Spend any period of time across the keyboard-obsessed parts of the web and also you’ll inevitably hear the Joyful Hacker Keyboard Skilled 2 talked about. 

It’s a bit of that’s virtually particularly designed to enchantment to an fanatic area of interest. Its so-called ‘60% form-factor’ implies that it doesn’t function a num pad, arrow keys, or perhaps a perform row. Even the keys it does have are positioned like no different keyboard we’ve ever seen, with a ‘Management’ key the place the ‘Caps lock’ key ought to be, and a backspace key sitting the place you’d in any other case discover a backslash key. 

In different phrases, it’s a keyboard that’s blissful to tweak and alter the keyboard structure that the remainder of the world has used unquestioningly for the reason that late ’80s. 

The $225 (£260, round AU$290) HHKB Professional 2 doesn’t care if you happen to’ve spent 5, ten, and even 20 years build up muscle reminiscence that works a sure means. It has religion in its personal means of doing issues, and also you’ve obtained to respect its daring decisions.

The truth that it’s obtained its personal means of doing issues is one factor, however whether or not you’ll need to relearn the right way to use a keyboard is one other factor totally, and we’re not satisfied that the hassle can be value it for anybody aside from probably the most hardcore of keyboard fanatics. 

However earlier than we get into the main points, let’s take a more in-depth take a look at the keyboard. 

Design and structure

The HHKB Professional 2 is a tiny piece of package. Regardless of utilizing fullsize keys it’s obtained a footprint that’s comparable in measurement then the keyboard on a 13-inch MacBook Professional. The key is what number of keys it is shed to get that small. 

Whereas your typical MacBook Professional keyboard comes packing a full perform row from F1 to F12, the HHKB Professional 2 dispenses with this totally. Whereas the Mac keyboard has a decent quartet of arrow keys within the backside proper hand nook, this keyboard has you employ a perform key to achieve them – you virtually get the impression the designers thought the added keys would spoil its symmetry. 

All of the keys that you simply’d have to function a contemporary laptop are nonetheless there, however you’ll want to make use of the perform button to entry most of them. Fn plus 1 via zero will get you F1 to F10, and different combos will entry different keys equivalent to ‘Dwelling’ or ‘Scroll Lock’. 

Regardless of the sheer quantity of various issues every key can do, the keyboard as an entire seems sleekly designed, with pretty textured keycaps which have their secondary features printed on the aspect in a coloration that’s only a shade darker than the matt grey plastic they’re printed on. 

The perform keys take a bit getting used to, however the first time you employ the keyboard your greatest concern can be simply how in another way the whole lot is positioned. The place regular keyboards have a caps lock key, the HHKB Professional 2 locations its management key, and the place you’d normally discover a backslash you may discover a backspace. 

The previous change makes a specific amount of sense (in any case, when was the final time you meant to hit the caps lock?), however regardless of the latter bringing a helpful key nearer to our fingers, we might by no means get absolutely snug with it. 

Passthrough ports

A pair of passthrough ports on the highest of the keyboard
assist you to plug in USB sticks and mice with out having to achieve spherical to the again of your PC. 

It’s unusually disorientating shedding this specific piece of muscle reminiscence, and it’s even worse if you happen to’re shifting to the keyboard from a European (aka ‘ISO’) board with this structure’s fats ‘enter’ key. Belief us, you are going to begin urgent enter as a substitute of backspace loads.

It’s a steep studying curve, nevertheless it’s not an not possible one to scale – as long as you don’t should frequently swap to utilizing a extra conventional keyboard. If in case you have the posh of working from residence then this won’t be a difficulty, however few are going to need to should cart their keyboard between each location that they use a pc. 

A set of DIM switches (proper) assist you to customise the structure, whereas a pair of USB ports (left) are useful additions. 

With perseverance (and the exclusion of different keyboards) you may ultimately overcome this, however we by no means absolutely obtained used to the dearth of arrow keys. 

It is hardly an issue that is distinctive to the HHKB Professional 2, however at the very least with a board just like the Pok3r the arrow keys had been accessed via a pleasant neat triangle of shortcut keys just like the WASD mixture most players can be aware of. 

With the HHKB Professional 2, by comparability, you’re utilizing a set of arrow keys which are cut up throughout three totally different rows on the keyboard (on the ‘/’, ‘;’, ”’ and ‘[‘ keys). 

Utilizing the arrow keys finally ends up feeling awkward even once you’re simply holding down two keys, and your fingers will contort additional as you wrestle to press extra sophisticated combos. Wish to rapidly spotlight that final phrase you wrote (on macOS)? You’ll want to carry Fn, Shift and Alt earlier than urgent the semi-colon key. 

Neglect attempting to do any superior spreadsheet work on this keyboard.

Minimalism is one factor, however eradicating keys which are so basic to the performance of a keyboard is one other factor totally. 

You’ll be able to customise the placement of the keys to a small extent utilizing a collection of switches which are hidden inside the high of the keyboard. These deal with features like swapping the Alt and Possibility keys if you happen to’re utilizing the board with a Mac, or shifting the placement of the Operate key, however we by no means discovered that they overcame the basic points we had with the structure. 

Efficiency

Quibbles about structure apart, the Joyful Hacker Keyboard Professional 2 is a lovely-feeling board to sort on. 

Relying in your familiarity with mechanical keyboards it’s possible you’ll or will not be aware of ‘Topre’ switches, which utilise a design that’s virtually like a midway level between rubber dome switches an conventional mechanical switches (most famously produced by Cherry). 

Debates in regards to the categorization of Topre switches apart (belief us, that is one a part of the web you’re finest off avoiding), you’ll usually discover that at their finest they really feel virtually like weighted piano keys, albeit ones which are accompanied by a satisfying ‘thock’ sound as they backside out. 

The HHKB Professional actually has this trademark really feel, however for our cash we nearly want the texture supplied by the Topre Realforce line of boards with their backplate-mounted switches (versus the case-mounted ones discovered on the HHKB). The Realforce has a shade extra solidity to it, whereas the HHKB feels prefer it has extra flex. 

It’s a distinction few are prone to care about exterior of the fanatic group, however once you’ve dedicated to spending as a lot cash on a board as these value, it’s one that may actually matter to you. 

Verdict

The Joyful Hacker Keyboard Professional 2 has a cult standing for a purpose. Its mixture of glossy design, Topre switches, and weird structure appear virtually particularly designed to enchantment to the form of one who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at spending over $200 on a keyboard. 

If you happen to’ve heard about it on the grapevine, then there’s little or no that we’d be capable to say to dissuade you if you happen to’ve obtained your coronary heart set on it. We get it, it’s pretty and compact, it’s fantastically symmetrical, and the design of the keycaps has the form of muted coloration palette that we are able to completely see the enchantment of. 

However after utilizing the keyboard for an prolonged time frame, we’re simply undecided that the advantages of its compact structure outweigh the prices. We will get behind the dearth of a caps lock key, however does the backspace key actually profit from being a row decrease when it’s nonetheless too far-off so that you can hit with out leaving the house row? 

And that’s with out mentioning needing to make use of a Fn key to entry the arrow keys. 

The HHKB Professional 2 is a enjoyable train in questioning established knowledge. In any case, the fashionable keyboard structure hasn’t modified in the perfect a part of three a long time. However we’d argue that the Joyful Hacker Keyboard goes too far to problem the established order. 

It’s a enjoyable novelty for the keyboard fan that wishes to strive one thing new, however if you’d like a instrument with which to finish a day’s work then there’s little incorrect with sticking to one thing that’s a bit extra conventional.

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