SD card readers and USB storage drives. This is a gorgeous keyboard that’s fun to type on, and it’s well equipped too.

Wrapping up

That’s all we have time for this week! We’ll be back soon with a closer look at Varmilo’s latest keyboards at the Keyboard Co, including some gorgeous models made of aluminium and magnesium. Until then, farewell!

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Looking for a great Father’s Day gift? Try a mechanical keyboard

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It’s hard to find a good Father’s Day gift. My dad tends to like something that’s thoughtful, practical and long-lasting — not something he has to pretend to enjoy for a few minutes on the day, then keep in a cupboard somewhere for the rest of his life. Tools are good, but he’s already got the ones that he likes.

It’s a tall order, but this year I think I have the perfect gift: a mechanical keyboard. It’s not something you would think of first, but it actually makes a lot of sense — they feel amazing to type on, they’ll last forever and they’re damn practical too. Your dad will love it. Take a look!

What’s a mechanical keyboard, and what makes them good?

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So: mechanical keyboards. These computer keyboards feel great to type on, because beneath each button is a real mechanical switch. That gives proper feedback when you press down, and some produce a lovely clicky sound too. If you (or your dad) remember those big and biege IBM Model M keyboards with those buckling spring switches, these are the modern equivalent: just as well-made and enjoyable to use, but with modern necessities like USB. The switches are lighter than your average keyboard too, and you don’t have to press down all the way for a press to register. That makes using them much more comfortable, for old bones and new, and you may find yourself making fewer mistakes and typing faster too!

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Like all good tools, a mechanical keyboard can last a lifetime. Normal keyboards use the same rubbery blobs as a remote control, but they stiffen up after a few years and you have to press harder and harder for them to work. Mechanical keyboards are made of tougher materials and have a more bullet-proof design, so they’ll work just fine after even five, ten or twenty years of constant use. I’ve seen old mechanical keyboards discovered in junk piles, covered in dirt and gunk, but after all that crap was cleaned off they worked just as well as they ever did. Mechanical keyboards also (mostly) modular, so even if one switch or another component fails, odds are you can repair it yourself without shelling out for a whole ‘nother keyboard.

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Whether your dad uses a computer at home or for work, he’ll always be able to see the gift you’ve given him — and he can show it off to his friends or coworkers. Every time he sits down at his desktop, laptop or tablet, he’ll appreciate the thought and care you’ve shown. He might even like it so much he starts tinkering with it, adding his own keycaps or even building a keyboard from scratch — the start of a new hobby!

So to sum up: mechanical keyboards are fun to use, they make writing faster and more comfortable, and they’ll last for decades without complaint.

Our Father’s Day mechanical keyboard recommendations

So – which mechanical keyboard do you choose? Thanks to their rise in popularity over the past five years, there are a massive variety available. Your dad’s taste may vary from mine, but I see classic, no-nonsense designs as the ideal choice. A kaleidoscope of rainbow-coloured lights, twenty additional macro keys, unusual layouts: these are not necessary.

Instead, pick up something that comes in white or black, in a standard layout, and no backlighting. That ensures that your dad sees the mechanical keyboard as it is intended: a great typing experience, not an expensive gimmick. And if he wants to customise it later, then he has the freedom to do it!

Filco Majestouch-2: a great no-frills typing keyboard

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Filco’s Majestouch-2 is a great place to start looking — it feels great to type on, and has a standard layout with no superfluous features whatsoever. (However, you can get it in a range of sensible colours, or a camo green that will blend in nicely with every motor vehicle my dad has ever owned.) You can learn more about the Filco Majestouch-2 or see more keyboards via the links below:

Matias Tactile Pro: a classic design, available for Macs and PCs

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Another company to look out for is Matias. Their keyboards are reminiscent of classic Apple designs, with modern remakes of the classic Alps switches that lurked inside. The Tactile Pro has the same satisfying, chunky typing experience as many of these older keyboards, even IBM’s legendary Model M, but with slightly lighter switches and a more modern design.

Unicomp Classic: the legendary IBM Model M reborn

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Speaking of the Model M, a company called Unicomp has been producing its Ultra Classic keyboards based on IBM’s original designs – but this time you can choose from the original beige or a more modern black. They sound amazing.

Filco Convertible 2: Great for laptops, tablets and even smartphones

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The Convertible 2 is an upgraded version of the Majestouch-2 we covered earlier, with Bluetooth built in. That makes it easy to connect to tablets like the iPad, laptops and multiple PCs. Of course, you can still plug it in with a USB cable when you want to, and it feels just as great to type on as the original Filco Majestouch-2.

Keyboard Paradise: modern guts and retro styling

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Finally, the last keyboard you should consider for your dad is the KBP V100. This is a modern keyboard with tactile Cherry MX Brown mechanical switches, but it’s available in Dolch and Olivetti colour schemes that provide tons of classic style.

Questions? Comments?

I hope this article has convinced you that a mechanical keyboard could be the ultimate Father’s Day gift for your dad.

If you want my personal recommendation, it’s the Filco Majestouch-2 — I think that classic design (and optional camo colour scheme) will be just the ticket for my dad! (If your dad prefers tablets to PCs, then the Bluetooth variant is the easy choice).

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If you have any questions or would like suggestions to suit your individual requirements, please get in touch via the comments below! You can also contact us by phone +44(0)1453 884938 or via email — sales@keyboard.com.

For more information on mechanical keyboards, check out our guide to mechanical switches here!

Thanks for checking out the article, and I wish you all the best for Father’s Day — it’s June 18th, by the way. No pressure!

