Taiwanese peripheral manufacturer i-Rocks has produced one of the more unique products to grace our press desk. The K76m Fun Illuminated Mechanical Keyboard is exactly what it sounds like: a mechanical keyboard with LEDs and, well, "fun." In this context, "fun" means a customizable faceplate surrounding the keys that you can stick Lego on. The K76m's custom-built mechanical switches are inspired by the classic Alps design.
i-Rocks offers black or white Lego-compatible faceplates. The Lego dots are level with the edge of the keyboard, so it's possible to build with blocks that go beyond the edges, should creativity strike. If Lego isn't your thing, the company also offers clear faceplates and printable inserts to go underneath them.
Even without the wacky faceplate business, the K76m looks to be a stellar keyboard. It uses custom switches designed and produced by i-Rocks, based on the "Complicated Alps" switch design. The Alps company has been out of business for many years, and i-Rocks says it wasn't satisfied with the typing feel of the many clone Alps switches. Rather than give up and use Cherry MX switches like the rest of the market, i-Rocks spent two years designing key switches that mimic the feel of the Alps clickers that dominated the keyboard market in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Ultimately, the company ended up making four variants of its switches. The first three are color-coded like their Cherry MX blue, brown, and red equivalents, and serve the same purposes. They require slightly less actuation force than their Cherry counterparts, though. The fourth switch type is called "Geek" and comes in a white housing. It's a linear switch like the red variant, but with a ridiculously low actuation force of 28g. i-Rocks says the feel of the white switches is polarizing, and that typists either love it or hate it. While the internal switch design mimics the Alps design, the i-Rocks switches' cross-shaped stem is compatible with Cherry MX keycaps. i-Rocks sells the boards with rubber O-rings pre-installed for noise reduction.
Besides its unique features, the K76m offers multimedia shortcut keys and LED backlighting. The keyboards with blue, brown, and red keyswitches have single-color backlighting, while the version with "Geek" switches gets RGB LEDs. i-Rocks says the keyboard will support N-key rollover, too.
i-Rocks' press release directs purchasers to its Indiegogo campaign for the keyboard for pre-orders, but the campaign appears to be closed. The company says the K76m Fun Illuminated Mechanical Keyboard will be "available worldwide" in November for $139.
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