[Review] The Rapoo V7 - Fully programmable mechanical under $40

Been a while since I did a review! I had this one coming in since a while, but due to medical issues and extreme stress I did not have the time to review much. So without further ado, lets get to look at this extreme budget keyboard.

Rapoo V7 Machine

After we already had a keyboard brand release a mini-keyboard with a name telling us not to poo, we now have the next obscure brand coming in from the far east. Rapoo does not actually tell us about the excrements of the Egyptian Sungod, but instead delivers the cheapest mechanical keyboard ever. The Rapoo V7 Machine comes in at a retail price between 220 and 290 Yuan (~24 to 31 Euro). It is only available in one variant (soft linear) and does not actually use original Cherry switches, but instead uses newly developed yellow bootleg switches.

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Out of the box, the keyboard comes in much lighter than the more expensive alternatives from Filco and Leopold. Still much heavier than a rubberdome, but noticeably a lightweight in the mechanical keyboard league. The design is simple and sleek. A black case with a red switch backplate, which also serves as the logo and f-key separator. Unlike the Filco and Leopold tenkeyless boards, the Rapoo comes with 5 extra keys, totaling to 92 keys.

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The extra keys are: Volume Up/Down, Mute, Macro-Lock, Windows key-Lock. Very solid and useful featujres, without being overkill. Having the ability to quickly lock the windows keys is nice for games that do not natively support this option.

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The yellow fake MX switches are linear and rate somewhere between the MX Black and MX Red. A very smooth and light switch. I would guess these to be around 45g.

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As far as I know, these switches were developed by a keyboard fan from one of the Chinese communities a while ago. I had already received some production prototypes of these earlier this year. I am glad to see they are not in mass production, as these are actually very decent switches. The makers claim them to last for 50 million activations, just as the real Cherry switches... but for now I would take that statement with a grain of salt. Bootleg switches in the past did not turn out to be very long-lasting.

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The keycaps are standard ABS keycaps with laser-printed character, with the exception of the "lock" keys. These use the somewhat new paint-engrave technique, which is also used on most backlit keyboards nowadays. One thing to note is that all the bigger keys use stabilizers that are not compatible with any other MX keycaps, as the "wire" part of the stabilizer is built into the keycap itself, rather than the keyboard.

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I am pretty sure we've seen these before. The keycaps suggest Datacomp as the OEM, but until I open the board, don't quote me on it.

So, overall... all this for $35...

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BUT! This is where shit gets crazy!

Hardware programming

In the box, we also found a CD that contained custom software:

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I was shocked to discover that the software actually lets us fully customize and program the keyboard layout. Including macros. These are all saved up in the hardware itself, and do not require the drivers to be installed!

We have the following options when programming the Rapoo:

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Single key assignments. We can program any key to be another key. Or a combination of keys. In this example I set the Capslock key to act as a second Backspace key.

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The macro mode does what it suggests. It lets us program a series of keys/strings into the board. We can modify the delays between each key press and/or record macros "live" by simply typing.

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Mediamode does what you would guess. Set any key to perform the classic media key actions. I set mine to the F keys.

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The mouse mode lets you assign mouse actions to keyboard keys. I do not know whether these are sent on a hardware level or by software emulation. I forgot to test.

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After programming, the settings are uploaded to the keyboard and we can instantly use the macros.

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To confirm that the macros are indeed hardware based, I booted up an old box running Suse and connected the board. Voila!

Summary

Pros
* Insanely Cheap
* Fully programmable on hardware level
* Nice switch feel
* Extra keys
* Compact Layout

Cons
* Disgustingly low 3-key rollover.
* Questionable switches (the future will show how these do in the long run)
* Only available in Asia
* Keycaps not fully compatible with other Cherry MX keycaps
* Not as sturdy as other boards

While the construction of the board may not be the best and while the quality of the bootleg switches is still questionable, this board is awesome for the price. Lets be honest here.. as westerners a mechanical keyboard at less than 25 Euros seems like a joke. We pay more than that for a good dinner on the weekend.

So for what you pay, what you get is extremely satisfying here. I did not expect much from the board and I was genuinely surprised by what it delivered. The hardware programming alone is excellent and totally worth the investment. Go and get your TaoBao agents ready and order one of these. I command it!
sixty
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Unread post29 Aug 2011, 20:47

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These are all over ebay(UK) for £60.
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Unread post29 Aug 2011, 20:51

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Wow, fully programmable, I hope this sets a new standard. Can those yellow switches be replaced by real Cherries?
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fossala wrote:These are all over ebay(UK) for £60.

