Xiaomi has emerged as a huge force in the tech industry, venturing into a heap of categories. About 2 years ago or so, they released their first mechanical keyboard, the Yuemi MK01, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by it.
Now they’ve released this keyboard which has triggered some discussion, and confusion because of what’s actually inside it.
Thanks to Banggood.com for providing this keyboard for review, and I’m going to clarify what’s actually up with this keyboard, because I too wasn’t really sure by just looking at the product page.
- Xiaomi RGB Gaming Keyboard
- User guide and warranty (all in Chinese)
DESIGN & BUILD
In the hands it feels okay. Nothing too special here. There is a bit of flex, but hardly anything to be worried about. It comes in at about 725 grams, so pretty lightweight for a full sized keyboard, which also has a completely standard ANSI layout, so replacing keycaps won’t be a problem.
The reason why it’s light is because it has this aluminium top case, in this nice dark grey finish, which is quite even and smooth. And it ties in nicely into this very simplistic design that can fit into any environment, with smallish bezels and rounded corners. The keycaps looks pretty decent as well, with thin and neat legends, which isn’t always the case with backlit keyboards.
We have a high profile design, so the keyswitches are hidden. And again we have that rounded look, giving it a real softness. We can also see that we have the aluminium on top, and the plastic base beneath that. Whereas the Yuemi MK01, was the other way round.
We have a non-removable USB cable on the left rear.
The bottom is extremely clean as well, with just some rubber feet and a tiny bit of writing on the bottom. And as you may notice, there are no flip up feet. Instead we have these interchangeable rubber feet, which do look nicer, but I can see myself losing the other pair.
So it’s a really sleek and simplistic keyboard that doesn’t make an effort to look ‘gamery’, like much of its competition.
The keycaps are made from 1.2mm ABS plastic, and are also doubleshot. So the legends are another piece of plastic and will never fade away. But underneath the keycaps is what this keyboard is all about.
THE KEYSWITCHES - MECHANICAL OR NOT?
The keyswitches have the classic MX cross stem, so it really does look just like a normal mechanical keyswitch, besides these black dots on the top. And that’s where there’s issues. Some websites list this as a mechanical keyboard right in the product name, and Banggood are guilty of doing this as well. And if you scroll down and look at the description, I mean, I couldn’t blame anyone in thinking that this is a mechanical keyboard.
But after a bit of research I found that this is a keyswitch developed by TTC, who also make normal mechanical keyswitches, and this is one of those what they call, ‘Hybrid’ keyswitches. Which is basically a slider over membrane situation - in other words, not mechanical.
These aren’t actually soldered to the PCB, so I can pull these out with a keyswitch puller. Therefore these are hotswappable if they decided to release other variants.
So the exterior is pretty much like a normal switch. Except that when we press it, we have this pin that comes out the bottom. And that then hits the electrical contact on the PCB, much like a normal membrane keyboard, but without the rubber domes.
Opening up the keyswitch, we have our top housing, and our bottom housing. However looking at the bottom housing, there’s no contact leafs or anything, just the spring, and there’s also an open bottom.
The slider is the unique part. So the reason why we have this red and black stem is because it’s supposed to be a hybrid of said switches. When we press it up until 2mm, it acts as a light linear Red keyswitch, with the main spring giving it resistance. But then when we reach 2mm, this pogo stick thing comes into play, hitting the membrane, and actuating the key, while also increasing its resistance.
Now this is the difficult bit. Trying to describe this thing which is very different to anything I’ve personally tried. I guess this would be described as a tactile keyswitch, as it does have that bump because of the sudden increase in resistance. But it isn’t a distinct or sharp bump, especially if you press it slowly. It’s just a linear that then reaches a point where it gets heavier. And that makes for a kind of dampened bottom out, so it almost feels as if it’s slightly mushy in a way.
The goal that they had was to have that fast actuation, but then a faster rebound, as the greater resistance will in theory push the key back up faster.
The really interesting thing is that when the pin hits the surface, it makes a kind of sharp and loud noise at the halfway point, much like a clicky switch. So when you’re actually typing, it almost sounds like a clicky keyboard. But it doesn’t feel like one.
And that’s why it’s so weird, and difficult to describe. They describe it with linear notations, but then it feels like a tactile, but then it has that loud sound which almost makes it sound like a clicky board.
Personally, it’s been a really enjoyable experience, mainly because it’s unique. But I actually don’t mind it, as it is a pretty light and relaxing experience. But I can definitely see people disliking it, because it doesn’t really feel mechanical, or sharp, rather a bit mushy.
TTC website : http://www.ttc9.com/portal.php?mod=view&aid=527
So overall, it is a very interesting keyboard in regards to how it feels to me. But the main take away point from this, is that no, this is not a mechanical keyboard. Rather, this is one of those hybrid or mem-chanical keyboards, but without the domes.
What I do admire is the innovation with the MT Hybrid keyswitch, and effort to create something better from TTC, which they’ve been doing for a bunch of different companies now. In theory, it seems like a reasonable idea, in creating a gaming switch that focuses on having a faster rebound. Whether it makes a difference, I’m not really sure. I’m not a hardcore gamer, so it’s not so obvious to me, but perhaps it does.
Thanks again to Banggood.com for providing this keyboard for review.