- Typing Test
- Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
- External Build
- Internal Build
- Layout and Function Keys
- Summary & Conclusion
- Full Gallery
- Where to Buy
The WASD CODE-87 is a tenkeyless keyboard that manages to balance the fine line between flash and class better than almost any other keyboard I’ve ever reviewed. The case itself has simple, classic lines and styling paired with white backlighting, a feature that really contributes to aesthetics and functionality. The CODE WASD sent me came with Cherry MX Green switches with 0-rings pre-installed. Right out of the gate one of the highlights of this keyboard was the sound. Unlike the KUL ES-87, the CODE has almost no PING at all, and the o-rings kept the bottoming out clack to a minimum. Both the KUL and WASD are often to be considered some of the highest quality MX keyboards around, but is there a clear winner? Let’s find out together.
Due to the lack of background noise and having nothing to compare the sound to, the keyboards may sound louder than they actually are. I do a test with the o-rings and without, which should give you a good idea of the differences in sound when they are installed.
Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
The packaging itself is the definition of simple. The box is completely white and only features text on the front that says:
“CODE – A system of words, letters, figures, or other symbols used to represent others.”
Inside the box is more plain white packaging. The packaging as a whole is slightly underwhelming, but at the same time I can appreciate it for it’s simplicity, a theme running through this entire keyboard. WASD also doesn’t sell keyboards in retail stores like many manufacturers, so having flashy packaging almost seems like it would be a waste of money anyways.
There is a lack of that “wow” factor you may want when spending $165 on a keyboard when first looking at and opening the box, but that is the only gripe I would have with packaging and presentation of the product overall.
Inside the box
The keyboard comes wrapped in a white foam liner. A 6ft USB micro cable, USB to PS/2 adapter, and wire key puller were also in the box. The wire key puller is one of the better key pullers I’ve seen to be included with a keyboard. No additional keys were provided, though I will say the “Windows” keys were both left blank, something I’m personally fond of.
My first small disappointment came when I went to plug the keyboard in with my custom USB micro cable that the last keyboard on my desk had used and I realized it was a micro and not a mini USB that was needed. I have nothing against micro USB plugs inherently, but USB mini is used on so many keyboards that it just makes for less of a hassle when swapping keyboards on my desk or carrying them around so I only have to bring 1 cable with me. Minor annoyances really. I should also mention that unlike the Novatouch, which also uses a USB micro cable, the CODE routes the cable underneath the keyboard and tightly holds the cable, creating a much sturdier connection. So while USB micro may not be my cable of choice, this really comes down to personal preference, the design is solid and keeps the cable safely connected.
The Case is made out of rigid plastic, and the top and bottom halves fit extremely snugly together. The plastic is quite solid but will flex a bit when torsional pressure is applied (grabbing the case and twisting in opposite directions). The CODE does flex much less than some keyboards, like the Blackwidow, though flexes more than a KUL. The case has a matte black finish which I found to be fairly resistant to showing fingerprints.
The case also lacks any visible branding or logos apart from the labeling on the bottom of the case. Personally, I really like this approach as it adds to the overall professional appearance of the CODE. This only helps the code maintain it’s very professional appearance.
Reverse side (rubber pads, feet, etc.)
There are 6 rubber feet on the back, 4 up front (2 for when it sits flat, 2 for when it is angled by the back legs) and 2 in the back on the end of the feet. The feet and subsequent rubber ends are relatively thin which results in it sliding around when moderate horizontal force is added. I tested the keyboard out on multiple surfaces and overall felt the rubber pads and feet did a commendable job keeping the keyboard stationary under all normal circumstances. I only had the keyboard slide once while I was testing it during an intense game of Battlefield 4, which is completely excusable as it was a fairly extreme circumstance that involved lots of yelling and flailing arms. The USB micro jack is on the bottom of the keyboard, with 3 routing channels (left, center, right) for the cable. The 6 DIP switches are also safely housed on the back of the keyboard.
