Tex Keyboards has a thing for classic IBM keyboard design. This time, it’s a seven-row oddity called the Shinobi. It’s ready for preorder, and you can get a Bluetooth LE module with it, too.
The Shinobi is the latest in a short line of IBM homages from the company. The Tex Yoda II is undeniably charming, with that red TrackPoint and extra mouse keys on board, and Tex went for it again with the Kodachi. The Kodachi evokes the ThinkPad SK8855, a cult classic of sorts. The original was rich in rows, and the Tex take had seven rows of keys to mirror that — and, of course, a TrackPoint — but in the end there were apparently some layout problems that hamstrung the final Kodachi product. You can’t buy it directly from Tex, even.
But the company tried again with the Shinobi. They made two significant changes: They changed up the layout and developed smaller keycaps.
If you look at the Kodachi, you can see how Tex tried to create a layout that looked familiar, and normal, despite the extra rows of keys. Other than the regular spate of modifiers, it was mostly run-of-the-mill 1U keys. But that wasn’t true to the original SK8855 keyboard; the Shinobi, though, has the large, vertical (vertical!) Esc and Del keys that are unique to the SK8855.
And of course, there’s a TrackPoint.
Tex also created a new, smaller keycap. According to Tex, this was a difficult problem to solve for, because the SK8855 itself had smaller caps. Tex calls this design the “mini ADA retro keycap” — it’s about 87% the size of a typical 1×1 cap — and the company said that this smaller keycap was integral to honoring the SK8855’s design.
On June 5, Tex announced that the second prototype of the Shinobi was ready. It brought forth a reduction in travel for the three-button TrackPoint and redesigned G, B, and H keys to better accommodate the thing. A couple of weeks later, Tex announced a prototype of the Bluetooth module. And now, you can preorder the whole from Tex.
The base model costs $175 USD at the moment. You can choose from a variety of Cherry switch types, from the usual trio of colors to Black, Clear, Green, and so on. The BLE upgrade kits cost another $30 on top of that, so going wireless brings the package price up to $205.
The keycaps and case are all ABS plastic, and the former has laser-engraved legends. Layouts include US-ASCII; ISO UK, FR, Germany, and Nordic; and Japanese. You can also spring for an extra set of blanks. The Shinobi is programmable and has n-key rollover.
Predictably, the looks like it takes up a lot of space — it was, after all, based on a big laptop keyboard. There’s a huge front bezel that serves as an attached wrist rest with a smooth, gently tapered front for wrist comfort. But if you’re into TrackPoints and weird keyboard layouts, the Shinobi’s size won’t scare you off.
Order one now if you’re game.
You can buy other Tex keyboard products at MechanicalKeyboards.com.