Hands-on with the Type Heaven
I've used many mechanical key switches over the years—buckling spring, Cherry MX, Alps, you name it. I've also typed on plenty of rubber dome and scissor-switch keyboards. The Type Heaven doesn't really feel like anything I've used before.
Its action has much of the rigidity and precision of conventional mechanical switches, but it also has an unusual softness and quietness, no doubt because of the rubber domes covering the springs. The feeling is hard to describe. There's something stealthy and classy about it, though. The soft, muffled ka-chunk the keys make when they bottom out, the matte, slightly rough finish of the key caps, and the fact that this thing weighs just over three pounds—it all comes together to make the Type Heaven feel like a decidedly premium product. That's despite the fact that the Type Heaven is Topre's most affordable keyboard.
For a more meaningful comparison, I whipped out the version of Rosewill's RK-9000 keyboard based on Cherry MX brown switches. That keyboard is currently available at Newegg for $84.99. As I mentioned earlier, the Cherry MX browns resemble the Topres on paper. They, too, have a 45 g actuation force, a total travel distance of around 4 mm, and a tactile bump without a corresponding click upon actuation.
In practice, that's about as far as the similarities go. The Cherry MX browns are grittier, snappier, less cushioned, and quite a bit louder. Despite the identical actuation force, the browns feel like they need to be pushed harder to actuate than the Topres. That could be because one needs to push about a half-millimeter farther to reach the actuation point. What really bothers me most about the Cherry MX browns, though, is that gritty feeling around the tactile bump. It's a bit like there are little grains of sand trapped inside the switch mechanism; you can feel the grittiness in your knuckles as you type, and it can get annoying.
The Topres, by contrast, are totally smooth—but their tactile bump is much less distinct, so it's harder to know for sure if you've actuated a key switch properly. I suppose that's a downside of the rubber domes. There's also a little bit more cushioning when you bottom out. The RK-9000 has a sharp bottom-out point that's quite loud, and so do most other mechanical keyboards I've tried. The Topres, by comparison, bottom out very softly and very quietly. The bottom-out point is nowhere near as soft as on cheap rubber-dome keyboards, though.
While we're on the subject of bottoming out: despite what Topre's patent application suggests, one does tend to bottom out on these Topre switches. It's possible to type by skimming across the keys, but the muddiness of the tactile bump makes it difficult. What does happen, though, is that I find myself pushing down slightly less and not feeling as hard an impact when I reach the bottom-out point. That makes the Type Heaven feel more comfortable than the Rosewill with the Cherry MX browns overall.
The Type Heaven also feels like it has taller, wider keys with more travel distance than the Rosewill RK-9000. In reality, the key caps are the same height and a little narrower at the top. The feeling of width probably comes from the rougher, grippier finish of the Type Heaven's caps, which did a better job of keeping my slightly sweaty fingertips from sliding around. As for the mistaken feeling of height, I assume that's a combination of the higher actuation point and the fact that the frame of the keyboard sits lower in relation to the key caps.
Mistaken or not, these impressions are important. The Rosewill RK-9000 feels flatter and more precise, but also more cheaply made and, at times, annoyingly gritty. It's loud, too. The Type Heaven is quieter, and it feels smoother, better made, and more comfortable to type on. Yet it lacks some of the precision of more conventional mechanical switches like the Cherry MX browns.
Before moving on, I should say a few words about gaming. The Type Heaven may be marketed more as a typist's keyboard than a pro gamer accessory, but it's perfectly capable in games. In fact, I think it feels better in games than the RK-9000 with the Cherry MX browns, because the actuation point is closer to the top, and the response curve is simpler, with a tactile bump that corresponds more closely to the actuation. As you can see in this graph, the Cherry MX browns actuate a ways after the bump, and there's kind of a dead zone in between. The response curve graph on Topre's website shows a much more linear curve without comparable tomfoolery. The only downside of the Topres is that the tactile feedback is very subtle, so accidental key presses may be more likely to occur. That may not be a downside depending on how you look at it, though. Some gamers seem to love Cherry's MX red and black switches, which have a completely linear response without the faintest trace of a tactile bump.
Oh, and the Type Heaven has six-key rollover. I tested that feature on this website, and it does seem to work. Any combination of six keys can be pressed and registered simultaneously. Hardcore gamers may hold out for a keyboard with n-key rollover (where all keys can be pressed and registered simultaneously), but six keys should be plenty for the rest of us.
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