Topre keyboards have always have been held in high regard, thanks to their unique electro-capacitive switches and their impressive build quality. The one thing that Topres aren’t loved for is their high price. The two most well known Topre keyboard lines, the Happy Hacking and the Realforce, both cost considerably more than the average mechanical keyboard with Cherry switches. The higher price point seems justified, but it still represents a barrier to entry, particularly for new mechanical keyboard users and people that can’t find a Topre keyboard to try.
It’s for these reasons that Topre have introduced a new, more affordable line called Type Heaven. The Type Heaven is built on the same unique electro-capacitive switches, but offers fewer frills, most noticeably ABS key caps instead of the traditional PBT. While the Type Heaven could hardly be called cheap, there’s much less of a gap between the Type Heaven and Cherry switched keyboards, like our own Filco Majestouch series.
In this article we’ll take a look at the new Type Heaven, and see how it compares to the traditional Realforce model.
- Black keyboard with gold lasered legends
- Topre Electrostatic capacitive key switches
- 45 gram uniform weighting
- 4 mm travel
- 50 million keystroke lifetime
- 6 key rollover (6KRO)
- 1.5 metre USB cable
- Dimensions: 455 x 156 x 31 mm
- Weight: 1.4 kg
The heart of this keyboard are its switches, and thankfully they remain the same as they always have in the well-regarded Happy Hacking and Realforce lines. The switches are quite unusual; not exactly mechanical as they consist of a coiled spring under a rubber dome. When the spring fully collapses, a capacitive circuit is formed with the PCB and the key-press is registered. This provides a very smooth feel and a satisfying ‘thwock’ sound as each key bottoms out. The closest equivalent to a Cherry type switch is an MX Brown, as the Topre is tactile and relatively light, but the feeling is certainly different.
The chassis of the keyboard is quite unusual, with rounded corners at the bottom and a sloped edge at the top. It’s nice though, and certainly makes the Type Heaven look visually distinct from other keyboards on the market. Like other Topre keyboards and the IBM Model M, there is a bigger gap between the three key clusters (main, cursor keys, numberpad) than most other keyboards. This makes the body of the keyboard slightly larger than other full-size keyboards.
Compared to the Realforce series and indeed most other keyboards, the Type Heaven has a fairly minimal slant to it even with the plastic feet deployed. This seems more a matter of taste than anything else, but it’s worth noting.
The layout of the keyboard is entirely standard. I’m using an American English model, so we have the usual long Shift on the left hand side and small Enter key on the right.
The keys themselves are quite interesting, with ABS plastic used instead of the customary PBT plastic from the Realforce line. This gives a slightly different typing feel in combination with the electro-capacitive switches.
The key legends are really nice here, just as good as the Realforce keyboard. The font is particularly nice for the letter keys, with a large font size that reminds me a bit of some retro keyboards. The colour scheme, a very light gold on dark grey, is easy to read and looks professional. I also quite like the fact that the Windows key uses the new Windows 8 symbol, which makes the board feel a generation ahead of every other keyboard I’ve used before.
My only real quarrels are with the Backspace and Enter keys. The Backspace key is rendered on three lines (Back, Space, Arrow) and would have looked better as “Backspace”, while the Enter symbol feels too large – like either the word or the symbol could have fit nicely, but both were squeezed on there. Barring these two examples though, I really like the legends on this keyboard.
The keyboard is identified by a ‘Type Heaven’ in a light font in the upper right, just on top of the lock indicator LEDs. These LEDs are not too bright or too dim, and are quite easy to read thanks to their vivid green colour.
On the rear of the keyboard, we can see the identification sticker which tells us we’re looking at the Type Heaven 104, model number ZA0100. This is a fairly plain badge, but it serves its purpose well enough. As usual, you’ll need to bypass this sticker to access the final screw to access the innards of the keyboard – we won’t indulge in this particular venture at the present, though.
We can also see the keyboard allows the (long) cable to be channeled to either the left or the right, an arrangement that suits me just fine. There’s no option to have the cable come directly from the top though, which may not be ideal for some setups.
