Topre Realforce 103U-UW First Impressions

jbl

11 Feb 2011, 03:07

Things have been fairly rough at work and my personal life, so coming home to a new keyboard was something of a refresher. After using a Cherry MX brown keyboard at home for a few weeks, I decided that I really needed to get a new keyboard to use at the office. Since I work in an open plan office, loud-ish keyboards would probably not go over well. With that in mind, I decided to give the Topre Realforce a try.

I originally wanted to get a tenkeyless version, but EliteKeyboards' special on the 103U-UW was hard to pass up. My first reaction before trying the keys was that the keyboard felt really well put together. There is not a lot of wiggle to the keys and the board itself doesn't move around on the desk. There's also no discernable flex while typing, unlike the Dell membrane keyboard I've been using at work for the last three years. I think that thing might just be tired out.

Typing, I have to admit that the Topre feels a lot like the Sun Type 5c that I used to use. It has the same sort of smooth key action, but with a bit more snap on the return. The Topre also requires a bit more force than the Sun and feels like it takes a bit more energy than my MX brown board. The variable weighting feels great on my left hand, but the right side of the alpha keys seem more heavily weighted. My right hand seems to be getting tired faster than my left.

Key legends are pleasing to my eye, except for some of the auxiliary keys like "Page Up" and "Insert". The font on those looks compressed in a way that the legends on the rest of the keys aren't. The dye sub labels are crisp. Indicator LEDs are pleasant and not overdone. In terms of layout, the only thing that I could ask for are Macintosh specific key legends for alt and command.

It is going to take me some time to learn not to bottom out the keys. It will probably take a bit longer than it did on my MX brown board. The tactile point on the Topre switches is even more subtle than on the brown switches.

So far I'm not displeased with the board, but somewhat underwhelmed given the price. I can see how someone would need to use the 'board for a few weeks before making up their mind. I'm keeping my heart open for this one as I think it has a lot of promise, but is not quite there yet.

User avatar
Crazy9000

11 Feb 2011, 03:28

It took me a week or two to get used to my realforce board. I think it's just so different from the Cherry switches you get used to liking, that it's initially hard to like right off the bat.

I found the blue LED lights way too bright on my 103ub, and ended up having to cover them with a movie ticket. Are the ones on the UW different?

jbl

11 Feb 2011, 04:15

Crazy9000 wrote:I found the blue LED lights way too bright on my 103ub, and ended up having to cover them with a movie ticket. Are the ones on the UW different?
Maybe the black color provides that much more contrast that it's annoying? The blue LEDs on the 103U-UW don't seem any brighter than, say, the green LED on my DSI Mac Modular or the Dell keyboard at work.

User avatar
sixty
Gasbag Guru

11 Feb 2011, 08:50

jbl wrote: So far I'm not displeased with the board, but somewhat underwhelmed given the price. I can see how someone would need to use the 'board for a few weeks before making up their mind. I'm keeping my heart open for this one as I think it has a lot of promise, but is not quite there yet.
First off, nice review! This is also how I kinda felt when I had my first Topre. After all the hype and all the other boards I tried previously, the Topre seemed kinda dull. It is an excellent board of awesome quality - no doubt about that. But the price just did not feel entirely justified. I believe that is also part of the Topre phenomena - people pay so much, they just want the board to be excellent. Kinda a placebo effect.

No doubt, its still one of the best keyboards you can get. Leaving out the build quality and going entirely by the keyfeel the Topre just was not "mechanical" enough for my taste. A $15 keytronic is not much worse than a $250 Topre if you ignore the look and build quality.

With all that said, I still do miss my Topre some days.

User avatar
Crazy9000

11 Feb 2011, 09:29

The problem is it's very difficult to measure the placebo effect, as most people affected by it won't realize it.

All I know is I really like them :). I think the board does grow on you if you use it for your daily keyboard for a week or two. I believe if it was the placebo, you would eventually gravitate back towards your cherry boards. Lots of people do seem to do that.

jbl

11 Feb 2011, 16:30

sixty wrote: No doubt, its still one of the best keyboards you can get. Leaving out the build quality and going entirely by the keyfeel the Topre just was not "mechanical" enough for my taste. A $15 keytronic is not much worse than a $250 Topre if you ignore the look and build quality.
I think the "mechanical" quality is the key. If you're looking for a typing experience that feels like levers and springs meshing and working together, then the Alps, Cherry, and buckling spring switches are probably what you're looking for.

Whether a Topre is worth $250 is definitely up to the user and depends on the sort of typing experience they're looking for. Myself, I'm not wedded to the mechanical feel of Cherry switches. Dare I say, I actually kind of liked the Dell board I used to have. What I was looking for was more tactility, an actuation point farther up the stroke (as opposed to bottom of the stroke with membrane 'boards), and better build quality. It's definitely a different shade of rubber membrane. Whether that difference in shade matters is a personal thing. To me, I think it does.

Still, $250/$265 is definitely too much. $215 is more reasonable. I think I'd be a lot happier if the 'board came in around $150-$175. Aren't Topre switches a pretty tried, true, and old design? The tooling should be largely paid for!

jbl

11 Feb 2011, 16:36

One additional brief comment on the keyboard ... The keypuller and keylocks provided with the 'board were top-notch. With a keylock in place, the key feels like it's just a part of the keyboard structure. The keypuller was fairly easy to use and effective.

User avatar
Mrinterface

11 Feb 2011, 16:41

Nice review!

