Author Topic: ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard  (Read 2057 times)

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Offline HungerMechanic

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ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard
« on: Sat, 30 May 2020, 22:08:13 »
Introduction

My ABKO K935P arrived in the mail several weeks ago, after a speedy trip from Korea. I purchased it because of the positive reviews I had seen, and the typing demonstrations that were posted. It has a bright and neutral look, so itís at home in multiple settings. The MX keycap compatibility sealed the deal for me, because I have an existing stock.

I once owned a Leopold FC660C. Having waited ages for it to become available, and ship to Canada, I didnít find that it met my needs. I donít need a 65% EC keyboard, and the layers that entails, so the form-factor wasnít right. But I also didnít like the keyfeel, which felt less refined than a silenced Realforce 86U I had typed on previously. The Leopold was loud, and felt about 5 gr heavier than it should. So when I noticed a 45 gr EC TKL reputed to have a pleasant sound, I went for it.

When my K935P arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by how closely it resembled reviews and descriptions seen elsewhere. Mine arrived in near-perfect condition, with only a faint blemish on the right-hand edge of the case. Below [following the image] is a description of some characteristics of the keyboard.



Sound

Deep, melodious burble. Thatís the sound the ABKO makes. Like water traveling across the surface of a babbling, rocky brook, yet not as runny. Boiling water is the closest approximation to the ABKO, as several reviewers have noted. Yes, sound is the first thing about the ABKO that stands out, (besides the OG beige-ish keycaps). The boardís sound level is actually not very high, since the stabilizers donít creak and there is no ping or reverb. But the volume of the EC rubber domes is louder than silenced MX tactiles. In fact, the ABKOís switches are about as loud as Kailh Pro Purples in a budget aluminum board.
 
Whatís different is the depth and pitch of the sound. Stock MX light-tactiles, and most clones, give a Ďchitter-chatterí sound. A high-pitched plasticy chitter. Not so with the ABKO. It is really an entirely different class of sound. Itís a kind of Topre-like thock, probably not exactly the same. If you listen carefully, you might be able to hear a little scratchiness in the domes. So it's all quiet and thock, except for the faintest of brushing rubber sounds.

It is quieter than what I remember from the unsilenced FC660C. That keyboard could definitely be heard in the next room. Not so much this one. The sound profile is relatively uniform, at least compared to a Leopold with MX Browns. The modifier keys, stabilized keys, and spacebar are all near each other's volume level, although not identical. The alpha keys are very thocky. The Enter and Backspace keys are among the deepest-sounding keys on the board.

Tactility

Now, the tactility. I would say that this is among the less tactile electro-capacitive keyboards that I have tried, maybe even the lowest. The Leopold FC660C I previously owned was much more tactile, and also noticeably heavier. Even if it was listed as the same 45G weight.
 
The ABKO is closer in feel to a user-silenced 45G Realforce 86U that I once tried. I would say that the 86U was slightly more tactile, but they are comparable. The force profile of the ABKO's domes is very much like that of rubber domes, as expected. There is almost no pre-travel, then a resistance at the top of the switch. Once overcome, the resistance does not collapse or become linear, but is fairly consistent towards the bottom. This is in line with my Topre experience, in which there is greater tactility towards bottom-out than on conventional rubber domes. If I did not allow the switch to upstroke quickly enough, I was at greater risk of accidental double-tapping than with a comparable MX keyboard.

Compared to Topre, the ABKO feels more 'linear' to me, and this is likely an effect of the NIZ Plum domes it apparently uses. The weight is there, but the tactility is more subtle. It is closer to MX in feel, hence the 'linear.' In fact, I would say that the AKBO feels like 'tactile reds,' in that they are close to Reds in weight, but with a constant tactile resistance that is not present on most MX switches. It doesn't have the 'squashed-cricket' tactility of MX Browns that some find offensive. But it also doesn't have the full richness of unsilenced heavy Topre, and shouldn't be purchased by people looking for that. The key feel is somewhat comparable to Kailh Pro Purples, which were probably designed to resemble light Topre, but without the Pro Purplesí scratchiness and noise. My mid-weight Ergo Clears feel more crunchy and tactile than the ABKO.

In other words, the ABKO may be a middle-ground between MX Ďinterrupted-linearí tactility, and the rich, heavy tactility of Topre.



Keycaps



ABKO Escape key on the left, EnjoyPBT Escape key on the right

Here we come to one of the most interesting parts of the keyboard, at least for some. They deserve their own section, as the keycaps are both a strength and weakness. A strength because they are made of thick PBT. A weakness because the lettering appears to be pad-printed or laser-etched.

