Posted On 01/19/2016 By In News

REVIEW: Realforce 104US (Silenced Topre)

Page Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Typing Test
  3. Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
  4. External Build
  5. Internal Build
  6. Switches
  7. Layout and Function Keys
  8. Summary & Conclusion
  9. Full Gallery
  10. Where to Buy

Introduction

The Realforce 104US is a silenced Topre capacitive switch keyboard. Currently it is only available through Massdrop in the US. This full size keyboard is one of the most expensive retail keyboards out there, and also one of the most luxurious to type on. The already quiet 45g Topre switch is even further refined by the silencing sliders that come on the 104US. This is a keyboard truly made for nothing other than providing the best typing experience possible. Is it worth the hefty hit to the wallet though? Let’s find out.

Typing Test

Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents

*Disclaimer: This box was opened before I received it to review, so this may or may not reflect what will come in the retail version.

Like all Realforce keyboards, the packaging is unassuming and plain at best. If you were to see this box on the shelf, you’d probably assume it was a keyboard left over from the 90’s. That being said, I’ve always appreciated simplicity, and really have started to like the Topre packaging.

Inside the box

IMG_7156

Inside the box was just the keyboard and a manual that was completely in Japanese. As I’ll discuss later in the layout section, there are no DIP switches to change the layout of the 104US up, so no extra keys were included. I would also assume that a keycap puller will not be included either.

External Build

Case

The Realforce case is made out of a very substantial feeling plastic. The case does not flex or creak at all. The minimal design gives the keyboard a very clean and professional look. Unlike many keyboards, the Realforce is actually incredibly easy to open up. The case is just held together by 4 clips in the front, and popping them is very easy to do. Once inside the case, simply make sure to detach the ground wire and unplug the USB cable from the PCB before ripping keyboard out of the bottom half of the case.

Reverse side (rubber pads, feet, etc.)

On the reverse side of the keyboard there is a non-detachable USB cable coming from the middle of the keyboard, a cable track on the left and right to lead the cable out. The model number on a sticker is the only branding on the bottom. There are back feet that flip out, but they don’t have any rubber. Fortunately, the thick rubber pads on the front edge of the keyboard in conjunction with the substantial weight of the keyboard are more than enough to keep it from sliding around as you type. This keyboard was perfectly stable during all of my typing and gaming tests.

Keycaps

The keycaps are thick dye sublimated PBT in Topre’s own sculpted Profile. The spacebar is ABS, but this isn’t a huge issue now that Matt3o and Massdrop have released their PBT spacebars for Topre keyboards. It would be nice if it was included with the keyboard though, for the price I feel like a PBT spacebar should be a given. Another very exciting feature of this particular board is that the Windows key is not a bubble, like on most other Realforce keyboards. Naturally, the keycaps and sliders are not compatible with MX keysets.

Internal Build

As expected, the internal build quality is immaculate. This is Japan we are talking about after all, a clean interior is expected. Once disassembled you will find that there is a sheet of rubber cups over the capacitive PCB, and under each of the domes is a tiny conical spring. The soldering was immaculate, and I saw nothing that would make me think the keyboard wouldn’t last for years to come.

 

Switches

The Topre switches are obviously the true highlight and selling point of this keyboard. Like all Topre switches, the ones on the 104US are non-clicky tactile switches. The unit I received had 45g switches across the entire keyboard. The switches are comprised of a purple slider, a rubber cup, and a conical spring under the rubber cup. Unlike other switches, such as Cherry MX style switches, the spring doesn’t really add any resistance (~5g) to the switch, instead the rubber cups provide the tactility and resistance. This gives the Topre switch a very distinct feel, and is not directly comparable to any MX switch. Topre switches are all non-clicky tactile switches, with an actuation point that is quite a bit higher up on the keypress than MX style switches. Due to the rubber cups, bottoming out is actually very comfortable and natural feeling.

The 104US goes a step further and comes silenced out of the box. Again, the Topre method of silencing is quite different from Cherry MX style switches. On MX switches, the silencing mechanism (o-rings, Elite Keyboards Landing Pads) is placed underneath the keycaps, to prevent the “Clack” heard when the bottom of the cap hits the top of the switch housing. On Topre switches, the silencing mechanism (in this case, a very thin rubber ring) is placed on the top of the slider. To access the sliders and silencing mechanism the entire keyboard must be disassembled with the keycaps removed, and then the sliders can be popped out using a small screwdriver or tweezers, as seen in the first picture below:

Having this rubber ring on the top of the slider prevents the “clack” when the top of the slider hits the bottom of the plate upon return. I think the silenced Realforce may be the most satisfying sounding keyboard there is out of the box. The silencing prevents any higher pitched “clacks” while accenting the “thock” that the Topre switches make. The feel is also extremely consistent and satisfying.

Layout and Function Keys

The Realforce 104US is ANSI, but unfortunately the layout is not customizable via dip switches, as there are none. I am a huge fan of swapping CAPS/CTRL on all of my keyboards, and don’t like that it isn’t possible with the 104US. There are also no media shortcuts on the keyboard, a feature that many people have become reliant upon.

Summary & Conclusion

While the Realforce 104US may lack a few features in the layout department, the board as a whole is just glorious. This is a keyboard for the typist and professionals who desire comfort, auditory discretion, and minimal looks. That isn’t to say the 104US isn’t good for gaming either. Topre is often overlooked when it comes to gaming, often because Topre keyboards don’t have backlighting or macro keys, but the switches are actually better than many when it comes to extended gaming sessions due to how comfortable they are to type on. At the end of the day, even without some features I generally desire in a keyboard, this is one of the best keyboards I have ever tested.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Silenced Topre switch may be one of the most comfortable and refined switches available.
  • The windows key isn’t a bubble!
  • Very professional in appearance
  • High quality PBT keycaps (minus ABS spacebar)
  • Comes in black or white

Cons

  • No dip switches to customize layout
  • No media controls
  • Non detachable cable

Final score: 9/10

Full Gallery

Where to Buy

Not currently available in the US through any storefront.

It is available through Massdrop for a limited time in the US currently. 

 

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1 Responses

  1. So what does this fine board cost? Any odds we might see this some where soon =)

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