Ever heard of a Royal Kludge keyboard? Neither had I until recently. Royal Kludge is a new (disastrously named) Chinese mechanical keyboard company founded in 2014. They already have several keyboards out, including very interesting RGB backlit full-size and tenkeyless Topre clones.
For readers not familiar, Topre switches are found in Realforce keyboards, Happy Hacking Pros, Leopold FC660Cs, CM Storm NovaTouches, and other expensive high-end keyboards. They have a cult-like following and many folks, me included, consider them the smoothest, most refined switches available. In 2014, the CM Storm Novatouch was the first keyboard to combine Topre switches with Cherry MX compatible stems, allowing keyboardists to use readily available Cherry MX keycap sets on Topre switches (aftermarket Topre keycap sets are out of production and difficult to find). But the Novatouch isn’t backlit. These Royal Kludge boards are backlit–and RGB to boot. They use Topre switch copies–not the real deal–but if they’re made well, they could nevertheless be very compelling products. They certainly are affordable at under $100 each.
They’re called the RC930 104 RGB and RC930 87, respectively. Here are the details, courtesy of Google Translate. Although the 87-key tenkeyless board lacks the RGB designation, the two boards appear to have very similar backlighting features.*
- Backlighting by region – 7 different colors built into the keyboards, selectable by zone. On the TKL, there are four zones: WASD, arrows, function keys, and all other keys. On the full-size board, there are only three zones: alphas & function keys, arrows & nav cluster, and the numpad.
- Backlighting modes on both boards, including breathing, sunset, relaxed mode, rainbow circular, uniform, etc.
- However, Google Translate also says “The keyboard itself offers seven kinds of commonly used basic colors … Keyboard driver software can be full-key … light color definition.” So, it sounds like you’re limited to the 7 colors and zones unless you’re using the desktop software–which allows full lighting programmability a la Corsair RGB keyboards.
* There are some potentially important discrepancies between the (translations of the) two boards’ product descriptions. The TKL product page says “The keyboard itself offers seven kinds of commonly used basic colors, seven colors that you can not be adjusted by the driver,” although there are several references on the page to RGB capabilities. The full-size product page contains the aforementioned passage, “Keyboard driver software can be full-key … light color definition” yet also has a passing reference to 7 colors at the bottom of the page. So, there is some evidence that one or both of the boards are really 7-color, not full RGB–but overlooking these discrepancies, my best guess after carefully reading both translations is what I said above: both boards are indeed full RGB but are limited to 7 colors unless you’re using the desktop software. Clarification from Chinese speakers would, of course, be welcome.
Royal Kludge also says that the boards “support full keyboard programming” through the software utility. As with the other details, we’ll need a better translation before we conclusively know what this means. If the keyboards are truly fully reprogrammable like the ErgoDox or upcoming POK3R, it would be a significant attraction on top of the already-impressive RGB backlighting.
Both boards are also available as non-backlit versions. The non-backlit TKL comes with PBT keycaps, while the non-backlit 100% board comes with POM keycaps. The backlit versions of both boards come with doubleshot ABS keycaps with translucent legends. Both 45g and 55g switch weightings are available.
The TKL is priced at 449 yuan without backlighting, or 549 yuan with backlighting, or about $72 and $88, respectively. The full-size is priced at 499/599 yuan, or $80/$96. This pricing is very favorable compared to genuine Topre boards, which average $200+.
One attraction of the Novatouch is that its sliders can be swapped into many other Topre keyboards, converting them to use Cherry MX keycaps. We don’t yet know whether the same will be true of the sliders in the RC930 boards.
I’m working on getting a sample unit of one or both RC930 boards, so stay tuned for more news.
What do you think about these keyboards? Let me know in the comments.