Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT/KB (Cherry Brown MX)

Price:  $109 AUD (not including the $25 dollars delivery charge)

Score: 8.5/10

Pros:

-Great key action with click (Cherry Brown MX)

-Good tactility

-All black casing

-Logo less casing design

-BLUE LED indicator light on the CAPS LOCK and SCROLL LOCK

-No numpad (i need a compact keyboard)

-Good weight to the keyboard

-Great anti slip rubber padding

-Hard wearing key caps

-ABS keyboard dust cover (same as Filco)

-Detachable usb port cables

-Designed by the same person whom designed the Filco Majestouch 2 Tenkeyless keyboard.

-Probably manufactured by the same manufacturer as the Filco keyboards.

-N key rollovers

Cons:

-Doesn’t have the same construction quality as the SteelSeries 6GV2 and 7G that i have used.

-Crappy cardboard packaging (the packaging make it look like a 10 dollars keyboard).

-Not ergonomically designed (just like 90% of the mechanical keyboard on the market).

-No integrated usb hubs

-I reckon this thing should sell for no more than $80 AUD per unit.

Verdict: A good quality mechanical keyboard at a fairer price (compared to the Filco version). After using this keyboard for a couple of hours, it is obvious that the IBM Model M with its collapsing spring mechanism, is still the Stradivari of computer keyboards. It is a shame that Unicomp can not find a good distributor to sell its keyboard in Australia, otherwise it would sure to have more fans in Oz.

Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT/KB (Cherry Brown MX) 1

Review

I have wanted to get the Filco keyboard for couple of months already, but i sort of put it on the backburner after getting the Apple Wired Keyboard ($35 AUD during special), which offered an amazing typing experience for 20% of the cost of the Filco keyboard that i wanted. Also, since i had the SteelSeries 7G keyboard, i sort of persuaded myself that i would not have much utility for another mechanical keyboard, as i had thought that the Brown MX switches would not really differ all that much from the Black MX switches in the SteelSeries keyboard. However, for some strange reasons i felt compelled to reward myself with a good quality keyboard for all my hard work and for getting the new ThinkPad X1 from Lenovo ANZ (maybe i am just a shopaholic looking for a reason to shop).

Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT/KB (Cherry Brown MX) 2

Different models of the FC200 Tenkeyless KB on offer

As such, i started to look into the option of buying the Filco keyboard more and more often, but the $200 AUD price tag (including delivery) just put me off purchasing the Filco Majestouch 2 keyless keyboard. However, while i did not want to buy a Tenkeyless keyboard for $200 AUD, i did want this keyboard at a lower price tag, so i looked into various alternatives and even second hand used models. So after couple of days searching and reading into oodles and oodles of posts, blogs and reviews, i finally stumbled upon a similar Tenkeyless keyboard that had the same Brown MX key as the Filco version, but at a more reasonable $109 (with an extra $25 dollars delivery charge) price.

Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT/KB (Cherry Brown MX) 3

Picture 1. The comparison of the Filco Tenkeyless (left hand side) with that of the Leopold Tenkeyless (right hand side).

Basically from what many bloggers and forum posters were saying, the Leopold (a Korean company) uses the exact same keyboard design and electronic underpinnings (some say it has better stabilizer bars under the large keys) as the Filco (Japanese company) keyboards. These two keyboards were designed by the same person and they were also manufactured by the same Taiwanese keyboard ODM (original design manufacturer) whom manufactures the Filco keyboards, which also happens to manufactures many other branded mechanical keyboards (i.e. Das, SteelSeries, etc). From what i could gather from the web, the ODM manufacturer for these mechanical keyboards was Costar and had its factory in Taiwan, which matched the fact that most of the mechanical keyboard using Cherry MX keys had Taiwan as the COO (country of origin). This was great for me, as i wanted a keyboard that would last me a while and had similar quality as the Filco keyboards, but at a much more realistic pricing level. So it was a no brainer that i should get the Leopold keyboard instead of the Filco keyboard, which with the strong Australian dollar (August 2011) it had a similar price as that of the US market.

Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT/KB (Cherry Brown MX) 4Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT/KB (Cherry Brown MX) 5

Picture 2. The keyboard mini USB port with the usb cable detached and inserted.

Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT/KB (Cherry Brown MX) 6

Picture 3. The keyboard with the LED indicators ON.

Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT/KB (Cherry Brown MX) 7

Picture 4. The large anti slip rubber pads.

There were other reasons other than price (but that was the main factor of influence) that i chose the Leopold keyboard rather than the Filco keyboard, which were:

-Detachable USB connection cable, which means if the connection cable breaks you could swap it out in a cinch.

-LED indicator light on the SCROLL LOCK and CAPS LOCK button itself, which is something i really like about the Leopold keyboard design.

-There was also no visible logo on the Leopold Tenkeyless keyboard (which saves the manufacturing cost), other than the sticker on the bottom of the keyboard.

-The Leopold keyboard also has a larger anti slipping rubber pads on the bottom of the keyboard.

After using the keyboard for a couple of hours, the differences of the Brown MX keys to that of the Black MX keys were quite apparently, the Brown MX keys required so much less effort to use as compared to the Black MX keys. It was obvious to me that the Black MX keys were more suited to the hard typists or serious gamers whom smash their keys a lot. The Brown MX keys were much less tiring to use for typing long documents (i typed this review using the new keyboard), and the noises of the keys when pressed were just divine (or really annoying if you are in a quite office or environments where noise should be kept to the minimum). It also became apparent during the few hours of use that the Cherry MX mechanical switches were no match for the old IBM Model M collapsing spring mechanisms. The Cherry MX key switches were inferior in both key tactility and noises it made during typing. As such the IBM Model M (Unicomp 104/105 customizer) was still the king of the mechanical keyboard. Also, a word of warning due to the height of this keyboard, you should consider a real palmrest to get the most of the typing experience, and not strain your fingers or palms whilst using it for your typing. This keyboard like most of the large traditional design mechanical keyboard would benefit from a redesign in terms of ergonomics, they could learn a lot from the Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard design.

Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT/KB (Cherry Brown MX) 8

Picture 5. Size comparison of the Leopold Tenkeyless and the SteelSeries 7G keyboard.

Personally, i liked the Tenkeyless design as it offered the best typing ergonomic,as the absence of the numpad allowed the mouse to be placed closer to the keyboard, which lowered the incidences of shoulder muscle strain during long typing sessions. Another tangible benefit of the Leopold version of the Tenkeyless keyboard was the use of the stronger key caps as compared to the Filco version. But i could not independently verify this claim and as such only time, would tell whether this claim would stack up.

For those gamers out there whom would want to purchase this keyboard, the Leopold Tenkeyless keyboard  does have N-key rollover feature and it could be used with PS/2 connections (the usb to ps/2 converter is included in the packaging).

Finally, comparing this keyboard to the SteelSeries 6Gv2 and 7G, it was apparent that the SteelSeries mechanical keyboards were better constructed then the Leopold model. So it was definitely a shame that SteelSeries only limited themselves to the Cherry Black MX keys, and not the Blue or Brown MX keys. If they had the Cherry Brown key models (also preferably in the Tenkeyless version), i would definitely be a loyal SteelSeries users and dump this Leopold model.

Conclusion

While, the Leopold Tenkeyless FC200RT was an excellent keyboard for typist it was still no match for the IBM Model M or the modern incarnation the Unicomp Customizer keyboard. So if you want the best typing experience, then you should still consider the collapsing spring technology as something on the top of the shopping list. Also at $109 dollars, i would expect this keyboard to have similar level of quality as the SteelSeries 6Gv2, which retailed for about the same price and had better quality and were more expensive to make.

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