Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been spending some time with Diatec’s latest Filco Majestouch keyboard: The MiniLa, which stands for Minimum Layout.
As the name suggests, the MiniLa is a 60% size keyboard, similar to the famous Happy Hacking model. As well as being less wide than even a Tenkeyless Filco keyboard, it’s also shorter as well, with only five rows of keys instead of the customary six.
However, you’re still able to access all of the keys on a standard keyboard through a customised layout. The crux of the new layout is a pair of Function (Fn) keys that flank the smaller spacebar. Used in combination with other keys on the keyboard, you can quickly access these less commonly used keys without needing to adjust your hand.
The new model also includes a number of additional features you won’t find on the standard Majestouch, including a detachable USB cable, an extra USB port and dip switches.
If you’d like to see additional information and press photographs on the MiniLa, have a look at our initial announcement blog. Now, I’d like to get into some of my first impressions of the new keyboard.
The biggest concern that most commenters had upon seeing the new layout of the MiniLa was that it would be difficult to use. The majority of these worries were concentrated around the spacebar, which as I mentioned above is considerably shorter than we’ve seen on past Filcos.
As soon as I sat down with this keyboard though, these concerns evaporated – despite being smaller, I still found myself hitting the spacebar evenly each time, without hitting the edge or needing to mentally adjust beforehand. My writing stance seemed to be a bit better suited to the spacebar versus my WASD first-person shooter stance, but in both situations it really was a non-issue.
Of course, the benefit that comes with the smaller spacebar is that instead of having Function keys way out on the side, you’ve got the Fn key really readily available, allowing you to access these secondary keys without adjusting your typing stance. This makes the whole process a lot smoother, and makes the keyboard feel less limited than other small format keyboards do.
Still, the layout might not suit you perfectly, but with the MiniLa you do have some options. These are accessed via six dip switches on the back, which allow you to swap either or both of the Function keys to work as the spacebar, or swap Caps Lock and Control for a more unix-friendly layout. You can also disable the Windows and Menu keys for gameplay.
Of course, you can go even further in software. I’m using a program called SharpKeys for Windows that allows me to remap keys; I’ve set this up to move Home and End to near the cursor keys and Delete to the upper right, near Backspace.
I think that just about covers the new layout. Elsewhere, it’s much as you’d expect – you’ve got the same plate-mounted Cherry MX switches that feel great, a tough tank-like body, a detachable USB cable and an extra USB port for a mouse.
The Filco Minila is a unique, ultra-portable keyboard that should appeal to enthusiasts. Diatec have never produced a 60% keyboard before, and it’s great to finally get to use it. We’ve also got perhaps a sneak peak at the eventual Majestouch-3, with the inclusion of features like dip switches, detachable USB ports and additional USB ports.
The MiniLa will be coming to The Keyboard Company in the next month or two with the usual range of switches in American and UK layouts, with additional layouts to be announced later.
Update: The Filco Minila is now available! Click here to see the range.
If you’d like to see additional photographs, check out our MiniLa imgur album.
If you’ve got any questions about the MiniLa, feel free to ask them in the comments below, on Twitter @keyboardco, on our Facebook page or in the Reddit comment thread. Thanks for reading and have a good one!