The keycaps are thin UV coated ABS, and pretty much what I’ve come to expect from stock caps at this point. After just a few days of use they were showing some visible shine and smudges.
This is not something that I would hold against the CODE by any means, as these have fared no worse than most stock keycaps (the KBP V60’s keycaps were significantly worse at showing shine in the same time frame). The keycaps are backlighting compatible and do look really nice in low light/dark environments. The media controls are front printed and do not illuminate as the LED’s are housed at the backs of the switches.
Taking the keyboard apart involved unscrewing a single Phillips head screw on the bottom of the case (under the small “Do Not Remove” sticker) and unclipping the case clips. You will need an extremely thin flathead screwdriver or similar object to pop the case clips, which is done by sliding it straight in the case at the seams. Due to the fact that the case fits so perfectly together, this can be a little tricky and is not recommended. You can easily put little divots in the case around the seam if you aren’t extremely careful when opening the keyboard up.
The internal quality is the CODE is very high. The soldering was considerably neater than quite a few other keyboards I’ve looked at, and the PCB was held very securely in place. Overall I had no issues with internal component build quality, the CODE is top notch in this area.
Another feature that I absolutely love about the CODE is the white backplate, it gives the keyboard a stunning look, and amplifies the backlighting. Even when the backlighting is turned off you can see the white backplate between the keys and edges slightly, which is fantastic. This is a small detail that does manage to make it stand out among the competition.
WASD has a wide variety of genuine Cherry MX switches available to choose from when you order from their online store, the unit they sent me had Cherry MX Green switches (a personal favorite). Because WASD only uses Cherry switches, the actual switch quality is not something that should ever be a concern. MX Greens are a tactile and clicky switch with an 80g actuation force, making them one of the heaviest common Cherry switches; as a very heavy typist I welcome the extra resistance. It is also worth mentioning that the CODE came with o-rings pre-installed. The purpose of o-rings is to mute the sound of the “clack” that you get when bottoming out keys. The included o-rings do a great job, and the only audible sound was the “click” from the Green switches themselves. This does slightly change the feel of the switches, but it is purely subjective if you like the feeling or not. Personally I don’t like o-rings at all on lighter switches, but they feel quite nice on heavier ones, like MX Greens.
I much prefer included o-rings to come installed, like on the CODE, than come in the box like the CM Novatouch. In my experience it takes much more time to put them on than take them off, so it’s a great way to try them out and see if you like them. If you don’t, it only takes ~10 mins to have them uninstalled, unlocking the full clack potential of the keyboard.
Layout and Function Keys
The CODE 87 that I am reviewing follows the standard ANSI layout, meaning that almost every aftermarket set of keycaps will fit perfectly on keyboard. The CODE is also available in UK, German, and Swedish layouts, an offering that most other manufacturers don’t have. The function keys and Dip Switches listed below give the keyboard quite a bit of versatility. Some of the highlights for me were the ability to switch to alternate layouts such as Dvorak and Colemak via the dip switches, and the location of the media keys. If you use an alternate layout, such as Dvorak, most operating systems will simply let you select your layout under keyboard options and will remap the input of any standard keyboard to Dvorak for you. The issue with software keymapping is that if you loging to a remote desktop/server or carry your keyboard to another workstation that you will be back to a standard layout. The benefit of having the DIP switch hardware option is that the keyboard will still be in Dvorak at any computer you use, at along with any remote servers or sessions you have. I used Dvorak through much of College and never had this option, which is one of the main reasons I am back to using Qwerty.
I also really like the location of the media keys being located in the cluster above the arrow keys, as opposed to having them all relegated to the F-Row like many other keyboards. My reasoning behind this preference is that their locations are much more intuitive, making it easier to remember what key does what if you swap out the keycaps.
