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8 unusual keyboards that add variety to your typing

8 unusual keyboards that add variety to your typing

It’s crucial to upgrade more than just your desk chair now that many people are working from home permanently. In addition to making typing more enjoyable, a good keyboard can reduce pain or even completely alter the way you work. Here are a few that deviate from the norm yet are nevertheless worthwhile of your attention.

On this, Frederic Lardinois and I collaborated, and we ranked the songs from least to wildest. I’ll pick up where I left off with the Moonlander, which is in fact rather bizarre, but Frederic has also added some seriously bonkers alternatives for those with additional fingers and brain lobes. Ortholinear? Concave? Seriously?

1. Topre Realforce

1. Topre Realforce

Topre is an unapologetically retro throwback to a more innocent era when everything was beige and macro just stood for macaroni. Sometimes the old ways are the best. Due to its incredibly cosy and vintage feel, Fujitsu, the company that manufactures and sells the Realforce keyboards, are a cult favourite. The keypresses are quiet and evenly spaced, and they feel substantial but do not fight your fingertips.

The press has a particular sturdiness to it that feels mildly resistant the entire time rather than altering throughout, and it produces a very pleasant and quiet low-register sound that makes me feel productive. These are the silent keycap option, to be clear.

They have a more conventional full-layout keyboard with media keys and other layer-type features, so I decided to test it out. They also provide a “Happy Hacking” HHKB variant that keeps the same aesthetic but has a much smaller layout with the left ctrl key placed next to the caps lock. The more you consider it, the more logic it all makes! There is also one with a printed macro layer that has a more gamer-like appearance. But for some reason, I chose the worn-out beige one.

Because it was never fully fashionable, this look and feel have never actually gone out of style. Topre boards have been a dependable, if pricey, solution throughout the mechanical keyboard renaissance and are still in use today. But why not give it a try now when everything is pricey due to inflation?

2. Keychron Q2

2. Keychron Q2

For anyone who wants to customise up front and have a distinctive look and feel, this is a relatively high-touch alternative. There are many other types and configurations available from Keychron, some more reasonable than others, and the Q series is the most expensive of all. However, you can replace out all of its keys and caps for a choice of sets that are offered on the website, so it’s also intended to serve as the basis for later versions.

The Q2’s secret is that all of its keys are positioned on a kind of floating plate with a double gasket design that reduces noise and makes bottoming out the press seem forgiving. It seems more like laying down a yoga mat for your fingertips than it does bouncy or unstable at all. I’m not sure if I should be selling it here, but it’s extremely cosy. Although I might just be more accustomed to a higher actuation force, I could use a little more depth.

The same method is now available in practically every layout imaginable, in addition to some others. Although I enjoy the small footprint of the Q2 layout, it ultimately seems a little crowded and is not conducive to my working style. Although Frederic claimed it required some fine-tuning to find the sweet spot, I believe the Q3 is it for me.

The inability to alter its angle, though, eventually prevented me from utilising this for a longer period of time than I did. The entire structure is strong, making it really stable, but there aren’t any extendable feet to lift up the back should you, like me, prefer a little more rise or have a thick wrist rest (bring your own, by the way; the one they gave was shaky). I ultimately had to wedge a ruler under there, which seems out of place with a keyboard that is almost $300.

3. 1800: Keychron Q5

3. 1800: Keychron Q5
With its Q-series of bespoke keyboards, Keychron aims to cover every keyboard form factor. There are now 65 percent, 70 percent, 75 percent, 80 percent, and 100 percent models available, all of which have per-key RGB lighting and a gasket mount with aluminium covers and plates. But the new Q5 with its 1800 layout is the most intriguing model in the series thus far. Although it eliminates the space between the numpad and alpha keys and crams the arrow keys below the enter key, that is essentially a full normal keyboard with a numpad. I really enjoy a decent numpad when I see one, and the 1800 layout is a pleasant alternative to the larger full-size choice, even if I spend the majority of my time on 65 percent keyboards.

The Q5 represents somewhat of a comeback for Keychron. The company’s GMMK Pro clone, the 75% Q1, had a few difficulties, but nothing that a few adjustments couldn’t fix, but the 65% Q2 worked flawlessly right out of the box. While I didn’t test the Q4 or Q5, the Q5 is once again excellent right out of the box, with no unpleasant case ping and a good typing feel. The Q3, which I reviewed here, also needed some effort to make it sound and feel terrific. The Q5 costs $10 cheaper without the knob in the upper right corner and around $195 after built, including shipping. The pre-installed switches are either Gateron Pro Red, Blue, or Brown, with the colour possibilities of blue, black, or grey (my personal preference is blue). You may always swap those out or choose a less expensive barebones kit without switches or keycaps because the board is hot-swappable. Although Keychron currently offers sells $40 sets of its own Cherry profile double-shot PBT keycaps, the keycaps are still of the normal Keychrone variety and are flawlessly solid. I was amazed with the quality of those given the pricing.

