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.