Keyboard Review: KUL ES-87

For all zero of you who know me, I’ve recently taken up a love for mechanical keyboards.  I’m ending what’s called a “test drive” phase, where I have a hunger to try all the different kinds of switches and “feels.”  It’s all very nerdy.

Anyway, I got a Cooler Master Novatouch TKL last week, to check out Topre switches.  I wasn’t terribly impressed (though I am not done with Topre), so when I returned the board I decided to get a KUL ES-87 in its place.  I wanted to check out the hype about KUL’s build quality, as well as to try out the Cherry MX Clear keyswitch, which is specifically in a weight class that I hadn’t tried before.

IMG_20160209_194351

Enough intro, here’s some opinions, for your mouth:

THE GOOD

  • The build quality is spectacular.  Heavy.  Firm.  Substantial.  This thing is meant to become part of your desk, with its weight and thick rubber feet.  When you’re not typing, be careful when picking this stone tablet up, as others are liable to think you’re getting ready to club them to death.
  • This board has a number of features that clearly make it an enthusiast’s board.  I don’t need to list them all off, but there’s a bunch of stuff us keyboard people like.  We like this stuff.  This board has that stuff.  Thumbs up.
  • MX Clears are nice.  Normally I love Blues, and was wondering how the feels would be with a heavier switch.  It feels fine.  I’ve tried to fatigue my fingers by running lots of TypeRacer tests, but either my fingers are meat sticks of wonder, or Clears are just fine for me.
  • The “unboxing” moment is nice.  It’s well-packed and presented.  Not a big deal, but it’s nice when you open a new keyboard, and everything’s nice enough to where it feels like you’re Link opening a chest in Legend of Zelda.  And now the “treasure-opening theme” is in your head.  YOU’RE WELCOME.

THE MEH

  • The included keycaps are pad-printed ABS, which isn’t great.  However, they do look and feel like better quality ABS than your average in-the-box offerings.  As a staunch PBT acolyte, I think it means something for me to think that I could bear these keycaps for a bit (though the second some shine occurs I would slap some DSA PBTs in their place faster than you can say “Pimp My Keyboard is a weird name for a website, guys”).
  • Ring-style keycap puller?  C’mon guys.  I SAID C’MON.
  • The cable’s OK.  It’s not braided, but whatevs.  It connects.  Yay.

WTF

  • The ping.  It’s been well documented.  It was present on my board.  It’s clearly the plate mounting amplifying spring noise, and the heavier spring in MX Clears probably makes boards with this switch worse than normal.  To make matters worse, there have been reports of KUL saying “well that’s just what it does.”  Well, sure guys.  You know what stops that?  A sheet of foam or other sound-dampening material on the bottom plate.  You know how I know this?  Because people in the community have done it, and it works.  It probably adds $0.10 to part costs.  That’s virtually nothing to make your keyboard stop sounding like a toy piano.

 

So, the KUL ES-87 is overall a great board.  I can’t speak enough on the overall build quality.  However, I can’t recommend it with Clear switches because of the pinging issue, and honestly I would prepare to add some sound-dampening material either way.  If you’re OK with doing that, then you’ll have yourself a near-perfect board.  Otherwise, I’d consider other possibilities.

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