Author Topic: Leopold FC900R PBT DoubleShot review  (Read 417 times)

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Offline ikonomov

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Leopold FC900R PBT DoubleShot review
« on: Sun, 07 January 2018, 22:54:11 »
In a heart-wrenching disbelief I recently noticed some wear on the lettering of my Ducky Dyesub PBT keycaps.  Oh boy.  Iíve only used these keycaps for about a year.  Now I know that PBT keycaps start to shine after many years of normal use (much longer than ABS), but a properly dye sublimated lettering shouldnít be able to wear off as the dye would have seeped into the plastic itself, NOT sit on top of it.  I was happy to find out that Ducky have recently changed their supplier of keycaps, so hopefully their newest dyesub keycaps have been dyed properly.  So, off to shopping I went for new keycaps and the subject of this review.

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Previous experience has taught me that crŤme de la crŤme for my fingers means OEM thick PBT with o-rings.  With Cherry profile the o-rings reduce the travel too much.  The OEM keycaps must also have the normal design on the bottom with all 4 struts that support the stem.  Many keycaps have one of the struts that support the stem removed, and as a result the o-rings cause the keycap to slightly tilt and wobble when bottoming.  As can be seen in my picture below, normally the o-rings make contact with the base of the switch in only two places.  The hole of the piston is too wide, so the left and right sides of the o-ring donít really make significant contact with the base.  As little as it seems, it is adequate.  With keycaps that have only 3 struts, however, the top contact where the red arrow is pointing is missing.  Some keycaps donít have any struts, and they also cannot be used with o-rings.  After some searching and after I was told that the new Leopold DoubleShot PBT are OEM profile with all 4 struts I placed an order for 2 Leopold FC900R.

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4 struts:
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3 struts:
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Leopold FC900R, the good:

- Both FC900R and FC750R come with the most common Cherry MX key switches, in standard ANSI layout with standard spacebar spacing.

- The keyboard is not backlit.  Since itís a feature that I donít use I am happier to have a keyboard that doesnít have it, so I donít have to remember the Fn combination that turns it off in case it ever comes on.  If a manufacturer decides to make a version that has backlighting, I think it is very important to still have the standard version that doesnít.

- Compact case design.  This is the sturdiest keyboard case Iíve ever held that has a plastic frame.  It inspires a feeling of using something premium thatís built to last.  Iím sure most have seen the picture of the thin sound absorbing pad that Leopold installs inside the case, and I think there is some merit for its existence.

- Two-layer PCB.

- The USB cable seems thick and durable and is detachable with a safe connection port underside the case with channels to be routed straight, left or right.

- The keyboard has rubber pads on the tilt legs.

- There is a dip switch on the back to disable the Windows key.

Leopold FC900R, the bad and the baffling:

- Low speed USB controller with NKRO available with PS/2 and an Fn combination to switch between NKRO and 6KRO in USB.  Clearly this is something that has been overlooked by Leopold for years now.  Most new computers donít have PS/2.  Low speed USB controller means non-standard USB NKRO implementation.  This also means that the keyboard must be by default in 6KRO mode, because the USB NKRO without Full speed USB controller might not work properly everywhere.  There is no saving functionality, and if the keyboard looses USB power it will default to 6KRO.  The best would be to have Full speed USB controller with NKRO with a dip switch on the back for 6KRO compatibility mode.

- The keyboard comes with some extra Fn functions, but I would really like to have seen a dip switch on the back that allows to completely disable the Fn button and all its functions and use it as the standard right windows key (or have it disabled with the other windows key).

- Caps Lock, Scroll Lock and Num Lock have the LED indicators on the keys themselves.  Surprisingly the LED indicators are quite bright and well visible when lit, but I would like to have seen the indicators in their standard place on the case itself.

- Standard Cherry stabilizers.  They feel soft and mushy, but because most of the keys feel already softer than normal because of the Cherry profile described below, the difference between the normal keys and the larger stabilized keys donít seem as obvious.  As a whole, there is in fact no consistency in the feel of the keys, and the stabilizers used in this keyboard just add another flavor to the variety.  My preference is modified Cherry stabilizers.

