Emperor Reiwa vs. Dr. Black (with the help of Harlequin)

If you've ever read my first rant here (that's even my first ever blog post!), you know that I've described how the Queen Elizabeth II vs. Emperor Reiwa “war” ended up.

This, is the story of a new war or, maybe, just a new kid on the block.

Basically, Emperor Reiwa is happily on his throne seat, with its plastic cover, its tenkeyless-ness and the wonderfully clicky Cherry blue switches. Queen Elizabeth II is not actually fully retired, but she needs some deep cleaning. It might get back work again.

Still, things change. There's been a pandemic recently, haven't you noticed it?

Job market is changing/changed and many companies are offering full or partial remote working (even in Italy!). My company is offering partial remote: I can be two days per week at home, if I want.

This means that I have to commute with laptop a minimum of twice per week. If, for example, I'll be able to stay home on Mondays and Fridays, I can bring the laptop in office on Tuesdays mornings and bring it back home on Thursdays evenings. Or whatever combination of consecutive days.

But Emperor Reiwa weights a full kilogram! Can't there be something lighter?

Long story short (see below for the longer story): I'm going to buy a custom keyboard from YMDKey.

DISCLAIMER: this above is an affiliate link I've received simply because I've created an account to place the order. It'll might give me 5% of a sale if someone will ever buy from this link. Feel free to skip it and go directly to YMDKey without any extra affiliation.

DISCLAIMER (part two): no, I'm not paid by YMDKey to write this blog post, nor they're offering me whatever discount or advantage for this. I have the affiliate link because it comes for free when you create an account on YMDKey website to place an order. Come on, I probably have a couple of readers... not even, maybe! Who would pay for that?

Enters Dr. Black: the new “almost” perfect solution to my commuting is, as I write, a custom keyboard from YMDKey company. It's not perfect because still weights around the same as Emperor Reiwa (!) but since I've decided to leave it in the office, instead of moving it back and forth while commuting, I think it's the closest to perfect keyboard I'd might ever find.

While Queen Elizabeth II's and Emperor Reiwa's names were quite fair to understand, I can only explain Dr. Black as an office inner joke (sort of) and the fact that it... wears in full black.

Since it's a custom keyboard, there's no a specific picture of it as a whole, so let me list here the pieces it's made of, with their characteristics and direct links (without affiliation!):

All this, including the assembly service is €160. To this, I have to add Italian VAT (22%) and with shipping should be something like €200. The frigging VAT... Emperor Reiwa was around €170, shipping (and mods) included, at the time there still was no Brexit.

But still, I feel this is the (almost) perfect keyboard for me. I'll probably use it at home, while keeping the Emperor Reiwa in office. It's not 100% perfect for a few reasons:

Note that PCB even supports RGB leds (you can even buy them at the same site, in different fashions), but that's a thing I'm sure I don't need at all, in a keyboard.

Praise for Royal Kludge RK61 (a.k.a. Harlequin)

Before the Dr. Black era, the Royal Kludge RK61 (a.k.a. Harlequin) was being in charge for a while. It's obviously been called Harlequin due to the lot of colours available through the RGB effects. My first ever RGB keyboard.

(another) DISCLAIMER: no, I'm not even paid by Royal Kludge for this section. Again, I mean, no one is reading my blog!

I have to spend few words on the temporary use (a week or so) of the Royal Kludge RK61 keyboard I've bought, thinking it might have been good for me.

Specifically, I've bought this from Amazon: RK61 Tastiera Gaming Meccanica, 60% Tastiera Wireless 2.4Ghz/Bluetooth/USB-C RGB Backlit Interruttore Blu Hot Swap Double-Shot PBT Keycaps Compatibile con Win/Mac, Nero(QWERTY Layout Italiano), a black RK61 with blue switches and triple connection mode. RK61 Tastiera Gaming Meccanica, 60% Tastiera Wireless 2.4Ghz/Bluetooth/USB-C RGB Backlit Interruttore Blu Hot Swap Double-Shot PBT Keycaps Compatibile con Win/Mac, Nero(QWERTY Layout Italiano) I should've preferred the RKG68, but it's not available (can't find it, at least) with Italian ISO layout.

It's reasonably cheap (and right now while writing it even became cheaper after I bought it, damn!) and still a good quality keyboard. The ABS case is strong and does not bend. Shaking the keyboard I basically hear no noise of sort, meaning that everything inside fits well. There are a lot of RGB effects that can be further customized in both speed and colours. I have no use for them, also because they're not so visible in bright office light, but there are a lot of people that would appreciate. The keyboard is also customizable with custom keys and macro combinations (there's a very simple and rough software, that works properly!) and even the possibility to have multiple keyboard profiles.

I mean, it's a cool keyboard with a lot of functionalities.