If you absolutely must have a numpad, the Q5 is the best option. I myself haven’t found it to be a problem, but Devin won’t like the fact that you can’t change the typing angle on them [Editor’s note: I don’t like it]. The primary issue I have with the Q5—and actually most of the Q-series boards—is that I wish the typing experience had a little bit more bounce right out of the box. Given that, in my experience, the gaskets usually wind up being crammed quite closely between the top frame and case, I’m not sure they really grasp the possibilities of the gasket mount.

4. Kinesis Freestyle Pro

4. Kinesis Freestyle Pro
Although I’m typing on this one right now because it was the last to arrive, The Freestyle Pro joins the Realforce in the world of the practical with a split keyboard that retains a mechanical feel. The fact of the matter is that this keyboard is not especially logically laid out and is somewhat hefty. But because its wristpads and tenting mechanism are so tightly integrated, I’ve found it to be the most comfortable to type on.

The keys themselves definitely need some lubrication because they lack the frictionless and tactile qualities found on the other keys on this list. However, the ability to tilt and realign the keyboard halves as well as the plush, inclined wrist rest make for a generally comfortable experience. It seemed to be meant to be once I put everything in place.

However, the keyboard’s layout is grid-like and peculiar, combining a 75 percent layout with a larger set of pre-printed macro keys in a way that feels awkward to me. The F5-F9 cluster is divided, Esc is a quarter mile away to the top left, Delete is also far to the top right, and I can feel the type on the keycaps. I would be in love if Kinesis underwent a redesign with a nicer, more condensed symmetric layout or with arrows and functions in place of the NumKey attachment. I’ll accept “less wrist ache” for the time being.

However, it must be acknowledged that the Kinesis family does for significant redesigning of its layout, including the addition of layers and other niceties. It might not be precisely sleek, but it is useful.

5. Matias Ergo Pro

5. Matias Ergo Pro

The Matias Ergo Pro is a split-tenting mechanical keyboard that shares some similarities with the Kinesis but has a much more compact layout, which requires less desk space and looks less like a set of black dinner plates. Although smaller and firmer, the wrist rests are still comfortable.

The Matias utilises more tactile switches than the majority of the other boards I tried, and its switches are a touch louder but not clicky. In my opinion, it has a better layout than the Kinesis because the F-keys are split more evenly, the navigation buttons (PgUp, PgDn, Home, End, and arrows) are grouped together in a small area to the southeast, and only the most important macros (cut, undo, etc.) are kept in a single column to the left of the tab.

I dislike the recessed Esc key, and on the right half there is a bizarre extra key that is oddly set to “N” rather than “function,” which would make the awkward media keys and Print Screen key much easier to press. The space keys feel opulent because of the bottom row’s oddly large size, which was necessary to make room for the navigation cluster. Additionally, the space bar has a scoop out of the case, which I found to be a sensible addition given that I frequently push on the extreme edge and have a tendency to bang the case on other boards.

The tenting possibilities are where it falls short. Given that the keyboard is already tall, the little fold-out feet only provide a single tenting angle, and that angle is relatively shallow. Although the keyboard is placed somewhat awkwardly on the rubber feet’s corners, it is stable (and very squeaky when slid out of the way). You can also choose a negative tilt, which lowers the rear of the board while leaving the rest high and may be more comfortable for some.

6. Drop + OLKB Planck/Preonic

6. Drop + OLKB Planck/Preonic

Ortholinear keyboards, where the keys are organised in a tidy rectangle rather than being staggered, may appear to be an oddity that is difficult to type on at first and, at best, an ergonomic nightmare. The Drop + OLKB Preonic and its smaller, Planck-style companion don’t elicit quite the same feelings from me as any other keyboard in my collection, without a question.

It’s not a cheap toy to play with either, costing over $200 for the base kit plus switches and keycaps, but there’s a good reason why these keyboards have such a devoted following. It’s not because they sound fantastic or make typing seem particularly opulent; after all, it’s just a standard tray-mount keyboard with an aluminium shell (the see-through polycarbonate version, in my opinion, sounds a little better and lets the few LEDs show through. You’ll need some time to adjust to the new layout as well. You’ll need to master dozens of key combinations distributed across two layers because there are only 59 keys on the Preonic and 47 on the Planck. You’ll learn to touch-type on these keyboards if you couldn’t previously, but it won’t necessarily be useful when you move back.

