Author Topic: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.  (Read 2679 times)

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Offline PunkxRonin

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Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« on: Sat, 17 May 2014, 23:48:30 »
First off let me say hello, this is my first post here. I found the site while doing research for a new keyboard. My old one was some no-frills Dell plastic dome keyboard. Not really knowing much I used it for years until it finally started to give out and a cluster of keys decided to stop working all together.

I have tested out the feel of mechanical keyboards and have come to the conclusion that Cherry MX Browns feel best to me.

I'm a pretty avid PC gamer (just every type of genera), and this is a major consideration for my purchase. Having done some research elsewhere and here I realize a lot of "gaming keyboards" are little more then added macro keys and branding. Aside from gaming I program and always have some kind of media player running so media keys are kind of important (even if they're not dedicated, just some way for me to switch through music with my keyboard is a must). Finally I'm kind of a design geek, and love simple and sleek, so lots of these over-designed and over branded gaming keyboards and specialty boards drive me nuts. Seeing some of the keyboards posted here with colored, text free keys have me wanting some thing as elegant, so finding a keyboard that will easily allow me to buy custom keycaps down the line is a bit important as well.

Because of this I'm debating a few mechanical keyboards and I'd love some help narrowing the choice down.

Here's the ones I'm debating:

Noppoo Choc Mini. I dig the compact design with out having to fully sacrifice the number pad. I like the media keys clustered around WASD. The over all simplistic and compact look is appealing. I'm a little worried it will take some getting used to due to me being used to a full size keyboard. also I hear the space key isn't standard size, so a custom space key is not possible?

Cooler Master Quick Fire Stealth. Another tenkeyless. More simple and compact design. I wasn't fond of most of Cooler Master's designs (they seem to over brand their products and I'm not a big fan of their font type on the keys) so the stealth looked like a good option.

Ducky Shine 3 or Shine 2. Both look amazing, the LEDs look beautiful especially the Shine 3's light modes. I'm not sure about it's multimedia keys however, are they hidden under a function key like the other boards mentioned?

Corsair Vengeance K70. Full sized board with dedicated multimedia keys, back lit LEDs and solid looking body. I'm not sold on the looks/styling however, and the Cherry MX Brown switches seem to be low stock/out of stock every where I've checked.

Right this moment I'm leaning toward the Noppoo Choc Mini, but I'd really like some help/advise.

Thanks in advance.

Offline Defect

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 00:15:46 »
Own both the Choc Mini and the Shine II

Love love love the layout of the choc mini.  I still say its the best gaming layout.  However, the keycaps are hard to replace (short right shift, bottom row mods) and the spacebar is impossible to replace (5.5 unit).  Also when I swapped the switches on mine I was not impressed with the "factory" soldering.  The soldering was so bad that I had an easier time switch swapping my Shine with LED's.  Other than that, no problems and still use mine today.  Love the layout for gaming, which is why I threw linears on it.  Might buy another to use ghost blacks.  I'm ranting again.

The Shine II I'm actually modding currently.  Just swapped out all the alphas to panda clears.  I digress.  Great quality all around, have no complaints about it other than the fact that I hate full size...only use it at work.  Lightning modes are nice and again, just very strong quality.  Higher quality than the choc.

If you have questions about MX switch variants feel free to PM me.  I love discussing switches :)

I personally would recommend holding off on an expensive board until you're sure you've tried a few switches.

Potato pic of my choc mini (camera is not with me at my current apartment)
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« Last Edit: Sun, 18 May 2014, 00:17:38 by Defect »

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Offline feizor

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #2 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 00:41:56 »
Further to Defect's comments, I would like to add that having tried both ducky and quick fire rapid (same as stealth with different print on keycaps), you should try before you buy.

The ducky is heavier and more sturdy than the quick fire, with a thicker case cover. The quick fire is covered in a rubber feel paint which can rub off with extended use, especially if you are moving it around.

The big difference is that quick fire uses costar stabilizers and ducky uses cherry stabilizers. I very much prefer the costar stabs. They are much better at maintaining the feel of the keys. The cherry stabs make the keys feel mushy due to the extra friction they create. This effect is lessened if you choose a heavier switch like cherry MX blacks.

