I just received my first mechanical keyboard, a KBT Pure Pro, and I thought it could be interesting to share my first impressions, should any other newcomer be tempted to get a 60% board as his first mechanical too.
First a little bit of context: I've been using an Apple Wireless keyboard (chiclet type) quite intensively (typing and gaming) for the past 4+ years, as it was the best solution I found at the time to get a compact layout with relatively good key feel (it was an improvement over the laptop-style keyboards I had been using until then). Despite being a Windows user, it worked fairly well — I worked around the mapping limitations with AutoHotkey, and so I've become accustomed to using shortcuts and layers fairly extensively.
Not long ago I realized that it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable to use this keyboard for hours everyday. At the end of last week I was really fed up, and after a bit of reading and searching for a compact board I was about to get a Shine 3 TKL when I found this small keyboard which had the switches and layout I wanted, arrow keys, was smaller and cheaper, so I hardly thought twice and pulled the trigger.
Here are the features of this particular model:
- MX Red switches
- ISO-FR layout
- white backlighting
- arrow keys in the lower right-hand corner
I chose red switches for my first board as I read that blacks can be tiring, that plenty of people are happy with reds for gaming and
typing, that there was no point in getting browns if I was bottoming out (which I am, plentifully), and I wanted a quiet keyboard, so blues were out of the picture.
I was not searching specifically for a backlit keyboard, but there were several options for this model at no extra cost, so I went with white LEDs; I find purple (/pink/magenta) LEDs to look awesome, but white is more flexible as it is possible to change color with led caps, so I went with the option that gave me the most choices.
The arrow keys were an especially important consideration since I often use them with modifiers for a variety of applications, so in my case having them on a separate layer seemed impractical. Besides, some games require them and cannot be remapped (you can work around this with AutoHotkey, but still).
I was very important to me that it remained compact, so I chose to sacrifice the F row instead of getting a bigger TKL; I was a little bit concerned about that and was not sure how I would adapt, but it was less of a gamble than getting the bigger TLK at twice the price (and I only learned about 75% layouts after).
So, let's see how the thing fares.Content of the box: keyboard, 1.6 m long USB cable, manual printed on an A4 sheet.
Upon picking up the keyboard for the first time, I was positively impressed. It feels nicely substantial and heavy, to the point that I thought the construction was all metal. The case is in fact plastic, so the metal plate alone does a wonderful job at providing a solid feel. The keyboards weight 570 g.
The plastic case is flat black with a slightly textured feel which I find satisfying enough. Not especially luxurious, but not cheap either. The 3 mm sides only flex if you want them to and press hard. Looking at side pictures, I thought it looked bulky, but that impression does not translate in reality; I may have preferred a slightly lower profile case, but I still find it nice out of the box.
Four rubber strips under the case act as feet, and do not allow it to be adjusted in angle. The inclination is correct for me though, and the fact that it rests on four large feet means that it is super stable. Because it is so small, it is still very easy to reposition on your desk with one hand, but it won't move if you don't want it to. One small snag: the feet left black marks on my desk; I may replace them with 3M bumpon material if it lasts.
The mini USB port feels right — firm, not wobbly, although I did not tinker with it extensively for obvious reasons. I did not check whether it had thru-hole anchors on the PCB or just relied on surface soldering points to hold. I'll update this review later when (/if) I get to opening the case.
The caps are ABS. I know they are not particularly popular, but out of the box they feel good enough for me; the top is smooth, very slightly rubbery, not slick like used caps. Yet.
We'll see how they age.Layout
As a 60% keyboard, the Pure Pro does not have dedicated F— keys or Print Screen/Home/etc. keys. I was already using modifier keys (often AltGr) to remap the latter with AHK on my compact Apple keyboard, but I was worried that the lack of F-keys would be impractical. However, after a few hours, I find the 60% layout to be perfectly usable: with one FN key on either side of the spacebar, the function layer is easily accessible anywhere on the keyboard. More importantly, the fact that it is a hardware layer frees some combinations for me to use in AHK (which I use to remap keys and launch macros on a per-application basis). It might cause problems if you play games with twitch gameplay and need to access these keys in a split second (in which case a modifier key will always be a handicap); otherwise, it is really easy to adjust, to the point that I'm considering not
ordering the 75% keyboard I intended to buy to complete this one.
The only problem I currently have with this layout is one I did not pay attention to: the size and layout of the bottom row. The presence of the arrow cluster with one PN and two FN keys means that everything will be a bit cramped, and I would have liked bigger Win, AltGr, and more importantly Shift keys. However, this is not enough of a problem to make me feel disappointed. Despite its small size, the space bar is perfectly usable, I appreciate the fact that I have Del and Backspace above the Enter key, and I prefer this layout with arrow keys than one without and with bigger keys; I'll certainly adjust soon, but if you're new to keyboard layouts, pay extra attention to the size and layout of these keys
. Cap replacing may be an important consideration too, although I am not too bothered for now.Switches
The red switches feel amazingly right to me. They are light and really easy to activate, but not too sensitive either, and I can rest my hands on the keyboard without actuating the keys. They have just the right amount of "give" so I can type effortlessly, although I'll have to improve my typing to get the most out of it — I sometimes double-type because I think the key has not registered, but it has; consequence of being accustomed to inferior keyboards I guess. Still, even though I constantly bottom out for the moment, the typing experience on these keys is a blast compared to what I used before. And, surprisingly (remember, I wanted a quiet board), the clack of the bottomed out keys is in fact so pleasing that I don't think I'll try to soften them with o-rings.Backlight
The backlight is a nice feature, although not absolutely necessary. The white LEDs actually have a bluish tint to them, so that's a rather cold white. There are 7 levels of brightness, and the setting is saved when the keyboard is disconnected, or the computer powered down. I find that the LEDs hurt the eyes a bit at higher brightness settings.
If you're picky, you'll notice that there is a slight problem with light distribution: legends are not evenly lit on some keys; it's fine on single letters, but longer legends (capslock, backspace, and especially enter) are only partially lit at low settings. On these keys the usual arrow symbols would probably have looked better. Also, since number and punctuation keys have their symbols on top of each other as opposed to side to side, only one of the two is lit. Similarly, the function mappings printed on the front of the keys remain unlit; they would be if the LEDs were underneath the switch as on the Pure, but then the top of the keys would not be lit properly. These are not real turn-offs however, especially since you should know your layout and not need to look at your keys, but I wanted to mention it for the sake of completeness.
All in all, I am really pleased with this board. I was expecting more bumps, but the transition is rather smooth. If I buy another keyboard in the future, that would be to try something else, not out of dissatisfaction with this one. The Pure Pro may have a few snags, but to me they're not off-putting, and it shouldn't take long before I fully adjust to it.