For someone who types a lot, the main benefit of this layout is how remarkably ergonomic it is despite being entirely flat. You never have to move your wrist when typing because it is so little. Finding the correct keys may need some effort at first (it truly confuses your head at first), but after a week or two, it comes naturally. And for that reason you would purchase one of these. Because you want to try a completely different manner of using a keyboard, either for the sake of it or for health reasons, not since it hits all the latest mechanical keyboard buzzwords – because it’s the exact antithesis of that.

7. Moonlander

7. Moonlander

Are you considering stepping up your keyboard productivity? The ZSA Moonlander may be the finest method to simultaneously do more without using a mouse than ever before and stop someone else from using your computer when you’re not around.

The Moonlander is a great way to get started using a keyboard in a different approach that focuses on customising the layout to meet your individual needs. This is so that the community and tools are focused on the learning process in addition to the keyboard’s incredible hardware and software customization. This keyboard is by far the most portable of the bunch, and I appreciate that each piece can be adjusted with a hex wrench so you can obtain the exact angle you want as well as loosen it all the way, fold it up, and put it in the protective carrying case.

The difficult element for me wasn’t the large number of blank keys or the thumb cluster that could be changed at will; I quickly mastered those tasks using muscle memory. It’s the columnar arrangement, which I had a difficult time adjusting to the entire time. Although it is undoubtedly the better layout, the keys are aligned vertically and offset horizontally, which is the opposite of a “regular” keyboard. This made my brain quite frustrated. However, when I was able to temporarily align my awareness with the Moonlander’s, even for a brief period, it seemed so right and seamless that I wanted to make it second nature. Of course, that wasn’t really an option as I had to test a lot of other keyboards, but I could feel the spark.

Of course, the Moonlander’s keys may be changed, so I chose a thin linear set. They press arduously.

8. Angry Miao’s Am Hatsu

8. Angry Miao’s Am Hatsu

Angry Miao is known for its extremely expensive, unconventional keyboards. The Am Hatsu tops the Cyberboard, which has a huge LED matrix panel on the rear. One of the few wireless split-ergo ortholinear keyboards on the market, it is made of aluminium and had a suggested retail price of $1,600. Although there aren’t any current plans for more production runs, you might be able to find one secondhand now and then. Getting used to the futuristic-looking Am Hatsu keyboard took even longer than learning to type on a regular ortholinear keyboard. Your finger movements end up having to be somewhat different because it has a kind of concave dip for your hand to fall into and there is no way to alter it, just enough to occasionally strike the wrong key.

The Enter, Control, Alt, and Delete keys are located in a thumb cluster on the bottom left and right, or on two sides, like some other split ergo keyboards. Because you’ll be using the Delete key frequently to correct typos in the beginning, your brain will fight this concept until you force it to accept it.

The Am Hatsu does not allow you to swap out the switches, so if you prefer something other than the linears that are included, you are out of luck. Fortunately, Angry Miao employs excellent switches, so that’s not really a problem. Additionally, VIA QMK cannot be used to customise the layout, unlike practically every other contemporary mechanical keyboard.

The USB-C charging connector is oddly placed on the bottom of each side of the device. That won’t be an issue if you purchase the Cybermat, which the manufacturer created to wirelessly charge the Am Hatsu. Hey, if you’re going to shell out that much money for a keyboard, why not spend a few hundred more for a wireless charging mat? keyboards-header
Image Credits: TechCrunch/Frederic Lardinois
It’s crucial to upgrade more than just your desk chair now that many people are working from home permanently. In addition to making typing more enjoyable, a good keyboard can reduce pain or even completely alter the way you work. Here are a few that deviate from the norm yet are nevertheless worthwhile of your attention.

On this, Frederic Lardinois and I collaborated, and we ranked the songs from least to wildest. I’ll pick up where I left off with the Moonlander, which is in fact rather bizarre, but Frederic has also added some seriously bonkers alternatives for those with additional fingers and brain lobes. Ortholinear? Concave? Seriously?

Because it was never fully fashionable, this look and feel have never actually gone out of style. Topre boards have been a dependable, if pricey, solution throughout the mechanical keyboard renaissance and are still in use today. But now that everything is expensive because of inflation, why not give it a shot?

Amelia

Amelia is a content creator and marketer at Zabric.net where she develops resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Outside of work, she enjoys writing and tinkering on side projects.

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