I’ve become a bit of a keyboard nerd recently, and tested a few different switch types. Since any mechanical keyboard fan knows traditional rubber dome or laptop keyboard switches are not worth the thought, I’m not even going to mention them.
Not having been totally pleased with the Cherry MX Blue, found it a bit too noisy, and the activation point was being a little irritating when doing typing speed tests, etc. Not that it was holding me back, but it just gave me that feeling while typing.
I have also been playing around with a Matias Quiet Pro, with ALPS switches, which is a very good keyboard, however, I felt that the switches required way to much force to type on comfortably for extended periods of type. Being a developer, I may do 12 hour stretches at the computer, and even taking breaks you, notice.
After hearing all the praise the Topre switches get, and following some people that have also switched from traditional mechanical switches to this brand. I decided to give them a shot.
I have reached a point where it’s more important to me to have a compact, yet functional layout on my keyboards, that allows me to keep my mouse close to avoid RSI, has a very well thought layout for layers, and looks good.
Welcome to Topre
The Leopold FC660c, for me, has ticked all the boxes and then some. With it’s compact design, beautiful slightly retro key caps, and having arrow keys, and separate Insert and Delete keys; it makes it perfect for development work.
One of the reasons I went with the Leopold, was that it uses uniform 45g switches, some Topre boards will have just the keys that you press with your weaker fingers set to 45g, while the rest of the keys will be 55g which is a more standard pressure point.
But I prefer that my fingers fly across the keys while I type, or while I practice on TypeRacer (If you haven’t tried yet, it’s an incredibly fun site, where besides racing others, you can practice increasing your typing speed) and I’ve found that my hands get less tired after hours typing, and it alleviated my beginnings of RSI.
Keep in mind that the space bar uses an additional spring above the switch that gives it a tougher activation point, I’m not sure yet if I’ll be removing it yet, since it feels a bit out of place with the balance of the other keys. However it’s easy enough to do and test, by removing both Alt keys caps, and lifting up the whole space bar (the best way I’ve seen to remove it on Topre switches).
The keyboard, comes bare bones, with a micro USB cable, a Velcro ribbon to hold extra wire, although the wire is not incredibly long so I have no need to tie it up. A basic sheet with the keyboard information; and two replacement key caps in case you choose to swap Caps Lock and Control, or in my case just to ditch Caps Lock all together for more Control keys like you should too.
Additional features and layers
The FC660c comes with a set of hardware switches, to modify the default layout behavior, where you can swap the Windows and Alt keys for use with Macs, you can swap left Control and Caps Lock (I however prefer to just remap Caps via software to an additional control, because there no reason to ever by typing more than a few letter in all caps at a time); you can also swap the position of the Windows and Function keys, and another one to completely disable the Windows key (I don’t really see the point on permanently disabling a key though).
For the additional functionality layer, this keyboard, is laid out well enough that you only have an additional layer for the Function keys, and the least used combinations, and you can conveniently access Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down with a two finger combo. Which even not having to use them all the time, having them readily accessible just lets it to be done from time to time.
And if you need to access often the tilde or back tick characters, with Fn + Q, you can swap the layer for the Esc key which doubles as tilde.
Key caps finish and feel
The original version of this keyboard had dark gray key caps, matching the body of the keyboard itself. I have to say, the contrast from dark gray to light gray in this version, just looks stunning, I kid you not.
The caps are slightly more cupped to your fingers than in other keyboards, and it’s surprising how much more comfortable it makes the overall typing experience.
With a slightly rugged texture, completely opaque consistency, and sublimed dye printing, they feel like they won’t be losing quality any time soon. Time will tell, and if that happens I’ll update this post, but so far, they seem like the most durable caps I’ve used so far.
Pricing and availability
This one was not so fun. The keyboard, priced at $219.00 when I purchased it, was only with an ANSI U.S. layout from the United States, and had to be imported from there. So obviously the shipment expenses and customs taxes, were bad, oh so bad, won’t go into details, but I probably will be looking for some alternatives before having to import something directly again.
And the delivery time was almost 1 month, I get in some countries and if you go by the cheapest possible shipping method it can take even 2 or 3 months, but that’s insane to me, if you actually are gonna use it, it’s worth paying a bit extra and having your stuff as soon as possible.
Well I can tell you now that I will not be looking at any more keyboards for a while, that is how happy I am with the Leopold FC660c. Feels my fingers and wrists feel fantastic after hours of typing. Doesn’t make annoying sounds that are cool the first week but after get tiring. No more will people around you, get mad at you because it sounds like you are in a war zone every time you type.
And, it sounds, oh, so good, it really just makes you want to type more.
If you live in the U.S. I say it’s a great purchase, with a very decent cost for a board with Topre switches, an amazing build quality, unlike some new recent players in the Topre arena (I’m looking at Cooler Master… I’ve never owned anything from them that had good quality, it’s a shame though, since their design and prices are good, but their stuff is crap).
However if you live elsewhere, and specially if you are looking for a different keyboard layout than your native (I haven’t found any European layout to be any good; if you use the special characters that programmers use all they long, nothing beats the ANSI U.S. layout, trust me your hands will thank you) I will encourage that you try contacting all the closest distributors and see if they can handle importing the version you need and use a decent shipping.