- I bought these keyboards primarily for the keycaps, and sadly they have Cherry profile, or very close to it.  I was told that they are OEM, but looking and putting my fingers on these keycaps made me forget about their profile in an instant.  These are by far the most beautiful and well made keycaps I have ever seen.  Thick DoubleShot PBT with the whole keycap actually being PBT, an elegant and non-distracting font and really the perfect surface texture, not too smooth, not too rough.  I could not see any seams or difference on the surface of the keycap between the legends and the rest of the keycap.  The texture at the top of the keycap is one completely uniform surface.  This is the pinnacle of quality.

Now to the bad part of the keycaps, and really my biggest disappointment.  My first mechanical keyboard was Filco Majestouch, and since then my expectation of a keyboard has been to have a near perfect uniformity between all keys.  My current keyboard is a Ducky One, and the keys on the Filco and the Ducky are loud and crisp, with a near perfect consistency in the feel between all the keys on the keyboard.  Iíve come to appreciate the different feel and sound thick PBT provide, along with the sound and harshness absorption that rubber o-rings provide, but key uniformity must remain intact.

The first time I tried the Leopold I was surprised by how quiet the keyboard is.  My immediate thought was that it sounds exactly like my Ducky One with thick PBT and rubber o-rings.  The more I typed on it, the more I felt that something felt distinctly different.  On closer examination, I noticed that different keys feel and sound differently.  The following photo shows the bottom of six keys that Iíve removed from each row of the keyboard.
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They have slightly different height, but more importantly the 4 struts that support the stem are slightly of different height, and in fact the keycaps on the 3rd row all have only 3 struts, because they are not tall enough.  It is my belief that the way these keycaps are able to absorb the sound and harshness when bottoming is by hitting the top of the key switch with the 4 struts on the bottom of the keycaps.  The contact is still plastic on plastic, but because there are 4 contact points and they donít all come in contact with the key switch perfectly at the same time, the sound and harshness is softened.  On a keyboard with OEM keycaps, when a key is bottomed the contact at the bottom of the travel comes from the piston of the switch hitting the bottom of the switch casing which rests firmly against the PCB.  When these Leopold keycaps hit the top of the key switch, some of the sound/harshness is also absorbed by the top casing of the key switch.  The problem with this keyboard in particular, and it might be with other cherry profile keycaps, is that there is a very obvious inconsistency in sound and feel between the keys on different rows.  The keys on row 3 are completely dampened, with a noticeably shorter travel, keys on row 1, 2 and 4 are dampened but with little to no travel reduction, while most keys on row 5 and 6 sound loud and crisp, same as if they have OEM profile.  I donít have a way to measure it, but I think the reason the keys bottom differently on each row is that the struts that support the stem are placed at slightly different distance from the end of the stem, especially on the 3rd row.  Furthermore there is a slight but noticeable tilt or wobble towards the front when bottoming the keys.  This is similar to the tilt that happens on OEM keycaps that have 3 struts that support the stem with rubber o-rings installed, except the tilt is in the opposite direction.

It is not impossible for me to imagine that a well designed and manufactured keycap set with Cherry profile can provide the typing experience that I get with OEM keycaps and o-rings, but until I am able to test one, Iíll hope to see more OEM profile keycaps with 4 struts that support the stem, similar to the old Ducky Dyesub PBT (new ones have 3 struts), but DoubleShot and with the same build quality as the Leopold.

I'm really curious if anybody that has IMSTO keycaps have noticed a similar behavior.
« Last Edit: Mon, 08 January 2018, 10:00:54 by ikonomov »

Offline Riverman

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  • Location: Seattle, WA
Re: Leopold FC900R PBT DoubleShot review
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 12 January 2018, 12:42:17 »
I used to have a slightly older FC900R with front-printed PBT keys.  I always thought the keys were very consistent in their feel, but those didn't seem to have the differences on the bottoms that yours do.  It was the quietest MX keyboard I've used, presumably because of the thick felt sound absorbing pad that lines the bottom of the case.  I ended up getting rid of it because it was too loud for work, and as you noted, o-rings don't work very well with Cherry profile keys, or Leopold's almost identical "step sculpture" profile.  I currently have a Varmilo VA108M with QMX clips.  I think the QMX clips work wonderfully with Cherry profile keys, which Varmilo also uses.  I don't have any real issues with the Cherry stabilizers that either Leopold or Varmilo uses.  The stabilized keys aren't quite as crisp as the ones on my Filco, but I like how easy it is to remove the caps, and that trade-off is worth it to me.