That's much :/
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Unread post29 Aug 2011, 21:04

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webwit wrote:Wow, fully programmable, I hope this sets a new standard.

Hope so too. All the expensive keyboards Realforce / HHKB / Filco / etc should have this feature. Especially the HHKB.
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Unread post29 Aug 2011, 21:06

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webwit wrote:Wow, fully programmable, I hope this sets a new standard. Can those yellow switches be replaced by real Cherries?

I just tried to open the board for the past 20 minutes and just can't figure it out. The separate identical prototype switches that I have are 100% pin-compatible with MX switches. So I guess it should be possible, if you can figure out how to open it.
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Maybe it would more worth transplanting Rapoo's controller onto a Filco or something!
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I would love a programmable filco.
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Fully programmable without DIP switches. Keyboards discover NVRAM!



Reaper got one of these but had to send it back. Nonfunctional switch. I also saw a pic of a broken slider stem but don't know the history of that so may be an isolated incident. The Solutor claimed it happened to him with a Cherry MX but as usual didn't provide details.
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ripster wrote:The Solutor claimed it happened to him with a Cherry MX but as usual didn't provide details.


I had three different black switches broken.

End of the details.
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Unread post29 Aug 2011, 22:18

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sixty wrote:So I guess it should be possible, if you can figure out how to open it.

It opens from the top? I see a screw under capslock.
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The RicerCar G86 SPOS works that way too. Drove me nuts for a while figuring it out.
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If only it were full-sized ...
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Unread post30 Aug 2011, 08:43

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are they differnt layers to programm?
Could you programm a FN or Layer key?

For me the programming makes only sense if you could programm a 2nd layer.
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Unread post30 Aug 2011, 11:32

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It might worth harvesting those springs, or make a custom order on those from the company.
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I'm still waiting on the final verdict about those yellow things. Although 50 million cycles means more than 115 days of constant 24/7 60wpm typing on only one key before failure ... so this beast might be worth that surprisingly low price even if the keyswitches are barely half as good as promised. Can't say I like the not-quite-interchangeable features though, nor the cluttery looking visual style.

Excellent review, btw, thanx, I'm actually going to order one of these babies for the firmware functions if nothing else :D
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I don't think you understand how Chinese Clone manufacturing works. You clone the specs too without testing MTBF.

Kinda like Chinese Bullet Trains.
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I purposely threw down the boards three times from the table today. It took 5 throws until one of the stems broke off. Not bad.

Also I am still typing on this thing. I really prefer these switches over the reds!
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Updates:

1) Managed to open it - no marks of manufacturer.Controller is not a chip, but rather a blop of goop.
2) Switches/PCB are fully pin compatible with Cherry MX.
3) Switches are 50g (had a friend translate the manual)
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What do you mean a blop of goop? It has alien biological hardware like seen in science fiction movies? I find this troubling. Are you sure this is not some mind control device introduced pending an alien invasion?
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Unread post30 Aug 2011, 21:29

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And what is this claim of multiple board throwing? If you have been doing throwing tests, we want to see the video.
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@1 like in the newer G81s ?
qwertz.jpg
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@2 do you think the stems are compatible?
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Konrad wrote:I'm still waiting on the final verdict about those yellow things. Although 50 million cycles means more than 115 days of constant 24/7 60wpm typing on only one key before failure ..


I'm still highly doubtful about the durability data provided by Cherry, they not differentiate between electrical and mechanical durability, they provide no information about the testing methodology.

And the 50M cycles looks really too high if compared with the 10M of alps switches, 25M of model Ms, 16M of logitech boards, and 10M of the typical Omron switch used in many mice.
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Unread post31 Aug 2011, 00:22

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I agree. That figure means nothing, without further information about the method. And how is failure defined? As in, the switch starts to suck, or the switch no longer makes contact? Also I don't live in a dust free lab.
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webwit wrote: And how is failure defined?


At least alps on their switches provide some details about the electrical durability, like on a typical switch with the contact resistance equal or less than 100 ohm it is considered failed when the resistance raise over 200 ohm (not real numbers, just the way they explain the electrical durability)
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Unread post31 Aug 2011, 00:42

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You guys have bad memories. A few months ago I translated that article on how Cherry keyboards are (were) made. The article mentioned that up until a few years ago, Cherry still used people to type on the keyboards until they stop working. A dream job or a job full of horrors and wrist injuries?

Anyway, it seems they switched to robots by now.
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That epoxy mount technique is used on LOTS of cheap keyboards and toys too.
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And I'll take your word on the 50g thing.
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But was it less than 3 drops from 28" table height?

Keyboard Science requires PRECISION!
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