Best Clicky Switches [2022]

Switches and keyboards on a desk with a planet

Are you a fan of a crisp tactile bump paired with a nice, sharp click? Clicky switches are a favorite of many but are often not talked about.

A clicky switch is a keyboard switch that produces a bump at some point in the travel, paired with a higher-pitched click. Clicky switches pair the tactility that is popular with tactile switches with additional audio feedback.

With the abundance of clicky switches in the custom keyboard market, it can get extremely confusing to find the right switches for you. Today we are going to discuss the best clicky switches from our testing.

Terminology

Whenever switches are mentioned, there are always some confusing terms involved, so let’s go through them.

Click Jacket: A system that makes a loud click sound when pressed down but no click when the upstroke. This system functions by having a collar around the stem of the switch that is pushed downward and actually causes the clicking sound and activates the switch. Click jackets are the system used in Cherry MX Blues and clones.

Click Bar: A system in which a metal bar is placed and when pushed it creates a click. The click bar plays no role in the switch actually being activated but simply makes a sound and provides a tactile feel. The stem of the switch then makes contact just under the contact from this bar to activate the switch. This system is preferred by enthusiasts who like clicky switches because it allows for a more satisfying experience with stronger tactility.

Box Switches: Although there are box switches for all types of switches, they are especially popular among clicky switches. Box switches don’t get the word box from the shape of their stem but rather a different internal mechanism for activating the switch that is surrounded by a small box within the switch. This structure allows these switches to be dust-proof.

Tactile Event: The bump in the switches travel.

Pre-Travel: Any linear or smooth uninterrupted travel before the tactile event.

Post-Travel: Post-travel is the linear travel after the tactile event.

Actuation: Actuation is when the switch activates and outputs to the device.

Bottom Out: When the switch finishes traveling and hits the bottom housing.

Leaf: The metallic contacts in a switch, these themselves actually actuate the switch. The leaf is in the bottom housing as the picture shows.

Diagram pointing to the leaf on a mechanical keyboard switch.

Ping / Spring Ping / Leaf Ping: This is a metallic reverb produced by the sound of the spring, leaf, or both. In most cases it can be fixed by lube.

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Disclaimer… Please Read!

This review is largely preference, my rankings will likely be very different from yours. Do not base your opinions solely based on mine.Use this guide to gain a general understanding of the switch and where enthusiasts like me stand on these switches. Guides like this, sound tests, and opinions of content creators like Teaha Types are good ways to find switches that you believe are interesting and worth trying. Ultimately we recommend you to just hit up your local vendor and buy a pack of whatever switch your fingers and ears desire to try them out. That way you can find the best switch for you.

Also, note we will not talk about the feel of these switches after lubing. Typically clicky switches do not require lubing and can even take the clickiness or even tactility away from the switch. If you do want to lube your clicky switch then we would suggest lubing the spring with Krytox GPL 105 oil although this truly isn’t needed.

1. Kailh x NovelKeys Box Jades: Thick Clicks, Nice Weight

The NovelKeys Box Jades are a clicky switch designed by NovelKeys and manufactured by Kailh. Box Jades feature a thick clickbar for peak tactility and a click that is probably the loudest of any switch I have tested.

The Jades activate with a force of 50g at a travel distance of 1.8mm and bottom out at 3.6mm with a force of 65g. NovelKeys states they are IP56 water and dust-resistant.

We have put them at the top of this list as they feature an extremely sharp tactile bump paired with a very crisp click. Additionally, the weight does not get too fatiguing after typing for long periods.

2. Kailh x NovelKeys Box Navys: Strong Click, Heavy Weight

Kailh Box Navy keyboard switch sitting on a plant

If you think you would like the Box Jades then NovelKeys’s Box Navy switches are the same switch except with a heavier spring.

The Box Navys have the same IP56 rating, thick clickbar, 1.8mm actuation distance, and 3.6mm total travel. The only difference is that they actuate at 75g and bottom out at 90g.

We do like the thick clickbar of the Navys and Jades but because the spring is heavier we find that they can get fatiguing more easily.

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3. Kailh Box Whites: Jades Younger Cousin

Kailh’s Box Whites are a fantastic clicky switch utilizing a clickbar for a strong tactile bump and thick click. Unlike the Jades and Navys, the Box Whites do not use a thick clickbar meaning the tactility will be less sharp and they will not be as loud.

Box whites still utilize the box mechanism, hence the name, so they are rated for IP56 dust and water resistance. The switches activate at 1.8mm with a force of 45g and bottom out at 3.6mm with a force of 55g.

If you want a sharp tactile bump and a crisp click but you find that your finger gets fatigued easily, the Box Whites may be a better option for you over either the Jades or Navys.

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4. Kailh x NovelKeys Sherbet: Long Travel, Strong Bump

NovelKeys’s Sherbet switches still provide a clickbar like the previous options on this list but have a few key differences. The Sherbets feature the standard MX switch design rather than the shape of box switches.

The NovelKeys Sherbets feature a 45g actuation force at 2mm and bottom out at 4mm with a force of 85g. For those that prefer a longer travel and may be looking for a slightly quieter click. The Sherbet will provide that over the Jades, Navys, or Whites.

The clickbar allows the Sherbets to still have a very satisfying click and makes them a very solid option for clicky switches.

5. Outemu Phoenix: Solid Clickjacket

Outemu Phoenix keyboard switch by some plants

Typically we find that clicky switches with a clickbar mechanism feature the best experience but there are a few clickjackets that are quite solid. The Outemu Phoneix features a clickjacket, the same system as switches like Cherry MX Blues.

Unlike Blues, Outemu Phoenix’s have a strong tactile bump, albeit less than the Jades, and feature a click both when activating the switch and on the return. You also get two different weight options with either a 62g or 68g option.

Although there are many clicky options to consider the Outemu Phoenix’s provide a unique take on the clickjacket system that is worth trying if interested.

Conclusion

NK Jade keyboard switches on a desk.

All of these switches are great option to make your keyboard clicky. We do recommend that before you make any decisions you consider multiple different options and maybe watch some reviews or listen to some sound tests as it is hard to fully describe the experience of a switch in just a few paragraphs.

If you are also looking at tactile and linear switches, check out our best linear and best tactile switch articles. When you are ready to try or buy any of these switches then a great place to start is by looking at your local vendor. Take a look at our vendor list. A compilation of tons of keyboard vendors sorted by region.

If you enjoyed this article and you want to talk more about tech then consider joining our Discord and as always thanks for reading!

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Redragon K617 Fizz Review: Your First Keyboard?

Redragon is a gaming company that is no stranger to making budget keyboards that still give consumers a mechanical feel. The Redragon K617 Fizz is a 60% mechanical keyboard that provides enjoyable features like RGB lighting and a compact size.

Today we will take a look at the Redragon K617 Fizz to see if it should be the board to start your gaming setup.

The Verdict

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Redragon K617 Fizz is a budget 60% keyboard that offers an interesting design and a mechanical experience without breaking the bank. You get features like a hotswappable PCB and RGB lighting.

You won’t find features that you might find on more premium keyboards like Bluetooth or an aluminum case but the K617 beats much of the competition on the quality of the lighting and the sound of the keyboard. Unfortunately you do not get any switch options and features like hotswap are not very well executed.

If you want an interesting design, compact footprint, and a mechanical feel without breaking the bank, the K617 Fizz is a solid option to consider.


In The Box

Unboxing of Redragon K617 Fizz mechanical keyboard

Besides the keyboard, Redragon gives you a variety of accessories to improve your experience with this keyboard.

USB-C Cable: You get a rubberized cable with a 90-degree angle so it can be nicely plugged into the side-mounted port.

Keycap Puller: If you ever want to change the keycaps on your board, a plastic puller is included to easily take them off. This puller is not anything special but does the job.

Switch Puller: Along with the keycap puller, a metal switch puller is included so you can replace the switches at any time.

Extra Switches: If any switch ever breaks, four extra switches are included.

Sticker and Documentation: You are given a user manual to help you get started with the board as well as a sticker with the Redragon logo. 

Overall everything is packed quite nicely and it is good to see that Redragon gives you extras to go along with the board.

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Build Quality

Bottom of Redragon K617 Fizz mechanical keyboard

The Redragon K617 offers an all-plastic construction with a mix of either pink and white or white and grey. The board is on the lighter side at about 0.43 Kg (0.95 lbs). The low weight with the small footprint makes the K617 a very portable keyboard if you want to bring your board around with you.

The K617 has a slight angle to improve the comfort of the board. If you would like more angle though on the bottom of the board there are two rubberized flip-out feet. Also on the bottom are two additional rubber feet. This means the board shouldn’t move around while you are gaming.

The board uses a side-mounted USB-C connection. This is a downside if you care about cable management but at least the included cable has a 90-degree angle.

You won’t get a super strong board like you would with more premium aluminum boards but I considering the price point the build lines up with my expectations.

The Keycaps

Angled view of Redragon K617 Fizz keyboard

Redragon’s K617 Fizz comes with a set of double-shot ABS keycaps with shine-through legends. The keycaps are in the OEM profile. OEM profile is common with prebuilt keyboards. They are sculpted to make typing more comfortable than with something like a laptop keyboard.

