I’ve wanted to try out Topre (or perhaps Nopre) keyboards for a long while. Been using Boba U4s and loving them, heard that it’s the MX switch that’s closest to Topre/Nopre
Wanted to get some thoughts from the community:
- Is there any significant difference/improvement between Boba U4 and Topre?
- Are Topre boards worth the price premium over Nopre boards?
- How silent are stock Topre over the Boba U4? What about Topre type-S?
Thanks in advance for the advice!
Topre, in general, is likely to be more tactile than U4 Boba. Niz is somewhat on par.
Topre is different from Nopre like Niz because there is a somewhat different feel, so it is a matter of preference in terms of switch-feel.
However, Topre [and ABKO] boards tend to have better QC than many of the Niz models directly from that company. Something like the Topre Realforce PFU should have the highest QC.
Stock Topre is actually quite loud, it is meant to be thocky. I would say it is louder than U4 Boba, probably comparable to the U4T Thock Bobas.
However, you can get Topre pretty quiet, I’m not sure which is quieter between lubed silenced Topre and U4 Boba.
Something like 45 G Topre will offer you a different experience from U4 Boba as the Topre will be both thockier and more tactile. Silenced 45 G Topre will be a little closer to U4.
Hey @milneraj ! I’ve had Boba U4T’s for quite some time in my Mekanisk Tind and I really like them (more than Holy Pandas). I do have a set of Boba U4’s and I just popped them in for a quick feel and they’re practically the same as the U4T’s except that they’re silent. It is extremely close to the feel of the 55g domes that Topre offers in their RealForce Boards, probably the closest I’ve felt as well. My friend argues that the Moyu Blacks are really close as well, but I’ve never personally tried them.
Topre is a bit different in its tactility. The bump is a little more pronounced and rounder than that of the U4T/U4 Boba. The sound is much more desirable (in my honest opinion) in Topre boards than it is with the U4T/U4 Bobas. Like any other board you’ll have to do some TLC to the switches to get the most out of them and so far, Topre domes offer the best sound when properly lubed/silenced. The upstroke is very “clacky” with the Bobas while the Topre maintains the deep “thock” that makes Topre.
I had a Nopre board for a while (6 months of daily use) and I really enjoyed it. The build quality was not good however. The stabs are also not the best (they’re costar stabs and they’re really finnicky), but the good thing is that you get Cherry MX keycaps compatibility out of the box. I think they also come with silencing rings already (at least the model that I have did). Nopre domes are less tactile than Topre domes, they also generally feel lighter than the Topre equivalent as well. Every Topre board that I have is really nice. Solid build quality, great tolerances, and great keycaps out of the box. Leopold, HHKB, and RealForce boards are just really nice OEM boards and I would be happy to use them in their plastic housings, even with all of Norbauer’s metal Topre housings.
Stock Topre is quite loud. The only sound that I like out of the box is the PFU variants and the HHKB stock, with the RealForce RGB being my least favorite (it really sounds bad). Again, just like any other switch, you’ll have to do some TLC. However, I do believe that when done properly, it’ll be one of the best switches that you own. I recommend looking at this post that I made detailing most of the Topre modifications the community does.
@HungerMechanic Thank you so much for the reply! Good point about the QC - that’s something I didn’t think about until you mentioned it. Interesting to hear that the keyboard is rather loud - I’ve somehow had the impression that it would be rather soft/silent. But I guess that’s the silent Topre variant. I’ll keep an eye out for 45g Topres in that case, I’m a huge fan of the rounded tactile bump of the U4 so Topre sounds like something I’d enjoy
@Goguma Glad to hear that you’ve got Topre, U4 and U4Ts!! Interesting to hear that the U4s feel like 55g domes as oppose to the 45g domes. I suppose you’re using the 62g U4? The responses to my three questions were more than what I could hope for! Topre definitely sounds like something I’d really enjoy using, will keep my eye out for it
Yes, if you like that kind of tactility, Topre should be very interesting for you.
I was surprised by how loud stock Topre is. It’s not like a rubber dome where you just have rubber hitting rubber. The Topre is a full-fleged tactile quasi-mechanical keyboard with full-size key travel and an entire complex supporting individual tactile domes.
So it’s actually quite loud, although it is a thocky noise that is widely appreciated by its users. [Not me, I prefer silent Topre].
There are a couple of boards available in my local aftermarket converted to USD:
- Realforce R2 TKL Black 55g silent (non-APC) - $135
- Leopold FC980C White/Grey 45g silenced with Deskey, with extras 9009 mods and JP legends - $187
- Niz Plum 82 45g - $112
Between these options, which would you recommend?
I love uniform 55g, silent even better, and I never think about actuation point even when it’s an option. Unless 55g is too heavy for you, I’d go with this one.
The 980c is a lovely board, but since the stock caps blow the KBDFans replacements out of the water it seems like the R2 is a better deal. Excel-jockey caveat: if you find a numpad essential get this one.
I appreciate the value proposition of Niz boards, but unless it is the Bluetooth version, a Micro82 is $150 new so the R2 still seems like a better value. I also prefer the TKL form factor but YYMV.
The Leopold FC980C is one of the best Topre boards in the universe, as far as I understand. And being silenced and with extra 9009 mods, that is extremely tempting.
Is it used? It sounds like it may have been owned by someone who modified it.
The Realforce silent should be a pretty solid board. It’s almost a standard by which others are measured, really.
The Niz Plum will be okay, but Niz boards tend to have lesser QC than Topre. I’m talking greater inconsistencies in key feel, keycap size, spacebar and case straightness among them. I think Niz boards are great for what they are, but their QC is likely inferior to Leopold or Realforce.
