Woot­ing One

It’s a key­board, Jim, but not as we know it

Maximum PC - - IN THE LAB - –ALEX COX

IT’S NOT OF­TEN that a key­board strikes us as spe­cial. Many great key­boards cross our desks, many in­no­va­tive de­vices, many bells, many whis­tles. But spe­cial key­boards? Not so much. So, does the Woot­ing One re­ally land in that bucket, or is it merely slosh­ing around in the pool of very good key­boards that we keep in the cor­ner? We’ll tell you: This is spe­cial. Very spe­cial. It’s a com­bi­na­tion of supreme style, su­pe­rior sound, fan­tas­tic feel, and tan­ta­liz­ingly in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy that sets it­self far apart from ev­ery­thing it’s even tan­gen­tially com­pet­ing with. We’re keep­ing it. For­get pry­ing it out of our cold, dead hands; we’re curl­ing up around it, and de­vel­op­ing rigor mor­tis.

We should prob­a­bly break down the Woot­ing One’s key gim­mick be­fore we go any fur­ther. It’s an ana­log key­board. That sounds weird, and in a way it is. Your key­board doesn’t need to be pres­sure-sen­si­tive. It’s a dig­i­tal in­put method, and has been that way for­ever for good rea­son. Hav­ing your fin­gers on the key­board is about speed, ac­cu­racy, trig­ger­ing trig­gers, and mov­ing on. But even if you never make use of the ana­log trig­ger-style func­tion­al­ity, which can track just how far down you’ve pressed a key and map that to ana­log con­trol in games, that func­tion­al­ity means you can pre­cisely ad­just the ac­tu­a­tion point of the keys. Lily-fin­gered key-skim­mer? Keep it high. Ham­mer-digit bot­tom-outer? Drop it as low as you can go. Want the same key to do two in­di­vid­ual things? You’re crazy, but OK, you can do that.

That does lead to a rather un­usual feel to the keys, with a con­sis­tent level of re­sis­tance all the way down—al­most, yes, like you’re press­ing the ana­log trig­ger on the back of an Xbox con­troller, at least if you con­cen­trate on what your fin­ger­tips are do­ing. There’s no notch, un­der­stand­ably, so the only truly tac­tile re­sponse you get is at the bot­tom of the travel. That’s go­ing to be a big neg­a­tive for some peo­ple (and we’d usu­ally ad­vo­cate tac­tile switches with­out hes­i­ta­tion), but this isn’t the mis­er­able squashi­ness of a Razer yel­low, or the muddy feel of a mem­brane or mem­bran­i­cal board. It’s clat­tery, and it’s sat­is­fy­ing. If you’re dead set on click, you’ll find a bunch of key switches in the box, so you can re­place WASD, or any other fa­vorite clus­ter, with the clicky ver­sion of th­ese Flaretech Prism switches—or you could buy the clicky ver­sion, which spills them over the whole thing, or a $50 pack of re­place­ment switches for the whole board.

MAGIC MAK­ERS

Most re­mark­able? Those cross-topped key switches (which make this an ideal base for cus­tomiza­tion) aren’t plugged in to any­thing. Pull one of the dou­ble-shot caps off, re­move the switch, shove your fin­ger in the hole, and you ac­tu­ate the key—Woot­ing’s in­frared op­ti­cal sen­sors, be­neath each switch, pro­vide the real magic. They mean a su­per-fast de­bounce rate, n-key rollover, and room on the top layer of the cir­cuit board for some awe­some light­ing ef­fects. Great logic, backed up by Woot­ing’s great soft­ware.

The whole thing is re­mark­ably solid, too. The up­per alu­minum plate is tough, the unit it­self weighty enough to fell a bi­son with a well-an­gled swipe, and the lack of elec­tron­ics in the light-beam­break­ing switches means that throw­ing in a spare is easy. Even if this weren’t a gim­mick car­rier—and af­ter our time with it, we’re not so sure it is—we’d give it huge credit for its un­der­stated tenkey­less looks, un­der­pinned by perkey light­ing. Or we would, if it weren’t so ex­pen­sive. $140 is an as­ton­ish­ing ask for a key­board. We un­der­stand where the fee comes from, given the no-com­pro­mise in­ter­nals, and the fact that Woot­ing is still a small com­pany af­ter its ini­tial Kick­starter suc­cess. If you’re not go­ing to ex­ploit the ana­log keys for all they’re worth, there’s a ream of other key­boards that will sting your wal­let less—but we’d still choose a Woot­ing One.

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