43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2010
Let me start off by describing what the Happy Hacking Keyboard (hhk from now on) is:
The HHK is a small keyboard by any standard, the layout is reminiscent of Sun's System 5 keyboards, where the Control key is located where the Caps Lock usually is. The small form factor is achieved by placing the ESC key is just to the left of the "1" key (as opposed to being to left of the F1 key, sometimes with a gap in between) and the Back Space is just over the enter key (as opposed to being next to the "=" key) also the arrowkeys, pg up/down, insert and delete keys, Prt Sc, Scroll Lock and Break keys are accessed via the Fn key and one of the letter keys on the right side of the keyboard (I,O,P,K.L, etc...). Most of the features of the HHK can be altered via the DIP switches on the back, where you can decide if the Delete key will really be a delete (and delete forward) or a typical backspace. If you can't take the Control key being where it is, or if you use the Caps Lock function regularly you can also change that with the DIP switches. There are many other options you can change, and I'd advise anyone who feels reluctant with the HHK's layout to do a quick google search prior to the purchase and check all the possible combinations of those switches. It has a USB connection (female on the keyboard, so it's detachable) and two usb ports to plug in peripherals.
I own tens of keyboards with varying degrees of collectability and, to be honest, usability. About a year ago I purchased a HHK Lite (similar to the Pro 2 when it comes to layout, although my version had dedicated arrow keys) and I it felt like home in terms of key placement, I'm unix/linux user for the most part and having the control key "right there" and the ESC key just an inch away from my pinky was simply perfect (if you are a vim/emacs user you'll certainly appreciate that). The Lite version however is somewhat sub-par in terms of quality, the Pro 2 is simply in another league and I'll talk about that later in the review. It never stopped me from swapping keyboards every time I had the chance, but I always came back to the HHK Lite. So what can you expect from your first few typing session with a HHK?
As soon as you lay your hands on the keyboard and start typing the first oddity is the backspace key, it's simply not where you'd expect and it takes some time to get used to it being just over the Enter key. Curiously I adjusted very quickly to having the Control key just to the left of my pinky. The lack of cursor keys wasn't a big problem for me, although your milage may of course vary, so do take that into account. the only think I can vouch for regarding the arrow keys is that pressing Fn and then the letter for the correct arrow becomes second nature and to be honest the position of the Fn key guarantees that the "chord" doesn't feel awkward.
Of all the keyboards I own the keycaps on the Pro 2 are simply the best I've ever experienced, it's hard to explain how they have just the right amount of "grain" to make you feel your fingers are holding on to something, but at the same time it doesn't hold them back at all, the plastic feels solid and like something very likely to survive a nuclear holocaust and subsequent fallout, curiously if you pick up the keyboard if feels fairly light though solid in construction. The electronics are as good as they get these days (though some might argue that DIP switches are terribly old fashioned and that with this price tag is certainly could have some internal memory to store settings), the HHK uses Topre switches, the mechanism uses a spring shaped like a cone, according to the makers of the keyboard it allows a better feel and a longer lifespan. BTW, just because it's a mechanical keyboard doesn't mean it's a "clicky" keyboard, it is not, it's not much noisier than your stock keyboard, though if I had to describe the sound it's a bit lower (frequency wise) than one would expect, and it sounds "compressed". This is obviously a very personal opinion, but I like it.
As a quick reference, the Lite version isn't mechanical, the electronics aren't nearly as good and the plastic on the keycaps isn't any better than whatever keyboard came with your desktop computer, for the price the Lite isn't all it's cracked up to be and unless you are hooked on the HHK's layout there are certainly better options out there for about the same buck.
I can't really rave enough about the HHK Pro 2, it's a wonderful keyboard loaded with features and it oozes this feel of being a boutique keyboard.
...but man, that is a steep price tag!
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2013
BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
Until a few months ago, my main keyboard was a full-sized IBM Model M with buckling spring switches. I have three workstations, each with three computers running Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows 7. I do not do any gaming, but I do a considerable amount of writing along with molecular modeling, biostatistics, and scientific graphics. A right shoulder injury prompted a search for TKL boards in order to position the mouse more ergonomically toward the center of the desk.