The fact that the keycaps are made of ABS means that they may be more prone to developing shine over time but they seem to handle it a bit better than other keyboards I have used. They are a slight improvement over the keycaps on their older keyboards like the K552.

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The keycaps let in quite a lot of light through however this is paired with a font that does not look very good. The legends have a gamery look to them and to go along with that don’t look very consistent. However, this is all personal preference so if the gamery font is actually something that you do like then these keycaps are a decent option considering the price of the board.

The Switches and Stabilizers

Red switches on Redragon K617 keyboard

The Redragon K617 comes with Redragon’s own red switches. They are linear switches giving them a smooth travel. The actuation force is quite light like other red switches. The switches don’t provide the best experience in the world but at this price they match the competition. If this is your first mechanical keyboard then you will have a pleasant experience with this board.

Typically on budget mechanical keyboards the stabilizers are quite bad but I was pleasantly surprised with the stabs on the K617. The stabs come with some grease on the wires and as a result the spacebar actually has a decent sound. The rattle and ticking of many gaming keyboards is not as bad of an issue here.

After lubing the stabilizers they all sounded pretty decent and did not feel very scratchy. The only issue is that some of the stabilizers had a sluggish feeling when pressing them all the way down.

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Hotswap PCB

A feature that has grown especially popular in the last few years is hotswappable PCBs. What this means is that you can swap the switches out of their sockets and replace them with different switches without needing to do any soldering. You can swap out switches in just seconds.

The K617 supports 3-pin switches and is north-facing. This means that the board supports certain switches that only have 3 points of contact with the PCB rather than 5. The fact that this board has north-facing sockets means that there could be some interference with Cherry Profile keycaps.

Unfortunately, I did have issues with switches seating perfectly in the plate unless they were Redragon or Outemu switches. Some switches like Kailh BOX switches seem to not fit very well in the keyboard. This is a result of the LEDs protruding rather than being flush with the PCB.

It is nice that the K617 has hotwap support, especially at this price, but it only really is good if you want to want to mod your stabilizers or a broken switch needs replacing. If you are looking for a cheap keyboard to try out different switches then we cannot recommend the K617 for you.

RGB Backlighting and Software

Top view of Redragon K617 Fizz keyboard on deskpad

The Redragon K617 Fizz provides per-key RGB lighting. This can be controlled both onboard or more in-depth with their software. The lighting is quite vibrant and honestly, I have no complaints. This is probably assisted by the fact that the plate is white so it reflects the lighting better.

On the keyboard, you can change the lighting effects, brightness, and speed. With their software, you have much more control over the keyboard. Redragon’s software allows you to control lighting, change mappings, and add macros. I have used better software on keyboards but it does the job. Changes made to the lighting of the board will save to the board so they will work even if you use multiple computers.

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The software looks like it was designed to look gamery and as a result, it doesn’t properly take up a full window. Furthermore, it does not look HD for some reason. The function of the software might do the job but the interface certainly brings down the experience. Overall the lighting is well executed but I wish there were some updates made to the software.

Conclusion

Redragon K617 Fizz mechanical keyboard on a white table

For the price, Redragon delivers a decent option if you are looking to get a budget mechanical keyboard. You don’t get many features like a scroll wheel, Bluetooth, or a metal build but the board does the job. The only big feature that the board does have is a hotswappable PCB but the PCB doesn’t have great compatibility with other switches.

The poor interface of the software and the gamery-looking keycaps also slightly take away from the experience. However for most people who are just looking to get a compact mechanical keyboard, this board is a decent option to consider. This is especially the case because the stock sound is actually pretty decent.

Thanks for reading and if you would like to see more keyboard content check out the sound tests on my YouTube channel or some other keeb reviews.

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Redragon Horus K618: The Best Value Low-Profile Keyboard

Redragon Horus K618 low profile keyboard on a desk

Redragon is a keyboard manufacturer that is no stranger to making value-focused mechanical keyboards.

The Redragon Horus K618 is a low-profile keyboard providing a solid experience at a competitive price. The Horus K618 offers wireless connectivity, macro keys, and a variety of other features to make it a good option for anyone who is looking for a full-size mechanical keyboard.

Today we are going to take a look at Redragon’s Horus K618 and see if this low-profile board is the one for you.

The Verdict

A comparison between the board lubed and unlubed

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Redragon Horus K618 is a low-profile, wireless mechanical keyboard that is perfect for those looking for value. Redragon features Bluetooth and 2.4ghz connectivity, RGB lighting, dedicated media keys, a dial, and a hotswap PCB.

A low-profile keyboard is often found to be more comfortable. With the K618, Redragon is delivering a lot of what the competition offers at a lower price point.

For the price, Redragon gives a lot of features and a pretty solid build. For the gamer who wants a low-profile board that will give them a solid experience all while not breaking the bank, the Horus K618 has a lot of potential. Furthermore, if you want to get a screwdriver out, the K618 is not too difficult to mod if you are interested in a more satisfying sound and feel.


In The Box

Unboxing of Redragon Horus K618 low profile keyboard

Inside the box, Redragon gives you everything you need and more.

Keyboard: The keyboard comes in a sleeve of protective foam to protect it while in transit.

USB-C Cable: You get a braided cable with a 90-degree angle so it can be nicely plugged into the side of the keyboard.

Switch Puller: A metal switch puller is included in case you ever need to replace a switch or if you want to mod this board. The puller isn’t anything too fancy but it does the job.

Wire Keycap Puller: Along with the switch puller you get a decent quality wire keycap puller. This is a nice inclusion as taking off your keycaps is essential if you are cleaning or modding your keyboard. Often companies included a cheap plastic puller that may scratch your keycaps or don’t include one at all.

Extra Switches: If any switch ever breaks, eight extra switches are included in the box.

Sticker and Documentation: You are given a sticker with the Redragon logo along with any documentation that you may need for the board.

Overall everything is packed quite nicely and it is good to see that Redragon gives you quite decent extras to go along with the board.

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Build Quality

Angled view of Redragon Horus K618 low profile keyboard

For the Horus K618, Redragon elected to go with a plastic case and thin aluminum top piece. The rubber media keys are made of rubber and the scroll wheel is also made of aluminum. The board comes in at about 700g (about 1.5 lbs) in a full-size form factor. It looks to be about the height of most modern membrane keyboards at around 2cm tall or just under an inch. If this is too big for your desk then Redragon also offers a tenkeyless variant.

The K618 feels pretty solid and this choice in material is not bad for the price. If an aluminum case is important to you then I would suggest spending a bit more for the Keychron K1 which offers an aluminum build and hotswappable PCB.

On the bottom of the board are four rubber feet. Two of which flip out for additional height adjustment. On the side of the board are a power switch and the USB-C port. The side placement of the port is not ideal but since this board is wireless I rarely used the board wired anyway so it was not much of an issue. Additionally, the wire given with, a 90-degree angle, remedies this issue.

Overall the build is decent for the price and the design is quite nice.

The Keycaps

Close up of Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard

On the Horus K618 you get low-profile ABS keycaps that feature doubleshot legends. This means that the main legends are permanent. For the secondary functions printed in white, those are pad printed so that could become an issue later down the line after extensive use.

The ABS keycaps feel smooth and are what you would expect for a gaming keyboard. The only flaw with the keycaps is the legends. Although the legends while not wear off, they don’t look that great. They have this sort of gamer font with some letters not having connected parts of the letter like on the A or the O keys.

That being said the legends are a good size so they are easy to read and they let a decent amount of RGB lighting through. Also unlike most low-profile mechanical keyboards, the Redragon Horus K618 has switches with cherry-style stems. This means that if you ever wanted to change the keycaps you actually could.

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The Switches and Stabilizers

Mechanical keyboard switch next to a low-profile switch

Redragon offers one switch option with the K618 with their low-profile red switches made by Outemu. Weirdly these switches have a different pin layout than the regular low-profile Outemu switches. These switches look to be about half the height of a regular key switch. The low-profile reds are a linear switch with an actuation force of 45g.

The low-profile reds are about what I would expect from other low-profile mechanical keyboards. They feel pretty decent for the average gamer and they were comfortable to type on for extended periods.

The switches are on a hotswap PCB meaning typically you would be able to replace the switches with other types of switches. However, the nonstandard pin placement means you cannot actually replace them with other switches. Honestly, this is one of my least favorite things about the board but the fact that this is even offered for the price is nice. You are still able to easily replace a switch if it is broken and mod the keyboard pretty easily because of the hotswappable PCB.

The stabilizers on this board are cherry-style plate mount stabs. They were alright. They were better than most gaming keyboards I have had experience with from the likes of Logitech or Razer however they were nothing crazy. Luckily because the board is hotswap I was able to put some dielectric grease onto the stabilizer wires and they sounded much better afterward. Overall the stabs are fine for most people.

RGB Back Lighting and Software

RGB on the Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard

Redragon’s Horus K618 features RGB lighting. The lighting is pretty bright and definitely better than some of the competition. There are a few onboard presets that can be cycled through without using any software. If you want a clean look you can change the lighting all to white.