I love my happy hacking pro 2 with Topre keys as my current main driver for my Mac. I had other people describe how the keyboard would 'grow' on you and I experienced that myself as well. The layout is just great ( although when going back to a normal layout I type \\\\\ a lot.. ) and the keyfeel is very solid.
One advantage I have is that I fulfill my urges for other keyboards with my gaming setup -> on my gaming PC I currently have a Filco with cherry browns and I rotate keyboards on that setup frequently.

Regards.

User avatar
Crazy9000

11 Feb 2011, 17:10

Mrinterface wrote:Nice review!

I love my happy hacking pro 2 with Topre keys as my current main driver for my Mac. I had other people describe how the keyboard would 'grow' on you and I experienced that myself as well. The layout is just great ( although when going back to a normal layout I type \\\\\ a lot.. ) and the keyfeel is very solid.
One advantage I have is that I fulfill my urges for other keyboards with my gaming setup -> on my gaming PC I currently have a Filco with cherry browns and I rotate keyboards on that setup frequently.

Regards.
Is there any reason you don't use the Happy Hacker for gaming?

User avatar
Minskleip

11 Feb 2011, 17:30

I don't use my HHKB for games because I don't want to wear out the rubber on ESDF.

User avatar
keyboardlover

11 Feb 2011, 17:49

Pics or it didn't happen!

User avatar
Minskleip

11 Feb 2011, 17:56

Lol it hasn't happened for a while either

User avatar
keyboardlover

11 Feb 2011, 17:58

I was actually referring to the OP but the more pics the merrier!

User avatar
bugfix

11 Feb 2011, 18:04

I had exactly the same experience when I first typed on mine. Very disappointed. But I've really grown attached to it since then. I don't really know why ('tis a rubber dome) but it certainly is a nice contrast to my beloved buckling springs. The price is too high, but as long as we are willing to pay it (which I am)...

itlnstln

11 Feb 2011, 18:08

As much of a Cherry brown fanboy as I am, I really do like Topres. The switches are pretty nice, but the thing I like the most is the build quality. It is a solid piece of kit. IMO, there isn't a keyboard on the market that has the build quality of the Realforce line.

One thing I might recommend trying, too, is swapping the spacebar spring with the one in the HHKB. The HHKB spring is much lighter than the Realforce's. You maintain the solid feel of the spacebar with a little lighter activation.

jbl

12 Feb 2011, 03:44

keyboardlover wrote:Pics or it didn't happen!
What?! And clean up my desk?!

User avatar
sixty
Gasbag Guru

12 Feb 2011, 11:34

OR show us the horrible mess! :)

User avatar
Mrinterface

12 Feb 2011, 11:54

Crazy9000 wrote:
Is there any reason you don't use the Happy Hacker for gaming?
Nope, you could use the hhkb for gaming as well.....

jbl

12 Feb 2011, 18:13

OK. Here are some quick and dirty photos of messy desks.

The RF 103U-UW in its intended habitat: my office desk
RF103-office
RF103-office
IMG_0281.jpg (89.02 KiB) Viewed 7338 times
The RF 103U-UW in its temporary habitat, my desk at home. Here, you can see it plugged in via the USB hub of a DSI Mac Modular keyboard.
RF103-home
RF103-home
IMG_0282.jpg (76.12 KiB) Viewed 7338 times
The RF and DSI LEDs compared:
RF103-DSI-LEDs
RF103-DSI-LEDs
IMG_0284.jpg (88.6 KiB) Viewed 7338 times

User avatar
webwit
Wild Duck

12 Feb 2011, 18:18

I won't mention the syringe, but is that a bong, a light saber or a dildo between the monitors?

jbl

12 Feb 2011, 18:50

webwit wrote:I won't mention the syringe, but is that a bong, a light saber or a dildo between the monitors?
Heh. The syringe is from when I had to clean off an open wound from surgery twice a day with peroxide.

The thing between the monitors is the support column for the Ergotron arms.

User avatar
keyboardlover

13 Feb 2011, 01:07

Weak...I was kinda hoping it was a bong.

User avatar
webwit
Wild Duck

13 Feb 2011, 01:32

I was kinda hoping it was all of these.

User avatar
keyboardlover

13 Feb 2011, 02:03

That sounds like a killer invention!

jbl

13 Feb 2011, 02:05

Would you really want to take hits off something was used as a dildo? Really?

User avatar
keyboardlover

13 Feb 2011, 02:07

Yes, but only if the light saber was turned on at the same time.

User avatar
Palatino

03 Mar 2021, 22:38

This was an amusing thread to discover whilst looking up Topre reviews.

User avatar
Elrick

04 Mar 2021, 11:00

Palatino wrote:
03 Mar 2021, 22:38
This was an amusing thread to discover whilst looking up Topre reviews.
Thorpies will always be another realm of Keyboards, that shall indeed attract anyone looking for a strange experience :D .

Currently, enjoying a standard 55g full sizer, won't bother buying anything else now since being absorbed into the event horizon, known as Realforce.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

04 Mar 2021, 12:49

Hey Elrick! Fancy seeing you here, in decade deeeep Necromancy…

I agree. Topre is addictive. My other boards have to have a *reason* to ever get used before my HHKB and Realforce. Mind, my "other" boards are Model Fs and just as clicky Space Invaders, so their alibis are sound! It's quiet, tactile boards that just can't compete with that Tokyo Press.

As for layouts and weights of Topres, sure enough, opinions differ. I actually prefer them small and light, so my 45g HHKB is my favourite feel of all, followed by its heavy duty brother in every sense, my 55g Realforce 87u; both damped of course. If I were to seek another Topre, it would be one of those extra light weighted ones they keep for Japan. 55g doesn't wreck my fingers, but 45g is where I find my flow.

Post Reply

Return to “Reviews”