The Topre Realforce 105UB doesn’t look particularly expensive. Like most mechanicals, its structure resembles an old Model M keyboard – 105 keys set in a thick and heavy black chassis built like a tank.
One thing that immediately springs out about the Topre Realforce are the keycaps – these are gold on black, making for a rather elegant look.
You can feel the letting on the keys, as they’ve been produced by a process called dye-sublimation. This is where the ink is molecularly bonded to the plastic, as the ink goes straight from solid to gas without becoming a liquid in the middle. The practical upshot is that it will essentially never wear out; as you wear away the plastic more ink will be exposed, so you’ll never be left without keycaps.
Of course, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. In this case, instead of a traditional mechanical switch we find something rather different. It’s called an electrostatic capacitive switch, and The Keyboard Company were kind enough to send a separate one along so that I can show you how it works without tearing the board to bits.
Capacitive basically means that there’s a sensor that can tell when two electrodes are within close proximity. One of these electrodes is on the circuit board of the keyboard, while the other is formed of the conical spring that sits on top. When the key is pressed, the spring flattens and the capacitiance changes; this registers a key press.
This key press is much more uniform than both mechanical switches and normal rubber domes, it feels a lot smoother.
The actuation point is at the bottom, so there’s no loud click or tactile bump as with Cherry Blue and Brown keyboards. The rubber dome dampens things somewhat, making for a deeper ‘thwock’ sound.
Another thing which makes the Realforce somewhat unique is that keys are weighted differently – keys pressed by your dominant fingers in the middle of the keyboard are weighted at 45g, whilst keys pressed by your weaker fingers near the edge of the keyboard are weighted at 35g – lower than even Cherry Red switches. Conversely, the Escape Key and the function keys require more weight to actuate – 55g.
So that’s pretty much it – the Topre Realforce doesn’t have any media keys, macro keys, backlighting or passthrough ports. As far as gaming features go, it does have N-Key rollover (you can press as many keys as you like simultaneously and have them all register) when using the supplied PS/2 to USB adapter. On USB, you’ll run up against the 6 Key Rollover (6KRO) limit inherent to the connection.
Let’s have a look at the bottom of the keyboard now. The first thing you’ll see is the plain identification patch, which shows the model and serial number, as well as that ‘Made in Japan’ notice.
You can also see the clever features of the cable – while it isn’t braided or detachable, it can be routed through one of three possible channels, so the cable can appear on the side closest to your PC. It’s a simple but nice feature to include, although a detachable cable like those found on Leopold’s models would be a nice bonus.
Of course, there are some nice sturdy feet in place too. With the weight of the keyboard, you’re not going anywhere with these.
That’s about it in terms of physical features, so let’s have a look at how it performs.