The software lets you control the lighting, change mappings, and a few other basic things. It is not as good as VIA, arguably the best keyboard software, or even Corsair iCue but it is better than having nothing. Many keyboards even from companies like Keychron have no official software support this is nice to see.

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Wireless Connectivity

Buttons on Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard

Aside from the option for a wired connection, Redragon gives you two other options for this board. Connection via a 2.4ghz USB dongle or Bluetooth 5.0. You can connect up to 3 devices with Bluetooth 5.0.

The dongle is stored magnetically at the bottom of the board which is nice so you don’t lose it if you aren’t using it.

Personally, I used the dongle the most. It requires no setup and delivers a connection with less latency than Bluetooth. Although I would recommend a wired connection when gaming, I found that using the 2.4Ghz connection was pretty solid. I never felt like it was ruining my experience during single-player or even casual multiplayer gameplay.

The K618 features a 1900mAh battery that Redragon states should last for up to 30 hours. With white LEDs and the 2.4Ghz connection, I was able to get around 25 hours of use. If you use the RGB lighting you might get a little less and with lighting turned off you would probably get more. It also depends how much you are actually typing on the board in a day. You could probably go three to five days with this board.

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When the board is not being used, after a minute, it will go into a sleep state to conserve battery. If you start typing on it though it will start typing almost immediately. This is better than my experience on a lot of other wireless boards like on Keychron boards. Also when you are running low on battery the board wi

Overall wireless connectivity makes the experience of using this board very enjoyable. It is well implemented and I don’t feel like they cheaped out at all.

Media and Macro Keys

Media keys on Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard

Media and macro keys are always a nice to have. Before I had a dedicated macropad they were a must for me.

The media keys work well. They feel slightly mushy but have a tactile response when you press them down. There are also secondary functions for some keys which can do things like open the calculator app.

The scroll wheel allows you to either change the brightness of the lighting or volume. I found that it doesn’t make much of an impact in changing volume. You have to scroll it all the way down just to go down 2 percent. To me, it isn’t that great for changing volume on the fly. Also, I wish the macro keys had dedicated backlighting at all times too.

Conclusion

Top view of Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard on desk

Overall what would bring the Redragon Horus K618 to 5 stars for me is if it had the same pin placement for regular outemu hotswap, nicer keycap legends, and an aluminum frame. That being said the K618 delivers a solid build and plenty of features that make this a very enjoyable experience.

If you want an aluminum build, compatibility with different types of switches, and dedicated mac support then Keychron’s low profile offerings like the K1 may be a better option for you. However, if you want a better wireless experience, brighter lighting, macro keys, and software then get then the K618 is the one for you.

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I also found that it is easy to compare the K618 to the Logitech G915. You get most of what the G915 has with the Horus K618. If you are willing to pay extra though, for over double the price, the G915 offers better software, a low latency lightspeed wireless connection, and slightly better-looking keycaps.

All this being said I still think that the Redragon Horus K618 is the best value low-profile keyboard that you can buy today.

So if you would like the Redragon Horus K618, check it out here at the Redragon store.

Thanks for reading and if you would like to see more keyboard content, check out our keeb reviews or the sound tests on my YouTube channel.

Arisu From Nico & Steph Studios: The Gateway To Ergo Boards

The Arisu by Nico & Steph Studios is a mechanical keyboard kit that is extremely unique and provides a gateway into the custom keyboard scene.

Coming in with the ergonomic Arisu layout, the Arisu provides a great value for those that want to build a custom keyboard with an ergonomic design.

So let’s take a closer look at the Arisu and see if it could be a good custom mechanical keyboard for you.

The Verdict

Arisu mechanical keyboard surrounded by switches on a desk.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Arisu by Nico & Steph Studios is a great value keyboard that can open you up to the custom keyboard world. Not only that but the Arisu also has a few unique features like having an ergonomic layout and an acrylic case.

Custom keyboards can be difficult to get your hands on let alone an ergonomic keyboard. The Arisu is often in stock or has a turnaround of a couple months which is quicker than most of the competitors in its price range like the KBDFans KBD67 Lite, Wuque Ikki68 Aurora, and many more.

Unfortunately, the board does not come with a carrying case or any custom box it just comes in the box that it shipped with. The biggest issue that we found with the board is that often fitting in switches requires some fiddling to add some greater distance between the plate and the PCB.

Overall for anyone wanting to make an entry into custom keyboards and also is interested in ergonomic keyboards, the Arisu is a fantastic option and packs a lot of value for what is being delivered.


In The Box

Materials in the box of the Arisu keyboard.

The packaging of the Arisu is quite basic. The PCB came in an anti-static bag and the case came in pieces with protective paper that you need to peel off. This is not rare for stacked acrylic cases.

Aside from the case and PCB, you will get a variety of screws, nuts, rubber feet, and a hex driver. There was no box or bag. Everything just came in some dense wrapping in the box that it was shipped in. The wrapping was good with a mix of paper and bubble wrap so I was not concerned about anything breaking.

Overall pretty average stuff for a keyboard kit. The only flaw was that there was no official box, bag, or case for packaging.

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Build Quality

Bottom side of the Nico and Steph Studios Arisu.

The build quality for the price of this keyboard is pretty decent. For about $150 you get an all frosted acrylic case including an acrylic plate. Overall the board looks quite nice and the only issue with the looks is the visible gap between the case and PCB. This may not bother you but is worth mentioning.

I will note that an aluminum case version of this board was sold previously but I haven’t seen it for sale as of late. Currently black, gray, and frosted acrylic are all available options.

The use of acrylic allows the board to sound quite good for the price even without any foam included in the case. I did try the PE foam mod on the board and it did make the board sound better in my opinion but I liked the sound both with and without foam.

The Arisu does not feel super hefty like more high-end keyboards that feature internal weights however it doesn’t feel cheap.

The case features a center USC-C port that is indented. Sometimes I struggle to find the port but this is a very minor gripe. It fits any sort of cable nicely.

On the bottom, there are 6 rubber feet included with the board. Honestly, you only need four and this board won’t slide around unless you are wanting it to move. There is also no height adjustment unless you unscrew and remove the two riser pieces from the bottom.

Initially, the case of the board also came in more pieces but in the newer version, the case has fewer individual pieces to improve the quality. It is nice that this board is improved upon and it sets a good tone for the future.

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The Build Experience

Typically when building a custom keyboard there are no instructions and your only way to know what to do is either by figuring it out as you go or maybe finding a video guide. Nico & Steph studios have created a build guide for their Arisu. This makes the build experience a lot easier, especially for beginners.

Overall the build experience for this board was pretty straight forward and I only ran into issues really with the plate. The plate is sandwich mounted which is nice because you don’t have to fiddle around with any gaskets but still provides a pleasant sound and feeling experience.

Unfortunately, this implementation of sandwich mount runs into some issues. Sometimes switches don’t fit the best in the plate which means you must fiddle around with the nuts holding the screws to allow for more spacing between the plate and the PCB. I constantly had to do this but then the hex nuts would fall. Also, be careful to put the right hex nuts in the right places because some hex nuts look similar. The plate has caused issues for me every time I try to mod the board too.

Also, note because the board is made from acrylic, parts are flexible but can also break if you bend them too much. Overall the build experience can be quite fun and it is cool to see everything come together as you build the case.

The Layout

Layout of the Arisu keyboard.

Typically the layout of a board does not require its own section but since this is an ergonomic keyboard, it is different than most keyboards that we take a look at.

The Arisu is named after the Arisu layout. This layout is like a 65% keyboard but with an ergonomic design. This board uses a unibody ergonomic design so it isn’t too difficult to get used to and is all in one package but still provides the benefits of an ergonomic keyboard.

Getting used to an ergonomic layout was actually quite easy for me. I didn’t have too many issues at first. There were a few keys that I struggled with like the Y key or B key at first but after about a week or two I made zero mistakes due to the layout. Now after owning the board for many months, I have no issues in switching between my Arisu and any of my other boards.

The Arisu’s use of an ergonomic layout places your wrists in a more comfortable position that made me feel more comfortable when typing for extended periods of time.

If you want to know more about ergonomic keyboards and our thoughts, check out our are ergonomic keyboards worth it article.

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The Keycaps

Side view of the Arisu keyboard with keycaps.

Since the Arisu is a kit, no keycaps are included. Nico & Steph Studios sell their own keycaps but you ultimately have the freedom to get keycaps from wherever you would like. You could get MT3 keycaps by Drop or some nice Cherry Profile keycaps.

On the Arisu a standard 104 key keycap set will not work. There are some requirements like a 1.75u right shift (a shorter shift than standard) and two spacebars (one 2.25u and one 2.75u) to support the split spacebar layout. Most sets over the price of $40 should support all the keycaps that you need for this board.

I would like to note for much of my testing I used an MT3 set and I had some issues on the left shift and left space keys having return issues. This seems mostly due to the design of the plate not fitting switches perfectly.

The Switches

Like with the keycaps no switches are included in this board. This means you have the option to put in any switches in the Arisu. The PCB for this board also comes equipped with hotswap sockets. This means that you can add and remove switches within seconds. You can try out different switches very easily.

The PCB supports both 3 pin and 5 pin switches and is south-facing. This means you will not have any interference issues where the switches make contact with the keycaps (for more information check out our guide on north and south-facing switches).