Here is a full list of the function keys as well as options available via the 6 dip switches on the back of the keyboard:
- Fn+Insert: Play/Pause
- Fn+Home: Stop (Not supported by OSX)
- Fn+Delete: Previous Track
- Fn+End: Next Track
- Fn+Page Up: Volume Up
- Fn+Page Down: Volume Down
- Fn+Pause: Mute
- Fn+F11: Adjust LED backlight brightness
- Fn+F12: Turn LED backlight on/off
- Fn+F13: Eject (Mac mode only)
|SW1 Off, SW2 Off||Standard Qwerty mode||Switches the defaul position of the Command and Option Keys|
|SW1 On, SW2 Off||Mac mode|
|SW1 Off, SW2 On||Dvorak mode|
|SW1 On, SW2 On||Colemak mode|
|SW3 Off||Caps Lock = Caps Lock, (L) CTRL = (L) CTRL|
|SW3 On||Caps Lock = (L) CTRL, (L) CTRL = (L) CTRL||Caps Lock function is removed|
|SW4 Off||Scroll Lock = Scroll Lock|
|SW4 On||Scroll Lock = OS Key Lock||Use this key to enable/disable your OS keys|
|SW5 Off||OS Keys Enabled|
|SW5 On||OS Keys Disabled||If OS keys are disabled, OS key Lock mode will be disabled|
|SW6 Off||Menu Key = Menu Key|
|SW6 On||Menu Key = FN Key||Used to access built-in function commands|
Summary & Conclusion
Overall, I was extremely impressed by the CODE. When I test a keyboard for review I usually try to use the keyboard in question for around two weeks to pick up on some of the nuances that may otherwise be missed. During those two(ish) weeks I generally give myself a day or two where I’ll use whatever keyboard I want, and I found myself not wanting to stop using the CODE. The consistency of the switches and the sound of the CODE was sublime, it is easily one of the nicest MX keyboards I’ve ever used on those terms. The backlighting, while void of any fancy effects or colors, was both elegant and effectively made the keyboard easier to use in dim/dark environments. I can’t think of a better backlit keyboard for use in professional surroundings, or where a minimalist look is desired than the CODE.
- Excellent build quality
- White backlighting
- Clean design and appearance
- No logo on keyboard
- 6 Dip Switches
- O-Rings come installed
- NKRO via PS/2 (USB to PS/2 adapter included)
- White backplate – small detail, classy looking results
- Media key locations
- Relatively thin keycaps
- Keycaps show fingerprints and shine easily
- Case hard to remove without slightly damaging it
- USB micro connection instead of USB mini (personal preference)
- Pricey when compared to other options (Tested model at $165 + Shipping)
- Expensive shipping if purchased from WASD’s online store (some models are available on Amazon Prime)
Final score: 8.3/10
Personal Thoughts: CODE or KUL?
I really like the WASD CODE. I really, really like it. My biggest issue with it is the price. $165+shipping makes the CODE significantly more expensive than the competition. Granted, it is better than nearly all of the competition, but the price is still quite high. For a non-backlit TKL I’d still recommend the KUL any day of the week. KUL’s biggest weakness right now is their lack of overall options in their lineup, as they only make one standard model TKL. Anytime someone wants more out of a keyboard like backlighting, full size offerings, or ISO layouts the CODE will continue to be my recommendation. The CODE is also my continual recommendation for people looking for a keyboard that will perform and look good in a professional environment. In my opinion the KUL is really a keyboard for the enthusiasts. The easily removable case + case color options and no frills design really make it the MX keyboard for people that aren’t concerned with backlighing, but still want the sturdiest keyboard around. Also, if you want to swap out switches or mod the keyboard, having that easily removable/replaceable case is a huge benefit. Between the two, do I really think one stands out as being a better option than the other? The short answer: no. They are different enough that considering the pros and cons of each should lead you to making a choice that is right for you.
Where to Buy
WASD online store, Amazon (If you have Prime, I highly suggest checking Amazon for the model you want first)