The ducky shines have LEDs which the quick fire does not. Unless you get the new quick fire rapid-i.

Offline slickmamba

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #3 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 01:14:20 »
Also take into account what type of gaming you do.  I play FPS games a fair amount with a low DPI/Sensitivity and a good balance between table space and comfort is important, meaning that a smaller board is more comfortable without having to turn the board too much, or hitting the side of the board with my mouse. 
Hi :)

Offline PunkxRonin

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #4 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 01:23:17 »
I've played around with Cherry MX Blues, Reds and Browns. Haven't been able to try Blacks yet. From what I've felt I prefer the Browns. Blues feel good but I think the clicky-clack would eventually get to me. The Reds are too mushy for my tastes (at least they were on the Corsair Vengeance K70 I was typing on). They seem like they would be great for FPS gaming (which I do enjoy), but would lead to a lot of typos when I'm coding/typing which would be annoying. The Browns felt like a good middle ground, solid enough to be enjoyable to type on but smooth enough for good double-taps and constant clicks from gaming.

Unfortunately I don't know where I can get to try out a Ducky, Coolermaster or Noppoo in person. I'm in Colorado (Denver area) and most of the retail stores I've visited keyboard selection is limited to Razor and Logitech. And when I asked if they had any "mechanical keyboards" I was met with blank stares of bewilderment. Amusing but not overly helpful.

That's a good point about the Quickfire, I've seen some videos of the rubber coating having warn off and that would be disappointing to have happen.

I think I'm leaning toward the Noppoo Choc Mini. Defect's choc mini is beautiful, i would love that sitting on my desk.

All I know is I need to decide soon because I'm currently using a 10 dollar Staples branded throw away board to hold me over till I can decide/order one and it's driving me nuts.

Offline strict

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #5 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 01:26:15 »
feizors comment about stabilizers is an excellent point. Stab choice can make or break a board for me. I very much prefer Costar stabs, they can sometimes rattle a little and can be more noisy in general but they do a much better job preserving the feel of the switch. Properly lubricated Cherry stabs can feel very close to Costar but IMO costars will always win out.

The Corsair K65/K70 boards seem to get pretty universal praise. I really like their styling as well, the exposed switch tops are reminiscent of some of the high-end Korean custom boards (GON, KMAC, etc). Im pretty certain they use Costar stabs as well.

Theres a decent number of CoolerMaster owners around here but I'm not a fan of them at all. From my experience, they feel pretty cheap and that godawful rubber coating on the case ends up collecting dirt/grime and eventually rubbing off in some spots which makes your board look like crap. The font they use is almost always hideous as well.

Duckys seem to be pretty well regarded around here but I can't really comment on them as I've never used one.

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Offline Defect

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #6 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 02:00:10 »
Just to re-iterate, if you plan on modding the board or buying replacement keycap sets, the Choc Mini will not be your friend.  If you want a good stock board with a 75 layout, I would recommend it. 

Of the 75 boards (KC84, Choc Mini, Race) the old KC84's are my favorite.  IIRC, the KC84's caps are the most standard.  The Race's are the most odd. 

The Choc has a unique and impossible to replace spacebar, but also has POM caps that I really really enjoy on linear switches.  The Choc was my first board and my only regret was buying one with blues.  The Choc is not backlit, which is perfect for me (a gaming board should NOT have any lights).  No need to pay for unused bells and whistles.

I have heard that KeyCool is switching to MX-Compatible (clone) switches instead of Cherry for their newer boards...*sigh* why.

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Offline feizor

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #7 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 02:43:17 »
Just to re-iterate, if you plan on modding the board or buying replacement keycap sets, the Choc Mini will not be your friend.  If you want a good stock board with a 75 layout, I would recommend it. 

Of the 75 boards (KC84, Choc Mini, Race) the old KC84's are my favorite.  IIRC, the KC84's caps are the most standard.  The Race's are the most odd. 