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The Stabilizers

Durock screw in stabilizers surrounded by keyboard switches.

No stabilizers are included with the Arisu. There are some Durock stabs that you can order on the Nico & Steph website for ease of use.

I decided to use some Durock stabs that I had laying around. They are some of the best stabs that you can get, with a pleasant sound and smooth travel if modded correctly.

If you want to find some places to get Durock stabilizers or any other stabs check out our vendor list. Note that you will need to get five 2u stabs.

The Software

VIA software being used to control an Arisu keyboard.

A fantastic feature of the Arisu is the fact that it has VIA support. VIA is a keyboard firmware that is simple to use, has plenty of features, and is a favorite among keyboard enthusiasts.

The firmware is pre-flashed on the Arisu meaning you only need to download VIA from the website, plug in your keyboard, and it will work right away.

VIA allows you to test the keys on the keyboard to make sure all their switches work. This is very useful while building the board.

Compared to keyboard firmware and software, VIA is really good. VIA does not have the same issues as Razer Synapse or Corsair iCue, which are plagued by many bugs and are quite slow. With VIA you can change your keymapping, set up macros, change lighting, test keys, and change other settings on the board.

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Conclusion: Should You Get The Arisu?

Angled view of the Arisu mechanical keyboard.

If you want to try an ergonomic layout and are either new or a seasoned veteran of building keyboards, the Arisu is a great option. I found this board to be very fun to build and it was an interesting change from the rectangle-shaped layouts that I am used to.

The Arisu features a hotswap PCB, a very comfortable layout, a pleasing sound, and a unique case design. The board is easy to mod and play around with and not too expensive that you will be scared to get it if you just want to try ergonomic keyboards.

A more professional unboxing experience and easier to work with plate design would really improve the experience for me. Overall this board is a great custom to consider in an increasingly competitive market.

Thanks for reading and if you want to see more content about keyboards, check out our custom keyboard content and keyboard guides.

If you have any build questions also check out our discord.

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North-Facing vs South-Facing Switches

South-Facing Switches (Left) vs North-Facing Switches (Right)

The world of mechanical keyboards can be complex but can be very fun and satisfying. On keyboards, switches are attached to a PCB, printed circuit board. Switches can be attached in one of two configurations. This often causes confusion as people bring up terms like interference or switch orientation.

When looking to buy a mechanical keyboard, especially if you are looking to modify or build one, understanding what north-facing and south-facing switches are can be important to help you make the best decision for you.

Today we are going to clarify the difference between north-facing and south-facing switches and help you understand everything you need to know to make a better decision when buying your next mechanical keyboard.

North-Facing vs South-Facing Switches: What Are They?

Before we understand what north-facing and south-facing switches are we must first understand switch orientation. The term switch orientation refers to which direction a mechanical keyboard switch is placed on a PCB.

North-facing switches refer to when a switch’s LED hole faces toward the top of the keyboard while placed in the socket of the keyboard’s PCB. North-facing switches are typically seen in budget keyboards but are also seen in older custom keyboards.

South-facing switches refer to when a switch’s LED hole faces toward the bottom of the keyboard or where the user of the keyboard is while paced in the socket of the keyboard’s PCB. South-facing switches are typically seen in custom keyboards but due to consumer demand are starting to be put in some beginner kits and even a few prebuilts.

Typically we hear the terms north and south-facing the most but east and west-facing switches exist too. East and west-facing switches have the same pros and cons as south-facing switches. They are used very rarely and are usually only implemented in PCBs that support multiple layouts and must maximize all space on the PCB available.

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Problem With North-Facing Switches: Interferance

Diagram explaining switch interference between north-facing and south-facing switches.

The biggest problem that faces north-facing switches is keycap interference when using Cherry profile keycaps. On some rows of the keyboard, Cherry profile keycaps will come into contact with the top of the switches before the switch is able to bottom out. This will change both the sound and feel of the typing experience.

Although using Cherry profile keycaps are still usable, interference can remove a lot of the satisfaction from typing on a mechanical keyboard. Part of what makes this issue annoying is also that it affects certain rows of keys more than others so the feel becomes inconsistent between keys too. Some don’t face the issue while other rows do.

This makes north-facing switch orientations quite unpopular among keyboard enthusiasts who often use Cherry profile keycaps from high-end manufacturers.

Problem With South-Facing Switches: RGB Shine Through

Mechanical keyboard on desk

Although south-facing PCBs are highly popular because they don’t face the issues of interference, they still have their own issues. South-facing switches have some issues for fans of RGB and shine through keycaps.

With north-facing PCBs the LEDs lie directly below the legends on the keycaps. This creates a brighter and more consistent look on the legend. With south-facing switches, the LEDs are on the bottom side of the keycaps. This means a lot of the light does not shine through the legend of shine through keycaps.

Note switch orientation has no effect on keyboard underglow or LEDs on the side of the keyboard.

This issue faces fewer enthusiasts because typically enthusiasts aren’t using shine through keycaps. On the other hand, because RGB is very popular for gaming keyboards we most likely will see large gaming brands continue to use north-facing switches in their keyboards.

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Can You Change Switch Orientation On Your PCB?

Close up picture of a mechanical keyboard PCB.

So maybe you are really set on a keyboard or you have already bought a keyboard and now you want a different switch orientation to suit your preferences. The question becomes can you change switch orientation?

Unfortunately no, you cannot change the direction in which the switches are placed on the PCB. Holes were drilled in a specific way from the factory so the pins on the bottom of your switches only can fit in one direction.

There are a few solutions though. One thing you can do is get a totally new PCB. You can buy one that supports a different orientation and use that in your case instead. With this solution, not all cases accept all PCBs so you would need to research what PCBs your board supports. Some mechanical keyboards have a proprietary case design to the manufacturer or have such a unique design that it is very hard or even impossible to find a different PCB that fits the case. It is especially hard to find PCBs for high-end boards that feature north-facing sockets.

Buying a new PCB can also be very expensive so there are a few other options. If you are using a keyboard with north-facing switches but you would like to use Cherry profile keycaps you could get a few of the “box” switches that don’t face the issues of interference like Novelkey Box Cream switches. Another solution is to get special washers to raise up your keycaps so the keycaps don’t make contact with the top of the switches until the switch has been depressed all the way.

There are also switches advertised for having a long pole stem which may not have interference on some cherry profile keycaps. This is because the switches bottom out sooner so the keycap doesn’t come as close to the top of the switch. Some famous long pole stem switches include Drop Holy Pandas or Durock Pom Linears.

If you are looking for more light to shine through your keycaps and you have south-facing switches, then buying some transparent switches like some Aqua King V3 switches might give you a better experience.

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Which One Is Better?

There is not necessarily a better option overall however depending on your situation, there is a better option for you.

In most cases, we would recommend keyboards with south-facing switches. The main instance that we would suggest a north-facing keyboard is if you plan to use shine-through keycaps. South-facing keycaps still allow RGB to pass through although just it doesn’t look as vibrant as it may look on a north-facing board.

If you start to get into custom keyboards odds are you will most likely use keycaps that are not shine through. There are also plenty of keyboards that have RGB underglow or on the side of the board and are south-facing.

In most cases, south-facing switches are better as they are more versatile but boards with north-facing switches still have a use case and north-facing switches aren’t the end of the world, especially if you don’t even plan to use Cherry profile keycaps.

Conclusion

Angled view of Wuque Ikki68 Keyboard on a desk.

There are two main types of switch orientation that can give you the best experience depending on what you are looking for. South-facing switches support more keycap profiles, especially ones that are popular among enthusiasts, while north-facing switches can provide the best experience for shine through keycaps.

Even if you have a keyboard where the switches are oriented in a way that doesn’t suit your preferences or inhibits your options, there are still some possible solutions like getting certain types of switches, changing your PCB, or adding washers that allow you to enjoy your keyboard as much as possible without needing to get a new keyboard.

As enthusiasts ourselves we would recommend buying a keyboard with south-facing switches unless you plan to use shine through keycaps.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this guide, please check out our other keyboard guides, and if you have any more questions feel free to ask us on our Discord.

Epomaker B21 Review: Retro With A Twist

Epomaker has pioneered the budget side of mechanical keyboards making some fantastic value boards. This is no different with the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard that features a retro-style design. The B21 is a wireless, 65% mechanical keyboard with a few unique features to pair with its classic design.

Today we will take a look at Epomaker’s B21 to see if the retro board is the one for you.

The Verdict

Top view of Epomaker B21 mecahnical keyboard.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Epomaker B21 is a 65% budget wireless keyboard, perfect for those on a budget and want a retro-looking Bluetooth board. The things boasted on the B21 are dynamic backlighting, a 4000mAh battery, media keys, dials, and Mac & Windows support. Now I’ll be honest in this review, the looks definitely are not for me, but it will still attract the eye of those wanting a retro-looking board.

You get a few different switch options in the Cherry MX line, decent stabilizers, and a pretty nice keycap set for the price. The B21 is certainly a unique board and it stands out with a ton of features.

For anyone that wants a retro design, dials, and an overall solid prebuilt package, the Epomaker B21 is a great option.


In the Box

Inside the box, Epomaker gives you everything you need to enjoy the B21.

