Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review: Varmilo VA87M Wired Keyboard

Writers and programmers spend all their time in front of a keyboard. In fact, most of our output is directly driven by the keyboard, rather than the mouse/pen that artists typically depend on. I'd gotten  by on Logitech keyboards in recent years, mostly because my wife had complained about how noisy my previous mechanical keyboards are. But in recent years, there's been new keyboards with Cherry Brown Mx switches that are quieter while retaining the brilliant mechanical feel that I loved so much in the old IBM keyboards.

The Varmilo VA87M is one of them. I completely screwed up when I order this. Massdrop occasionally has VB87M Bluetooth Keyboards available for sale, but I checked the price against the VA87M on Amazon, and decided that Amazon was a better deal, completely neglecting to realize that the one on Amazon was the wired model, rather than the Bluetooth model. Since you can get Cherry Brown mechanical keyboards for much less than the Amazon price, I probably wouldn't have bought the keyboard otherwise.

Once I got the keyboard, however, I changed my mind. First of all, a bluetooth keyboard would have issues interrupting the computer during startup to get into the BIOS menu, for instance. Also, switching between computers (e.g., when I wanted to switch between my desktop and laptop) would have required repairing the keyboard, which is much more painful than unplugging a USB cable and plugging it to a different machine.

Once plugged in, the keyboard has a great light action feel while retaining the tactile feedback that only a mechanical keyboard can give. I also like it that the tops of the keys are blank, so over time they won't fade. From a distance, it looks like the entire keyboard is blank, and my wife asked how I could type without seeing the keys on the keyboard (which I could always do because I'm a touch typist, but my wife never noticed before). There are a few annoyances in the keyboard, largely to do with setup --- the keyboard can be setup to disable the Windows key, for instance, but doing so takes an arcane combination of keypresses that I somehow enabled by accident. The lighting is a worthless feature --- I don't know why anyone uses it. The keyboard is not noticeably loud enough to bother my wife, which is a big plus.

All in all, there are cheaper mechanical keyboards out there, but none so small (this one eliminates the number keypad). The wireless version of this probably isn't as good when it comes to response time and the convenience. I do wish that Logitech would make a Unifying mechanical keyboard around this size, but their PMs probably don't listen to people like me, so in the mean time, this is probably your best choice.

Recommended.

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