I have to admit that the keyboard has always been an after-thought when I have purchased a computer. In fact, prior to the purchase of this particular keyboard, I have only ever owned ones that came stock with my system purchases. I have certainly used different types of keyboards over the years: from early 90s mechanical options to various Dell-branded membrane keyboards, and ergonomic options (never been a fan); however I have not actively sought out specific keyboards.
All that is to say that I have some frame of comparison, but am not a keyboard expert. So when my Dell membrane keyboard of ~5 years died and I needed to replace it, I was initially inclined to buy the cheapest option available.
But after listening to a discussion on keyboards on MintCast (after the release of the System76 Launch) I decided to finally think about what I wanted in a keyboard and try out a modern mechanical keyboard. The HAVIT 89 key mechanical keyboard was what I ultimately decided upon, and I have to say that I have been quite happy thus far.
My use case
Generally speaking, I can type on any keyboard. I can comfortably switch from tiny netbook keyboards (what I am currently typing on) to full 104 key keyboards with minimal impact on my comfort or typing speed. I prefer a cabled keyboard to avoid a risk of battery dying mid-work, although I do see the benefits of wireless. I type for several hours per day, mostly word processing and e-mails, but also do data entry (a few hours a week), as well as video editing and videoconferencing where keyboard shortcuts are heavily used.
Product Summary and Overview
The main drawing point to this keyboard for me was the layout. It has a tenkeyless (TKL) size with 89 keys. I appreciate this size because I have limited desk space and it keeps the mouse nearby. What distinguishes this particular keyboard from other TKL options is that it has the option for a full number pad (editors note: can we still call it tenkeyless when it has a number pad?). They accomplish this by combining the scroll pad/page up/home-end keys with a number pad. You can switch between the two setups with a simple key combination (Fn + backspace for permanent switch) or temporarily by holding shift down. This is a particularly unique layout that I haven’t seen widely used but that was extremely appealing to me. 90% of the time I spend typing I have no need for the number pad. However when I am doing data entry I prefer a full number pad for efficiency. This keyboard gives me the best of both worlds and I have to say that it the setup has lived up to my expectations.
The keyboard comes in two colour options: black, white and orange (often called the halloween style in reviews) and in white with blue, pink, yellow, and orange (i.e. jellybean style). I opted for the black, white and orange option. I would imagine that opinions will be divided on the looks of this keyboard. It certainly draws attention and I quite like the retro look, however those who prefer a more conventional option may not be a fan. Regardless, the PBT keycaps can easily be replaced with your preferred caps. In this picture you will see that I replaced my “windows key” with a Linux Mint key from WASD keyboards. The process took about 30 seconds with the included keycap puller and the new key fits perfectly.
The keyboard uses Jixian Red switches and they are not hot swappable which is understandable at the price point. The Jixian Red switches are not as commonly seen on other brands but I gather from some of the reviews that they are similar to Gateron red switches. I don’t personally have enough experience with mechanical keyboards to confirm this. What I can say is that they are quite comfortable and I have had no issues with double tapping or skipping. There is a fair clicking sound when typing but it isn’t obnoxious. There is no backlight, which may be a sticking point for some. Gamers may prefer the RGB option at a slightly higher price point.
The build feels really solid, probably more than I expected when I purchased the keyboard. It is wired and the cable is not detachable but braided cable is of decent quality. The keycaps are fair, I have heard that the lettering may fade over time but haven’t experienced this yet. In the meantime the caps fit snug and are comfortable. If fading does occur they are easy enough to swap out. The big question which I can’t answer right now is longevity of the keyboard. The manufacturer says that the key life is 50,000,000 uses, but who knows if that is really the case.
I purchased my keyboard through Amazon for a little under US$50 which I can now say is a bargain. You can also order direct from the manufacturer’s web site and I have seen it on several other sites so it seems fairly available. I have been very happy with this keyboard. It isn’t a premium mechanical keyboard like the System 76 or the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard and as such it does not have all of the typical premium features. But my goal was to purchase an entry level mechanical keyboard, I didn’t want to pay for hot swapping, wireless connectivity and RGB lighting only to find that it wasn’t for me.
Given this goal, I am 100% happy with my choice. I love the layout which is perfectly suited to my daily activities. It seems well made and has been a pleasant typing experience. There has been no issue with compatibility for either Windows or Linux Mint (all the hotkeys work on both systems). So if you are in the market for a basic mechanical keyboard then this is an excellent product that is worth considering.