Keyboard: The keyboard comes wrapped and surrounded by protective foam to ensure that it is in perfect condition when it arrives.

USB-C Power Cable: You get a rubberized cable that seems well made and is detachable. It matches the color scheme of the board.

Manual: The manual will explain how to use the board as well as get it up and running.

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Build Quality

Side view of the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard

With the B21, Epomaker elected to use strong plastic with this board with a smooth feel. The dials are made of metal and the media keys, although not mechanical, still feel pretty good.

The design is love or hate. The retro theme is something that definitely appeals to a certain audience but I think it is pretty decent. For some, they may really dislike the board. The use of glossy plastic, the combination of pink dials with green and off-white keycaps, and rounded edges make this board look a bit childish. This impression was confirmed when my friend’s first impression was that the board belongs in a nursery, which is quite unfortunate when you think of all the benefits it carries.

The top part of the B21 definitely makes this board taller than most 65% options on the market but the width is not any bigger than most 65%s so when for gaming you should still have plenty of mouse space. If you want something that is very portable, this board is still pretty good but there are a few other options that we may recommend like Epomaker’s GX68 XS.

The Epomaker B21 has a decent build for the price and your thoughts on the design depend highly on what you are looking for. If you are looking for a retro design, you may love this board, otherwise, you could see the board as more of a toy than a tool.

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The Keycaps

Keycaps for the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard.

Epomaker ties in the retro theme with some off-white, grey, and green keycaps. The keycaps are made from PBT in the ASA profile. The ASA profile is a higher profile that is a bit taller than the standard OEM profile on gaming keyboards but slightly shorter than SA keycaps seen on some custom keyboards.

The keycaps are rounded and sculpted for comfort but the higher profile could take some time to get used to for those who have never experienced something similar. The keycaps feel quite smooth but due to the concave shape, they still are able to hold your fingers and don’t feel too slippery.

The legends are big and centered. Epomaker uses double-shot legends for peak quality and they don’t seem to have any major issues.

Overall the keycaps feel quite good and seem to be a pretty good profile. I do like how they tie in with the theme of the B21.

The Switches and Stabilizers

Epomaker B21 keyboard with keycaps taken off.

You can order the Epomaker B21 with a few options from Cherry. You get linear, tactile, and clicky options.

Cherry MX RedA light linear switch with a smooth travel.
Actuation force: 45 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm
Cherry MX BrownA medium-weight tactile switch with a light tactile bump.
Actuation force: 55 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm
Cherry MX BlueA medium-weight clicky switch. It has a loud sound and sharp tactility.
Actuation force: 60 g         
Travel distance: 2 mm

Cherry is known for providing some of the best switches for pre-built keyboards, especially in terms of reliability. The linear switches are not the smoothest in the world but they get the job done and are perfectly fine for those who do not have an interest in modding your keyboard. The tactile and clicky switches are great alternatives for those who want a bump in their keypress.

The stabilizers are cherry-style plate mount stabs. They were alright. They definitely stood out as being better than the stabilizers of gaming keyboards from brands like Logitech or Razer with some factory lubing applied to the stabs. The stabs won’t make this board sound amazing but are quite good for a prebuilt keyboard.

One of my biggest disappointments with the board is that it is not hotswap. This means that the user will need to manually desolder each and every switch to replace or modify switches and stabilizers. If you want to buy a keyboard and play around with it, the B21 is not the best option for that. For those that want a keyboard that does the job and does it quite well, the B21 does deliver quite a good stock experience.

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Back Lighting and RGB

RGB Led lighting on the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard.

As of right now, there is only one color offered on the B21. The board is backlit with white lighting rather than multicolor RGB lighting. The lights are decently bright but because the keycaps are not shine-through the lighting is not that big of a deal.

A nice thing with the lights on the B21 is that you can change the brightness of the lights via the dials on top. Epomaker has not released any information yet on what, if any, software will be available for this board.

Wireless Connectivity

The Bluetooth on the Epomaker B21 is my favorite part of this board. The convenience of switching between three different devices is an amenity that is so useful and easy to use.

So let’s talk about connecting it to just one device first, and the B21 handles that perfectly, so seamlessly. It took me less time to connect the keyboard than it did to plug my charger into my phone the other day. Bluetooth can be easily controlled by the dedicated buttons at the top of the keyboard.

The B21 carries a 4000mAH battery which can get you a few weeks of use with the lighting on and if you opt to turn it off you can use it for over a month. To charge the board, there is a USB-C port, which is pretty standard. On the B21 users can opt to toggle between wireless and wired connectivity modes.

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Media Keys and Dials

Arguably one of the most defining features of the B21 is the media keycaps and dials. The dials are quite a unique feature and allow you to control volume and change the brightness of the lighting.

The media keys are helpful if you are in the middle of working on something and you want to quickly change background music or stop it to focus better. I also am a fan of multimedia keys while gaming so I don’t have to tab out just to change the song.

A nice little quick feature is the ability to open the calculator with a push of a button.

Overall I think the dials and multimedia keys on the Epomaker B21 are quite useful. My only disappointment is the fact that the pink of the dials kind of takes away from this retro theme and feels a little off.

Conclusion

Angled view of the Epomaker B21 mechanical keyboard.

If you want a retro look and a solid prebuilt all at a good price the Epomaker B21 is an excellent option. It delivers good performance and packs quite a few features making it sound out in the market.

The B21 gives you dials, multimedia keys, Bluetooth, and very long battery life. The board also features pretty decent switches, keycaps, and stabilizers.

The only main downsides were the lack of hotswap sockets and the design. Although the design is very subjective I felt like it was a bit childish but if you do love that retro look then it certainly is a nice theme. As a keyboard enthusiast, I would like to see hotswap sockets at this price to allow users to change keys or modify different parts of the board to personalize the feel to their liking if they choose.

All that being said I have enjoyed my experience with the B21 and love to see unique designs like this hit the market.

Thanks for reading this article! If you want updates on our articles, and more information about tech, make sure to join our discord.

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Epomaker NT68: Revolutionizing Portability

Epomaker NT68 keyboard with an iPad and mug.

Epomaker has pioneered the budget side of mechanical keyboards making some of the most well-priced and well-built keyboards ever. Epomaker are responsible for the widely popular GK61 and GK68, many other starter keyboards, and even some more higher end keyboards.

One of their upcoming releases is the NT68. The NT68 is a wireless, 65%, hotswap keyboard with a few tricks up its sleeve to separate it from the other 65% keyboards.

For transparency Epomaker did send this to us for review, that being said I will try my best to not let that influence my review. Let this just be a reminder to take all subjective things I have said (like switch feel, sound, etc.) with a grain of salt.

Our Verdict

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Epomaker NT68 is a budget hotswap keyboard with wireless, it also features a kickstand making it ideal for laptop and tablet use. Some subjective problems like the unstandardized layout set it back a bit for me but your mileage may vary. Overall, a fun and good buy if you’re a laptop user and primarily work on the go.

Sign up for the NT68 by clicking here!

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In The Box

The unboxing was very textbook; the keyboard was there wrapped in its kickstand with all the other goods in a separate divided compartment.

It came with:

  • Keyboard
  • Documentation
  • Cables – They are kind of small
  • Keycap and Switch Pullers
  • Extra Keycaps
  • Some kickstand Stuff
  • Replacement Switches

Overall, pretty good stuff. The one catch is that the cables the NT68 comes with are 3 inches long, prompting me to believe this keyboard is meant to be used wirelessly most of the time.

Cables for the Epomaker NT68.
A bit small

The Case

Side view of the Epomaker NT68 keyboard.

Starting from the bottom of the keyboard, the NT68 features a minimalistic CNCd aluminum case, which is quite nice. The quality of the aluminum is that off the Drop ALT and its brethren, like the CTRL. That being said its quite light for aluminum weighing in at 572 grams. For comparison my acrylic GK61 weighs in at about 715 grams.

The entire assembly is made from one giant aluminum block sans a removable plate at the bottom made from ABS plastic.

The mounting mechanism is integrated plate which provides for a stiffer typing experience and pingy sound. Although with how thin the top part of the aluminum is, the ping is not nearly as noticeable as other keyboards that use an integrated plate mount method.

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The Keycaps

Keycaps for the Epomaker NT68 keyboard.

The unit we received came with white keycaps with gray keycaps on the modifiers and some dark red accents on the arrow keys and the escape key. Stock they have MAC modifiers but you can add windows modifiers as they are included in the packaging.

Epomaker uses PBT plastic that is semi-textured compared to other PBT keycaps. Overall, they feel quite nice and definitely will not shine up after a while.

The legends are pretty clean. They look a bit more rounded than the standard GMK font which I like since it really adds to the simplistic and modern aesthetic of the keyboard.

The keyboard features flat profile keycaps, similar to XDA except slightly shorter. It is known as GSA and is on a lot of Epomaker’s keyboards. I personally don’t really like flat profile keycaps but you may like it.

Wireless Connectivity

Be gone tangling wires, this keyboard features Bluetooth 5.1, and it’s awesome. It’s easy to connect, pretty fast, and has 6 key roll-over, meaning you can press up to 6 keys at a time.