After trying Filco, Ducky, and CM TKLs, I was able to find a NIB IBM SSK as my new daily driver. However, during my search for smaller boards, I became obsessed with the notion of reproducing all the functionality of a full-sized keyboard within a 60 to 75% form factor. Most of the boards I tried had Cherry switches (brown, blue, black, white, and green), but I also tested the Matias Mini Tactile Pro with Alps-inspired Matias tactile/clicky switches. Along the way, I encountered the Leopold FC660C, which has 45-gram Topre switches, and I decided that I preferred Topre over all other switches with the possible exception of IBM buckling springs. The only drawbacks to the Leopold FC660C were its lack of high-quality dye-sublimated PBT keycaps and the asymmetry introduced into its layout by the arrow cluster and Insert/Delete keys.
Throughout my search, I kept getting suggestions to try the HHKB Pro 2. I was attracted to its 60% form factor, elegant design, and Tope switches, but I was skeptical because of its alien layout and lack of dedicated arrow keys. Nevertheless, because I had been thinking so much about the HHKB Pro 2 during my extensive search for the perfect keyboard, I knew my mind could never be at peace until trying it. Therefore, after trying many other keyboards of various sizes and switch types, I finally placed the order -- I ordered through Elitekeyboards.com rather than Amazon.Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional2 (Black)
I got the black version, which has black legends on dark charcoal gray keycaps. This color scheme renders the keys virtually unreadable, but it gives the board an agreeable stealthy look. There was also a method to my madness. At the time I ordered the keyboard, EliteKeyboards (EK) did not have the white model in stock, and I figured that if I liked the board, I would get a set of white and light gray keycaps. From videos I have seen posted on YouTube, the contrast between the black case and light-colored keycaps provides an agreeable juxtaposition of modern and retro styles.
When I first unpacked the box, I instantly liked what I saw. It was the most right-looking keyboard I had ever seen. It seemed exactly the right size, and it was laid out with a beautiful and functional symmetry. Upon lifting the keyboard out of the box, I noticed that the board felt solid despite being lightweight. There was no detectable flex in the case, and no wobble when placed on the desk, either with no extension of the feet, or with the feet in the low or high position.
SETUP AND TEST RUN
Being primarily a Mac user, I set the DIP switches to Mac mode, and I downloaded and installed the Mac driver. The driver is not necessary, but it presumably adds some niceties, such as Mac-centric media controls. I also set the DIP switch that converts the Delete key to a Backspace. Forward delete is available via Fn+Del. It was initially a bit disconcerting to see the on-screen instructions for the Mac driver installation only in Japanese, but this added to the exotic aura of the board and the installation went just fine.
RAPID ADJUSTMENTS TO PRESUMED STRANGENESS
After typing for only a few minutes, I adjusted quickly to all the things that I thought might cause me to put the keyboard up for sale on eBay almost as soon as I got it. For example, I adapted to Control being where Caps Lock is usually located. Alt and Command (with Mac symbols!) are exactly where they are supposed to be on either side of the spacebar. Moreover, the Backspace located directly above the Return key now seems to be where it should have been all along. The arrow keys are Fn+[;'/ -- I thought this would be the hardest adjustment of all, but this also seems quite natural. I really like the Fn key to the right of the Right Shift, and the cursor diamond formed by [;'/ is easy to reach. Already I find a cursor diamond more natural than an inverted-T. Overall, my fingers adapted quickly and intuitively to what I thought would be an alien layout. It seems that the extensive research on the part of Prof. E. Wada that went into the design of the HHKB Pro 2 has paid off handsomely.
THAT SOUND; THAT FEEL
When typing, the famous "thock" has a hypnotic effect; I wanted to keep typing in order to continue hearing the sound. Thus, I would rate the thockness or thocknicity factor very high -- nothing new here for those already addicted to Topre switches. Moreover, the fact that the Topre switches are not mounted to a metal plate does not seem to matter at all. If anything, I like the sound and feel of the case-mounted Topres in the HHKB Pro 2 better than those in my metal-plate-mounted Leopold FC660C.
NO MAJOR CHANGES NEEDED
Before actually trying the HHKB Pro 2, I thought I would want to change it in various ways. For example, I thought I would prefer it to have a completely standard layout like that of the Poker II, dedicated arrow keys and/or plate-mounted switches like the Leopold FC660C, or beefed-up switches like the 55-gram RF 87u. However, the keyboard is nearly perfect as it is. I think the only thing I might change is the weight of the switches to 55 grams -- this is something that could be done while preserving the integrity of its true 60% design.
