Computex is where many manufacturers showcase their latest PC-related products. These range from laptops, tablets, PC cases, and of course, mechanical keyboards. From conventional keyboards to modular ones, here are some noteworthy mechanical keyboards we managed to check out on the show floor of Computex 2016.
Anyone who’s a fan of mechanical keyboards would be familiar with Ducky. Known for its high quality keyboards, Ducky showcased plenty of new products at Computex 2016, including the Ducky Shine 6, Ducky Air Bluetooth, and Ducky Pocket. As usual, the company also unveiled its 2016 limited edition keyboard, the aptly dubbed “The Year of the Monkey,” which is based on the Shine 6.
While we were at Ducky’s booth, we also noticed that the company had a mysterious keyboard on display; there was only a simple “Flaretech switch” – which is an IR-based switch by Adomax – description beside the product. Naturally, we were very curious, but a Ducky representative said he could not reveal any information concerning the keyboard. Regardless, it’s definitely an interesting product: I’m quite fond of the Flaretech switch as well, which I would describe as a lighter Cherry MX Blue switch.
Although its booth wasn’t very big in comparison to other brands, Vortex has a particularly interesting compact keyboard on display. However, it doesn’t appear to be a keyboard by Vortex despite being shown at its booth. The keyboard in question is the Mistel Barocco, a unique two-part compact mechanical keyboard.
Based on what we can gather from the product info of the Barocco, it is equipped with Cherry MX switches, although there was no mention of any specific switch such as MX Blue or Red. Other than that, it is also a non-backlit keyboard with thick PBT keycaps.
Aside from the Barocco, the other products on display at Vortex’s booth were simply…well, on display, with no helpful bits of information. Needless to say, it’s hard to figure out if the other products were new, and there weren’t any Vortex representative at the booth when we visited it on two different occasions. Regardless, here are some of the keyboards found in Vortex’s booth.
Mechanical keyboard enthusiasts are no strangers to Topre, which is highly regarded as one of the best manufacturers of high-end keyboards. At its modestly sized booth, the Japanese company showed off its range of popular Realforce keyboards with Topre’s unique electrostatic capacitive switches, a new gaming keyboard, and a pressure-sensitive keyboard of some sort.
Topre’s Realforce keyboards have not had a change in design for over 15 years, yet the company’s head of sales of its electronic equipment division, Hidenori Yamane, claims that year-on-year sales for these keyboards have been increasing globally; he also sheepishly mentioned that it is simply not able to produce enough of these keyboards to meet this demand, and for that, “we are sorry.”
The new Realforce RGB keyboard is set to be Topre’s first new keyboard release in years – and even then, the company won’t be selling it until later this year. It’ll be the first backlit keyboard from the Japanese company, and even features the ability to alter the actuation points of each key. It should retail for around US$250 (about RM1,015) later in the year.
Unfortunately, the Realforce RGB doesn’t feel as premium as Topre’s other keyboards; this is probably due to the keyboard’s ABS keycaps – the Cherry-compatible stems will be useful in this regard. Thankfully, we were told that the keyboard on display remains a prototype, and it will be improved as the company works on it closer to the release date.
At Computex 2016, Topre again showed off its experimental keyboard with pressure-sensitive keys that it showed last year. It has a driver-based switch that changes the keyboard’s behaviour, letting you use it as a keyboard, a game controller, or even a keyboard and mouse combo…within a single keyboard.
To demonstrate this feature, Topre used a piano application. If we hit the keys with lighter strokes, the piano will give off a soft sound; hit it harder, and it will produce a louder, harsher tone. This is very similar to using an actual piano, which is quite something to emulate on a regular keyboard.
Here’s where Topre gave us one of the best moments of Computex 2016. When asked who exactly will this keyboard be targeted at, Hidenori asked his colleagues for a few seconds before sheepishly saying, “don’t know.”
This came after he mentioned that the company has already manufactured about 200 to 300 units of this keyboard for sale in Japan for around $300 (about RM1,220). So why did Topre do it? Again, a sheepish reply came with a smile, “for fun!”
Clearly, Topre seems like a great place to work at.
Although Tesoro did not showcase any new mechanical keyboard at this year’s Computex, it did show off an IR-based switch the company calls “Tesoro IR”; it seems Ducky wasn’t the only company that has such a switch on display.
