The RACE 75% is yet another new mini-keyboard on the market. Designed by the community of the KBTalking forum and "WAVE" in Taiwan, it is being distributed and produced by VorTex, the same guys who brought us the Poker earlier last year.
At a first glance, the RACE looks quite similar to the Poker. However, the layout, as well as the features are actually quite different.
In the first-look below, I will try to compare the keyboard to the Poker and point out some new features and differences. I will not be mentioning anything about keyfeel, as the RACE will be available in all common switch variants and this is therefore much depending on your personal preference.Overview
The RACE features a compact 82-key layout with nearly standard QWERTY layout for the alphanumerical keys and some additional keys accessable by a function layer.
Unlike on the Poker, not all keys have been cut away to save space. The full F-Key row is there, as well as dedicated cursor keys. To keep the layout even, some of the keys are non-standard sized. The right shift-key is smaller, which should be no problem to get used to if you have previously used a G80-1800 or a Steelseries 6G before. The 1.25 sized cursor keys feel a bit weird, but I am sure I will get used to them as more time passes.
The second big difference between the RACE and the Poker is that the RACE is a fully backlit keyboard. The keyboard is available in three different variants with either green, blue or white LEDs. The RACE offers three different backlight modes:
* Gaming mode (WASD, ESC and the cursor arrow keys light up)
* Full mode (All keys but capslock light up)
* Pulse mode (All keys but capslock light up and pulsate every few seconds)
With the exception of the "Pulse mode" all modes can be dimmed on five levels, depending on your brightness preferences. Personally I prefer the lowest setting, which provides a nice subtle glow. The gif animation below shows the difference between the lowest and highest brightness setting:
When booting up your computer or connecting the keyboard, the backlight will be off by default. All of the backlight settings can be controlled with the Fn key and a combination of the Z, X and C keys. Keycaps
The backlight on the RACE is being achieved by using a dedicated LED in every single Cherry switch.
The keycaps use a method similar to that developed by Signature Plastics, where a milky-transparent ABS keycap is being coated with black paint and the legends are being lasered out of the paint. The whole keycap is then coated again in a clear coat.
Keycap from the back
We have seen these keycaps before. They are the same as found on other Taiwanese backlit boards, such as the Ultimate Edition of the Razer Black Widow and some variants of iOne keyboards. As of now, it is impossible for me to judge how well these will hold up to wear. Looking at other keyboards that use the same method, it would seem that they are quite durable.
To spice things up a bit for this review, I took a keycap and purposely tried to scratch off the paint with my fingernail for about 10 minutes without much success. I was finally able to break the layer of coat and scratch away the paint when actually using a knife and applying strong pressure.
So can the paint be scratched off? Yes, it can. But as mentioned above it took an extreme method and brute force to actually damage the paint. As proven by this test, the paint actually is coated by several layers. So unless you have claws instead of fingernails, I would think these will last quite a while.
While on the topic of keycaps, I should mention that due to the material and the way these are produced, the keys have very little texture and sometimes can feel a bit slippery. As it is the nature of this type of matte plastic, it attracts fingerprints and grease, as seen in the picture above. There is not much you can do about this and it is known to happen with other keyboards (such as the early Filcos) as well. Wash your hands, don't eat Cheetos while typing.Construction and Quality
Not much has changed between the RACE and the Poker. The case construction is very similar to that of the Poker. We have a bottom case and the PCB mounted into it with 5 screws. Just as with the Poker, there is very little flexing while typing and the keyboard feels solid. At 497g it is almost as light as the Poker.
The bottom of the keyboard features four rubber feet to give it a stable rest on your desk. Unlike the Poker, two of the rubber feet have been placed vertically this time. It seems VorTex has learned from the Poker and improved a bit here.
A thing to note for nitpickers is that the bottom shell of the keyboard seems to be made from a different plastic than on the Poker. Depending on your lighting setup, the shell may appear anything between a silvery-black to a dark blue, as seen in the example picture above. Personally this is not an issue for me at all, as it is the same with many other keyboards (such as the Cherry G80-7000 POS series and legendary ricercar SPOS), but since for some people it might be an issue, I figured I should mention it.Technical
On the technical side, we have a Holtek controller with full n-key rollover over PS2 and 6-key rollover over USB. There is no n-key rollover for USB, so the keyboard is fully working under all major operating system.
While the switches are PCB mounted, they can not be easily modified into another type as you will need to remove/desolder the LED to open the switch. The stabilizers are the standard Cherry-style stabilizers for PCB mounting. First Impressions & Questions
So there you have it - my first impressions of the RACE. If you feel like I left anything out, or you wish to know about a specific detail, feel free to ask. I will be extending the review more as time goes on and I get used to the board a bit more.