It is interesting that I am inclined to continue using the HHKB Pro 2, whereas I quickly gave up on my Poker II, which has a completely standard layout and only lacks dedicated arrow keys. I think the main difference is the superiority of Topre switches over Cherry mx blue switches, helping to give the HHKB Pro 2 a mellow fluidic quality as opposed to the raspy brittleness of the Cherry-blue Poker II.
Thus far, I have not noticed any deal-breaking negatives. However, I have noticed some of the relatively minor issues that others have commented on, such as the lack of rubberized feet. Indeed, if you stop typing and push on the case, you can scoot the keyboard along the desk, although the keyboard tends to sit firmly wherever you put it while typing. Nevertheless, the poor design of the feet is a glaring discrepancy in light of the otherwise excellent design of the keyboard and ought to be addressed in future revisions.
CONCLUSION: A THING OF BEAUTY IS A JOY FOREVER
In summary, after finally trying the HHKB Pro 2 for myself, I have been pleasantly surprised to experience firsthand the reasons behind the many rave reviews. The HHKB Pro 2 is so good to look at, it wins converts by appearance alone. However, this keyboard transcends a mere objet d'art -- it is a marvelous example of the interdependence of form and function -- superb design yielding a machine as useful as it is beautiful.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2012
I didn't purchase my HHKB through Amazon but I've owned it for several years now and it is still going strong. I've owned other mechanical keyboards that I have enjoyed but what thing about this keyboard is that, believe it or not, it is relatively quiet. It has just enough click clack in conjunction with the feedback to be pleasing not only to the touch but the ear as well.
This is a pretty rugged keyboard. I suspect it will last a good number of years even with me dropping crumbs and spilling things on and around it.
It DOES cost an arm and a leg... painfully expensive. When I bought it I was terrified that it would be horrible and that I would hate it. I am SO glad I was wrong and the keyboard lives up to its reputation. It did take me awhile to get used to the CTRL key and using the FN key for some keys I frequently use, but once you get used to it, it's a sweet little keyboard.
OH! One of the reasons I bought it was because I have a very small workspace and I really needed a small keyboard so that I had space for a mouse.
It's quite an investment but as far as keyboards go, this one is worth it.
I STILL love this keyboard but... it died today. I think a piece broke off internally on the controller while plugging in/unplugging peripherals. VERY sad. I cannot afford the $200+ fee again, so I just ordered a Vortex Pure with Cherry MX Blue keys. I know it won't be the same, as Topre is really good and Vortex has had mixed reviews regarding craftsmanship. Still, if you are looking at this keyboard, go for it. Just be aware that the peripheral USB connectors may not be very solid, so treat them gingerly.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2013
I'm typing this review on my Happy Hacking Professional 2 right now and all I can say is that this keyboard is awesome. Here's two reasons why:
1. Topre key switches
Underneath each key is a Topre switch. I won't go into much detail about them here, but they are (in layman's terms) a hybrid between mechanical key switches and rubber dome. They provide the solid, tactile response that you'd find in a $100+ mechanical keyboard with the comfort and quietness of your more "conventional" keyboard. Beyond that, Topre switches provide a unique feel that you won't get from other keyboards. My fingers rarely feel fatigued after a full day of coding and when I type, my fingers feel as if they're floating. Also, do note that the main reason why this keyboard is the price that it is is due to these switches.
In terms of quietness, I would rate this keyboard between my Apple keyboard and a Cherry MX browns (basically found within every "silent" mechanical keyboard). My co-workers don't seem to be annoyed, as well as people who chat on the phone with me as I type.
In terms of feel, pressing down on each key is solid. Everything feels in place and you get a nice, solid note, as if you're pressing on extremely high quality buttons. I can't fully describe this, but you will fall in love with the feel as soon as you begin typing on it.
