Keyboards Revisited and the new top rankings

OK, I got a bunch of keyboards over the last week and here now is the review of my favorites in classic reverse top 10 order. It is actually hard to review this since keyboards are a combination of three things, the keyboard itself, the key switches which make the clicks, and then the feel and the look of the keycaps themselves, but here goes. The first thing to note is that *all* of these keyboards are phenomenal. Way better and faster than cheap $10 keyboard or anything on a laptop, so I normally carry one of these with me wherever I go:

11. Unicomp New Model M. This is the lookalike for the IBM PC Keyboard M. This was the last keyboard that was done, so has the buckling spring and comes in TKL (Ten Keypad Less) version. I really wanted to like this keyboard because I remember the clack and it does have that, but at least for me, it is relatively long “throw” so hard to type on. I have the Keyboard F which is all metal vs plastic and the Keyboard B is also on order (these are the original IBM PC keyboard and the IBM 3270/Selectric keyboard), so hope springs eternal. Right now this is connected to my Windows PC which seems appropriate given its provenance. I have to say this is the one keyboard which I think is relative slower, while the others on this list are lightening fast. I need to run and see if this is true, but it feels like it.

10. WASD Code V2 with Cherry MX Brown. OK, this keyboard I’ve had for a while and it is relatively large and also it uses ABS keycaps. I actually like the feel of the Cherry Brown for not being too noisy, but otherwise, it is just OK. The current model is the V3 for $185 and given it is not swappable and has ABS keys there are better choices out there. I currently have this hooked up to an old Mac Mini that is next to someone and I need the quiet

9. WASD CODE V2 with Cherry MX Blue. This I like better because of the clickiness, but after five years, the keycaps are definitely wearing out a bunch. This is hooked up to my old MacBook Pro 2017 and I use it as a reference for the fancier ones that are my daily drivers.

8. Keychron K2 V2 with Gateron Blue. Well, this is a compact layout that is TKL and they get an amazing amount of stuff inside. I mainly didn’t like the wobble of the keycaps themselves and the Gaterons at least to me feel a little loose. In truth, I like the sound of the Cherry MX Blues better. The big advantage of this keyboard is that it is wireless and that is really convenient. The backlighting by the way is very minimal and hard to see even though it is RGB. It was inexpensive and less than $100 and it has real arrow keys (but the K6 is better for most people since it is a little smaller), but to really make it sing, it probably needs to be hot swappable and the keycaps need to be pudding so you can see what you are typing on given the low lighting at night.

7. MagicForce 68 with Cherry MX Blue (Counterfeit?). This really a bargain keyboard, it has pudding keys and is very bright and the keyboard layout is great. I don’t particularly like the keycap legends really but to me, the Cherry MX Blues remind me most of the feel (that I remember anyway of the 3270 and Selectric) and despite trying lots of key switches lately, I like the loud click 🙂 It is also wired and you can’t change the keycaps not that I would want to. The main thing about it is that the keycaps are really not that great looking and while it says Cherry MX Blue, I do wonder if that is overselling, the keycaps have such a wobble as well which is a problem. At just $70, I have always wondered if they could possibly be real Cherry’s. Right now this powers my SurfaceBook which I rarely use and that’s probably a good place for it.

6. Varmilo VA87M Mac with Cherry Brown. I just wish I had gotten this in Cherry Blue, but it is very nice. The main issues are that the keycaps it comes with are not pudding so the backlight really doesn’t work at all, so it needs new “see-through keycaps”. But the backlight is very strong which is great. I actually really like to type on this, but it needs new keycaps, I really wish it were wireless and also you could replace the keycaps. This is actually quite a good deal at $129 so if you were just picking getting it with Cherry MX Blue and if they had a wireless version and switch swappable, it would go very high on the list. It is a pleasure and works well where you don’t need portability like my current setup for podcasting and Zoom calls.

