Posted On 12/06/2018 By In Keyboard Reviews, Reviews

Ducky One 2 Mini Review: A Charming 60% At The Right Price

The latest bit of mechanical joy from Ducky is the compact Ducky One 2 Mini. Curiously named (is the number thing a purposeful joke, like “Ben Folds Five”?), the 60% keyboard is a design evolution from the original Ducky Mini, featuring a tightened-up bezel. The new kid also introduces full RGB backlighting, PBT keycaps, a USB Type-C connector, and Ducky Macro 2.0 support.

Ducky is a keyboard maker that has long served as an unofficial gap filler for people who are transitioning between plebeian “gaming” mechanical keyboards from the likes of Corsair and Razer and true hardcore mechanical keyboard nerdom. 

ducky one 2 mini

Ducky makes lots of different keyboards, in an array of form factors and layouts and colors; they smartly partner with complementary companies like Varmilo; and they make nichey but very cool products like the Ducky Pocket.

A Closer Look

The Ducky One 2 Mini has an entirely plastic chassis, which on paper is a serious bummer. In real life, though, I was surprised at how solid the keyboard feels when I’m typing on it. Given how easy it is to twist the One 2 Mini, the typing feel is an illusion, then. But like a great magic trick, perception is reality. Put simply, I like how it feels to type on this keyboard.

The front design is such that the One 2 Mini appears to have built-in legs and a suspended middle, but this too is an illusion.

The keyboard has a two-tone, black-on-white look. The keycaps are black, the backplate is white, the top cover is black, and the bottom of the chassis is white. Almost universally, that sort of thing does not appeal to me aesthetically when it comes to keyboards. But like a lot of keyboards that use a white backplate against black-everything-else, I believe the idea here is that the backlighting is supposed to be prettier and give the keycaps a floating look. That’s…fine. And it kind of works. But it only works when you employ the backlighting, and really only in low-ish light situations. And the backlighting itself only works if you have the keycaps with the translucent legends on (eg, not any of the included alternate caps). Otherwise, to me it just looks clunky.

I wish Ducky had chosen black or white. The black finish is sparkly and fingerprint-resisty; the white is shiny and sexy. Either would have looked great, even if there were still black keycaps on an otherwise all-white chassis and backplate. Next time, maybe.

Regardless, the design is arguably an improvement over the original Ducky Mini, which had a rather bulky bezel. Instead, the One 2 Mini inherited the design language of the One 2.

ducky one 2 mini

Underneath, the One 2 Mini sports a pair of two-stage flip-out feet. For as dainty as the keyboard feels when you pick it up, these feet are substantial. They offer impressive support, not just in terms of typing feel, but also how non-slippy it feels on my desk. The multi-stage design means you get three distinct typing angles.

The keyboard uses a detachable USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable that’s rubber and smooth. Ducky gets points for the removability bit as well as the durability of the Type-C connector, but note that the connection is only USB 2.0. Which is totally fine. Just sayin’, it’s not like it’s a Thunderbolt 3 connection or anything.

Switches, Keycaps, & Lighting

Ducky loves Cherry, and so that’s what you get on the One 2 Mini. The unit I have sports Cherry MX RGB Brown switches, but you can order one up with MX RGB Black, Blue, Red, Speed, or (for another $5) Silent Red.

The keycaps are seamless doubleshot PBT. (Note, though, that some layouts will have ABS. The layouts that will have PBT caps are TW/US/UK/Nordic/French/Korean/German.) They’re black but have translucent legends, so they’re fully backlit. It’s a joy to put my fingers on PBT and still get shine-through lighting. Ducky did a nice job of putting some of the sublegends on the keycaps (like the number keys) and positioning them so they’re equally backlit.

The company should also be lauded for adding front-side legends on these keycaps to mark functions from additional preprogrammed layers. Unlike the doubleshot primary legends, these are simply lasered on. They won’t wear out though, because you never touch them, but there’s no shine through. That results in a cleaner look, to be sure, but you really can’t see them at all in the dark, even if you have the backlighting cranked to eleven.

 

ducky one 2 mini

A small note: Ducky throws in extra keycaps with the One 2 Mini, but you don’t get to decide which ones you get. It’s a 10-keycap grab bag. But you’re supposed to get one of a few options, plus a YOTD spacebar (!). It’s possible that my little accessory kit is different because I have an earlyish review unit, but I did not get the tattooed spacebar. Sad trombone. The nine of the 10 key caps I got are bright yellow-ish orange with white legends (arrow keys, Esc, two special 1U keys, Backspace, and a vertically oriented Enter key that I can’t use on this layout). The 10th key is a navy blue Enter key with an orange legend. A grab bag indeed.    

Ducky Macro 2.0 And Its Functions

An obvious question is why the One 2 Mini has Ducky Macro 2.0 and not the newer Ducky RGB Software. The support list for the RGB software is presently quite short and includes only the full-size and TKL Ducky One 2 RGB, ANSI and ISO versions of the Year Of The Dog, and the Shine 7. But a Ducky representative told me that the RGB Software is coming to the One 2 Mini. He didn’t give a timeline, but he assured me that it’s not a technical limitation on the keyboard side. They’re just working through the process of deploying it, and although I’m inferring here, it sounds like they’re making strategic decisions about which keyboards to put it on.

For now, it’s Ducky Macro 2.0 for the Ducky One 2 Mini. That’s not a bad thing, because it’s plenty powerful and feature-rich.

The One 2 Mini is a standard 60% layout, which you can see outlined in livingspeedbump’s excellent layout guide. That means there’s no Del key on the primary, which I miss very much, and there are no arrow keys on that layer, which I miss even more. (Cue song. Skip to 0:55. Preach it, Trisha.)