For stability, the Type Heaven features a pair of rubbery textured feet at the bottom and some smaller circular rests at the top. Of course, you also have the option of using flip-out plastic feet at the top to tilt the keyboard a little and add further stability. The Type Heaven is still quite heavy, which also helps stability – I never had this keyboard slide around while I was using it.
And that’s what the Type Heaven is – but how does it perform? Let’s have a look in the next section.
Performance Testing Methodology
The Type Heaven I’m looking at comes with a uniform weighting across all keys, as opposed to some Topre keyboards whose key weighting varies depending on the finger that you’re likely to use to depress them – for example, the ‘a’ key is pressed by your pinky and is therefore much lighter (30 grams) than those like ‘f’ which are pressed by your index finger (45 grams). This variable weighting is good for typing but can not work out well in games (as your resting position is different).
Therefore, I’ll be looking at performance in both typing and gaming, the two chief activities of this keyboard nerd. I write about 3,000 words a day (counting just articles and emails) on average, so using the Type Heaven for a period of two weeks should provide a decent sample size. I’ll also examine the keyboard’s performance in games including World of Tanks, Saints Row The Third, Counter-Strike Global Offensive and Company of Heroes 2.
Performance Testing Results
In typing, the Type Heaven is quite exquisite. You can really feel the smoothness of these electro-capacitive switches, and the steady patter of the keys as they bottom out is much lower in tone than Cherry switches. The very length of this review compared to my past ones for the Keyboard Company is certainly a testament to how enjoyable it is to type on Topre switches. In terms of speed and accuracy, I felt about as quick and as accurate as I do on Cherry MX brown switches, which I spend the vast majority of my time using (as I have boards both at home and at work with these switches). One unexpected benefit of the Topre switches on the Type Heaven was that my hands felt a little less fatigued than normal, after a day of writing. I’m not sure exactly why that occurred or even whether it is a placebo, but it did stick in my mind.
In gaming, the advantage over Cherry switches seems a little less obvious. When you’re double-tapping quickly in games like Counter-Strike or World of Tanks, I feel a red or black linear switch is a little better than a more tactile switch like the Topre, brown or blue. Still, for more strategic games like Company of Heroes, that tactile feel is very important in ensuring that you’ve correctly hit a key, and the Type Heaven facilitated that very nicely. I’m not sure how many StarCraft pro-gamers use Topre keyboards, but it seems to be far less than those that use Cherry-based boards. I believe this is primarily down to price and lower overall availability than the keyboard’s actual performance though, as the Type Heaven felt really nice in RTS games.
Comparison to Realforce
So, how does the Type Heaven compare to the Realforce? Well, having spent the better part of two weeks using both the Type Heaven and my own Realforce 105UB, it’s closer than you might think.
The switches really are the most important element of any keyboard, and their inclusion in both boards makes the typing experience very similar. The feeling of the keycaps is better on the Realforce, but it’s not as much of a difference as I expected.
In some ways, I preferred the Type Heaven – the legends, bar the Enter and Backspace keys, seem nicer and more readable in the off-white of the Type Heaven than the Gold of the Realforce. The LEDs also seem less blinding, with the green pinprick of the Type Heaven feeling better than the blue spotlight of the Realforce.
The Type Heaven also shares some of the same problems as the Realforce I own, the 105UB. Both keyboards lack a way to route the cable directly behind the keyboard, and have very minimal rubber feet.
While the key caps do feel better on the Realforce and the heightened angle feels more natural, ultimately you won’t feel hard done to spend a significant percentage less and get the Type Heaven instead.
The Type Heaven seems to accomplish its objective, giving the most important elements of the Realforce lineup – beautiful Topre switches and a premium look – while hitting a lower price point. Despite the few disadvantages compared to other keyboards and the Realforce in particular, the Type Heaven remains a compelling option. For anyone that wants to add a Topre to their collection but can’t afford the Realforce premium, the Type Heaven makes a lot of sense.
- Satisfying Topre switches
- Uniform weighting good for typing and gaming
- Premium look and feel
- More affordable than past Topre keyboards
- ABS key caps don’t feel as nice as PBT
- Minimal rubber feet
- No way to route the cable directly backward