The Choc has a unique and impossible to replace spacebar, but also has POM caps that I really really enjoy on linear switches.  The Choc was my first board and my only regret was buying one with blues.  The Choc is not backlit, which is perfect for me (a gaming board should NOT have any lights).  No need to pay for unused bells and whistles.

I have heard that KeyCool is switching to MX-Compatible (clone) switches instead of Cherry for their newer boards...*sigh* why.

Cheaper me thinks

Offline Sagii

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #8 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 03:12:26 »
What you said about the media keys: I was in the exact same position, and therefore limited myself to a small range of keyboards. However, you should look into Autohotkey. It basically turns any combination of keys into a macro, including media keys like forward, backward, stop, play/pause, and it's insanely easy to use. I assume you're gonna use mostly the same computer/s most of the time when you're using a media player, so to be fair, you don't need media keys on your keyboard :) (that's my opinion at least) And if you like sleak designs, check out some 60% formfactor keyboards, like the KBC Poker and Poker 2 (they don't have F keys or arrow keys. Except for the KBT Pure Pro which has arrowkeys). I just ordered a KBC Poker 2 myself :D Worth noting that a Poker 2 is fully programmable from the getgo, and all the bindings will be stored onboard, so you don't need any programs or anything :) It also has every function a fullsize keyboard would have, even more maybe.
Even though I definetely had my eye on the Race 2 and Choc, the deciding factor was the non standard caps for me.

Offline PunkxRonin

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #9 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 03:27:00 »
So if I was looking for a tenkeyless keyboard with that minimalistic look with the aims of down the road modifying it with custom kaps, what would be a good board to look at?

Also thanks for the tip on Autohotkey, i'll check that out, may save me some time and trouble.

Offline Sagii

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #10 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 04:03:30 »
So if I was looking for a tenkeyless keyboard with that minimalistic look with the aims of down the road modifying it with custom kaps, what would be a good board to look at?

Also thanks for the tip on Autohotkey, i'll check that out, may save me some time and trouble.

From what I've heard around here everyone recommends the QFR (well, most do) as a very good place to start. From what I know it's got standard caps (please correct me if I'm wrong!), and the Ducky also got standard caps. For a 75% the best option would probably be a keycool 84, and for 60% I know that at least the pokers have got standard cap sizes.

EDIT: Bear in mind I have no first hand experience with any mechanical keyboards :)) I'm actually waiting on my first mech as of right now (A Poker 2)! This is all stuff I've learned from around here ^^'
« Last Edit: Sun, 18 May 2014, 05:41:44 by Sagii »

Offline Razor Lotus

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 05:32:19 »
I would suggest the ducky tkl or the cm one depending on budget :)


Offline Azure Flash

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #12 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 05:44:05 »
I own a Noppoo Choc Mini with blues. It was a bad experience... the USB connector was badly soldered to the board, and as soon as that got fixed the switch for the Delete key died, possibly shoddy soldering as well. The build quality is pretty minimal on it. I also would like to draw your attention on the rightmost column of keys... It annoyed me thoroughly that Home/End were on the Fn layer, and that the Del key wasn't in the upper right corner like it should be. I suggest you avoid Noppoo unless you are really broke and cannot afford anything else, and even the Noppoo can get expensive if you go through a middleman service for buying on Taobao or the likes. You can get neat compact layouts from more reputable brands like Poker, Ducky and Leopold.

Offline Sagii

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #13 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 05:54:14 »
I own a Noppoo Choc Mini with blues. It was a bad experience... the USB connector was badly soldered to the board, and as soon as that got fixed the switch for the Delete key died, possibly shoddy soldering as well. The build quality is pretty minimal on it. I also would like to draw your attention on the rightmost column of keys... It annoyed me thoroughly that Home/End were on the Fn layer, and that the Del key wasn't in the upper right corner like it should be. I suggest you avoid Noppoo unless you are really broke and cannot afford anything else, and even the Noppoo can get expensive if you go through a middleman service for buying on Taobao or the likes. You can get neat compact layouts from more reputable brands like Poker, Ducky and Leopold.

