Alright, it could not appear to be a lot to most individuals, however what I’ve acquired in entrance of me here’s a little bit of a holy grail of keyboards to us nerds. The Blissful Hacking Keyboard, or because it’s higher identified, the HHKB, has gained cult-like standing amongst a really particular nook of keyboard followers, myself included. It’s a type of keyboards that I noticed on boards a couple of years in the past and needed to personal, however the associated fee and stuff on the time was simply too excessive.
Quick ahead to early 2023, and I’m sitting right here with an HHKB Skilled Hybrid Sort-S in entrance of me. It’s been my every day driver for the previous few weeks, nicely, aside from once I’ve been swapping between it and my Topre Realforce R2 PFU, however anyhow, I digress. Would I like to recommend proper out of the gate so that you can go and purchase one? Properly, yeah, undoubtedly, however on the similar time, additionally, no.
Permit me to clarify. There are some things that make the HHKB a novel keyboard in its personal proper that you could be have to get used to. Chief amongst these is its odd structure. In taking a fast look down, the HHKB may appear to be any regular US ANSI structure 60% keyboard, however take one other take a look at it. It’s lacking a couple of keys, most notably Home windows keys, and a secondary Management key, and the place the hell’s the Caps Lock key? What’s that… it’s now a Management key? How can this be?
Properly, the HHKB makes use of a structure that was first devised by Eiiti Wada (opens in new tab), in collaboration with PFU, the corporate that makes the HHKB—they’re an enormous conglomerate enterprise that features manufacturers like Fujitsu and Ricoh.
Change: Topre Switches, 45g
Keycaps: PBT, dye-sub
Onboard storage: None
Additional ports: None
Connection kind: Wi-fi, Bluetooth
Cable: USB Sort-C, removable (not included!)
Weight: 540g/ 1.19bs
Worth: $357 / £300
The story goes that Wada wasn’t pleased with having to make use of a unique keyboard structure with differing complexities with each working system that he had to make use of, and he needed to design a one dimension matches all kind of factor to swimsuit each platform he was utilizing. He noticed the keyboard as an adjunct that PC makers had uncared for, when in actual fact it’s one of the integral components. With that philosophy in thoughts, he in contrast the keyboard and PC to a horse and saddle within the Wild West, with probably the greatest analogies I’ve ever learn: “The horse was a consumable good, however the saddle was an interface that their our bodies had gotten used to. In the identical vein, PCs are consumable items, whereas keyboards are vital interfaces.”
The purpose right here although is that whereas the HHKB structure takes some getting used to, and it took me every week or so of fixed use to take action, the location of sure keys makes excellent sense. The one stage Enter key instantly beneath backspace means there’s much less of a soar for deleting characters, whereas the identical can be true on the left-hand facet with the Management key the place Caps Lock is. There’s no want to succeed in down an additional row for modifier keys, preserving your fingers firmly the place they need to be.
In fact, it’s contact typists who’re actually going to really feel the good thing about this, however even in the event you contact kind with solely half your fingers like I do, the structure continues to be completely usable, and it’s instantly turn out to be one in all my favourites.
That small 60-key structure additionally helps the HHKB Skilled Sort S to be one of many dinkiest keyboards I’ve ever had on my desk. At 540g or so, it’s additionally immensely mild, which can lead you to imagine it feels cheaply constructed, however you couldn’t be extra flawed. Regardless of being fully comprised of plastic, the HHKB’s chassis is ridiculously sturdy and particularly fetching within the ice-white color I’ve acquired right here. That glorious ending can be evident on the dye-sub PBT keycaps supplied, which really feel attractive beneath finger. Provided that high-quality development, there’s additionally no want to fret about legends carrying off or issues wanting shiny, not like with some cheaper ABS keycaps with printed legends.
Aside from the structure, the HHKB additionally options some intriguing electro-capacitive switches of kinds, that are the identical as you get on a Topre RealForce, one other a type of holy grail keyboards I alluded to earlier. I talked about electro-capacitive keyboards with a characteristic on them about this time final yr, however in the event you’re unaware, these work by way of a plunger pushing down a membrane, which in flip pushes down a conical spring, creating electrical contact and inflicting a keystroke to be registered. In brief, they aren’t mechanical within the conventional sense, however are given a little bit of a free move, given how superb they really feel.
One of the simplest ways I can describe it’s this: typing on the HHKB Skilled Sort S is like typing on a cloud. The place regular key switches can really feel harsh with a type of tactility, the HHKB feels comfortable however tactile, with out feeling spongy or moist, like some membrane keyboards can really feel. The swap feeling right here might be fairly polarising; die laborious mechanical followers will say it doesn’t really feel proper however to my fingers, it’s probably the greatest issues I’ve ever typed on, aside from my RealForce. What’s particularly intriguing is that the HHKB doesn’t characteristic a metallic plate inside, lending the underside out of the keypress to really feel smoother and crisper than my RealForce, with its metal plate providing a stiffer backside out on the important thing journey, regardless of utilizing the identical switches. The HHKB right here additionally options silenced and dampened Topre switches, so in the event you’re working in a busy workplace, otherwise you don’t wish to wake the neighbours, it’ll even be a superb keyboard, too.
Returning to regular keyboard issues, this can be a wi-fi keyboard, and works by way of 2 AA batteries that may be modified simply with the protruding battery compartment out of the highest of the chassis. In my mileage, I really did not have to vary batteries through the six or so weeks I had the HHKB in hand, and PFU says you’ll be able to stand up to 4 months cost on a set of batteries. There’s additionally a USB Sort-C port for wired use, though it doesn’t cost the HHKB’s batteries—that’s as much as you to get some rechargeable cells. Personally, I believe this can be a little bit of an oversight given the sheer price for getting the HHKB: a chargeable cell with USB Sort-C charging not solely makes extra logistical sense, it additionally means you don’t danger the HHKB instantly dying with out warning.
This leads me properly onto the large elephant within the room, the worth. It’s $357/£300 on the time of writing—for a keyboard that doesn’t include all of the keys or correct mechanical switches, single channel Bluetooth connectivity, and also you don’t get a USB Sort-C cable within the field. However, let’s face it, in the event you’re contemplating shopping for one in all these, you understand precisely why you should purchase one, and you could not want this evaluate to persuade you.
I’ll be trustworthy, I’m blindly in love with my HHKB Skilled Hybrid Sort S, and I’ll suggest you go and purchase one, even when it’s simply merely to strive it out. Sure its structure will take some getting used to, and the very fact I am going to need to burn by some normal AA batteries to energy it’s a little bit of a ache, however the reality stays that you simply’re getting arguably the most effective typing expertise cash should buy in a keyboard that’s amazingly nicely constructed and one which’s not like anything available on the market in the present day. If that isn’t value your time, I don’t know what’s.