5. Anne Pro 2 with Gateron Brown. This is my favorite travel keyboard because it is very small and if you turn the backlight off it basically works forever. I don’t like the fact that you can’t change the key switches, but they are very clever in overloading the FN1, FN2, Ctrl, and Right shifts so if you tap them you get the arrow keys. And like all Anne Pro 2’s, it lacks keyboard legs at the back, so I find that I need to stick something underneath to get the right angle. The thing is a real value leader at $90 and is my goto for being on the road because it is so quiet so it will get more use when I start traveling again.

4. Anne Pro 2 with Gateron Blue. This is a pretty near-perfect keyboard, but the Gaterons are not Cherry MX Blue. The Cherry MX Blue on the MagicForce 68 and on the WASD Code V2 are very different which is why I think that the MagicForce is a counterfeit MX Blue as an aside, but I think these Gaterons have less of a click and more of a ping sound which I don’t like that much. So I just wish real Cherry MX Blues would come to the Anne Pro 2 and it would be hot swappable.

3. Fujitsu Realforce TKL Topre. I was surprised how much I like this combination rubber dome key. It is not clicky, but it has a great feel. Quite expensive but worth trying if you want something that works well and has a nice resistance to it and it has a certain thump (which is hard to explain that is very satisfying, instead of a hard barrier, because it has a rubber dome, it kind of glides to the ned of the stroke. The drawbacks are that it is relatively large and wired and by definition doesn’t have swappable key switches but the feel is just so interesting and easy to use although it is wired and relatively big, the keyboard I think would be very appealing if you want quiet and yet it has a nice tactile feel (I find key switches like the Cherry MX Brown or Gateron Brown are so linear and they are supposed to have a break but I don’t feel it). These next three are really really close and I’m swapping regularly to see which one I like better for daily use and this one is sort of like driving an exotic car rather than an every day get to work vehicle.

2. Anne Pro 2 with Kailh Box White. Wow, I got this keyboard because the reviews said the Kailth Box White was great and I have to say I do like them. they are not as loud to me as the Cherry MX Blue feel less wobbly. It’s a little more at $99 but still a good deal was given the size of it and in white, it looks very neat. I think the feel is actually really good though, better than the Cherry MX Blue and it has sort of subdued click. This is actually quite a value as you don’t have to change the keycaps as they are PBT, pudding and they look pretty good. The only slight drawback is that they need just that little bit of angle on them.

1. Customized Keychron K6 with Gazzew U4T Thocky 62 gram (and YMDK Pudding keys and Sound Dampening Sorbothane coming). OK, the Keychron K6 is slightly larger than the Anne Pro 2 but smaller than the K2 so I would recommend it over the K2. I don’t use the function keys very much, but it is wireless and is hot-swappable if you get the right variant. The U4T has been getting great reviews and I was really excited to try them, but while they are somewhat clicky and have a nice feel, they don’t have that distinctive break that I like but they are very satisfying to type on so I would call this more a thock sound than a distinct click. But it was great learning how to assemble a keyboard. The sound is more a bassy sound well, “thock” if that makes sense than a click, but to me, the Kailh really has more of a click which is great but different. The great news is that it is only $85 (on sale now at Amazon at $89) and the new Keychron Q series is not wireless but has more features, so I’m looking at those. But it is close to the perfect keyboard because of the hot swaps. So right now I would say it’s my favorite and it sits on my desk and I trade it. I’ve installed some of the YMDK Pudding Keys and since they are PBT and have much larger lettering, it is much easier to see the keycaps. The stock Keychron keys are really too small to actually see what you are typing. Also, they have this lettering in yellow and blue on the sides that tell you what the overloaded keys do when you hold down the F1 or F2. As an example, the “6” number key, if you hold down the function key increases the keyboard like and if you hold down FN2, it is the F6 key. This is pretty handy, the main issue is that these extra keys are hard to get obviously. I haven’t opened it up yet and put the Duct tape on the back or the Sorbothane, but that should really help. I also have bought for our Brother printer, the M-231 tape which is black lettering on clear which I will put on the side of the keycaps. This should really work well since the pudding keys have lighting on the side and should finally show off the special legends well. The current Keychron in the dark is impossible to see these alternative keys as they are not backlit.

I’m Rich & Co.

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