I could be proven wrong on this, but I think the least risky option for you is the Realforce R2. It won’t have possibly-questionable modifications that the aftermarket Leopold does.
Looking at all the options, the first thing I’d do is cross the Niz Plum off the list. For an extra $23, you’re getting a lot more board in the Realforce R2. I would honestly go with the R2 TKL, unless you’re 100% all about the 980’s layout. I’m just concerned with extensive modding with topre boards, so I’d always pick one that’s not and rather mod anything myself. But since the R2 is the silent version, you may find yourself not wanting to mod it anyways.
Get both and harvest the 55g from the R2 and put them in the 980
Thanks so much for the replies and advice @4thebirds @HungerMechanic @dirtegg @chono!
I realise I should have posted the photos for reference earlier:
Realforce R2 TKL (Stock, no box, Black with black on black printed keycaps, R2TLS-US5-BK)
Leopold FC980C (lubed w. 3204, silenced w. deskey #3 rings, v.lightly used, comes with free Topre 9009 mods, Red mods, JP alphas)
- Niz Plum 82
As they’re being sold on the aftermarket, I’d assume that all 3 boards are used - definitely agree with striking the Niz off any consideration.
As for the other two, I initially found myself more interested in the FC980C due to the layout (i don’t have a numpad currently) but the price hike against the R2 was something I had to debate with. Thank you for pointing out that modifications that were done on the FC980C could affect the integrity and experience with the board. It’s opposed to the R2’s seller who mentioned that the board is stock.
I’ll see if I can meet up with the R2’s seller some time to test out the keyboard. And if everything’s in good working order, it sounds like a great gateway into trying out a Topre
Yes, testing one out is the most valuable thing you could do, if possible.
If you do get to test one, try imagining when you are test-typing that you will be typing like that on it for an hour straight. That way, you can get a sense of whether it’s really the right choice for you.
I ended up getting a Niz Plum Nano 75 with stock 45g for $35 USD from a friend, since the price was too good to pass up. I’m rather amazed at the value - Bluetooth 4.0 with 3 profiles, Cherry profile PBT keycaps, mouse cursor control, 3-way cable routing, some programmability with software (however only 1 profile). The case and build quality aren’t too bad - doesn’t feel flimsy but there’s some warpage - hence the cloth to keep it flat on the desk
My friend also had a HHKB Pro 2 with stock 45g domes and another Niz Nano 75 modded with BKE 45g domes. It was nice trying them out to see what Topre as well as BKE were like. The stock Niz definitely felt less tactile than the other two. Between the HHKB and BKE Niz, it was harder to tell the difference. Overall, I can understand why Topre’s considered different from the typical MX tactile.
Will be using the Niz Nano 75 as my daily driver for the next week to see how the experience is like
Well, that’s insanely-good value, an offer definitely too hard to pass up.
Yeah, Niz is less tactile than Topre. That’s fine with me, as I don’t need excessive tactility. Niz is more MX-like. Feels kind of like a tactile MX Red or something.
I am currently trying hard to resist the new 35 G Niz full-size keyboard. It probably has just enough weight and tactility to tell you that you are typing, without making an awful racket.
The PBT keycaps, though, I am skeptical of. I think they often use-pad printing with Niz, and the quality of the new double-shots may be spotty. I have to think about replacement keycaps, but that will be an unpleasant exercise if the stabilizers are co-star.
That’s true, the bottom out for Niz is rather soft and “lacking in tactility” in a sense. I actually think they’re more similar to Aliaz than MX Reds, the tactile bump is light but still perceptible.
Wow the full-sized 35G Niz would be an experience! Furthermore, the sound is rather low-pitched, which I think ends up being less annoying to others, even if the actual decibels are higher (louder). Becomes white noise after a while.
On closer inspection of the keycaps, I think they’re most likely pad printed
Also, on a side note, ApiaryKeyboards had a good video that demonstrated the differences between top quality and subpar doubleshot keycaps. Having a different color plastic on the underside of a keycap doesn’t seem to be equal to a “true” doubleshot quality
I’m totally open to being wrong here, but her clone there appears to be Dye-sub, not double-shot.
I’m not too sure myself. I thought it was quite similar to Akko Neon keycaps which are being lauded as PBT doubleshot. Perhaps the standard for what counts as “doubleshot” is rather varied
Yeah, I’ve got some double-shot “clones” that are really high quality. I’d expect them to perform at least as well as the “originals”.
My ABKO uses what look like the same as the keycaps in the close-up.
I believe that to be pad-printing. Makes me think about replacement keycaps.
During testing, I found that generic AliExpress PBT Cherry-profile keycaps are among the best you can use. Sound pretty deep. EnjoyPBT was okay, but maybe a bit more hollow. GMK was terrible.
Essentially, the stock keycaps provided the best sound characteristics. Which is unfortunate, because the legends will wear. Maybe MT3 is a solution.
Oh! That’s a very interesting and surprising observation, hearing that the generic PBT keycaps are preferable to use with the EC switches compared to EnjoyPBT and GMK offerings. Perhaps it’s due to the EC switches having a deeper sound profile than MX switches. I could see how taller keycaps like MT3, SA or MG (supposed Topre Hi-Pro clones) would play better for the sound
This is quite different from my experience with Boba U4 and Aliaz silent tactiles. They felt less affected by keycaps, with the Boba U4 taking well to both Cherry and SA profiles, while Aliaz performed poorly with SA