NovelKeys, known for specially designed switches, Big Switches, and more, is expanding into producing actual keyboard kits. They had a prototype on display at the NorCal Mechanical Keyboard Meetup of a 65% keyboard with hot-swap capabilities.
NovelKeys’ Mike Sickler told me that his goal is to make a high-quality keyboard that’s also reasonably affordable. His target is around the $140 mark. That price will get you an aluminum chassis with a USB Type-C port and SMD LEDs. It will be sold as a kit, not a fully assembled keyboard, so you can bring your own switches to the party.
The NovelKeys crew has been working on the project for a while; there was a delay after they’d worked with a Chinese manufacturer on the PCB only to realize that it wasn’t going to support QMK. Sickler said they knew they needed QMK support, so they’re working with a solo European designer on a PCB design that offers it.
There’s no hard date for when the keyboard will be ready, but expect preorders to open around January directly from NovelKeys’ site. There will be just the one color available, at least for now.
The keyboard is yet unnamed. But other than lacking a moniker, the prototype at the meetup is the final design. (Only the feet will have a different material.) It’s a hipro affair, with a a reasonably thin bezel and indicator lights oriented vertically on the right side. The top plate has a slight indentation so the keycaps appear to sink in just a bit.
NovelCaps, Or NovelPro Caps, Or Something
Alongside (but separate from) the new keyboard will be a NovelKeys-designed keycap set, which also does not yet have a name. But it’s a new profile. Sickler said that he was inspired by SA and Topre profiles; he liked the “cuppiness” (his word) of the high profile but wanted something a little smaller.
In the same spirit as the unnamed 65% keyboard, NovelKeys is trying to develop quality that you can afford with these keycaps. There’s no price tag yet, but expect it to be affordable compared to a lot of small-run keycap sets. They’re also looking to find a way to cut down on lead times for keycap orders.
3D printed prototypes of the caps were at the meetup, but Sickler said they’re talking with an injection molding company about the production version. These will be ABS doubleshot caps. They currently aren’t backlit, but there’s a possibility that the final version will be.
NovelKeys is going to pay for the keycap tooling up front but will run group buys for various colorways. They’ll likely keep a handful of different colorways in stock as well, though. Suffice it to say, there will be multiple colorways of this new profile available.
Although the 65% keyboard kit should go live in January, there’s no timeline for the keycap set just yet. Stay tuned…