Tag: keyboards

Some Observations on the HHKB Pro2

This will not be a full-blown review; there are enough of those from people with better perspective and writing skills than I.  This will simply be some observations made while I had an HHKB Pro2, and hopefully someone can glean some meaning from it.

Yeah, I said had an HHKB Pro2.  I don’t have it anymore.  No, it wasn’t stolen.  No, it isn’t broken.  I sent it back.

First, some context on my keyboard purchases and preferences so far:

Purchased boards and their outcomes:

  • SteelSeries 6GV2 (Cherry Reds) – ended up thinking reds were “flimsy,” board was sacrificed to the “learn to desolder/solder” gods (and most importantly, learned that I absolutely hate doing it)
  • Pok3r (Cherry Blues) – used for a long while, loved it, sold a while ago because I actually don’t care for the aluminum case and I swung over to a desire for TKL layouts
  • Leopold FC750R (Cherry Blues) – used for a while, loved it, currently selling because I’ve swung away from TKL layouts
  • CoolerMaster Novatouch (Topre 45G) – First Topre, used for a while, still using it, love it except for the rattle, haven’t decided whether I want to mod it with landing pads or sacrifice it to another Topre board for the MX sliders
  • TADA68 (Gateron Blues) – Love the layout, love the customization ability, will probably be my go-to for home use (gaming, primarily)

Other boards I’ve tested or otherwise experienced:

  • KUL Es-87 (clears, great board, sort of liked clears but not enough)
  • Filco Majestouch 2 (browns, excellent board, don’t like browns, too light/not enough bump)
  • Pok3rs with other switches (browns, see above, and greens, too heavy)
  • RealForce 55g (Phenomenal, but a bit too heavy for what I use Topre for, which is extended periods of typing)

So, my typing needs and preferences can be summed up like so:

  • I adore both tactile and aural feedback, which is why MX Blues have long been a strong preference of mine.
  • Topre is definitely my preference for long-term typing.
  • At least with MX Blues, I prefer plastic cases to aluminum; something to do with the sound of it.  Very hard to describe.
  • My work needs are to be comfortable typing for long periods.
  • My gaming needs are largely unknown, aside form the fact that I don’t like Topre for it.  It would be fine, but not my preference.
  • I still don’t really know my preferred layout.

OK, with that out of the way, here’s my primary impression of the HHKB Pro2:

It’s the best typing experience I’ve had, so far.

That sounds crazy coming from a guy who sent it back, but while I was thoroughly enjoying the layout and the typing experience in general, I found that I just cannot live without a dedicated arrow cluster.

Key foibles with this include the following, for me:

  • Hitting Up to re-run previous command line inputs
  • Using Ctrl+arrows and Ctrl+Shift+arrows to quickly move the cursor or highlight chunks of words

I thought just using the Fn-layer with the arrow cluster would be fine; I was wrong.  In this light, I should update my preferences to include “must have arrow cluster.”  I didn’t know; now I do.

So, here’s my “review”:

The HHKB Pro2 is among the best typing experiences available.  It is a unique brand of Topre, which is already a unique experience to start with.  It is super comfortable for long typing sessions, and while its layout involves some drastic changes, the right person can reap the rewards of what is a phenomenal board.  It doesn’t look like a $225 board at first glance, but it certainly feels like one.

It’s just not for me.

Slightly related news: I have a Leopold FC660C on order.  Review will occur.

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Running Diary – Trying Topre Again

So I got a CoolerMaster Novatouch  TKL again; I procured one a while back, but only kept it for a couple days.  It didn’t impress me much then, so I returned it and tried other boards until I decided on a Leopold FC750R w/MX blue switches.

Blues have been my favorites thus far, with Clears being intriguing and Zealios (62g is all I’ve tried) seeming nice (my experience limited to a poorly/partially assembled Clueboard that I’ll finish up someday, maybe).  But the Topre thing still sat in the back of my mind, especially considering that I kept reading things like “you have to give it a couple weeks.”

So, I’m giving it a couple weeks.  This will be a two-week running diary as I try Topre again.  This won’t be posted until I’ve made some sort of verdict.  That might be two days, two weeks, or two months.  We’ll see.

