Best 75 Percent Keyboard Update
The hunt continues for the best 75% keyboard! My requirements have changed a bit since I previously rounded up some 75% boards, so let’s take a look.
- 75% Layout
- Easily buyable (no customs or unreleased keyboards)
- Dedicated delete, print screen, home, and end keys (these are all keys I use very commonly in my day to day work)
- Arrow keys (this is pretty much a given at 75%, but I couldn’t survive without them, so I included it)
- Detachable USB-C Cable
- Quiet Tactile Switches
- Hot-swappable (I would prefer it in case I decide to upgrade the switches in the future)
- Bluetooth & 2.4 GHz dongle (I prefer the dongle for the no-nonsense setup and slightly less latency)
- Thick keycaps (to produce a better sound)
- A Low frame (I’m not too fond of wrist rests)
Why the update?
My previous keyboard of choice was the YUNZII AKKO 3084 Silent Upgraded keyboard with Blue Akko gen 2 switches, which are very loud clicky switches, but I recently started a new role in developer relations which involves a lot more calls and meetings with third party companies that would not appreciate me clicking and clacking as I take notes. 📢 Since the Akko board was not hot-swappable, it was time for a new keyboard.
The New Contender 👊
The Nuphy Air75 is a low-profile mechanical keyboard offered with Gateron Brown, Blue, and Red switches. It is hot-swappable, but since there are very few low-profile key switches at this point, it does not feel like a handy feature. One of each Gateron switch comes in the box, so you can swap them and get a feel for which one you might like best. They also provide a switch and keycap puller.
Gateron Low Profile Switches
I picked up the Gateron Red and Brown variants for testing but kept the board with brown switches. The low-profile Brown switches have almost no tactile bump. It is hard to say if it is because they are low-profile or if the switches came over-lubed from the factory. The Reds and Browns felt so similar that if you need the tactile feel, you may have to go with the Blue switches.
The flat high-quality PBT keycaps are a massive win for this keyboard. They are pretty flat and described as “the world’s thinnest PBT spherical keycaps” in their marketing, but I would say they are thiccc where it counts. They do offer “Twilight” and limited-time “Xmas” keycap sets for sale, but neither of them fit the aesthetic of my setup. I would have liked to see some stealthier/neutral options like a grayscale set or an all-white set.
I LOVE this keyboards layout. The Home and End keys being right next to the arrow keys is great for software development and just writing in general. Unfortunately, there is no software compatible with the Nuphy Air75. This means the “voice assistant” key is stuck there. I was able to remap the key using Windows Power Toys, so I’m guessing there is an app out there for macOS to do some remapping as well.
Best 75% Keyboard (For Modding)
I have been brought back to the Royal Kludge RK84 once again. I enjoy the look of this board with the frame removed. If you want to remove the frame for the “floating keys” look (see image below), be sure to pick up the regular version and not the “Pro” version, which you cannot remove the outer frame.
The product description on Amazon no longer states any brand, but it used to read “TTC,” which is a Chinese cherry clone, and I prefer them to their Gateron counterparts, despite some review complaints. If there is anything to complain about, it is the stabilizers. They do not fit securely and have a loud rattle on every keypress. Both the switches and the stabilizers came fairly well lubed, but the rattling on the stabilizers comes from the loose fit, not the wire. The board is hot-swappable, so if you decide after a while, you dislike the switches, you can always swap them out.
The biggest reason I could not daily drive this keyboard when I first bought it was the terrible wireless connectivity! While the range is still quite short, the wireless is now consistent enough to use. The previous locking up and missed keypresses are no longer prevalent for the 2.4GHz adapter and the Bluetooth. It is worth noting that I re-purchased this board, and there is supposedly a difference between boards with serial numbers ending in 20 vs 21, although I’m not sure what it is.
The software was another big complaint for me in the previous review because it was sketchily hosted on a random Google Drive, and Windows flagged it as malware. The software is now at least hosted on the Royal Kludge website and Windows, while still warning you that it is an unknown developer, no longer marks it as malware. I ran it through a scan on Virus Total, and it was only marked by one antivirus provider, which looked to be a false positive. The changes can still be stored in the onboard memory, so you don’t need to install the software on all your machines.
A Budget Option
If you are looking to get into the 75% space and you don’t NEED wireless, the EpoMaker EP84 could be a great option on a budget. I have not personally picked up this board, but Hipyo Tech has put out a great review on youtube if you want to check it out.
My New Daily (Mod List)
I have settled on the RK84, but we need to talk about the modifications!
The stabilizers are well lubed from the factory, but they do not fit snugly on the board. I did not pick up new ones, but I removed them and tucked in some crafting foam between the board and the stabilizer’s base (band-aids are commonly used for this, so it is widely referred to as a band-aid mod). You can find a quick tutorial on Youtube here .
The RK84 sounds solid stock, but I did take the time to disassemble the board and add some foam to the inside for dampening the sound. Disassembly was relatively easy. Removing just a few small screws and a couple of ribbon cables for the battery, the board slides out of the top of the frame.
Since I had initially purchased the clicky version of this board, I picked up some DROP Aliaz 70G Silent & Tactile Switches. I based my decision on this video from RandomFrankP because they were the quietest switch. I will say the Aliaz 70G switches felt quite linear, which is probably why the heavier weights (I think they go up to 100G actuation force) were sold out everywhere.
While the stock keycaps are pretty nice, I wanted something a bit thicker for a better sound. I decided to pick up the Drop MT3 Profile keycaps. The MT3 profile is super tall with a deep bowl shape on top. Many keyboard enthusiasts swear by them, but honestly, they are not my favorite… They sound great, but I make quite a few mistakes while typing.
Many keyboard enthusiasts would cringe at this note, but I have added o-rings to make this board even quieter, and I still really like the overall feel.
What I have learned
I like flat keycaps! I’ve realized that all my years typing on laptop keyboards means that I do not lift my hands when typing, so flatter keyboards result in more accurate keypresses. This is a huge disappointment considering I just spent quite a bit of money on MT3 (deep dish) keycaps. I will have to give them some time to see if I can get used to them. In the meantime, I’m going to keep my eyes open for some flat-ish XDA or DSA caps.
If you want to buy the board and use it pick up the Nuphy Air75, but if you would like to dabble in the world of modding keyboards, the RK84 is the way to go! Be careful once you start modding; it is addicting! If you want to hear about a couple more boards, check out the original list below.
- Nuphy Air75: https://amzn.to/3yifSUc
- RK84: https://amzn.to/3oLzA7R
- EpoMaker EP84: https://amzn.to/33it7sF
- O-Rings: https://amzn.to/3oKjA62
- Drop MT3 Keycaps: https://amzn.to/3oKjA62
- Drop Aliaz 70G Silent Tactile Switches: https://amzn.to/3IJxkpr
- Crafting Foam: https://amzn.to/3DMVGew
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