After a few months of waiting, my official introduction to the world of mechanical keyboards has finally arrived. Its a TEX Yoda with Cherry MX Black switches. The main draw for me with this keyboard was the TrackPoint support, I like having my familiar ThinkPad style keyboard everywhere. I never would have imagined just how good this keyboard could be. The heavy actuation of the black switches feels so much better than the squishy keys on my work laptop and my MK710 wireless keyboard set, and the TrackPoint style pointer seals the deal. Even with what I’d consider the best laptop keyboard on the market sitting right in front of me, I’d rather use this thing, it’s just that good. The integrated 2 port USB hub and detachable MiniUSB interface cable are just additional perks on an already excellent package.
The keyboard casing is a nice, solid piece of aluminum, with a very solid feel. There’s obviously no flexing this keyboard, and it stays in place on the desk even with its diminutive size. I’ve hated plastic keyboards for ages thanks to their tendency to scoot slightly on my desk while I’m typing aggressively, and I can already tell that this will never be an issue with the Yoda. The keycaps are absolutely perfect, well spaced and pleasantly curved to cup my fingertips. I can find my home row without thinking and simply get to my task at hand. The TrackPoint in the center of the keyboard nearly matches my ThinkPad’s integrated unit in accuracy and ease of use, and I actually prefer the black switches for the mouse buttons compared to the light, plastic feel of the ThinkPad TrackPoint buttons
There is one issue with this keyboard that nearly stopped me from considering it. Both my standard keyboard and the ThinkPad have what I would consider to be a proper number of dedicated buttons for various functions. Massdrop calls the Yoda a “60% Mechanical Keyboard” which is a fancy way of saying that it’s very much sized down. There’s no dedicated arrow keys, F key row, or function key areas. I had a hard time deciding to make the jump to this keyboard thanks to this fact, since a lot of common functions have been bound to modifier keys. I have done some stumbling around in VIM looking for the missing Esc key (this very essential function requires fn+~ to actually engage) however after a few hours of using it I’m starting to acclimate well. The function switched keys are actually located in rather sane areas, for example the arrow keys are alternates for WSAD. This makes it fairly easy for even an occasional gamer like myself to get his bearings working with the function key modifier. I’ve been slowly acclimating myself to the locations of my frequently used functions, and I’m finding that I need to leave the home row less as I get more and more familiar with the locations.
I also had a slight issue with the keyboard itself when it came out of the box. My tab and A keys would not actually function. After the amount of time I’d waited for this piece, I was quite dissapointed initially. However, after doing some fiddling, I found that the DIP switches on the keyboard’s base (used to change various function key layouts) had shifted slightly in transit. After resetting all the dip switches, the keyboard has been running without a hitch.
Fans of mechanical keyboards may be puzzled at my choice of switches. I’ve always found modern keyboards to be entirely too light on actuation for my tastes, and when I started considering a mechanical keyboard this came into play. I wanted a heavy keystroke to make up for my heavy-handed typing, and the MX blacks definitely deliver. It seems that every website I investigated prior to purchase told me that I would need to consider a lighter switch to avoid fatigue while typing, but I’m very glad that I disregarded the common advice and went for it.
Right now, my sweet new toy gets to live on my work desk. I’m fairly certain that my coworkers will banish it from the office shortly after they get in on Monday due to the noise. (Even with the fairly heavy black switches, it’s significantly louder than the Mac keyboards that dominate the office here.) I won’t be looking forward to going back to my old Logitech set on Monday after trying this thing.
You can pick one up for yourself if Massdrop (Referral Link) does another drop in the future. If your only complaint about your ThinkPad’s keyboard is that it doesn’t have mechanical switches, now you can have the best of both worlds.