The NT68 only randomly disconnected for me once which is pretty good compared to keychron just not connecting at all for me until I gave it a full charge.

It connects up to three devices so you can use the NT68 seamlessly between your devices as changing between the devices can be done in a matter of seconds.

To charge the keyboard there is a USB-C connector on the left-hand side of the keyboard along with an on-off switch. I am not too big on the connector being on the side but since this is designed to be primarily a take it and go keeb for laptops and tablets, it makes sense. You can also use this keyboard wired if your heart desires but I would not recommend it considering how short the cables they offer are.

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The Layout

Epomaker NT68 below a Keychron K6 keyboard.
Unstandard bottom row of the NT68 (bottom) vs fully standard Keychron K6 (top)

The layout of this keyboard might make it or break it for you. I’ll say right off the bat that it unfortunately is not standard. But it, fortunately, is not too unstandard. And most 65% keycap sets will fit this keyboard.

Now what makes the NT68 unstandard is that there is an extra function key at the left-hand bottom row of the keyboard. It is a 1.25u sized key alongside 3 other 1u keycaps with the standard control, alt, and windows keys but these are 1u. And for those who are wondering, the spacebar is 6.25u so you don’t have to worry about having weirdly sized spacebars if you want to use an aftermarket keycap set.

Now, when designing really anything, there’s a reason behind all design choices. I personally think the reason for this layout change is to match most laptop keyboards. In a lot of laptops, the function key is where it is on the NT68. This is one of the primary reasons why I believe that this keyboard is designed for laptops and why it is supposed to be used on the go.

Of course, if you don’t like this change and find it unnecessary you can always use the software to change the key mappings, mapping the fn key to control, and so on.

Switches & Stabilizers

Close up of Epomaker Chocolate Brown keyboard switches on a desk.

As far as stock switches go this keyboard comes with the standard Gateron Black, Red, Blue, and Brown switches but it also comes with Epomaker’s custom “chocolate” switches. We got chocolate brown switches which are a tactile switch with similar weighting to Gateron Brown switches. They are pre-lubed with quite good acoustics and feel. Overall, a nice stock switch experience.

Of course, if you don’t like the switches then you can replace them easily with the hotswap mechanic. Thankfully it’s good old hotswap, accepts all switches unlike the Outemu sockets of the K530 and K522 from Redragon.

The stabilizers were hit or miss. Like a lot of prebuilt the pre-lube job was alright. Your mileage definitely may vary but since this is a hotswap board, modding the plate mount stabilizers is very easy.

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Backlighting & RGB

The NT68 features per-key RGB which is quite bright and visible despite the keycaps not being shine through. The keyboard has a plethora of RGB modes saved on board but can all be changed via the software Ppomaker provides.

For now, a software has not been provided but when the keyboard does get launched there will be a software as said on Epomaker’s website.

The Invisible Kickstand

Epomarke NT68 being used as a keyboard for an Apple iPad.

This is the why of the keyboard. The reason you should buy it, its main attraction. It is a foldable kickstand that can hold tablets of many sorts, including phones. It can also prop up a laptop and your keyboard sits on the laptop while the laptop is raised with a bit of an angle.

Another good feature is it covers the keyboard when not in use which will more or less protect your keyboard if it’s stored in your backpack or something like that.

Overall, the feature is pretty cool. I used this keyboard at my desk mostly so I used the stand to prop the board up a bit since the stock typing angle was a bit too low for me. While I was using it on my laptop I used the stand for the same reason and not to prop the laptop up, I tried it but did not work out for me. Wasn’t my chalice of tea but might be yours.


Conclusion

Epomaker NT68 being hidden by its cover.
Stealthy

If you enjoyed this article and you want to talk more about tech then consider joining our Discord and as always thanks for reading!

Sign up for the NT68 Kickstarter by clicking here!

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Are Ergonomic Keyboards Worth It?

Arisu ergonomic keyboard sitting on a wall.

If you spend a lot of time typing at your setup you may be looking to improve the ergonomics and comfort of your setup. One of the best ways to improve long-term comfort is by using an ergonomic keyboard.

Ergonomic keyboards position your hands and wrists better for a more comfortable experience and potentially better posture.

Many people consider ergonomic keyboards but understanding if getting one is worth it for you depends on your situation. Having good ergonomics is always a good thing but if you don’t spend much time typing or you spend most of your time gaming, investing in an ergonomic keyboard may not be the right option for you. In contrast, those that are at a computer typing throughout the day could definitely see comfort and even health benefits by using an ergonomic board.

So if you want to find out more and see if you could benefit from an ergonomic keyboard, keep reading to see if they are worth the investment.

Ergonomic vs Normal Keyboards

Ergonomic keyboard next to a regular mechanical keyboard.

Ergonomic and normal keyboards definitely have their differences but both have their benefits. One isn’t better than another as it truly depends on your situation.

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Size and Form Factors

There are a variety of sizes and form factors with keyboards. Normal keyboards have more layouts to choose from including 40%, 60%, 65%, 75%, TKL, and full-size boards. With ergonomic keyboards, it is a little more complicated.

It is important to note that there are two types of ergonomic keyboards, unibody and split. Unibody keyboards are an ergonomic keyboard in a single case. Split keyboards usually have two parts for each side of the keyboard. This allows you to use only one have of the split board for things like gaming to safe as much space as possible.

With split style boards, you can have any layout of a regular keyboard but with unibody style boards there are 2 popular layouts. The Arisu and Alice layouts. The Alice layout is most similar to a 60% keyboard with some macros on the left-hand side while the Arisu layout is most similar to a 65% keyboard.

In general normal keyboards are smaller for the same amount of functions and there are more layouts available for them but ergonomic boards also have some very unique layouts.

Comfort Level

The biggest benefit of ergonomic keyboards is their improved comfort over regular boards. They were specifically designed to help you type over long periods.

While you are typing you won’t get pains or cramps in your hands, wrists, and arms.

Also, you may find that you have better posture or it is easier to keep good posture. This is because ergonomic keyboards support better hand and arm positioning to promote better posture. As a result, you will be more comfortable throughout your body and this is actually more healthy for you.

If you find that you game most of the time then this is one case where a regular keyboard may help you to be more comfortable. Since many gamers tilt their keyboards and you are interacting with both a mouse and a keyboard there are some reasons to go with a regular keyboard. A regular board will save space and will be just as comfortable as an ergonomic keyboard but will allow you to have more comfort with your hand using the mouse.

If you are looking for comfort but you don’t have the budget for a new keyboard then switching to a new keyboard layout could also help provide better comfort with no cost except the time to switch.

Arm and Wrist Pain

A problem that you may encounter when typing for long periods is that you may suffer from arm and wrist pains. Ergonomic keyboards are great for fixing these issues.

Since ergonomic keyboards are designed for optimal comfort and as a result they greatly reduce the effects of pains or the chance of getting them.

When talking about ergonomic keyboards RSI (Repetitive Strain Injuries) and carpal tunnel are two common topics. Ergonomic keyboards greatly reduce the chance of getting RSI and carpal tunnel by reducing the strain on your wrists.

It is important to note that if you are considering an ergonomic board because you have some sort of arm, wrist, or hand problem then a new keyboard will not be a magical fix for you. You should notice benefits to all your problems won’t necessarily go away depending on the severity of the condition.

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Typing Speed

Ideally, your fastest typing speed should be similar between an ergonomic keyboard and a normal keyboard if you’re used to both types of keyboards.

This isn’t always the case. In my experience, I found that I can type fastest with a regular keyboard but I type faster for longer with my ergonomic board. Between ergonomic keyboards, you will typically type faster with a unibody board than a split alternative.

The fastest typists in the world still use regular mechanical keyboards as their primary boards. Ultimately if you just are looking for that fastest peak time a regular board still may be the option for you but if you want to have a consistently fast speed all day then an ergonomic board is something you should consider.

Price

So ergonomic keyboards have all these benefits but do they cost more as a result? For the same construction, sound, and feel, ergonomic keyboards are often priced quite well.

Ergonomic keyboards often are more expensive but that is because they are often higher-end keyboards. This is because many ergonomic keyboards are made by creators who also want premium build materials, a nice design, and a thoccy sound.

Although you can find some good value ergonomic boards, the cheapest boards that you will find are normal keyboards. Often you will pay a bit more for an ergo design compared to the regular designed counterparts, especially if looking at a membrane keyboard.

Modding and Accessories

One important factor for those building ergonomic mechanical keyboards, especially enthusiasts, is how easy ergonomic keyboards are to build, mod, and get parts for.

The difficulty of all keyboards vary but building an ergonomic keyboard should be no harder to build than a regular keyboard. Finding parts for modding ergo keyboards or parts may be harder because typically smaller manufactures make ergonomic keyboards but this is common across all limited run and high-end keyboards.

The main issue that you will run into if you are considering an ergonomic mechanical keyboard is access to compatible keycap sets.

All ergonomic keyboards have split spacebars. This means that if you are buying a keycap set you need to make sure that it supports the needed spacebars. Additionally some ergo boards also have an additional ‘B’ key or have macros on the left-hand side.

Overall it isn’t hard to find keycaps but it is an important thing to keep in mind.