It can be connected with three different devices at the same time, through Bluetooh, and it has a slot on the bottom to place the wireless receiver, when not plugged to the PC, for use in wireless (not bluetooth) mode. Oh, yes, forgot to mention that switches are even hot-pluggable! Battery (I've only tested Bluetooth mode) lasts quite good. RGB colors are bright and nice and the keycaps font is fancy and interesting.

Worth noting: when I bought it, the description said Double-Shot PBT keycaps, but they actually are Double-Shot ABS, and they've changed the description after I've bought it and asked them for clarification.

There even are programmable “media” keys you can use to start your preferred function: side-printed icons are those of desktop, home, email and the like. Last but not least, having those double functions with side-printed keycaps to show them, taught me that side-printed-only keycaps are worth having them.

It's a keyboard worth a try, for those used to 60% format. I'm pretty sure I would've instead liked the RKG68 very much, if available in Italian ISO. Quality of RK keyboards is pretty good.

I only have to return the RK61 because I can't get used to switch back and forth the arrows and the other keys: having an Italian ISO layout (actually an Italian (142) ISO layout set on PC), I need AltGr (the right-side Alt key) to grab the brackets and the curly braces, things I need often, being a software developer. But the AltGr is also the left arrow, so everytime I need braces I have to switch back to normal mode (Fn+Enter), click the AltGr+8 (or 9) for brackets or AltGr+7 (or 0) for curly braces and then get back to arrow mode (Fn+Enter) to use the arrows to navigate the text/code I'm writing.

Too much.

Sorry Harlequin.

Longer Story a.k.a. Another Search

Short story long, just like in the previous post (see Queen Elizabeth II vs. Emperor Reiwa), I've as well spent weeks searching for a good solution for my needs: a smaller and lighter keyboard that can be commuted easily. So if you want to read the whole story, get a seat, otherwise feel free to do whatever you prefer.

In The Search section of the previous post, I've written about the problems in searching a good quality (mechanical) keyboard with also the ISO layout and Italian keycaps.

I've reviewed my previous searches and even considered some solutions I'd previously discarded for whatever reason (mainly the ISO Italian keycaps were not available, sometimes even the ISO layout was not available!).

In the end, this time my final top-something list was:

  1. Royal Kludge RKG68 A probably nice and simple 68-keys keyboard with even the possibility to have it with no RGB! Royal Kludge RKG68
  2. Cooler Master SK620 Version SK-620-GKTM1-IT (brown switches: it seems there's no ISO Italian layout with blue switches); Cooler Master SK620
  3. Drevo Calibur V2 Pro Nice keyboard with programmable keys. Bluetooth and removable magnetic feet as a plus. Drevo Calibur V2 PRO
  4. Drevo Calibur V2 TE Basically same thing as its sister V2 Pro, this one is wired only but has the possibility to also mount Cherry switches instead of Outemu. Not available in Italian ISO layout. Drevo Calibur V2 TE
  5. YMDK custom YMD-65% ZJ68 Aluminum Kit thing above; YMD-65% ZJ68 Aluminum Kit
  6. Xtrfy K5 A fully customizable keyboard, Sweden-designed. Xtrfy K5 Compact
  7. Royal Kludge RK61 See previous section (haven't you?). RK61 Tastiera Gaming Meccanica, 60% Tastiera Wireless 2.4Ghz/Bluetooth/USB-C RGB Backlit Interruttore Blu Hot Swap Double-Shot PBT Keycaps Compatibile con Win/Mac, Nero(QWERTY Layout Italiano)
  8. Zienstar G696 60% Cheap mechanical keyboard with not even the producer website, would have been considered if I'd be able to adapt to the 60% format. Not nice as the RK61, but half the price. Seems to be somehow related with a ‎G13 keyboard by Shenzhen Jiacai Company. Not much info, though. Zienstar G696 60%

Basically, what it came out was: RKG68 have no Italian layout. The SK620 and the two Drevos were basically the same, except that the CM SK620 is 50% lighter than the Drevos.

So, being available on Amazon, I've tried the experiment of the RK61, with a 60% format. With no luck. Then decision was between the CM620 (Drevos are similar, but a bit more expensive and even without the plastic cover), and a couple of gazillion-ly expensive custom keyboards, the YMDKey ZJ68 and the Xtrfy K5 Compact. Considering that they share the same price (but the Xtrfy has no transport bag) and that the YMDKey has PBT keycaps, the selection process was easily done between the two expensive things.

It's either Cooler Master SK620 or the custom keyboard based on YMDKey ZJ68 PCB. While way more expensive than the CM, the YMDKey has cooler keycaps (not only side-printed but, more important, PBT!) and proper blue switches. And there is no RGB! Choosing between money (a hundred euros more!) and the comfort of PBT keys with blues switches, I think I'd go with the YMDKey...

I'll let you know.

Emperor Reiwa vs. Dr. Black (with the help of Harlequin) by Marco Bresciani is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International