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[REVIEW]Topre Realforce 103UB 55g

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Hey guys so i managed to acquire a Topre Realforce 103UB from a friend who decided to go with the Yellow one(91UBY i believe). Regardless, considering i got for $50 less i think it was a pretty good deal. To give you an idea of where i'm coming from, at college i have been using a Saitek Eclipse II since my Dell AT101W and my Model M are both just too loud to have in a dorm with a room mate.

Before i begin reviewing it, a small introduction to those uninitiated and interested to learn more.

Background

For those of you who already know, here are the specifics of the keyboard from elitekeyboards.com:

103-Key US ANSI Customizable Layout
All 55 gram weighted, 4mm travel Topre Electrostatic Capacitive Key Switches
High durability PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) keycaps
Long life dye-sublimated keycap labeling (Black)
Dimensions: 455 × 169 × 38 mm (17.9 x 6.6 x 1.5in)
USB interface
Cable Length: 1.5m (5.25ft)
Weight: 1.4kg (3lbs 1oz)


The Topre Corporation is a manufacturer of utility goods in Japan, it is actually short for Tokyo Press. They supply to some major airlines in the world who require 100% reliability or the next best thing ie Topre. Subsequently they manufacture the only "Made in Japan" electrostatic capacitive non-contact type keyboard in the world. To translate this into terms we are more comfortable with, they basically produce a hybrid between a mechanical keyboard and a mechanical one, borrowing principles from both but remaining unique.

To quote patent from Geekhack.org
Quote:
The present invention has been made in consideration of the above situation, and has as its object to provide a keyboard switch wherein constant hysteresis can be obtained without changing the operation characteristics even if an operation value is arbitrarily set, thereby properly preventing chattering, and wherein an operator can know that the operation member has been depressed to a depth corresponding to the operation value.
According to one aspect of the present invention, there is provided a keyboard switch comprising an insulating substrate, a first electrode laid on the insulating substrate, a second electrode facing the first electrode, a dielectric disposed between the first and second electrodes, said second electrode being formed of a conical coil spring, and being positioned on the dielectric so that one end portion of the spring may be in contact with the surface of the dielectric, a capacitance between the first and second electrodes being mainly defined by the contact area between the dielectric and second electrode, a button on the other end portion of the second electrode for compressing the second electrode toward the first electrode to change the contact area when the button is depressed toward the first electrode, said capacitance varying with the change in the facing area which changes substantially in proportion to the depth of depression of the button, and a means for giving snap feeling to an operator when the button is depressed and the capacitance exceeds a given value, whereby the switch is capacitively coupled for a switching operation and the snap feeling is given to the operator when the capacitance exceeds the given value.


The Topre Key Switch

As mentioned before the Topre key switch employs a plunger combined with a specifically weighted spring encased in rubber dome. The application of pressure is completely linear as opposed to the concentric/angular pressure applied in other mechanical keyboards. This allows for a very smooth actuation which in fact registers on the way up after releasing your finger from the key. The image below illustrates this concept.

attachment.php?attachmentid=4168&d=1251669163



This picture shows the spring that is present inside the rubber dome, which in this case is weighted to 55g. The rubber layer in between also accounts for the silent action of the keyboard.

attachment.php?attachmentid=4182&d=1251684708

************************************

attachment.php?attachmentid=4596&d=1253159610

Results using the Rip-o-Meter test on the switches(devised by Ripster, a member here). This test involves adding nickels to the switch to see when it gets actuated/depressed.

The above graph illustrates the difference between some of the well known switches used in todays mechanical keyboards. As can be seen the Topre's actuation point is towards the latter end of the spectrum and actually provides an exceedingly smooth action. The graph is curved along its entire course indicating minimal chatter and smooth release action something not quite present in today's rubber dome keyboards. However since the actuation of the Topre Keyswitch is right at the bottom of the key stroke, a very ergonomic feel is produced(as opposed to keyboards where you dont need to bottom the plunger out).



