Real­force 88U

Computer Shopper - - OFFICE KEYBOARDS - £210 From www.key­


Don’t be daz­zled into over­pay­ing for the fancy ca­pac­i­tive keys, even if they do work well

NO, THAT’S NOT a typo, this really is a tenkey­less key­board that costs £210. That’s a whop­ping £90 more than the Filco Ma­jestouch-2 Ninja Tenkey­less, and even that ex­cel­lent de­vice barely feels worth it.

The main rea­son why To­pre’s key­boards are so ex­pen­sive is be­cause of their pro­pri­etary, elec­tro­static key de­sign, which in­cludes el­e­ments of both me­chan­i­cal switches and rub­ber dome style. Es­sen­tially, each key­press is de­tected elec­tri­cally, by way of an in­ter­nal spring and ca­pac­i­tive sen­sor on the printed cir­cuit board. When the spring is depressed, it’s de­tected by the sen­sor, which reg­is­ters the in­put with­out a phys­i­cal cir­cuit ever be­ing com­pleted.

The spring is housed in a rub­ber dome, which is what gives the keys their ‘bump’ sen­sa­tion, though there’s no un­der­ly­ing mem­brane as there is on cheap dome-based key­boards. To To­pre’s credit, this lit­tle bump goes a long way in mak­ing the Real­force 88U plea­sur­able to type on. It’s clear that the build qual­ity of the rub­ber dome far

ex­ceeds that of bud­get mem­brane mod­els, as there’s an al­most me­chan­i­cal-es­que sense of tac­tile feed­back to each press. To our fin­gers, To­pre’s sys­tem has even more of a pro­nounced bump than Cherry MX Brown switches, but it none­the­less feels a bit smoother and chunkier.

The lack of a clicky mech­a­nism also makes this a very quiet key­board. It’s a mat­ter of taste as to whether more or less noise is bet­ter (for many, au­di­ble feed­back is just as use­ful as tac­tile) but we cer­tainly didn’t have any prob­lems with speed, ac­cu­racy or key­presses not reg­is­ter­ing prop­erly.

The To­pre switch is some­times de­rided as a glo­ri­fied rub­ber dome; we don’t think that’s en­tirely fair, as the Real­force 88U types with a sat­is­fy­ing solid­ness that’s prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to find in mem­branebased key­boards.

How­ever, that alone doesn’t make it worth £210. In fact, we can’t really see what does – it feels nice, sure, but there are no other use­ful fea­tures that make it a par­tic­u­larly prac­ti­cal of­fice aid, and de­sign-wise it’s out­right bland. The ac­cept­able loss (for most pur­poses) of the tenkey sec­tion makes it easy to fit on small desks, but the beige plas­tic look leaves it ut­terly de­void of charm. De­spite the rub­ber pads on the lower un­der­side, the top edge has no such grip, either di­rectly on the chas­sis or on the fold-out legs, so on our wooden desk it could slide about on a pivot.

Dura­bil­ity seems high, and it’s got a weight­i­ness that helps pre­vent it slip­ping about too much, but again, these qual­i­ties don’t come close to mak­ing it worth spend­ing £210 on.

If you’re will­ing to pay a pre­mium, it makes more sense to go with the Filco Ma­jestouch-2 Ninja Tenkey­less; in­deed, as good as the Real­force 88U’s ca­pac­i­tive keys are, we pre­fer Filco’s choice of MX Browns, which just feel and sound a bit more lively and dy­namic. To­pre’s switch is more than just a jumped-up rub­ber dome, but for this kind of money, we’d ex­pect it to be a lot bet­ter than most me­chan­i­cal al­ter­na­tives, and it sim­ply isn’t.

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