Varmilo is one of those high end keyboard companies that try and experiment with different things to create unique products. And this Varmilo VA68Mg is no exception.
VA68Mg Mechanical Keyboard
Wire keycap puller
Mini USB cable (straight)
Coiled mini USB cable (right angle)
Short mini USB cable (right angle)
LAYOUT & SIZE
This is a 65% keyboard, meaning that it’s about 65% of a standard full sized keyboard. So it’s like a 60% board, but with the dedicated arrow keys, and some nav keys.
It has the exact same layout as the popular budget Magicforce 68, meaning that it has completely standard sized keycaps, so replacing keycaps will be no problem, but these are really nice keycaps anyway. Keycaps will be easier to replace keycaps in comparison to the popular 65% Leopold FC660M.
It’s slightly shorter and narrower than a tenkeyless keyboard, so we’re missing the dedicated function row keys, and some more nav cluster keys.
And of course, it’s much smaller than a full sized keyboard, without the numpad on the side, giving you much more lateral space.
I personally really love 65% keyboards, and I find it to be my personal sweet spot between size and primary functionality. And I just love the look as well.
DESIGN & BUILD
The build of this is an interesting one, and sets this apart from others. This is made from a magnesium alloy, and is die cast, unlike the common CNC’d aluminium that you see on many keyboards. There’s actually a really good post on the process of this which I’ll link in the description. And it’s some awesome stuff where they start with the actual ingots, die cast it, and is hand finished.
And they have a table which puts it against aluminium, plastic, and steel. There’s like hardly any fully steel keyboards, but it’s of course heaps lighter than those.
The main comparison is the aluminium. They state that magnesium alloy is 33% lighter, but at the same time, has great mechanical properties, as well as better corrosion resistance.
So it’s great that it’s light for taking around if need be, while staying super solid. But I do love me a heavy keyboard, and that’s where I personally actually would like the weight of the aluminium version.
The design of the keyboard is a simple rectangular design. As said before this comes in a variety of colours with different cases and keycaps. This one has the sleek silver case, with grey and white keycaps.
Looking at the side profile it has a slight natural inclination, but can be increased with the flip up feet. The top line is actually slightly curved to fit the sculptured keys. And these are actually shorter than OEM profile ones that you find on majority of keyboards.
Okay so one of the biggest downsides for me is the exterior finish of the case. In accordance with their post, the magnesium alloy case is electroplated and then sprayed with a ceramic paint. In my case though, there is pink under the silver. So I asked about it, and was told it may have previously been a pink version of the case.
Therefore, it would be paint over paint. I don’t know how good the adhesion is in this situation, but it is an odd situation. My experience with this finish though isn’t great. It scratches quite easily, as seen with a few spots on the keyboard, and I’ve been using this keyboard on and off for maybe 2 months.
Scratching the inside of the case with my flathead screwdriver, and not even pressing that hard, it scratches very easily.
In addition to this, the not so great spray coverage on the inside edges where it still can be seen with the keyboard assembled is just a lack of attention to detail. And I’m not talking about the inside edges like over here, that’s absolutely fine.
This may be an isolated incident, but this is what I was given. See video for visuals.
Now to the lighting, this is an RGB keyboard. However because these do not have backlit keycaps, the lighting acts as a tasty underglow for the keycaps. While it may not make sense to some, it’s a more subtle way off adding light to a keyboard, and is the preferred way for many enthusiasts if they’re to have any lighting at all.
The lighting was pretty difficult to understand since the VA68m manual isn’t the same, and as far as I’m aware, there’s no english manual for this.
The main issue I have with the lighting is the customisability of the colours. While it is RGB, we only have access to 8 colours that we can actually customise. While it does cover most colours you would want, I expect more, because the LEDs themselves are perfectly capable of doing so. Like with the yellow, it’s a very fluro type of yellow, and then it goes to orange. I would have really liked a bit more of a vibrant yellow, but you can’t do that. And then there’s no pink, with only purple.
However in some of the modes, the other colours seemed to be displayed like pink, which is a bit frustrating and doesn’t really make any sense. This is where I think the onboard lighting system on the iKBC F87 really makes sense, where you can bring up colour palettes and choose from there.
Overall though, the lighting is subtle and classy. It won’t help you see the legends on your keycaps at night, so it’s more of an aesthetic thing, rather than functional.
The magnesium alloy construction is wonderfully strong, and also light. The shorter xprofile dye subbed PBT keycaps feel and look amazing and classy. It’s available with a multitude of keyswitches, with Cherry MX silent boards not the easiest to come by at the moment. And finally that RGB underglow for the keycaps gives it that bit of optional edge.
The glaring negative for me, and a real mismatch, is the quality of the finish. It just doesn’t cut it, and scratches quite easily. It’s a complete contrast to the rest of the well made and refined keyboard, so hopefully they can and will improve on that, which I’m sure they will.
Hopefully Varmilo can continue to pump out these interesting products, because it really was a pleasure to use this .