The Ducky One 2 Mini has three layers built in. The first is the usual alphas and modifiers (that you can fit onto a 60% layout), and the second layer (Fn) has must-haves like arrow keys, Delete,  and F keys. The third layer (Fn + Alt) is all about keys for profile selection, lighting effects, and macros.

You’ll want to refer to the manual for much of this; the One 2 Mini’s manual is the rare kind that is not only actually helpful, but also very, very necessary. There’s a paper version in the box, but you can download the electronic version here.

Almost all of the secondary and tertiary legends are printed on the front side of the keycaps, which is mostly awesome. I personally can never remember more than a few keys on any secondary layer without help, so the extra legends are a godsend. The only downside is that you can’t tell at a glance which are the Fn layer and which are the Fn + Alt layer. For the most part it’s not difficult to figure it out–I mean, if you want to play with lighting and macros, it’s fairly obvious which keys are on that layer. But what’s trickier is that not all legends made it onto the keys. For example, in the Fn layer, the menu is on the Backspace key, but you would only know that if you checked the manual. The calculator is on that layer, too, but the Windows lock buttons are on the Fn+Alt layer. Etc.

There are mouse control buttons on the Fn layer, but I was never able to fully adapt to them. This has a lot to do with me being a dunce, so others may find those features absolutely divine. I got close, though; I found myself using the mouse controls a bit instead of the arrow keys. (One of my big complaints about the 60% layout is that I have to switch layers to get the arrow keys, which I use all the time. Being able to press Fn with my right hand and use my left to do more or less the same thing felt good.)

Bonus points to Ducky for placing the mouse directions (up, down, left, right) on the appropriate WASD keys. Double bonus for letting you press more than one mouse key at a time to move the cursor diagonally. The thing I could never quite nail down, though, was getting the cursor parked precisely where I needed it when I was writing. So it goes. It’s still really cool.

Of course, you can alter the placement of the Fn key using the DIP switches on the underside of the One 2 Mini. You can reorder the right-side Alt, Win, Fn, and Ctrl keys with DIP1 and DIP2 switches. Switching on DIP3 converts the Caps Lock key to Fn, and DIP4 lets you toggle between NKRO and 6KRO.

I’m not going to reproduce the entire user manual here, but it’s instructive to look at some of the available lighting modes and controls. There are ten total modes:

  • Wave
  • Color cycle
  • Rain drop
  • Ripple
  • Random reactive
  • Reactive
  • “100% Full Backlit” (eg, solid)
  • Breathe
  • Radar
  • Off

Depending on the mode, you can press Fn + Alt + Z, X, or C to adjust the level of red, green, and blue, respectively. Each of the three are adjustable by 10 stops. This gives you a way to adjust the hue to whatever color you want. You can adjust the brightness, direction, and speed of the lighting effects, too.

You can get really creative with the two “CM” modes. When you enable either one, you can fine-tune colors and assign those colors to any of the keys. You can keep adding new colors to different keys until you’re happy with your creation, and then you can save it.

There’s a lot more you can do with the lighting–it’s all laid out nicely in the manual–but the above gives you an idea.

Teardown

It takes very little effort to take apart the One 2 Mini. Just six Phillips screws hold the backplate/PCB onto the bottom chassis. What’s somewhat odd about this particular backplate/PCB assembly is that the screws don’t touch the backplate itself; they attach directly to the PCB, through to the chassis underneath. Thus, the backplate is held onto the PCB only by the solder points. It all feels quite solid, but it also seems perilous long term, even though the backplate and PCB are quite robust. (Each of them are 2mm thick.)

The black, four-layer PCB itself is lovely, with clean solder points (some flux though) and copper-colored accents that include a Ducky logo. The backplate is made of iron instead of aluminum or steel. It’s painted a matte white and looks and feels almost like it’s ceramic. It’s a fetching look. It does seem to scratch easily, but it’s only vulnerable if you’re taking the keyboard apart, so it’s not really anything you have to worry about.  

ducky one 2 mini

A representative said that Ducky tunes the MX-style stabilizers on its boards. You may notice that my review unit has red stabs, but products out in the wild have silver. I pressed Ducky on this but was told that I just have a somewhat earlier model. The later models that ship to customers will have silver stabs, but even so, the rep said that there’s no difference between them anyway.

There are three LED controllers (MB15042GP) on the Ducky One 2 Mini, one each for red, green, and blue channels. The MCU is an ARM Cortex M0-based Nuvoton NUC123SD4ANO.

Typing Demo

Here’s what the Ducky One 2 Mini with Cherry MX Brown switches sounds like. It’s a pretty clean typing experience, with no extraneous pings. Just a lot of clacking:

The Verdict

The Ducky One 2 Mini is a terrific successor to the original 60%, with high-quality keycaps, helpful sublegends, and lots of onboard controls via Ducky Macro 2.0. The plastic chassis is a letdown, and the white-on-black color is a bold choice, but it does have a firm typing feel. And at $100, you can’t ask for more.

ducky one 2 mini

ProsCons
Excellent priceI wish the chassis wasn’t plastic
PBT keycaps with shine-through legends instead of ABSSlightly confusing extra legends in the keycaps for additional layers
Legends for secondary and tertiary layers printed on the keycaps
Powerful onboard Ducky Macro 2.0 controls

Where To Buy

You can grab a Ducky One 2 Mini from MechanicalKeyboards.com, starting at $99.

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Seth Colaner

Editor in Chief of Keychatter. Irrepressibly interested in things. Loves devices that click and clack. Data nerd. Proud Midwesterner. Pass the buffalo chicken dip.

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