Might be that you were really unlucky with your Noppoo.. I read a lot of reviews etc. and I never once read that anyone had problems with the quality. Of course, the quality isn't (from my understanding) as good as some other more high end brands, but I've only heard good things about it anyways. Also, they layout is obviously not for everyone, and I'll have to admit that End and Home not being on the main layer would actually annoy me as well :p

Offline Defect

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #14 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 09:39:41 »
I own a Noppoo Choc Mini with blues. It was a bad experience... the USB connector was badly soldered to the board, and as soon as that got fixed the switch for the Delete key died, possibly shoddy soldering as well. The build quality is pretty minimal on it. I also would like to draw your attention on the rightmost column of keys... It annoyed me thoroughly that Home/End were on the Fn layer, and that the Del key wasn't in the upper right corner like it should be. I suggest you avoid Noppoo unless you are really broke and cannot afford anything else, and even the Noppoo can get expensive if you go through a middleman service for buying on Taobao or the likes. You can get neat compact layouts from more reputable brands like Poker, Ducky and Leopold.

Might be that you were really unlucky with your Noppoo.. I read a lot of reviews etc. and I never once read that anyone had problems with the quality. Of course, the quality isn't (from my understanding) as good as some other more high end brands, but I've only heard good things about it anyways. Also, they layout is obviously not for everyone, and I'll have to admit that End and Home not being on the main layer would actually annoy me as well :p

Noppoo's choc mini has gone through different changes throughout the year--I have read batches of bad reviews and then batches of positive reviews.  Personally I've never had problems so I have no problem recommending the choc, but this is something you as a new buyer should be aware of.  I would hate to have a recommendation turn to a sour lemon.

If you have decided on TKL as the form you want, it is super easy for me to recommend QFR.  In terms of quality for dollar, QFR cannot be beat.  For 60 bucks you get something that only falls slightly short of Filco quality (100-120 price range).

They are often on sale new for around 60 USD.  A bit overpriced if you buy it at full price, so wait for one of those (very common) sales.  Also you can pick up a second hand one pretty cheap.  There's a whole board on this forum for QFR case painting.


If you need backlighting for who knows why, then I'd recommend Ducky.  (Go QFR)

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Offline PunkxRonin

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 20:36:24 »
I also would like to draw your attention on the rightmost column of keys... It annoyed me thoroughly that Home/End were on the Fn layer, and that the Del key wasn't in the upper right corner like it should be.

I'm a little confused, from the pictures and layouts I've seen of the Noppoo Choc mini the home/end key are along the right side of the board. From top to bottom it goes Del, Home, PgUp, PgDn, End. No function Key needed


As for the suggestion of the QFR I'm concerned about the rubberized coating. I think could rub off in places and that would bother me. Plus aside form the Stealth, CM boards are way over branded for my tastes.

Offline rowdy

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #16 on: Sun, 18 May 2014, 22:58:43 »
I also would like to draw your attention on the rightmost column of keys... It annoyed me thoroughly that Home/End were on the Fn layer, and that the Del key wasn't in the upper right corner like it should be.

I'm a little confused, from the pictures and layouts I've seen of the Noppoo Choc mini the home/end key are along the right side of the board. From top to bottom it goes Del, Home, PgUp, PgDn, End. No function Key needed


As for the suggestion of the QFR I'm concerned about the rubberized coating. I think could rub off in places and that would bother me. Plus aside form the Stealth, CM boards are way over branded for my tastes.

Original QFR were over-branded.

More recent ones have a logo on the back edge of the keyboard (where you normally wouldn't see it at all), and the CM logo on the Windows keys (maybe).  Keycaps are easily swapped, and that is the first things more people do with a QFR as the legends are not looked upon with fondness.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

NEC APC-H4100E | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED red | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED green | Link 900243-08 | CM QFR MX black | KeyCool 87 white MX reds | HHKB 2 Pro | Model M 02-Mar-1993 | Model M 29-Nov-1995 | CM Trigger (broken) | CM QFS MX green | Ducky DK9087 Shine 3 TKL Yellow Edition MX black | Lexmark SSK 21-Apr-1994 | IBM SSK 13-Oct-1987 | CODE TKL MX clear | Model M 122 01-Jun-1988

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Offline PunkxRonin

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #17 on: Sat, 24 May 2014, 21:11:18 »
Hey guys I wanted to thank you for all your input and advice.

