Month: December 2016

Review: Leopold FC660C

I appear to cross paths with Leopold products frequently.  I’ve had a FC210TP numpad for a while, I’ve reviewed the FC750R and loved it, and here I am in the Topre life with a FC660C.  There’s a decent chance I’ll be in for an FC980M/C at some point as well, since that old Cherry G80 layout is possibly an end-game work layout for me.

Luckily, Leopold is a pretty damn good brand, and the FC660C is honestly the pinnacle of that goodness.

THE BOARD

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FC660C, modded with Novatouch stems and Hypersphere rings, with blank black PBT caps from a FC660M, and a red ESC from Elitekeyboards.com

It shouldn’t surprise anybody that a Leopold board feels sturdy and well-made.  The FC660C is no exception.  Despite it’s demure size, I’m rather sure I could beat someone to death with this board.  I would never do such a thing (murder, nor ruin a wonderful keyboard), but the point stands.  Solid plastic shell (and I love the texture on it; resists fingerprints), sturdy flip-out feet, well-placed and quality rubber pads to keep the board in place.  All what you would expect, and it coalesces into a very substantial-feeling piece of hardware.

The DIP switches are of typical fare; Ctrl/CapsLock swap, Win/LAlt swap, Win/Fn swap, Lockout Win key.  It would have been nice to have had some more typical DIP switch functionality (or heaven forbid, full customization, but I digress), but what’s there is the necessary stuff, which is fine.

The keycaps, like most Topre boards, are phenomenal.  The font is readable and inoffensive, the PBT is smooth with the slightest bit of texture, and the dye-sublimated legends are pristine.  Really hard to ask much more.  Of course, I’ve Novatouched and silenced this board, so those Topre caps are now in a bag.  Great caps though.

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The overall feel is excellent.  Sort of a sturdier version of the HHKB, which is to be expected considering the boards being very similar, save for the difference in case-vs-plate mounting.  Long typing sessions are easy and enjoyable, and that’s a testament to not just the Topre mechanism but also the quality of this board.

The layout is the main reason one would be curious in the FC660C, though.  Many would say the HHKB has the better overall typing feel, and I actually agree (though I do feel the difference is very small, at least to me).  However, those all-important arrow keys are present on the FC660C, and they are a major reason I purchased this board.  If a dedicated arrow cluster means nothing to you, then by all means get the HHKB.  I use them far too much to relegate them to the function layer, and that’s my personal taste.

Overall the layout is rather fantastic, though.  Fn+Arrows give you PgUp/PgDn/Home/End, which seems so obvious it should be a part of every keyboard ever.  While a dedicated Insert key seems like a rather niche feature, I can’t say a dedicated Delete isn’t welcome.  The other function layer keys are in the same positions as the HHKB which is fine because those were good positions anyways.

One complaint is a common one with 60-70% keyboards; the Esc “thing.”  Most manufacturers put the tilde key on the function layer, under Esc.  However, they also allow Shift+Esc to yield a tilde as well; this annoys me greatly, because it then prevents the use of the Ctrl+Shift+Esc Windows shortcut (which opens Task Manager, and that’s very useful).  Not a huge problem (especially in Windows 8/10, where Win+X brings up that awesome poweruser menu), but it’s a consistent annoyance that isn’t unique to this keyboard or Leopold.

Another is the lack of volume and media controls.  I’m not sure which is more annoying; the lack of controls or the small amount of work it would have taken to add them.  You wouldn’t even have to add them to the keycaps if you didn’t want to; no one would have complained (at least I wouldn’t have).  Again, this isn’t unique to this board or Leopold, but I still think it’s a glaring omission that bears mentioning, even if many boards and manufacturers are guilty.

Luckily, AutoHotKey can fix these layout/mapping issues.

To sum it up: this is a fantastic board, and a wonderful representative of Topre quality and good craftsmanship.  It’s not for everyone, as many will prefer the TKL (or full-size) layout of a RealForce or the pure minimalism of an HHKB.  But for those who like the minimalism plus arrow keys, it’s hard to go wrong with the Leopold FC660C.

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