The first thing we want to address here happens to be the backbone of this review, and that is the Cherry MX Clear switches. For those of you who have had the pleasure of using MX clears, you will likely understand exactly what we are about to discuss. However, for those who have never used these switches, we will try to put it in an easy to understand light. First, if we had to pick a switch most like the MX clears, we would pick the MX browns. This is because you can feel the actuation point, but there isn't an audible click from it.
Of course, you can bottom out the key caps and get a bit of a clack from hitting the steel plate, but that happens with any Cherry MX board. Although, the spring pressure is a bit tougher to use, and when the activation point is reached, there is a bit more resistance after that point until it bottoms out. Keyed Up Labs told us to expect a "mushy" feel, and they were looking to alleviate this from the switches, but to be honest, we rather liked the feel. The tips of your fingers do not take the impact as harshly as say, a MX Red that just drops away easily under pressure. These switches seemed to offer less fatigue.
With that out of the way, we are going to turn our attention to the much larger picture. The ES-87 is not only the first keyboard to arrive with these switches, but it is also the first keyboard we have tested to offer DIP switches. Since this is a driverless device ready for multiple operating systems, Keyed Up Labs wanted a way to offer some options and current features that speed typists and gamers alike could appreciate. To accomplish this, Keyed Up Labs offered six-key rollover, or the option for full NKRO that works with no ghosting. Also, the polling rate can be adjusted, keys can be swapped around in the layout, and you get caps to address those changes.
All of this, and we haven't even gotten to the advantages of Power Mode. Eliminating the dreaded accidental flashback to the desktop is one thing, but turning those keys into another multi-key function is another that will become advantageous to gamers and power users. Then, of course, we get the compact nature of this tenkeyless design, and structural stability that few others can achieve. While we feel the KUL ES-87 is mostly intended for serious typists out there, with all the options and multimedia keys, anyone out there can enjoy the ES-87.
Because this is our first real experience with a Keyed Up Labs product, it is likely that we have missed a few small details about this keyboard. Even though our relationship with Keyed Up Labs is fresh and new, we are hopeful that this turns out to be something more long term. From what we were told, Keyed Up Labs is already thinking of new options for this design, such as custom key cap sets, and potentially a way to custom program this keyboard.
Keyed Up Labs was also sure to mention that the surfaces and textures were all chosen for feel first, but in the back of their minds, they always wanted the ES-87 to be paint ready. So, with a rattle can or two of paint, and minor cleaning for prep, the KUL ES-87 is intended to be customized and modded to suit your specific desires. Funny thing about that too, is that the two-year warranty coverage says nothing to indicate that you cannot paint the keyboard. The warranty information just says not to break it or allow the paint cause issues, and you will still be covered should something fail.
When it comes down to it, yes the asking price is a bit higher than a few of the other tenkeyless options out there, but looking past all the gaming gadgets and add-ons, this keyboard will offer a great experience to those who use keyboards long term day in and day out. The ES-87 will also still allow gamers to have some control over placement of some of the keys, adjustable polling rate to be sure not to miss a stroke, and just to be on the safe side, full NKRO support with functional anti-ghosting. All of which, along with Power Mode, gives the advantage to Keyed Up Labs in our mind.
It takes a serious player in the keyboard world to really impress us these days, and we will not be letting this keyboard leave the office for some time to come. While we are huge fans of Cherry MX Blue and Green switches, we like the feel and functionality of this design so much that many of our longer term keyboards are being put away to make room for this keyboard. If it happens to cost $129.99 with four options of switch types, so be it. We think the Keyed Up Labs ES-87 is a keyboard that anyone who types for a living should give serious thought to.
Being driverless, and still offering the simplicity to change major functionality with a DIP switch is nothing new. However, Keyed Up Labs has done something we have personally never seen before, and without any issues to report in the time we have had it. Even with everything we wrote here, once this keyboard is under your hands, especially with Cherry MX Clear switches under the caps, after a day at the helm, we feel it will do all the talking anyone needs to hear.
PRICING: You can find the KUL ES-87 Tenkeyless Keyboard for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
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