I've been using the NovaTouch TKL as my daily driver for about two weeks now. I expect to continue after this review goes up.
The Topre switches don't have the crispness or precision of the Cherry MX browns, which are my favorite pure mechanical switches, but they're quieter and, in a way, more satisfying to use—both for typing and gaming. Having to live without a numpad is a little weird at first, and I still miss the absent keys, but the ergonomic benefits of moving the mousing area three inches to the left can't be overstated. Tenkeyless keyboards make right-handed mousing substantially more comfortable.
As a keyboard, then, the NovaTouch TKL is hard to fault. As a $200 product in a pretty crowded market... well, it's kind of another story.
Die-hard Topre fans may be reluctant to shell out 200 bucks for anything less than Topre's own Realforce 87U, which is made in Japan with higher-quality PBT key caps and distributed weighting across its alphanumeric keys. Yes, the NovaTouch does have authentic Topre switches, and it does have some features the Realforce lacks, like those handy Fn+F-key shortcuts and support for Cherry key caps. Cooler Master also says it offers superior after-sales support. Still, the "made in China" label and awkward Micro-USB connector may steer some keyboard geeks toward the home-brewed Topre offering.
Others may eschew the NovaTouch for different reasons. They might, for example, come across Cooler Master's own QuickFire Rapid, which costs $89.99 and has a similar design with Cherry MX switches instead of Topre ones. Those people might ask, "Why would I pay $200 for the NovaTouch? Even with a full set of custom key caps and o-rings, the QuickFire Rapid is way cheaper."
I'm afraid I don't have a good answer. The NovaTouch is obviously a fine option for Topre fans who want to use third-party key caps, but outside that niche, it's difficult to recommend unequivocally.
In the end, all I can say is this: just go out and try one. This keyboard has a very unique key feel that makes it palpably different from both Topre's own keyboards and cheaper Cherry MX-based solutions. You might hate it and think it's not worth the money, or you might fall in love and decide you can't live with anything else. I'm leaning more toward option B myself—but either way, I can't recommend forking over that $200 unless you're really, really sure you're making the right choice.
22 comments — Last by Airmantharp at 2:55 AM on 10/13/14
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