Realforce R2 Silent TKL 45g Leopold Version

User avatar
Hypersphere

22 Mar 2019, 16:10

INTRODUCTION

This is a brief review of the Realforce R2 Silent TKL 45g Leopold Version. It is a follow-up to my review of the Realforce R2 PFU Edition:

viewtopic.php?f=45&t=20816

My purchase of the Leopold version of the RF R2 board was prompted by a desire for some variety in the off-the-self color scheme and curiosity about the presumed equivalence of the Topre-branded and Leopold-branded versions of this keyboard.

The model numbers of these keyboards are somewhat unwieldy:

RF/Topre version:

R2LSA-US4-BK

Leopold version:

R2LSA-US4-BK-L

Ostensibly, the only difference between the two is the color scheme of the keycaps. However, I had seen a report from an owner of the Leopold version indicating a problem with the spacebar. Apparently, striking the spacebar resulted in a "clack" sound that was more pronounced when hitting it on the left side. The spacebar issue was one of the things I wanted to test on this keyboard.

ORDERING & SHIPPING

I ordered my Leopold model from "Widebasket", a highly reputable Korean vendor on eBay. I have previously purchased several items from Widebasket. His prices are reasonable for hard-to-find items, he packs things very carefully, and he ships immediately after receiving the order. Once again, I was pleased that my keyboard arrived quite soon after placing the order, and it was packed with the same meticulous care as the other items I had ordered from him over the years.

Both the RF/Topre and Leopold versions are packaged in the same manner -- an outermost plastic bag, a slick thin cardboard box with attractive labeling indicating product information, and a sturdy inner cardboard box with a locking front flap containing the keyboard in a thin styrofoam sleeve. However, Widebasket had added a nice little touch -- he included a red Esc keycap in a small ziplock bag taped to the outside of the box.

The price of the Leopold model from Widebasket on eBay was $398 shipped, whereas the price of the RF/Topre model from Amazon was $348 shipped. At the time of this writing, the unsilenced Leopold model on eBay was $348 shipped and the price of the unsilenced RF/Topre model on Amazon was $258. The price differentials between the unsilenced and silenced versions seem reasonable considering the cost of silencing rings and the effort installing them. Moreover, these silenced boards have the special purple sliders that compensate for the thickness of the rings. The silenced versions also included the actuation point changer (APC) feature, but I do not use this feature because the default setting works fine for me.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Upon unpacking the Leopold version, my first impression was not as positive as it was with the RF/Topre version of this keyboard. The disappointment was due to the colors of the keycaps. From the photos and renders I had seen, I was expecting colors with greater contrast and vibrancy. Instead, the gray and blue caps looked muddy and washed out.


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KEYCAP CHANGES

Fortunately, I had purchased some Topre keycap sets from Widebasket a few years ago, so I set to work pulling off the gray caps, which gave me a chance to capture an image of the lovely Topre switches with their purple silent sliders.

RFR2Leo_bare1-13.jpg
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Looking for high visibility, I first tried some bright yellow caps. These certainly stood out from the crowd, but it was too garish, even for me.

RFR2Yellow1s-13.jpg
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Replacing the yellow with white toned things down. I also went back to alternating gray and blue for the top row. In addition, because I have used an external Hasu USB-USB converter to remap keys to a HHKB layout, I installed some HHKB caps to get appropriate legends.

RFR2LeoWhite13.jpg
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The single red Esc key looked a bit lonely, so I decided to finish the job with red arrow keys.

RFR2LeoWhRd13.jpg
RFR2LeoWhRd13.jpg (103.67 KiB) Viewed 1096 times
More's the pity that the previous versions of the Realforce boards had a non-standard bottom row. Now that the R2 has a standard bottom row, my old Topre keycap sets do not fit. Nevertheless, the overall scheme looks fine to me.

SPACEBAR CLACK

Preliminary testing confirmed the earlier report of spacebar clack, especially when striking the spacebar on the left side. Fortunately, I was able to eliminate this problem. After removing the spacebar and the two adjacent modifier caps, I also applied strips of very thin self-adhesive polyurethane foam to the top plate between the spacebar switch and the stabilizer on each side. In addition, I applied the strips between the stabilizer and modifier switch on each side. For good measure, I squeezed some SuperLube 21010 synthetic grease into the stabilizers. This alleviated the clack, but the spacebar is still not as quiet as the one on my non-Leopold RF R2 keyboard. This was a quick and easy fix, but this keyboard is billed as silent and it costs nearly $400. I would have expected Leopold to address this issue.

WIDE-KEY RATTLE

Both the RF/Topre R2 and the Leopold R2 suffer from some stabilizer rattle in the other wide keys. Fortunately, the only wide keys I use frequently other than the spacebar are the Right Shift and Return/Enter keys. I notice the rattle mostly form the Right Shift. This is an interesting contrast with my Northgate Omnikey 101 keyboard with SKCM white Alps switches. The Northgate has wire stabilizers on all the wide keys and they do not rattle.

WISH LIST

Some additional personal preferences for possible future models from Realforce include an option for a detachable cable, complete programmability via QMK or something similar, a 60% form factor version, and keycap sets for the R2 and other RF models.

OVERALL CONCLUSION

The issues I have raised are relatively mild. Keycap colors are a matter of personal taste. The spacebar issue is annoying, but easily fixed. Stabilizer rattle in other wide keys is nothing major, but it is more noticeable in an otherwise silenced keyboard. Expectations are also rather high for a keyboard that costs nearly $400.

Despite the relatively minor annoyances, both the RF/Topre and Leopold versions of the RF R2 silenced all-45g Topre-switch keyboards are excellent. Construction is sturdy, and the 45g silenced Topre switches have an elegant feel that give me my best typing speed and accuracy of any keyboard switch. The dye-sublimated PBT Topre keycaps look and feel great. Overall, I highly recommend these keyboards for those who are looking for a premium and reliable typing experience. However, because of the issues mentioned above, I somewhat prefer the R2LSA-US4-BK (4 out of 5 stars) to the Leopold-branded model (R2LSA-US4-BK-L) (3.5 out of 5 stars).
Last edited by Hypersphere on 06 Apr 2019, 13:48, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
XMIT
[ XMIT ]

28 Mar 2019, 02:42

Very nice, thanks for the review! If price is the worst thing we can say about it, it's a good board. I hope to pick up an R2 at some point.

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