Here’s the board, along with my workspace:

IMG_20160504_154439

Some notes on my situation:

  • That’s a Cooler Master Novatouch TKL, purchased from a Redditor on /r/mechmarket.  The keycaps are a bi-color Vortex PBT set.
  • That numpad is a Leopold FC210TP with Cherry MX Blue switches.
  • That mouse is a Logitech MX Anywhere 2.
  • This is being used at work, where I am an IT consultant.  I do a large amount of typing as I am in an account management role, alongside being a systems engineer.
  • I still have the Leopold FC750R at home, which will still provide a contrast (it has the same keycaps on it as well, so that won’t be a factor).  Whenever I refer to “the Leopold,” it’s to that.  It has Cherry MX Blues, and it’s wonderful.
  • I also have had a Pok3r (that I’m selling very soon!), it’s also Cherry MX Blues.  So if I refer to a Pok3r, that’s what that is.
  • My strategy is this: with having different boards in different spots, eventually I will prefer one, and I’ll know because I’ll look forward to typing on the one I prefer.

So, here we go:

Day 1 (5/3/2016)

  • Got it around 11am.  Notified the seller that it arrived, checked it all out; everything looks great.
  • It feels like I remember it; a bit mushier than what I’m used to with the Cherry Blues, but not necessarily bad.
  • Man, including a braided USB cable is super cool, but giving it that 90-degree on the micro-USB end is super not cool.
  • I think a key reason I like Cherry Blues, specifically on that Leopold, is the sound.  All the snapping and popping.  Additionally, the hard plastic case of the Leopold gives it just a bit of a hollow reverb to all the clacking that’s delicious to my ear.
  • The Novatouch isn’t near as noisy, and I’m not sure I actually enjoy the “thock” of Topre.  Not sure if I’m just not used to it, or if it’s an actual preference.
  • One of my best friends who thinks I’m crazy with this keyboard thing tried out the Novatouch for a minute and almost felt in love.  He has a SteelSeries 6GV2 for gaming use (Cherry Reds) and that’s it; I think I just sold him a Novatouch without trying to.

Day 2

  • Banged out a lot of documentation today; I can absolutely say that Topre is better for long typing sessions.  I never experienced much fatigue on my Leopold or Pok3r, but there would be some on some of my longer sessions, because I bottom out like crazy.  I’ve been banging away on this thing all day and my fingers feel fine.  Great, even.
  • I don’t dislike the sound of Topre, I think I just really love the sound of plastic-cased Cherry Blues (and to a further extent, buckling springs).  However, once the headphones are in and I can’t hear it anyways, the Topre feels are starting to grow on me.
  • I typed some on my Leopold at home tonight; still nice.

Day 3

  • I looked forward to the Novatouch today.  Not sure if it’s because of newness or legitimate preference yet, but it is what it is.
  • There’s very small moments where I like the sound, even knowing that it’s a bit noisy with a Novatouch (when compared to the “finer” Topre boards).
  • Typed at night on the Leopold; one thing is for sure, I don’t think I’ll stop liking Cherry MX Blues.

Day 4

  • Switched DSA caps onto the Novatouch.  I think I like it more now.  I didn’t care for DSA caps on the Pok3r or Leopold, but strangely they feel much better on the Novatouch.  Not entirely sure why.  Might be some strange sort of confirmation bias or something, but I do like them.
  • Banged out more documentation and correspondence today.  No fatigue.  No perceived dip in typing speed (I might even be faster).  Comfortable.  This could be bad.

Day 5

  • Took it home for the weekend; haven’t typed on it much, but it immediately replaced the Leopold as the keyboard in front of my main desktop PC.
  • DSA still seeming really nice.  I was planning on selling some of the DSA caps I have, but that might change.  We’ll see.
  • Current picture below.  Pardon the mix-and-match caps; the DSA caps I have were purchased for the Pok3r, so I don’t have enough of either of the color schemes I have to fill out a TKL properly.  Also, pardon the poor light in my “office.”

IMG_20160507_190955

  • FYI, the DSA sets I have are: 60% base set in blue (BDJ, pictured above), standard modifiers set of Think Different (also pictured above), 60% base set in white (WAN, blanks), a 60% modifiers set in black (NEM, blanks), and a Numpad set in black (NEM, blanks).