The keycaps are a classic white/beige colourway, although not classic Cherry. The whites are a brighter, whiter magnesium shade closer to Honeywell than 9009. I tried installing some coloured 9009 modifiers, but they did not suit the ABKO's brighter scheme. The beige modifiers are grayish or bluish in hue, rather than yellow or green. So it's almost more white/gray than eggshell/beige.

The caps themselves appear to be Cherry-profile, but not the Cherry we're used to. The higher rows, such as the function keys, are taller than OEM. So maybe it's the classic R0 profile. Most of the board conforms to the Cherry height and sculpt that we're now accustomed to. The manufacturer claims it is both 'Cheery' [sic] and SS2-profile. For the purpose of comparison, I installed some Tai Hao ABS keycaps. The Tai Hao are clearly taller in profile for the most part. However, on the top row, the Tai Hao F-keys are actually shorter than the ABKO. This suggests that AKBO's top-row is taller than OEM. The top row of the ABKO navigation cluster is almost as tall as OEM.


The uppermost row of ABKO keycaps (beige) in comparison to an OEM-profile Tai Hao ABS double-shot (Pause). Note also the legending on the gray Tai Hao keycap, in contrast to the other beige ABKO keycaps.


The keycap material is PBT, fairly porous or pumice-textured. This aids in their grippiness. There is a wide, shallow scoop to the keycaps, which prevents them from cupping fingers in the way that DCS profile or MT3 might. The keycap surface is just a little too wide and shallow-scooped for my liking, although still fine. If you want to understand the ABKO's keycap profile, imagine ePBT Cherry-profile PBT, but the keycap surface is more of a "smiley-face" compared to the flatter ePBT. The Tai Hao keycaps feel cheaper and thinner, since they are. Notably, their surfaces feel narrower. And they are slightly more plasticy in sound. The Tai Hao keycaps also appear a little crooked in comparison to the AKBO's, although this might be a feature of Tai Hao's QC.
 
I would say that ABKO's modified Cherry-profile suits this keyboard when used at desk-level, although OEM should work fine. It would be interesting to try MT3 on this keyboard. In a bonus section following the review, I describe my impressions of replacement MX-stem keycaps on the ABKO. Suffice to say, the ABKO keycaps are the most suitable for the board, and appear to be carefully designed to suit the EC switches.


Appearance / Build


Very bright and reflective in the outdoor sun.

The keyboard's appearance is modern and streamlined. The metal upper-case is silver in colour, and would probably go well with a wide variety of MX keycaps. I think blue-white or gray sets would look good, such as GMK Shoko, maybe Oblivion Mono. The undimmed colours of the stock keycaps are a bit stark in intensity, and can reflect brightly outdoors. There was a tiny piece of plastic residue attached to the delete key, which I will have to remove. Since the keycaps are MX-stem, I am not worried about the fuzzy, low-contrast lettering that comes stock.

The ABKO lacks features now seen by some as essential, such as a detachable cable, USB-C, extra CAPS LOCK swap keys, RGB, QMK, DIP switches, but I donít care. Itís overall a very cohesive build.
 
Despite the metal case, the ABKO handles like a comparable Leopold TKL, maybe itís a bit heavier. It feels halfway between an office rubber dome, and a heavy custom case such as that of a KBD67. And when you think about it, thatís kind of what it is.
 
One area of concern is the keyboard legs. When swapping them between the on/off position, I find them a little flaky instead of positive in actuation. There is a heavy, but flat initial resistance, and then the legs just collapse / extend. There could be an issue with durability over time.


Conclusion


The ABKO K935P is a pleasant-looking and even more pleasant-sounding Topre-like keyboard. It should be able to fulfill office duties for serious typists, and gaming duties for casual gamers. Its boiling-water sound is unmatched in any stock board I have tried, and it is at a reasonable level. The weighting is very similar to MX light-tactiles, and it is very easy to transition between them. In fact, it should be easy for anyone used to office rubber-domes or factory MX tactile boards to quickly adopt this keyboard.

It is a subtle keyboard, both in terms of sound and feel, and is easy to type on without fatigue. It does not, however, climb the heights of tactility. This is not your Topre 55G, and forget about BKE domes, because those it ainít. These are qualities to keep in mind when making a purchase decision.
« Last Edit: Sat, 30 May 2020, 22:51:45 by HungerMechanic »

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: ABKO K935P V2
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 30 May 2020, 22:08:59 »
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Offline jamster

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Re: ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard
« Reply #2 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 21:37:32 »
Nice review, now I want to go out an find one of these.

