Topre REALFORCE RGB 108-key Mechanical Keyboard Review
There are cars that get you from point A to point B, and then there are luxurious grand touring cars which will get you there with power, comfort, and style - for a price. Based on the cost alone ($269.99 MSRP!) it seems like a safe bet to say that the REALFORCE RGB keyboard will be a similarly premium experience. Let’s take a look!
There is as much personal taste at issue when considering a keyboard (or dream car!) as almost any other factor, and regardless of build quality or performance a keyboard is probably not going to work out for you if it doesn’t feel right. Mechanical keyboards are obviously quite popular, and more companies than ever offer their own models, many using Cherry MX key switches (or generic ‘equivalents’ - which vary in quality). Topre keys are different, as they are a capacitive key with a rubber dome and metal spring, and have a very smooth, fast feel to them - not clicky at all.
“Topre capacitive key switches are a patented hybrid between a mechanical spring based switch, a rubber dome switch, and a capacitive sensor which, combined, provide tactility, comfort, and excellent durability. The unique electrostatic design of Topre switches requires no physical mechanical coupling and therefore key switch bounce/chatter is eliminated.”
Before I get into the hardware and my own usage impressions, here is the list of features and specifications for the Realforce RGB:
- Number of keys: 108 Key layout (including 4 special keys)
- Actuation Point Change (APC): 3 settings (1.5 mm, 2.2 mm, 3 mm)
- Backlight: 16.8 million colors
- Key cap: Two-color molding
- Switch: Capacitance contactless system
- Cable length: 1.5 m
- Key load: 45 g +/- 15 g
- Keystroke: 4 mm
- Key structure: Step sculpture
- N key rollover: Full
- Switch lifetime: Over 50 million key presses
- Interface: USB
- Size: 142 mm x 455 mm x 30 mm (5.59 x 17.91 x 1.18 inches)
- Weight: 1.4 kg (3.1 lbs)
- Country of origin: Japan
Pricing and availability:
- Topre REALFORCE RGB Keyboard: $245, Amazon.com
Inside the colorful box we are first greeted with the instruction manual - which is a large glossy sheet with basic info.
The keyboard itself (which is protected with a thick foam bag inside the carton, by the way) has an understated design.
The REALFORCE RGB is a 108-key keyboard layout, with a simple logo on the upper right hand side above the media keys and actuation point key (more on the APC funtion later). The construction is plastic, but it feels very sturdy - and quite substantial at just over 3 lbs. This is a full RGB keyboard, but that is a user-configurable option which some of our readers would prefer to leave off. I personally like a single, neutral color for key backlighting, but that is all up to the individual - and I mean individual here, as each key's color can be controlled in the software.
And a quick look around the rest of the keyboard:
The keyboard's base has non-slip rubber feet on each corner, and the optional swing-out feet are also rubber tipped.
Regardless of where the REALFORCE RGB is purchased, a visit to the official (Japanese) Topre download page will be required in order to obtain the software. I mention that the official Japanese site must be used for software as, oddly, the product page from U.S. distributor Elite Keyboards offers no download link (with a "please check back for Topre's upcoming Windows software utility..." message), and Seasonic, who also distributes the keyboard in the U.S., has no software link on their page, either.
Once installed, the software is straightforward and easy to use. (FYI Microsoft .net 4.5.2 is a requirement to run it, and you will be prompted to install it if it is not on your system.)
The actuation point of each key can be separately controlled in software
Technically the software is not required, but you will not see the full benefit of the keyboard without it. Basic controls are available on the keyboard, as the actuation point of all keys can be adjusted using the special key on the upper right, and various color patterns can also be adjusted on the keyboard itself (FN + INS/DEL/HOME/END/PGUP/PGDN) but the REALFORCE RGB software also allows for individual key color and actuation control.
In addition to various presets, each key offers completely customizable lighting
Typing on the REALFORCE RGB is a very different experience from any previous keyboard I’ve used, as this is my first time with a Topre model. The keystrokes feel very smooth, and quite springy. No clatter or clicking at all; just smooth and rather deep (4 mm travel) keystrokes. The space bar has a slightly heavier feel, but springs back just as quickly as the rest of the keys. On the subject of key travel distance, REALFORCE offers a kit to adjust just that, along with a key cap removal tool, which we received along with the keyboard for review:
2 mm and 3 mm pads are included, both of which greatly change the depth of the key press, with the thicker 3 mm pad obviously more of a significant difference. After placing both the 2 mm and 3 mm pads under some of the keys I noticed a huge difference in feel and speed, but there is more to it than that. Topre offers what they are calling APC, or Actuation Point Change, which as the name indicates allows for adjustment of the depth at which a keypress actuates a key. The interesting thing is that this is handled in software (if you want per-key control), using the REALFORCE RGB application.
“The ON position of each key switch can be adjusted by selecting from three stroke depths of 1.5 mm, 2.2 mm, 3 mm, you can optimize the reaction speed of the key switch according to the game. For example, you can set the key you want to enter quickly to a depth of 1.5 mm and the key you want to prevent accidental erroneous input can be set to 3 mm.”
A look under the key caps without (left) and with (right) foam spacers in place
Not only can the entire keyboard be adjusted with 1.5, 2.2, and 3.0 mm actuation options, but individual keys can also be adjusted to any of those three levels using the software, as we saw above.
Overall the experience with typing was great, though as a heavy-handed typist who bottoms out the keys the default 4 mm key travel made me want to place thin pads under every key to reduce the overall travel slightly (the REALFORCE box comes with 10 each of the 2 mm and 3 mm pads, along with a pair of both 2 and 3 mm WASD pads, but any standard Cherry MX-compatible spacer should work).
The key caps have a pleasant concave design
I ended up highly impressed with the build quality, smooth yet solid feel, and software functionality of the REALFORCE RGB keyboard, and I have instantly become a fan of Topre keys. It is certainly a different experience compared to competing mechanical options such as the Cherry MX lineup, of which the MX Brown has been my most-encountered key switch of late. The price tag for the REALFORCE RGB will likely put many people off, and it is by far the most expensive keyboard I have ever used, but it is certainly a premium experience. Those looking to get into a Topre model can certainly do it for less money if they don’t need the RGB lighting or other software features, but for a no-compromises keyboard experience this is as good as it gets.
The Topre REALFORCE RGB is keyboard with the sole weakness of being very expensive. If you can afford it, it's absolutely worth it.