I’m a fan of what is referred to as “mechanical keyboards”. They are keyboards with certain kinds of key switches that use levers and springs to give a specifically designed resistance curve to give more tactile and optionally auditory feedback to someone who is used to touch typing. I’ve purchased a fair number of them and have quite the selection to choose from in various forms. But the one thing that all of these mechanical keyboards have in common … the cable.
All of them have a silly little six foot long USB cable permanently affixed to the back. They spruce them up in various ways. You can buy colored cables, special paracord woven cables. Some have detachable cables because what is probably going to wear out first between the cable and the electronics inside is the cable itself. Many have grooves and channels on the bottom to allow you to decide where you want your cable to pop out the back or the side of the keyboard to keep things nice and tidy. But what if I don’t want the damned cable anymore? The selection is very slim.
One of the few available wireless mechanical keyboards is the Varmilo VB87M Bluetooth LE keyboard, that I just picked up from Massdrop. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate with your computer or device, so you have to have a Bluetooth v4+ chipset to be able to use it. Fortunately, my Retina iMac does have such a chipset. And since the VB87M was billed as having “full Mac compatibility”, I sprung for it. I got it configured with the following:
- Black case
- Top-printed legends
- Red LED backlighting
- Gateron Blue key switches (very similar to the Cherry MX Blue switches)
So far, the keyboard seems mostly compatible with OS X. It isn’t recognized automatically as a Bluetooth keyboard. But once I went to the Bluetooth preferences I was able to find the keyboard and pair it with my Mac. Once it was paired, it worked like any other Windows-style keyboard with media keys support. I did need to install Karabiner in order to smooth over a couple minor wrinkles, but this is nothing new for trying to use a Windows keyboard on a Mac.
The PBT plastic key caps simply feel more durable than most key caps. When struck, they have a solid feel. On the other hand, the top surface of the keys feels smoother than other PBT keys I’ve used. Also, the key caps are shorter than typical for the standard Cherry key profile. But since the key switches follow the Cherry-compatible standard, the key caps can be replaced with pretty much key set I choose.
- Bluetooth LE connectivity
- Comes with a USB cable, but it is only for charging the internal battery which reportedly lasts for at least a week on a charge1
- Ultra-durable PBT key caps with either top-printed or front-printed legends
- Choice of color for the case (black or white)
- Choice of color for the LED backlighting (white, red, blue or none)
- Choice of key switches from two manufacturers
I haven’t had much time with the keyboard yet, but so far it is the best keyboard for the Mac that I’ve worked with other than the WASD Keyboards or Das Keyboard models. And unlike those others, it is wireless!
Pictured: Black case, front-printed key cap legends
Even normal Bluetooth connectivity doesn’t require much power. I would be surprised if the internal battery lasts for less than a month on a single charge. ↩