I’ve been a huge fan of the Morgrie RK68B for some time now, and the two I owned were all I was using for typing for a good long while. The Happy Hacking Keyboard was simply the last on my list to try out, and when I started to get a little annoyed with the loud clicking of the Morgrie, I decided to snag this Type-S Snow Edition.
Holy shit, yeah, this is the best keyboard on the market.
Specs and Such
The Happy Hacking Keyboard
(HHKB) is a part of the Fujitsu/Ricoh companies, so don’t be surprised by the links. The hard part about these is that there are not really “specs” per se, so instead I am going to do my best to lay it out for you:
- The keyboard is fully customizable via PC/Windows Only software.
- Connections are via USB-C, or Bluetooth 4.2LE with support for 4 devices
- The switches are Topre Capacitive with a 50 million press lifespan (circle back to these).
- It’s a 60-key size board and actually quite compact in width — though a little taller and deeper.
- It is at a substantial angle when not using feet, but has two levels of flip out feet to increase that.
- Made in Japan
- The power is via the USB-C cable if using that, or via 2x AA batteries (Alkaline or NiMH work).
- Manual switches for hardware overrides on the keyboard layout
There’s kind of a lot going on here. If you read the website, you think you can plug the keyboard in and get going, and you can, but if you want to use Bluetooth and then plug in sometimes, it gets tricky — you actually have to use keyboard shortcuts to toggle your four bluetooth devices, or the USB-C mode. That’s not a huge thing, and the shortcuts are printed on the back of the keyboard.
The power setup is pretty neat, and I thought really stupid at first. In practice it is very nice to swap some AA batteries and keep going. It’s also nice to be able to run off USB-C if wanted.
I would argue the two main draws of the HHKB are the switches and the key layout. The switches vastly better than any other mechanical switches I have used, with a smooth press all the way through, and a light but still audible sound. There’s no harsh click here, you instead hear the switches bottoming out, and even at that, the typing is a joy. I should note that the sound here is a ‘feature’ of the Type-S model, as that is a ‘silent’ switch. (The ‘snow’ is for their all white series.)
The layout is very developer/console forward, but after only a few days it makes a lot more sense than your typical layout on a board of this size. But going back and forth with a more standard layout with mess you up with the location of control and the arrow keys.
So much of the specs is wrapped up in the actual experience of using this keyboard. And the thing about using this keyboard is that it is a gem of a keyboard to use. As someone who has been using and advocating mechanical keyboards for a while now, the experience of switching to this keyboard was the same as moving to mechanical keyboards to begin with.
I feel like I type faster, I don’t, but I am more accurate. My hands were a little fatigued the first few days as they adjusted to the new angle, layout and key press sensations. But weeks later, I loathe going back to other keyboards — this is better.
I talked about how the keys feel already, and while they don’t feel like they are a firmer press than anything else I type with, they do seem to encourage a longer press. Rather than flying over the top of the keys, I find that when I am really moving, I tend to bottom out the keys more without thinking about it. This is really the only sound you are hearing with the keyboard — the press, not the switch.
The layout is rather interesting, and given that I do not have a Windows machine, nor a Mac, I am reliant on the switches at the back of the keyboard alone — which I am using in Mac mode. The caps key is replaced with the control key — a mapping I typically use in my keyboards to begin with. But the lack of the lower left control key does catch me off guard in the first moments of switching back to this keyboard each time.
The arrow keys will certainly bite you, as they are accessible through the FN key along the right side of the board with
[ as the up arrow,
;' as left and right, and
/ as down. Is that weird? Yes. Is is somewhat maddening: for sure in the first couple of weeks. After that it’s a thing I never think about.
Which brings us to the next part: HHKB sells carrying cases for these directly. Why? I couldn’t understand it until I got one myself, and then I started considering whether or not I should buy a travel case. There’s two main reasons why:
- It is truly that good, that you do not want to use anything else.
- For a keyboard, the price is not an easy pill to swallow at around $300.
I did not yet buy a second HHKB, but I also have not bought the case. I still want to do one of those two options, and I suspect I’ll be buying another in short order.
This is the best keyboard I’ve used. Not only because of the switches being used, but the entire package is excellent. The layout is very compact without losing the core features, or making them preternaturally difficult to access. Even though the width is compact, the height and depth doesn’t make this an overly small keyboard to have on your desk. It won’t look silly, but it also will not compete for space.
If what you want is an excellent keyboard for typing, easy connectivity, and a small size — then this is the keyboard for you.