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Tex Beetle - Review

3599 Views 0 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  Shatterist
This might be misplaced and might be better off in the reviews section, but I think it has the better and more appropriate exposure here.

The Tex Beetle (MX Brown)

I'm of the belief that outside of the Macbook line of laptop keyboards and perhaps Lenovo's newer offerings, I can't really stand to type on non-mechanical keys these days. Unfortunately, I don't have Lenovo's newer offerings for work, so here I am stuck with a work laptop with a decent amount of travelling required on my part. I can't carry my full size or even TKL keyboards on some of my bags (derp TSA restrictions and all), so it was time to downsize. Right as I was thinking this, Massdrop was running a drop or two for 60% (compact) sized keyboards! I chose the Tex Beetle mostly because of aesthetic reasons, though I got to borrow my friend's Poker II as a comparison, though I won't particularly focus on comparing.

The Tex Beetle is a 60% sized mechanical keyboard (so smaller than tenkeyless, as it's missing both the numpad and the arrow/misc. key set) which comes in all the standard MX switch flavors and is compatible with both Mac and windows. Retails for $140, bought for $105. Besides the 60% compact sizing, it's also notable for having an aluminum frame (the whole thing isn't made out of it, but a good half of it is). The keyboard is pretty hefty in terms of weight, so it might not have been the best choice in terms of carrying it around with a laptop and what not, but it does provide that comfort that only metal and weight can confer. Yes, this also means that flex is pretty much non-existent, and you can bludgeon someone with it with the keyboard still likely to function.

Did I mention compact? I wasn't kidding, for reference, the laptop is a 12" Lenovo X220, and the keyboard is a full-size Logitech G710+

Okay, so the important part, the typing experience. Coming off full size keyboards such as a Das, losing that numpad can be painful once you realize how much you rely on it (which I do for spraedsheet heavy activities). However, one part which I did appreciate on the Beetle vs the Poker II was the inclusion of a full size arrow cluster. The sacrifice for the arrow key cluster should be fairly obvious on first glance; namely the truncated space bar and positively miniature right shift key (let's hope you weren't thinking of using that much, though for most people, I suspect it won't be a big loss). The only other key positioning oddity is the tilde key, which is next to the up arrow key, while the traditional tilde key location is occupied by the esc key.

Much like a smaller laptop, a lot of your functions will be functioned using a function key (which is the odd looking buttons flanking the keyboard) which give you access to pretty much all the keys you had on a fullsize (even volume control, though no media keys), and is denoted on the side of the keycap (much like Filco's Majestouch Ninja). For users of Mac's or other function key using keyboards, this should come rather easily, and frankly, the layout is fairly logical, so there shouldn't be too many contortions when doing more complicated keystroke combos. The smaller spacebar doesn't prove to be detrimental and having the function keys very close to the thumbs is helpful in bringing it all together.

If you notice, there is a set of keys labelled L1-L5 under QWERT (sorry, not you Y) Those swap the the position of certain/function of certain keys. As you can see from the picture, there are indicator lights which indicate whether or not the alternate function is being used. You guys can read what each of the functions do (not that I've figured out what L6 & L7 are). Fans of turning off the windows key during gaming sessions will be pleased to find the same function here (L5), while L2 might provide more comfort to those used to having the Fn key closer to the edge of the keyboard. It's interesting, and at times genuinely useful.

In terms of typing feel, I'll note in advance that if you've ever typed on a mechanical keyboard before, using this keyboard shouldn't be significantly different. I used MX brown switches, as they're my preferred switch (for explanations on switch type and how they generally feel, please see the mechanical keyboard guide here. Generally, there is a sense of floating, as if I'm typing even lighter than usual, which make it particularly good for light touch typists. It is slightly quieter than other mechanical keyboards, but the key word here being slight. The two things that did irk/disappoint me were the ABS keycaps, which don't feel as nice as the PBT keycaps on the Poker and what I've installed on my Das, and that the spacebar feels oddly noticeable, as if it were raised more than usual, but the 2nd point is merely subjective, as it does look practically the same (heightwise) as any other keyboard I use. Otherwise, as I've already stated, though it takes a little while to get used to the key alignment and function key setup, it's a quick learning process, and the function keys are fairly easy to find and remember.

As I conclude this not so mini review of this rather miniature keyboard, I have to concede that one part of the keyboard that is certainly not small is the pricetag. At $140 MSRP, we're easily hitting the pricetag of some very competitive full-size and TKL keyboards, and is $30 more expensive than the closest competitor, the Poker II. If you're looking for a "first" mechanical keyboard, coming from a regular full size keyboard, this is most likely not where you should start off. However, for the discerning mechanical keyboard user who has a need for the compact form factor with solid build quality and an aesthetically pleasing look, I would say this is hard to beat, though at a lowered pricetag.
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