If you love the look, size and comfort of Apple’s Magic Keyboard but wish it were backlit and had the feel and speed of a mechanical keyboard (and maybe also wish it were available with a Windows layout), the Vissles LP85 optical-mechanical keyboard is your wishes fulfilled. Or at least it will be once its successful Kickstarter campaign wraps up and the keyboard goes into full production and starts shipping early next year.
Two years ago I wouldn’t have thought much about the size and weight of a keyboard. But with more people entering offices where hoteling and hot-desking are the norm, being able to travel with a keyboard is perhaps more important than ever. The LP85 is a 75% keyboard size, which makes it slightly wider than the Magic Keyboard because it adds a full row of directional keys including full-height arrow keys.
The LP85 has a similar wedge-shaped profile as Apple’s keyboard, although its aluminum-alloy frame is 3 millimeters thicker. And while it’s noticeably heavier than the Magic Keyboard — the LP85 is more than twice its weight at 19.3 ounces (547 grams) — it’s still light enough to travel with.
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A switch on the back of the LP85 lets you go from wired to wireless.
The extra weight is a good thing
The keyboard’s heft is nice. It makes it feel sturdy and keeps it in place on your desk. At least part of the reason the keyboard is heavier is its 2,000-mAh battery. The LP85 is a Bluetooth keyboard and can be paired with up to three devices at once. Like most Bluetooth keyboards, when you’re away from the keyboard for a bit the LP85 goes to sleep and requires a key press to wake it up and reconnect. This reconnection takes a second or two and can be infuriating. But you can also use it wired with the included USB-C-to-USB-A cable. This is also how it’s charged.
Battery life is OK, especially if you keep the backlight off or low most of the time. It lasted for days on a single charge, though I did notice keystrokes wouldn’t always register as the battery ran down. The backlight, by the way, can be set to 19 different RGB and eight monochrome patterns that you can flip through with keyboard commands.
The LP85 is slim for a mechanical keyboard.
The switch makes a huge difference
Instead of traditional mechanical switches that use metal contacts for signals, optical switches use a beam of light. When the beam is broken, the signal is sent instantaneously. Vissles’ optical switches have an actuation force of 50 grams and a 1.2-millimeter actuation point with a total key travel of 2.5 millimeters. So despite the slim body, you’re still getting the feel of a traditional mechanical keyboard. The switches are fast enough for gaming and light enough for all-day office use.
The switches have a pleasing click to them, although the people in your office or at home might not agree. Right now, this is the only switch Vissles is offering with the keyboard, however. If you want to experiment with different key switches, Keychron’s K3 is a similar size and has hot-swappable mechanical switches. The LP85, perhaps because you can’t swap out the switches, feels more solid both in build quality and typing experience.
The Kickstarter campaign for the Vissles LP85 ends on Dec. 2 at 9:06 a.m. ET. The keyboard is available in Mac or Windows layouts, although you can switch the key commands between the two with a simple key combo. Regardless of the layout, the keyboard requires a pledge of $99 plus $10 for shipping (AU$167, £86). It’s expected to ship in February next year.
Please note that CNET’s reporting on crowdfunding campaigns is not an endorsement of the project or its creators. Before contributing to any campaign, read the crowdfunding site’s policies — in this case, Kickstarter — to find out your rights (and refund policies, or the lack thereof) before and after a campaign ends.