Day 6

  • Banged out a blog entry.  I think it’s equally shocking that I’m liking Topre, and that I’ve come around on DSA profile keycaps.  This is a good thing; I love the way DSA looks and feels, but when I tried it before I just felt that the caps being lower made typing just a tiny bit more difficult.  It just feels…less so with the Novatouch.  Weird.

Day 7

  • Another day at work where typing up proposals and emails was phenomenal.  I figured out a better layout using the DSA caps that I had:

IMG_20160510_125326

 

  • Now I’m at home typing things up on the Leopold, and I realized that since I brought the Novatouch home over the weekend, this is the first I’ve typed on it in a while.  I still like MX Blues.  I don’t know which I like better.  This feels like a great problem to have.
  • One thing I dislike about the Novatouch: lack of LED indicators.  Would be real nice if there were indicators for CapsLock, the WindowsLock feature, and I guess ScrollLock.  Not a huge deal, but it’s one thing I definitely miss.
  • Another thing I dislike about the Novatouch: the case has this smoothish coating on the plastic that makes it a fingerprint magnet, which will annoy me to no end.  If I end up keeping this Novatouch, in addition to the silencing mod I’ll be painting or wrapping the case.
  • Full disclosure: I absolutely looked at other Topre boards on online stores today.  Oi.

Day 8

  • I can’t get over the fact that I like both of these typing experiences even though they’re completely different.
  • One random bonus: for whatever reason, it sounds like I type superhumanly fast to people over the phone; I think the lower pitch and chatter of the Novatouch (which I would eliminate with the silencing mod if I keep this board) contributes.  Still cool to hear “whoa, is that you typing?  yeesh” over the phone.

Day 9

  • I almost decided to work from home today.  Then I thought that I wouldn’t be able to type on the Novatouch if I did that.  I’m not saying it was the reason I ended up at the office, but I will certainly concede that it was reason.
  • I probably need some sort of psychiatric help at this point.
  • I might be planning a RealForce purchase.
  • I am sick.

Day 10

  • More of the same wonderful-ness at work today.
  • I did a substantial amount of typing at home with the Leopold, and my taste for MX Blues hasn’t changed; I still like them a lot.
  • While my heart may be desiring other Topre boards now, I don’t think it’s “sell all the MX boards” time either.  Maybe I just like everything.
  • OK, so I will have to sell something.  I can’t just keep buying keyboards.
  • Wait, maybe I can.
  • Oh boy.

Day 11

  • Because I’m indecisive and silly, I changed keycaps again.  Pardon the dustiness:

IMG_20160513_104353

  • Those are the stock PBT keycaps from my Leopold FC750R.  They’re beauts, and they feel great with the Topre feels.
  • I think everything might feel great with Topre.
  • I think Topre might be great.
  • RIP wallet.

Day 12 & 13

  • Didn’t do much typing these two days; just had lots of life stuff that didn’t involve typing.

Day 14

  • Final verdict on the Novatouch, as a board: it’s above-average build quality is acceptable for the price point.  Obviously the MX sliders on Topre switches are the main attraction, but it’s not the greatest specimen of keyboard engineering.  But it’s also not terrible.
    • Letter grade on overall quality that’s probably arbitrary and silly: C+
    • Negatives: finger-print-magnet case, moderate rattle with case and larger keys, strangely right-angled USB cable, lack of any status LEDs (CapsLock, etc)
    • Positives: braided cable, wire keypuller, great typing experience, lack of visible branding, sturdy despite rattle, ability to customize keys with Topre
  • As for a review of Topre, my two weeks is up and I think I’ve made a clear decision: while I absolutely enjoy Cherry MX Blues, I think Topre is right there as something I enjoy.  Specifically, I think I always want a Topre board for work, as extended typing sessions are pointedly more pleasant.
  • I am planning a RealForce purchase, though a FC660C might sway me.  No HHKB for me; the form factor just isn’t compatible with my needs.
  • I am keeping this NovaTouch, at least for now.  I need a good DSA set for it though.
  • My wallet, as always, weeps gently.