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Is An Ergonomic Keyboard Right For You?

Gaming keyboard next to a gaming mouse.

Understanding how you use your computer will best help you understand if an ergonomic or regular keyboard is best for you.

Developers, writers, managers, and other people who spend some if not the whole workday typing can definitively benefit from an ergonomic keyboard. An ergonomic keyboard can reduce wrist problems in the future and provide better comfort throughout the day.

If you don’t really use a computer much or don’t use your computer for work then an ergonomic keyboard may not be the best for you. Taking the time to switch to an ergonomic keyboard is especially not worth it if you find that you game more than you work.

Ergonomic keyboards are bigger than regular size keyboards for having the same layout or amount of keys. Since having more mouse space is very important for gaming using a regular board that will help give you more mouse space.

The thing is this concept doesn’t apply to all ergonomic keyboards. Split ergonomic boards can be an interesting option to consider for some gamers. Since split keyboards have two parts of the board if you play FPS games you can use only one of the two parts and have a lot more mouse room. The extra investment is most likely not worth it but it can be an interesting option to consider.

Generally, ergonomic keyboards are better for productivity and regular boards are better for gaming or those who don’t use their computer that much.

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Is It Difficult To Transition?

Time

Depending on if you can get a split or unibody board it can take more or less time but will a unibody board will generally take less time. With split keyboards you not only need to get used to this new format but it may also take time to find the right placement for both halves of the board.

With a unibody board, it could take a few days to a couple of weeks while a split keyboard could take you a few weeks to even a month to get used to.

Difficulty

Since ergonomic boards have different hand placements it will feel like you are using a slightly different layout. Switching to an ergonomic keyboard isn’t very hard to get used to but time is the main issue with the transition process.

In general, you should not be worried about the difficulty in transitioning to an ergonomic keyboard as the end result will be well worth it.

Different Types Of Ergonomic Keyboards

If you are looking for an ergonomic keyboard, there are two options to consider. Unibody and split.

Unibody

Angled view of a unibody ergonomic keyboard.

The first type of ergonomic keyboard is the Unibody style. Unibody boards are the easiest to get used to and typically the cheapest options.

A Unibody style board is just one board that is together, as the name suggests. This means that you can get an ergonomic experience without the complexity of a split keyboard. The ergonomics may not be as great as a split keyboard but they will still be superior to the comfort of just a standard keyboard.

If you want something clean and simple while still getting a comfortable experience then a unibody board is the option for you. Unibody boards are all in one package which means you don’t have to worry about cables between different parts.

Split

Top view of a split ergonomic keyboard.

The other style of ergonomic keyboards is the split layout. A split style keyboard has more customizability in the sense that you can move each side around but this comes at a cost. Typically split keyboards have another set of wires that you have to deal with between both halves. Also, split keyboards are often harder to get used to.

Some split-style keyboards can be combined back into one regular board but these often sacrifice on looks for this extra function.

In general, a split keyboard will sacrifice looks but will give maximum comfort. Since you can adjust a split keyboard to your liking, if you are looking for the best comfort then a split board will best suit you.

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Conclusion

Side view of an ergonomic keyboard.

Switching to an ergonomic keyboard is a fantastic way to improve your comfort while working. They can solve pains, reduce the chance of long-term problems, and promote better posture. Problems such as carpal tunnel or RSI can be greatly reduced.

While ergonomic keyboards have these benefits, normal keyboards still allow for slightly faster typing speeds, are more available, support many more sizes and layouts.

There are a few different styles for ergonomic keyboards to choose from depending on what you do daily. With Unibody and Split keyboards and a few different layouts for each type of board, there is something that will suit you.

For additional ergonomics, tips check out some home office tips from the University of Washington.

As always thanks for reading and I hope you learned a lot!

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Are Colemak or Dvorak Worth It?

Mechanical keyboard with Colemak layout next to keyboard with QWERTY layout.

QWERTY, the common keyboard layout that everyone is used to. If you have grown an interest in keyboards then you may have heard about some other keyboard layouts such as Colemak or Dvorak.

Using any of these alternative keyboard layouts has a variety of upsides but is switching to something like Colemak, Dvorak, or any other layout worth taking the time and the struggle to rewrite your muscle memory?

Using an alternative layout can provide many benefits. By switching you could notice an increase in typing efficiency, comfort, and ergonomics. The time that it takes to switch can be especially beneficial if you spend a lot of time at a computer.

Today I will answer the question if alternative keyboard layouts are indeed worth it and add in a bit of my own personal experience trying one of these different keyboard layouts.

The History of QWERTY

When typewriters were created, the people designing them realized a problem. Typewriters would jam if the keys were in alphabetical order. The designer of the QWERTY layout, Christopher Sholes fixed this problem by splitting commonly used letter pairings, for example, ‘S’ and ‘T’.

This layout became the new standard and even as computers started to become popular, nobody questioned the layout that was in place. Everyone was already used to the layout and it wasn’t causing enough problems to make large corporations change their designs.

Some people tried different designed different keyboards but they never caught any traction.

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Colemak, Dvorak, etc.

Picture of the Colemak Layout for keyboards.
Colemak Layout

Although different variations of QWERTY were created for different languages like French or German, those edited layouts were still relatively the same.

Next comes the most popular alternative layouts being Dvorak, Colemak, and then Workman. There are many other layouts besides these three but these layouts have the biggest communities and are significantly more popular than many of the other layouts out there.

All three of these layouts were created to be more efficient, ergonomic, and comfortable to type on than QWERTY. Many people switch to these layouts for these benefits and can especially appreciate the comfort over the long term. Additionally, because these layouts are more efficient they should make it easier to type faster for longer. This isn’t necessarily true because most of the fastest typers still use QWERTY.

The Dvorak and Colemak were designed to make your fingers use the home row as much as possible and as a result, this means that your fingers do not need to dance around the keyboard as much. Workman takes a different approach as it works to balance the amount of use between both of your hands.

The goal of these layouts is to make your fingers only move as much as they need to and to minimize the time of travel from one keycap to the next. Theoretically using any of these layouts should be faster than typing on QWERTY with the same amount of experience but it is difficult to truly test this.

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Is It Worth It To Switch?

Making the decision to switch from QWERTY entirely depends on you and your situation. For most people, you may find that you have no problems with typing and you see no need to make any changes. Others may be enticed by the improved efficiency and comfort. Trying out a different layout also makes for an interesting test.

Switching to something like Colemak could improve long-term comfort throughout the day and could help with faster-sustained typing speeds. This benefit could be worth it for those who spend a lot of time at a computer or typing but for the everyday person who only uses a computer for basic internet browsing, emails, or gaming changing will not be very beneficial.

All in all, you should do what is most comfortable for you and those who use their computers a lot will see the benefits over the long term.

Which One Is Right For You?

Dvorak, Colemak, and Workman all have the same objectives but some differentiating factors may help your decision.

Dvorak is often considered to be the most efficient of these layouts. Also because Dvorak is the most popular alternative to QWERTY it has built-in support in major operating systems like Windows and macOS.

With Colemak and Workman, you may still need to download them. If you use Windows for example you will need to download Colemak here and Workman here on their respective pages.

Colemak functions similarly to Dvorak by focusing on home row usage but is arguably the easiest to learn out of the three. Colemak is the most similar to QWERTY with a bottom row that is almost exactly the same. Additionally Colemak is great if you use functions like Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V. While Dvorak and Workman support these functions, the keys will be in different places and may feel less natural.

Finally, Workman focuses on evening usage by both hands. Workman fixes problems that even Colemak and Dvorak have of placing commonly used keys close together. Workman sacrifices a bit on efficiency to maximize comfort.

Ultimately all these layouts are good and there isn’t really a wrong decision.

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What Do I Use?

In December of 2020, I decided to try using Colemak and I eventually made it my primary layout a few months later. Since then I have still continued to use QWERTY in some situations and I have experience using both layouts on all types of keyboards.

So why did I decide Colemak? Well, Colemak does provide some unique benefits over Workman and Dvorak. While all these layouts are more efficient and comfortable to use than QWERTY, Colemak keeps key functionality. With Colemak you are able to keep macros like Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V to copy and paste in the same place on your keyboard.

Additionally Colemak is most similar to QWERTY out of the three while still providing noticeable improvements. While switching to Colemak was difficult initially, I am very happy with my choice and it is a great option for those who use layered functions on their keyboards or want something that is a bit easier to transition to.

Transitioning

Typing test picture from monkey type with typing speed of 91 WPM.
Typing test on monkeytype

The biggest issue about switching your layout is the time and difficulty to transition. I found that transitioning personally was very difficult for the first month or two so I only used Colemak during typing tests and times when I could type slower.

If you aren’t someone with much free time and are completely fine using QWERTY then there isn’t a very important need to switch. Otherwise trying out a new layout can not only be a fun test but you may actually find that you prefer it over QWERTY.

In my experience, I was able to switch to Colemak as my main layout after about three months but it took a bit more time to reach my previous typing speed.

The transition may take longer or shorter depending on how much you are willing to spend learning the layout and practicing. While learning the layout you may also not like the fact that the keys on your keyboard will not match your new layout. If you use a mechanical keyboard there are some keycap sets that you can buy that support Dvorak, Colemak, Workman, and a few other alternative layouts if this is a deal-breaker for you though.