I settled on a CM Quickfire Stealth with Cherry MX Browns. It showed up the other day and I love it. Fits great on my desk, feels way better then my old full board and the mechanical switches are so satisfying to clicky clack.

Down the road I may get some new keycaps to customize it because that sounds like fun. But for now I'm just enjoying it as its a great upgrade.

Thanks again guys.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #18 on: Sat, 24 May 2014, 21:12:53 »
Soon you will become disillusioned with modern Browns and decide on sexy sexy ergo Clears. In the interim, enjoy the new keyboard.  I quite like the Cooler Master keyboards given their price.

And you will definitely want new key caps at some point.  Once you try thicker PBT or ABS you'll be a convert.

Offline PunkxRonin

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #19 on: Sat, 24 May 2014, 21:21:19 »
And you will definitely want new key caps at some point.  Once you try thicker PBT or ABS you'll be a convert.

Where would you recommend I look to get new caps when I decide to do that?

Offline nubbinator

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #20 on: Sat, 24 May 2014, 21:23:16 »
And you will definitely want new key caps at some point.  Once you try thicker PBT or ABS you'll be a convert.

Where would you recommend I look to get new caps when I decide to do that?

Every now and then you can find a cheap G80 or G81 keyboard on eBay that will have nice doubleshots on it, though it won't be a full set.  Otherwise, look at the GMK or BSP group buys that happen on here.  I'd recommend avoiding Originative.

Offline rowdy

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Re: Taking the leap to Mechanical: Seeking some advise.
« Reply #21 on: Sat, 24 May 2014, 21:33:48 »
Hey guys I wanted to thank you for all your input and advice.

I settled on a CM Quickfire Stealth with Cherry MX Browns. It showed up the other day and I love it. Fits great on my desk, feels way better then my old full board and the mechanical switches are so satisfying to clicky clack.

Down the road I may get some new keycaps to customize it because that sounds like fun. But for now I'm just enjoying it as its a great upgrade.

Thanks again guys.

Thanks for the followup :)

Always nice to know that a recommendation has been well received.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

NEC APC-H4100E | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED red | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED green | Link 900243-08 | CM QFR MX black | KeyCool 87 white MX reds | HHKB 2 Pro | Model M 02-Mar-1993 | Model M 29-Nov-1995 | CM Trigger (broken) | CM QFS MX green | Ducky DK9087 Shine 3 TKL Yellow Edition MX black | Lexmark SSK 21-Apr-1994 | IBM SSK 13-Oct-1987 | CODE TKL MX clear | Model M 122 01-Jun-1988

Ị̸͚̯̲́ͤ̃͑̇̑ͯ̊̂͟ͅs̞͚̩͉̝̪̲͗͊ͪ̽̚̚ ̭̦͖͕̑́͌ͬͩ͟t̷̻͔̙̑͟h̹̠̼͋ͤ͋i̤̜̣̦̱̫͈͔̞ͭ͑ͥ̌̔s̬͔͎̍̈ͥͫ̐̾ͣ̔̇͘ͅ ̩̘̼͆̐̕e̞̰͓̲̺̎͐̏ͬ̓̅̾͠͝ͅv̶̰͕̱̞̥̍ͣ̄̕e͕͙͖̬̜͓͎̤̊ͭ͐͝ṇ̰͎̱̤̟̭ͫ͌̌͢͠ͅ ̳̥̦ͮ̐ͤ̎̊ͣ͡͡n̤̜̙̺̪̒͜e̶̻̦̿ͮ̂̀c̝̘̝͖̠̖͐ͨͪ̈̐͌ͩ̀e̷̥͇̋ͦs̢̡̤ͤͤͯ͜s͈̠̉̑͘a̱͕̗͖̳̥̺ͬͦͧ͆̌̑͡r̶̟̖̈͘ỷ̮̦̩͙͔ͫ̾ͬ̔ͬͮ̌?̵̘͇͔͙ͥͪ͞ͅ