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Topre Realforce RGB review

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A modern take on a long-time favourite

Topre belong to the same golden cadre of mechanical keyboard makers as Filco and Unicomp; designers that put the typing experience first and modern accoutrements second (if at all).

Today Topre are bucking the trend, with the release of their ultra-modern Realforce RGB keyboard. This comes with the same electro-capacitive switches that have found favour on the original Realforce and Happy Hacking keyboards, but with some modern innovations that could appeal to a whole new market. Let’s take a closer look!

Features & Design

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As the name suggests, the Realforce RGB comes with trendy RGB backlighting, allowing you to set the LEDs behind each doubleshot keycap to any of 16.8 million colours. This can be done individually, en masse or in special modes like ‘rainbow wave’ or ‘rainstorm’ that provide cool lighting effects. RGB lighting has become a major trend for gaming hardware in 2017, and it’s great to see that embraced by Topre.

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Topre have also opted to use Cherry MX compatible keycaps and stems for their keyboard rather than their traditional Topre ones, allowing you to swap in your own custom keycaps from a wide range of online options if you want a new look. It has always been difficult to find Topre keycaps online, so this is great news for anyone that likes to customise their keyboard with new novelty keycaps or whole sets in different colours, styles or materials.

Image credit: MassDrop

Image credit: MassDrop

Topre have also forged their own path with the Realforce RGB. Due to the unique electro-capacitive switches that lie at the heart of the keyboard, it’s actually possible to change the actuation point — the physical threshold at which the keyboard recognises a key has been pressed — in software. You can choose from 1.5mm, 2.2mm or 3.0mm, allowing you to fine-tune individual keys or the whole keyboard depending on your use.

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For example, you could set the actuation point to the 1.5mm setting when playing a fast-paced game like Counter-Strike or League of Legends, allowing you to tap and double-tap faster, but return it to a higher seting like 2.2mm or 3.0mm when writing or playing a strategy game to avoid typos.

We’ve seen shorter actuation distances on many recent gaming keyboards, but Topre’s novel approach means that you can experiment to find what works best for you, rather than being stuck with a certain distance after you buy the keyboard.

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In terms of design, the Realforce RGB looks much more modern than earlier Realforce models, with minimal bezels and a sleek matte black colour scheme. The keyboard isn’t any larger than other full-size keyboards, despite having some extra keys for actuation and volume control.

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That’s because these extra keys have been tucked into the upper right corner, where you’d normally expect to find LEDs for Caps Lock, Scroll Lock and Num Lock. These are still present, visible through a semi-transparent piece of glossy plastic between the extra keys and the top row of the number pad. There are also a wide range of Function keys, for media playback controls, and setting the backlighting’s colour, style and intensity.

The Realforce RGB is available in a USA (ANSI) layout at present, with a uniform 45gram weighting for each switch. N-Key rollover is fully supported over USB. All settings can be changed via software for Windows. The keyboard comes with a three-year limited warranty, including the LEDs — a rarity for a keyboard.

Now that we’ve described what the keyboard is capable of, let’s take a closer look at what it’s actually like in the real world. Here is our review!

Hands-on Review

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In order to give a good account of the keyboard, we used it as our daily driver for a period of two weeks. That includes a lot of writing (including articles like this one), editing and gaming. The game we played most often was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (a competitive shooter), backed with Overwatch (a slightly more casual shooter), Civilization VI (a turn-based strategy) and Torment: Tides of Numenera (an RPG).

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Let’s look at typing first. Topre’s electro-capacitive switches have always excelled here, which is why Realforce and Happy Hacking keyboards have been so prized by writers, editors and developers. The reason for this is hard to pin down exactly, but it comes down to the smooth, soft feeling you get when pressing down each key. It’s quieter and less harsh than a Cherry MX switch, with a satisfying ‘THOCK’ sound accompanying each keystroke. The Realforce RGB delivers this excellent typing experience just as well as earlier Topre keyboards, while the addition of backlighting ensures you can use the keyboard just as comfortably at night as you can during the day.

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Gaming also benefits from the backlighting, allowing for easy low-light use. We also appreciated the ability to set custom backlighting layouts for specific games. For example, keys that are used often could be one colour, less frequently used keys could be another, and those that aren’t used could remain unlit so you don’t hit them on accident.

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You can do a similar trick with the actuation point, and this might be the killer feature of the Realforce RGB for gamers. You can set keys that you want to use often to a quicker actuation point, while keys that aren’t used in-game can get a slower actuation point. That makes it easy to hit the correct keys with speed, while making it harder to hit the wrong keys accidentally. This is super useful, especially for games that you haven’t yet mastered, as it ensures that all of your key presses are on target.

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Otherwise, the Topre Realforce RGB is a strong choice for gaming. The N-Key Rollover allows for as many simultaneous key presses as you like (great for games like OSU!), while the low 45 gram weighting and customisable actuation point mean that gaming even for long periods is comfortable. The full layout makes the keyboard a good choice for games with a lot of hotkeys, like flight sims, and ensures you have plenty of spare keys to use for macros.

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Overall, the Topre Realforce RGB impresses. It is a premium option, no doubt, but you definitely get what you pay for: a brilliantly smooth typing experience, completely unparalleled customisation options, pretty RGB backlighting and excellent build quality.

Available now

The Topre Realforce RGB is available now at The Keyboard Company. To find out more or to place an order, please visit the page linked below.

Thanks for reading this article! Please let us know what you think of the Realforce RGB in the comments below, and we welcome your questions too. You can also find us on Twitter @keyboardco or Facebook.

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