However, unlike Ducky, Tesoro was more than happy to share more details regarding this new switch. The company elaborated that the Tesoro IR switch can be used on water-resistant systems, not to mention it also has – supposedly – faster response times than competing switches.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Tesoro IR switch is the fact that it is a pressure-sensitive switch, much like Topre’s experimental keyboard. Of course, it still remains to be seen how well a pressure-sensitive keyboard will work in real life usage, and Tesoro will unveil one later this year.
Speaking of pressure-sensitive keyboards, Wooting – a Dutch startup – has also unveiled its take on the technology. Much like the mysterious Ducky keyboard, Wooting also uses Flaretech switches – which can supposedly last up to a whopping 100 million clicks – for its new keyboard, the Wooting One.
Wooting’s concept of a pressure-sensitive keyboard is much the same as Tesoro’s: by measuring how much – or how little – light is passing through each keystroke, the keyboard can determine how much pressure is exerted. To top it off, the switches themselves can be removed, which makes the Wooting One a modular keyboard.
At the time of this writing, Wooting has already more than tripled its original funding goal, which is quite an achievement. If you’re keen to place your own order of the Wooting One, you can do so here.
Here’s something a little more cute for those who think regular mechanical keyboards are too plain-looking or “industrial.” This Lego style iRocks keyboard, the K76M, is actually available for sale now. It comes in four choices of iRocks’ very own switches: the tactile and clicky Blue, the tactile and quiet Brown, the linear Red, and an extremely light “Geek” switch, which appears to be a very light linear switch – it has an actuation force of only 28g.
Other than that, iRocks also showcased its very own electrostatic capacitive keyboard – its switches look a lot like Topre’s offering. Unfortunately, an iRocks representative mentioned that this keyboard is merely a proof of concept. He elaborated that iRocks isn’t sure if this keyboard will ever be released as the company isn’t sure if there’s a market for it. After all, the same representative mentioned that the keyboard can cost about US$150 (around RM605).
To our surprise, Rosewill only had one new mechanical keyboard for Computex 2016. Dubbed “RK-9000V2 RGB,” this keyboard features genuine Cherry MX switches. According to the product catalogue, it can be purchased with MX Red, Blue, or Brown switch. Not surprisingly, the RK-9000V2 RGB – as its name suggests – also has RGB lighting with six pre-programmed modes. These include Wave, Rain, Breathing, Bump, Trigger, and “Shining.” Other than that, this keyboard is also the first of its kind to feature Rosewill’s new gaming logo.
This particular brand may not be familiar to most Malaysians, but Cougar products are actually available locally. One of the most interesting mechanical keyboards showcased by the company at this year’s Computex is the Attack X3 RGB. Featuring Cherry MX switches and full per-key RGB lighting customisation, the X3 also has an exposed design – akin to the Razer BlackWidow X and certain Corsair keyboards – with an aluminium construction. Those who don’t fancy RGB lighting can also opt for the Attack X3, which only has a single colour LED backlight.
Last but not least is a brand that we ourselves were not familiar with. At its large booth, EpicGear displayed one of its latest mechanical keyboards, the “Defiant” – considering what the keyboard offers, it’s quite an apt name.
Unlike most mechanical keyboards in the market, the Defiant’s switches are actually removable: this effectively makes it a modular keyboard, much like the Wooting One. There are also various accessories to complement the keyboard, such as a wrist rest and a module that adds extra USB ports, media keys, as well as a USB Type-C port.
The Defiant stays true to its name even in the choice of switch. Instead of opting for the popular Cherry MX switches, EpicGear uses its own switches with the Defiant: these are namely Grey (similar to MX Red/Black), Orange (it feels a lot like MX Brown), and Purple (tactile and clicky like MX Blue). Although the Defiant does not feature RGB lighting, users can change the colours of the backlight with the company’s own light bars.
These features of the EpicGear Defiant are definitely interesting, and its retail price is pretty appealing: retailing at US$90 (about RM370), the Defiant is one of the more affordable mechanical keyboards. While EpicGear products are not available in Malaysia yet, a representative of the company does show interest in bringing EpicGear products to our shores.
Looking back at the various mechanical keyboards we saw at Computex 2016, RGB lighting seem to be a prevalent theme. Thankfully, some manufacturers are also trying out something more innovative, such as IR-based switches and a modular keyboard. It will be interesting to see how other manufacturers will attempt to push the envelope of mechanical keyboards in the future.
This article was updated on 7 June 2016 to include more info and photos.