Replacement for the Filco Tenkeyless - The Leopold FC200R
Many of you have been surprised when Elitekeyboards announced that they would no longer carry Filco keyboards and instead will stock up on a different line of Cherry MX keyboards in 2011. With a few people peeking at the Elitekeyboards website source-code and quickly noticing a few changes, the cat did not remain in the bag for too long: The Korean brand Leopold will replace Filco keyboards in the Cherry MX lineup.
But what do we know about the Leopold keyboards? Unless you are fluent in Korean - probably not much.
Luckily, Elitekeyboards have been kind enough to hook me up with a sample unit free of charge, so I can give you guys a quick impression and a first advance look at what Leopold keyboards offer and how they compare to our beloved Filcos. The review sample I have received is the FC200R’s Japanese cousin - the Archiss AS-KB87T. Aside the name, the keyboard is identical to the Leopold FC200R that Elitekeyboards will be stocking in 2011.A bit of history
Leopold is a Korean brand and online shop specialized on input devices. They were one of the first shops to start dealing mechanical keyboard and accessories when the “keyboard craze” started in Asia. Founded in 2005, they already released several products aimed at keyboard enthusiasts such as the first ever Filco double-shot keycaps, exclusively limited Topre Realforce keyboards and more recently WASD gaming keycaps made of rubber!
The FC200R is Leopold’s own mechanical tenkeyless keyboard. The keyboard was actually designed by the very same person who originally designed the Filco. Re-made from scratch in cooperation with the Japanese brand Archiss many of its features are based on customer feedback and ideas such as:
- Detachable USB cable
- Better stabilizers for the bigger keys
- More durable keycaps
- Only optional branding/logos - no print or logo on the case to keep a sleek look
When taking the keyboard out of its box, current Filco owners will be reminded of their first time unboxing a Filco. In fact the packaging is almost identical. The FC200R comes packaged tigh in a cardboard box, protected by a clear-plastic cover that can also be re-used to protect the keyboard from dust.
Everything else we need and expect is here too. We get the 1,6m (5,25 feet) long cable with a cable tie and a USB to PS/2 adapter to make use of the full N-Key rollover.Come a little closer...
Weighting 1.1kg (2.42 lbs) the Leopold is slightly heavier than a Filco tenkeyless and just about an inch wider. The case design is simple and sleek. No visible logo, no extra text, no extra LEDs and smooth rounded corners should satisfy most purists.
The back of the case reveals six rubber feet to give the keyboard a tight grip on your desk. Just like the Filco, this keyboard will not move around on your desk.
The standard expandable feet allow you to type at a higher angle while still keeping grip from the two extra rubber feet.
Taking a closer look at the mini-usb plug for the detachable cable, you will notice that it lets you setup the cable exactly to where you need it. The FC200R comes with three “cable channels”, a feature inspired by vintage keyboards to give you freedom about the cable alignment with almost any desk setup.
As previously mentioned, the keyboard has no extra LEDs for the lock states. Instead the LEDs are found directly in the keycaps. I think this is a great feature, but some people tend to disagree because it also makes finding fitting replacement keycaps much harder. On the other hand, if you are not a fan of bright LEDs you can always replace the keycaps with non transparent ones and enjoy a keyboard with no distracting lights.
By default the FC200R ships with ABS keycaps with white laser engraved legends. Similar to the Filco, the simple, italic font should satisfy most people. No fancy Lord of the Rings fonts here; no blurry, upscaled pixelfonts - just a very sharp and readable font.Quality and construction
The standard keycaps have a slightly rough texture and feel similar to uncoated Filco keycaps. The lasered legends are very sharp and thanks to the laser-infill method also very high in contrast. The downside to this is that you can slightly feel the legends on the keycaps under your fingertips or with your fingernails. This is normal for modern lasered keycaps and should be less noticeable after a few weeks of usage.
Despite the same profile and a similar design, the Leopold keycaps are slightly thicker than Filco keycaps.
Plate mounted switches and a very stable case construction held together by eight plastic clips and three screws deliver a solid typing experience. There is no obvious flexing or bending of the plate or the case. The case construction seems to be on the same quality level as Filco keyboards.
The first look with the plastic shell off instantly reveals that the keyboard was indeed designed from scratch. No Costar controller, entirely different PCB design.
The PCB design is very clever and future proof, as it already comes with full support for possible international variants. Support for L and J shaped Enter as well as a few European and Korean extra keys is already there. Don’t get too excited though! So far no international version has been announced, but maybe the wait will be shorter than with the international Filco variants this time.
The bigger keycaps are being held by Cherry-Corp stabilizers, which provide a much more stable and virtually flex-free solution compared to wire-based stabilizers. The LEDs are of a medium-bright grade and of blue color. I do not know whether LED color varies based on the switch type like with Filco keyboards or if they are all blue.N-Key rollover, the rip-o-tine and transportation errors?
When using the keyboard over USB we get the maximum supported keypresses of up to six keys+modifiers. Of course, being a full n-key rollover we get real n-key rollover when connecting the board via PS/2.
In the past there have been a few transportation issues with other boards and the rip-o-tine has turned out to be a kinda reliable and quick way to test a keyboard for basic transportation errors. I ran the FC200R through it a dozen times and have not noticed any errors.Conclusion
The Leopold FC200R is a very solid and well designed keyboard. There is no doubt that it can keep up with the Filco. The few clever differences such as the improved stabilizers or the removable cable might even make it more desirable to some.
Those of you who were afraid that Elitekeyboards would not be selling “elite” keyboards anymore should not worry too much. This is a very worthy replacement and will not disappoint new buyers and maybe even a few Filco fans. The Elitekeyboards newsletter already hinted that these would be priced at a more competitive value which is a definite plus too!
According to the Elitekeyboards newsletter, the keyboard is currently scheduled for January or February 2011.
- sixty out.