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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.