In my ongoing quest to find my perfect TKL (mainly to use as a daily driver for work), I may have found a winner. For now, anyways; we all know this mechanical keyboard thing is a never-ending chase that will destroy our wallets. But anyways; this one is nice.
So far I’ve been able to experience a number of TKL boards, so my frame of reference is decent. I’ve checked out the CM Novatouch, CM QuickFire Rapid, WASD V2 87, Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition, and the KUL ES-87. I had some high hopes going into checking out the Leopold though, since what I’ve been able to find about it is that it stacks up really well with other premium boards.
This follows my last review of the KUL ES-87, and beating it will be a tall order. While I panned it for having a “ping” (this was with Cherry MX Clear switches), it was an extremely high-quality, thoughtfully designed board, and one I would absolutely consider as a daily driver.
This Leopold, however, is equipped with my current favorite switch, the old reliable-and-loud Cherry MX Blue. This won’t be a switch review, however, as we’ll be concentrating on the board itself.
Last couple things: pictures taken with a Nexus 6. Keyboard procured from MechanicalKeyboards.com, $114.00.
Contents are pretty straightforward:
- Dust cover
- USB cable w/attached velcro tie (nice touch!)
- Ring-style keycap puller (i.e. another thing to throw in the trash)
- Replacement stepped CapsLock key (with no LED window)
- Replacement ScrollLock key (with no LED window)
- Extra spacebar, because…yay?
- USB->PS2 adapter
First impression: this is a well-built keyboard. No flex at all if you try, using both hands. There’s a decent heft to it; not as substantial as the KUL ES-87, but heavy enough. The plastic case is thick with a nice rough finish that resists fingerprints.
Here’s a picture of the underside:
Features of note: thick rubber feet, thick and sturdy flip-out legs for some hot angle action, cable channels to route to either side. I noted that the top cable channel was especially snug, but not so much as to hurt the cable.
Now, to show off one of the primary features of this board: dem caps.
These PBT beauties are pristine. Pad-printed legends, but they’re legends you’re not likely to rub off due to their stealthiness.
The above picture is one of the Leopold PBT caps next to a Vortex PBT cap. They’re just as thick.
Now, some quick observations so we can wrap this up:
- Excellent build quality. I’d give the slightest of edges to the KUL ES-87, but both boards are phenomenal specimens.
- PBT keycaps; not often included, always appreciated. Side printing is very nice. as well.
- Overall good package; there are no glaring omissions from what I would expect from a $114 keyboard.
- Sound-dampening – I assume it’s working. There is absolutely zero ping on this board. And I tried to coax it out. None.
- Value – you’re getting a lot here for $114. Most other high-end TKLs don’t come with PBT caps, or build quality this good.
- Ring-style keycap puller: you may as well not include these, no one should be using them. Especially on these included keycaps.
- The spacebar has a pronounced hollow “thud” to it. I actually like it, but I could see it bothering others.
- The rubber on the flip-out feet is so grippy that if you push from the front of the board, you’ll un-flip the feet with enough force. Not a real issue, just sort of humorous.
- No DIP-switch features, though I don’t think many will miss them on a TKL form factor. This would be egregious on any smaller form factor, but forgivable here. Would be nice, though.
- This is only available in four switches: Red, Brown, Blue, and Black. Considering the popularity of Clears (and to a lesser extent, Greens), this seems like a bit of a miss.
I don’t think there’s any serious or meaningful flaw in the board. Though there are a few other high-end TKL boards I haven’t tried as of yet (Realforce, Filco, CODE to name a few), this is the best I’ve encountered. It lacks a few (possibly minor) features that other boards have, but those other boards also have weaknesses of some kind. This board has no problems, and comes with a nice set of front-printed PBT caps to boot. For $114, that’s an insane value.
To me, if you’re looking for a TKL, the only reason you wouldn’t want one of these boards is if it doesn’t come in your preferred switch type. That sounds dramatic and sensational, but I stand behind it.
So, this baby will be taking up permanent residence as my daily driver at work. Until the next thing comes along. Guh.