So these are not factory silenced at all? I'm wondering because you describe it as even less tactile than a silenced 86U. I don't have any experience with NIZ EC domes to compare it to. My Royal Kludge was factory silenced, which makes the tactile experience close to linear, but there's also a very obvious reduction in sound.

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard
« Reply #3 on: Sun, 31 May 2020, 21:56:54 »
It's hard to say, because I don't have a lot of experience with Topre. Some reviewers say that the ABKO is factory-silenced, using rings.

I can only assess it on a relative level. The ABKO sounds quieter than what I remember of the unsilenced FC660C. However, it may not be as quiet as a user-silenced lubed Realforce 86U. I would say it is quieter than stock Topre, and may be considered factory-silenced by Topre standards.

My board is about as loud as light tactiles like MX Brown, but with a much deeper and lower-pitched sound, and less scratchiness. It is not as quiet as BOX Silent Brown. On a good day, I guess you could say that my ABKO is about as quiet as a Zilent board that hasn't undergone full silencing.

Offline funkmon

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Re: ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 01 June 2020, 00:15:21 »
Okay. So. If I have $150 and I want a fake Topre, do I buy this board?

Offline jamster

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Re: ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 01 June 2020, 05:53:52 »
In which case the question factory silenced comes into play... my factory silenced fake board feels almost nothing like my stock Realforce. It does feel 'worse' or 'better' it just feels very different.

This does make me want to find out how common factory silencing with rings is.

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 01 June 2020, 08:04:12 »
Okay. So. If I have $150 and I want a fake Topre, do I buy this board?

I wouldn't buy this board as 'fake Topre.' I would buy it as 'alternate Topre.'

The tactility isn't exactly the same as Topre. For one, I find it's easier to interchange between rubber domes, MX, and the ABKO, than it was with genuine Topre.

In other words, if you're looking for the real thing, buy Topre. If you're looking for a nice EC keyboard, and this ticks your boxes, buy this. The best thing would be to try them beforehand, somehow. This isn't Topre, it's its own thing that's also good.

If you're looking to mod it with BKE domes, then maybe it is the right choice. Since you'd be transforming a stock board in any case. Keep in mind, though, that the ABKOs are more tricky to mod with aftermarket domes, because the PCBs are more sensitive to dome and spring placement.

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard
« Reply #7 on: Thu, 04 June 2020, 20:17:54 »
Nice review, now I want to go out an find one of these.

So these are not factory silenced at all? I'm wondering because you describe it as even less tactile than a silenced 86U. I don't have any experience with NIZ EC domes to compare it to. My Royal Kludge was factory silenced, which makes the tactile experience close to linear, but there's also a very obvious reduction in sound.

After using the board some more, I can answer your questions in more detail.

The sound level of the board is 'fairly quiet.' You can carry on a phone call while typing on the board, and it doesn't seem to make much of a presence on the other end. At least, not as much as a Cherry unsilenced tactile. The board is definitely quieter than Browns / Clears. It's about comparable to Zilents V2.

The tactility is also somewhat comparable to Zilent V2 [or maybe Tacit switches, but I haven't tried them yet.] They both have the tactility right at the top, and it lets you know it is there. It's not exactly the same, obviously, since the Zilents are using an MX bump and the ABKO's EC switches give a fairly constant presence of tactility. But they're comparable. Zilent 62g may feel a little lighter, but the drop-off after the tactile event is steeper and sharper.

Anyway, the ABKO is definitely more tactile than a light switch like MX Brown, and its a smoother tactility. But it's on the lower end of Topre tactility, like I said above. And it definitely feels like 45 G, not 30 or 55, like Reds or Browns with a more constant tactility. And they are 'factory-silenced' by Topre standard. Just don't come expecting 'Taeha Types' 45-deskmat foam-stuffed Tofu level of silence. It's just quieter than MX tactiles. And the stabilizers are quieter than even Leopold.

Offline al3azef

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Re: ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard
« Reply #8 on: Wed, 10 June 2020, 08:35:54 »
Nice detailed review!

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: ABKO K935P V2 45G EC keyboard
« Reply #9 on: Wed, 10 June 2020, 14:27:04 »
Thanks. I am also going to add a small section about trying different keycaps with the ABKO.

Conclusion: The stock keycaps are best for sound, and perhaps feel.