Learning the layout without being able look at your keyboard is actually a good habit to start because you will learn touch typing and will be able to type faster in the long run.

End Result

A typing test on monkeytype being taken.

After taking time to transition you will continue to build up muscle memory and confidence. Typing with the new layout will be totally normal and you may even be able to type with the layout without ever needing to look at your keyboard.

After about 6 months I was able to match my old typing speed with QWERTY (120-140WPM). I was able to type faster, for longer too, as my fingers would not get tired as quickly.

This actually more efficient because you are able to type faster for longer. I also noticed that using Colemak all day led me to know problems but using QWERTY all day would leave me typing a lot slower later in the day and some people may experience fatigue too.

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Conclusion

Mechanical keyboard with the Colemak layout.

Although it isn’t a must, switching to a new keyboard layout can have many benefits. While the change was not life-changing for me it has still allowed me to type faster for longer periods and has improved comfort over the day.

Trying out a new layout like Colemak or Dvorak can be a very interesting test and you may find that you like it for QWERTY. For those who are interested in keyboards or spend a lot of time typing, trying one out could definitely benefit you. Otherwise, for those who mostly game, check emails, or browse the web the QWERTY layout works perfectly fine, and transitioning may not be worth it.

I have never felt the need to go back to QWERTY and even when I needed to go back to it at times when using different keyboards or computers, I found that I noticed a lot more flaws in the layout than before using Colemak.

I hope this article was beneficial to you and if you want to see more keyboard content, check out our keyboard page. As always thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Best Linear Switches [2021]

Keyboard switches on a desk next to flowers and headphones.

There are so many linear switches available in the big bad world of mechanical keyboards, which one should you guys choose?

A linear switch is a switch that has uninterrupted travel all the way down. There is no feedback whatsoever and really no way to tell when you have actuated the switch besides when the entry shows up at the receiving end.

Terminology

Just like in the Tactile Switch article I have included a short guide with some useful terminology that will be thrown around.

Actuation: Actuation is when the switch actually activates and outputs to the device.

Bottom out: When the switch finishes traveling and hits the bottom housing.

Leaf: The metallic contacts in a switch, these themselves actually actuate the switch. The leaf is in the bottom housing as the picture shows.

Diagram pointing to the leaf on a mechanical keyboard switch.

Ping / Spring Ping / Leaf Ping: This is a metallic reverb produced by the sound of the spring, leaf, or both. In most cases it can be fixed by lube.

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Disclaimer… Please Read!

This review is largely preference, my rankings will likely be very different from yours. Do not base your opinions based of mine, the best way to get opinions on a switch is to just try them yourself, guides like this, sound tests, and keyboard senpais like Taeha Types is not a good way to understand how switches feel. Just hit up your local vendor and buy a pack of whatever switch your fingers and ears desire to try them out. Use this guide to gain a general understanding of the switch and where enthusiasts like me stand on these switches.

Gateron Black Ink

Gateron Black Ink mechanical keyboard switch with rocks behind it.

Gateron Black Inks are a switch made by Gateron. They feature a 60g actuation and a 70g bottom out and actuate at 2 mm and with a total travel of 4 mm. They do not come prelubed and stock are quite mediocre. But when lubed and filmed they are mega smooth and have a very thoccy sound signature.

These are number 1 because of how pleasant the sound is coming in with a low sounding thocc in most cases. It also has top tier smoothness after lubing and filming.

We do recommend lubing these as in their stock form they are a bit scratchy and do not sound the best. Filming is also recommended but not required since the housings are not unbearably loose.

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C3 Equalz x TKC Banana Splits

C3 equalz Banana split mechanical keyboard switch resting on a flower.

These switches are amazing, ill say that right off the bat. They are produced by TKC and C3 Equalz and are the first addition to the fruit switch lineup. They feature a hyper smooth experience with a nice high pitch clacky sound that is enjoyed by many typists around the world. They feature the typical 2mm actuation point and 4mm bottom out. They have no long stem action. These switches come with only a 62g weight option.

The Banana Splits take the number 2 spot because of the sound and smoothness being so good. They are pretty costly and have limited availability.

These switches don’t require filming or lubing but will benefit from both. We would recommend lubing these tasty switches up. There super good looking too, which is a plus.

Bobagums

Bobagum keyboard switch on a flower.

Gazzew’s linear deriving from the Boba U4s, which are top tier silent tactiles. These switches come in 62g and 68g variations, have great silencing power, and feature awesome smoothness.

Lubing these switches is always recommended but filming is not as housings may struggle to close with many types of film since they are already so tight.

These switches are perfect for a work or school keyboard. So if you like linear with a slight mush or just don’t want thocc or clack this is a right choice for you. They are the best silent linear on the market right now.

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C3 Equalz x TKC Equalz Tangerine

C3 Equalz Tangerine switch resting on a flower.

Smooth, clacky, and did we mention its smooth? By far one of the smoothest switches out of the box. This pre-lubed switch from TKC is amazing. It features a standard 2mm actuation and 4mm bottom out. These switches come with a 62g version and a 68g version.

It is hard to rank the tangerines considering it is among the smoothest switches you can buy, but some of TKC’s problems in the past really dock this switch a few points. Its sound signature is also, if you will, boring and flat. By no means is it bad, in fact, it’s great but the other switches here do better. Again, this is completely my opinion, you may love it you may not.

If you do like a lower more muted switch then these are a great switch to consider but if you want something more lively and clacky then they may not be for you.

Lubing is not required as the returns are diminishing after lube. Lubing with a thinner lube like 3203 or 3204 is preferred since the factory lube and the 205g0 can be too much. Filming will benefit the tangies but is not required by any means.

Gateron Milky Yellow

Gateron Milky Yellow switch on a flower.

Budget, budget, budget. These switches are as it stands the king of budget linears. Standing in at about 24 cents a switch. They have a very nice thoccy sound and feature quite smooth action after lubing and filming. They are no Black Inks but they are also not 75 cents a pop. These siwtches weigh in at about 50g actuation and 60g bottom out.

These earned a spot on the list since the Milky Yellows are pretty much the epitome of budget switches and have been for a while. These switches come in many forms or revisions. The outstanding outcome or what is widely agreed as the best outcome is the black bottom and milky top housings. As they provide the best smoothness and sound but obviously that is up to you.

Do lube and film these, as without they are quite scratchy and the housings are pretty wobbly.

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PrimeKB Alpacas

PrimeKB Alpaca V2 keyboard switch sitting on a pink flower.

These JWK Recolors follow a color scheme based on Minterley’s Bliss colorway. They feature very smooth travel with a deep sort of unique sound signature that is hard to find on any other switch making it a very desired switch throughout the keyboard community. They feature 62g springs which makes it a nice middle ground in terms of weight.

These switches do not need lube or films as they do come pre-lubed with a slight layer of oil and they have pretty tight housings.

Note that the latest version was tested. The previous iteration for this switch had quite loose housings but that has since been fixed. These switches are primarily only sold on PrimeKB and they have the newer version.

KTT Strawberry

KTT Strawberry switch sitting on a green plant.

These switches are an iteration of KTT’s higher-end switches. At around 40 cents a switch, they are mid to low-end switches in terms of price. But let’s not judge this book by its cover or more this switch by its price.

The KTT Strawberries are one of the smoothest stock switches out there right now, up there with tangerines for a bit more than half the price. And as far as sound goes, dang these really hit the spot, they have a clean and non-intrusive clack similar to that of the tangerines without the harsh high pitchiness. These have a 63.5g bottom out making them slightly heavier than Gateron Yellows.

Neither filming nor lubing this switch is required as they have very tight housings and very smooth travel in the stock form.

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Vintage Cherry MX Blacks

Vintage Cherry MX Black switch sitting on a rock.

Chances are if you have even the slightest experience in this hobby you have heard of Cherry’s lineup and cherry MX Blacks. These switches are those exact things, except old. When a switch is made a mold is used to cast the plastic, so these switches use an older mold which was known to be very smooth. This paired with cherry’s magically sounding amazing housings made the holy grail of linears.

Now if there so good why aren’t they number 1? Because these switches are very hard to come by, for starters it is near impossible to get these switches through a commercial vendor like NovelKeys, Cannonkeys, etc. Second, in most cases these switches must be removed from an old keyboard (like really old) and then cleaned and sold via mechmarket or something like that. That being said, these switches follow the standard Cherry MX Black weighting which is about 60g operating and 80g bottom out.

These switches do need lube but filming is hit or miss since they have nice and tight housings from the factory.

Conclusion

All these switches are great choices for any linear build. Some switches that weren’t included which are also great are most JWK manufactured Linears such as the Durock L Series, Halu Halos, H1s, Tealios, many KTT and TTC switches, and much more. We recommend going on YouTube and listening to sound tests and finding what you like as it is difficult to make a proper decision from just words and pictures.

If you want to try or buy any of these switches then a great place to start is by looking at your local vendor. Take a look at our vendor list. A compilation of tons of keyboard vendors sorted by region.

If you enjoyed this article and you want to talk more about tech then consider joining our Discord and as always thanks for reading!

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