Review

Some pictures, please pardon the quality, i don't have a respectable lens disposable to me.


img00049201102021626.jpg
img00051201102021627.jpg
img00052201102021628.jpg
img00048201102021611.jpg


The keyboard itself came in a less than assertive box with plain brown coloring. This struck as nonchalant, modest and arrogant all at the same time. Topre keyboards are by no means eye catching but their refined design has a certain charm that perhaps too few cherish. It also goes to say that Topre understand their products speak for themselves. The sublimation printing and the 30 million keystroke guarantee ensure this.
Aside from the unassuming packaging, my initial impressions of the build quality were to my liking. The outer encasing is of a high density plastic that doesn't scratch easily. The keys sit on the board quite high as other mechanical keyboards. Another instantly gratifying feature, something i found out doing that thing everyone does when they get a new keyboard(play with the keys through the plastic) is that there is minimal chatter. This is something that Topre is proud about i am well aware. The keys themselves are scalped just enough to allow for your fingers to sit on them comfortably.

I would like to add here, rather an isolated case, since i play the Classical Guitar, i am required to maintain somewhat long nails on my right hand. Where in other keyboards i would hit these nails on the keys, and they would, after prolonged use pain, on the Topre this is non-existent. So i guess that really caters to the women of OCN.

Moving on to the key and its action. Considering how hard it is to obtain a Topre, before i could try it out, i would always wonder how does the keyboard actually feel? My description of this rather unique key stroke is as follows. Note: you may find this somewhat obsessive.

As you place your finger on the key and push, you are met with a wonderful resistive force almost pushing up at you. As the plunger travels down the shaft to strike the rubber dome, no presence of the spring under it is felt. This results in an incredibly smooth action i can't stop raving about. Even on the way up, since the potential energy of your stroke is stored in the spring, the force is maintained creating a responsive and fatigue free experience. The feeling of bottoming out is most definitely there and coupled with the sturdiness of the case, really makes it fun to type on.

Another feature is the angle at which the keys are curved spatially. The row seating the QWERTY letters is perfectly elevated above the row below it and the ASDFG row is similarly elevated above the row below it taking into account the reach of a human's fingers. I have used boards which are flat/convex/concave, but next to none have recreated it like this board, resulting in a very ergonomic typing experience.

To prevent the label fanboi, there are indeed some issues with the keyboard even though they may be short lived and easily overcome. The black on grey lettering even though appealing to me, sometimes can be a bother if you're just not putting your mind into typing. Especially since i don't have perfect vision, this is sometimes annoying, however for the most part i type without looking down. Lastly, the price is something to seriously consider. Even though it is three-letter-word-beginning-with-s experience, it is valid to question whether the features provided justify the obscene price.


Lastly. upon realizing that the box did NOT include the red escape key my friend promised he ordered with it, my inner reaction was thus.

That's not me
img00021201002051115.jpg


Hope this interested you.
Edited by Razultull - 2/11/11 at 10:29am
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post #2 of 10
poopy
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post #3 of 10
Good review
    
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post #4 of 10
I have one of those in the mail, estimated delivery is tomorrow smile.gif
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post #5 of 10
Nice pictures. A Youtube video would be greatly appreciated.
post #6 of 10
I knew you would like it smile.gif
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post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HaiLKroniK;12334448 
I knew you would like it smile.gif

isn't it just sex.
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post #8 of 10
Actually I can't take credit for RipOmetering that force graph in the OP. Silencium did that.

I can however take credit for the RipOmeter. Before it's invention it was all touchy feely crap in keyboard forums.
5416190855_b5bbd8caf3_z.jpg
I suspect the paper weighs 2 gms.
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post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ripster;12347823 
Actually I can't take credit for RipOmetering that force graph in the OP. Silencium did that.

I can however take credit for the RipOmeter. Before it's invention it was all touchy feely crap in keyboard forums.
5416190855_b5bbd8caf3_z.jpg
I suspect the paper weighs 2 gms.

Thanks a lot Ripster i apologize for not crediting you in the article.
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post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
oops, didn't mean to post
Bernard
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Bernard
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