Tech

Vissles V84: Mechanical keyboard hits all the right buttons for Mac power users

Review Mechanical keyboard manufacturers have typically swerved Mac users. It’s not personal, it’s just business.

The Mac has a fraction of the traditional PC market share, and a significant proportion of mechanical keyboards are intended for competitive gamers, rather than those who type for work (be they developers or writers, or in the case of your correspondent, both).

The Vissles V84 is therefore a bit of an oddity. This compact keyboard (84 keys) ships with a Mac layout by default, although it comes bundled with standard Windows keycaps, as well as the ability to switch into a standard PC layout by pressing down a key combination.

Hot swappable

And, unusually for a keyboard that panders to the Mac elite, it also touts the ability to remove and replace the key switches. The Vissles V84 supports any compatible Cherry MX-style key switch, including those made by Cherry, Gateron, Kalih and Outer. These can be replaced while the keyboard is in use, and doesn’t require any soldering skills on behalf of the user.

While I wasn’t able to test this out personally (the sole replacement key switches I had to hand were made by the Glorious PC Gaming Race, and weren’t compatible), I did appreciate the option.

The Vissles V84 shipped with the company’s own-brand linear switches, which I wasn’t particularly keen on.

As I have noted in previous mechanical keyboard reviews, I tend to prefer key switches with a more audible click and higher actuation force levels, like the Cherry MX Blue and Cherry MX Brown. This is purely personal taste. When I buy a new keyboard, I look for something that’s louder and provides a more tactile feel.

Linear key switches are preferable for those playing gaming titles, where you want to exert the least amount of force to register a keypress. They’re also virtually silent, meaning you can use them in a crowded office without annoying your co-workers.

The Vissles VS Mechanical Switch has an actuation force of 45±5gf, compared to 50±20gf on the standard Cherry MX Blue.

As is the case with hot-swappable keyboards, you can mix-and-match. So, conceivably, you could get the best of both worlds by replacing all key switches with the venerable Cherry MX Blue, save for the WASD keys.

Typing comfort

Preferences aside, the Vissles V84 proved rather nice to type on. I’m a bit sceptical when it comes to compact keyboards, as I find they tend to be cramped. This wasn’t the case here, and once my muscle memory had switched over from my usual Unicomp Model M remake, I found myself typing at a brisk cadence.

I appreciated the built-in rubber feet, which positioned the keyboard at a comfortable 6° angle. Although this isn’t adjustable, it’s significantly more robust than the fragile plastic feet commonly found in many of the boards I’ve used (and subsequently broken).

As you’d expect from a mechanical keyboard, NKRO – or N-Key Rollover – is present here. This eliminates ghosting and jamming by registering each keypress independently, and then sending it to the computer. When used over wireless mode, the keyboard supports 6KRO – or Six Key Rollover – meaning it can accurately register six simultaneous keypresses at once.

I also appreciated the build quality. There was none of the flexing that you typically get with cheaper, flimsier keyboards. Weighing over 800g, the V84 was heavy enough to stay prone and didn’t slide around my desk during moments of frenetic use.

The keycaps were similarly robust, and although their white finish will mean you’ll regularly need to clean them, they managed to fit the aesthetic of my MacBook Pro and Magic Trackpad.

Still, Vissles couldn’t resist the temptation to include RGB backlighting, although you can adjust this with the optional control software. This tool also provides the ability to create your own macros, although this feels fairly cumbersome when compared to some keyboards we’ve used in the past, like the Ergodox EZ.

Sadly, this program is only available on Windows, which feels like a bit of an oversight. Although I had a Windows PC to hand I recognise that might not be the case for everyone.

Additionally, unlike the keyboard on your laptop, the keycaps used on the Vissles R84 are totally opaque, meaning light does not shine through the imprint of each letter. This isn’t a huge deal, but you might find it slightly annoying in low-light conditions.

Conclusion

Overall, the Vissles V84 impressed, and is a solid option for those looking for a compact Mac mechanical keyboard. Although I didn’t enjoy using the default keyswitch, it gets the basics right when it comes to comfort and design. The inclusion of Bluetooth 5.1 compatibility is another positive, especially considering wireless Mac keyboards are thin on the ground.

By including optional macros and hot-swappable key switches, Vissles caters to more demanding users, who have firmly-held preferences and appreciate a bit of customisability. And priced at $99 (£71.07), it is reasonably affordable. At least, by the standard of mechanical keyboards. ®


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