2. The layout
Now, the main reason why anyone would buy this keyboard is due to the layout. If you're a vim user like me, everything will be right in the world with this keyboard. Notable differences between this keyboard layout and others:
- the tilde key is moved to the far right corner above the backspace key and the escape key has taken it's place
- there are no control keys beside meta and alt, instead there is one control key in place of Caps Lock
- the function key is pressed with your right-pinky
- nearly half of the buttons have function keys
- there are no arrow keys, you use function keys for that
I would say that this layout is controversial at best, but trust me, you do get used to using the arrow keys as function keys. Pg up and Pg down are function keys as well. Again, you get used to all of this and it becomes second nature. If you're a fan of using emacs/vim, all the better. Do note that this layout can be a little jarring at first, especially if you are like me and switch between this keyboard and your laptop keyboard from time to time, but your muscle memory adapts and you'll end up only occasionally tapping the pipe key instead of backspace a couple times ;)
All in all, this keyboard is geared towards a niche market, but it serves that niche market well. You will not be disappointed with this keyboard.
If you are not in this target market of *nix/vim users, I would highly recommend any Realforce keyboard as an alternative, as they have much more conventional layouts with Topre switches.
Thanks for reading!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2013
I have used more than 5 keyboards in the last two years, including a Flico blue switch. But HHKB just fits me better.
1. I use VIM and the layout of this keyboard makes typing more comfortable (it needs some time to adjust your habit). Of course you can switch caps and ctrl even you're using other keyboard, but it may cause some problems. For example, I have a virtual machine running Windows 7 and my host OS is Debian, I switched the caps and ctrl in both of the OS, however the caps in windows 7 is enabled every time I clicked the caps (now ctrl) in Debian.
The layout of the bs/delete key is shorter, which is another thing attract me.
2. The rebound is fast and solid.
3. The sound is not appealing compared to the blue switch.
4. The touch feeling of the caps (PBT) is very different with ABS caps. Hard to tell which one is better for anyone but I do like PBT caps.
If you are a engineer who using VIM/EMACS every day, go and get it. You do use keyboard to write your code. Good inputs (mice, keyboard) and outputs (monitor, speaker) worth every penny you spent on it.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2010
I have been the owner of a HHK Lite for over 10 years and it's still going strong to this day. The professional version is a considerable step up. I love it. It looks amazing, the feeling at the finger tips is definitely a jump from the lite version and most importantly it makes typing faster and more precise. I love this keyboard and don't know how I can use anything else.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2011
I work from home and often spend 8-15 hours a day on this keyboard. It's got great action, it has a small footprint on my desk but has normal full sized keys. It is a bit expensive, probably only for serious keyboard users (developers, writers, etc). But this is, by far, the best keyboard I've ever used. I gave it 5 stars on "noise" because it has such a distinctive clack. When I join meetings and haven't hit mute, they immediately know it's me without having to say a word.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2011
Coming from an IBM Model M buckling spring keyboard, typing on the Topre is fantastic and MUCH more fun. There's an initial pressure that you need to apply to the keys before they starts to depress and activate, so it feels as if you're pressing on clay tablets. I like this keyboard enough that I purchased the full RealForce 103 keyboard as well. Unlike the Happy Hacking Keyboard, the RealForce keyboard, even as it uses the same Topre switch, doesn't have the initial resistance so it has a different typing experience. With the RealForce, the key presses are much more smoother as if your fingers are going through melted butter -- very nice, but personally I find it not as fun as the happy hacking keyboard.
The only negative about this keyboard is the location of the backspace key, since on most keyboards, the backspace key is above the backslash key (\). The Happy Hacking have these keys reversed, so if backslash is a character you type often, you'll probably hit the backspace key instead. Also for some people, the lack of dedicated arrow keys may be a deal breaker.
While buckling spring keyboards are great, the Topre keyboards are quickly becoming my preferred keyboard over the model M. The price is insane compared to retail brands like Logitech, but you get what you pay for, and considering that a keyboard is something that a computer user utilize daily for hours at a time, the price isn't as high as one might think. The Topre keyboards are made in Japan, not China.
On a final note, don't confuse the Professional version with the Lite version. The Lite version (which is MUCH cheaper) uses rubber dome instead of capacitive switch, so in that sense, the Lite is identical to Logitech keyboards.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2013
I have used this keyboard (blank key cap) since 2007 along with Kensington expert mouse (a huge trackball) on the left side of it and never looked back.
With this combination you simply don't need to stretch your right hand too far out which means your right shoulder doesn't hurt anymore. Simply you don't have to move your arm around much and using the kensington expert means your mouse doesn't hurt your wrist any more. Plus you have just enough space for a notebook on the right side of your keyboard in case you need it (I occasionally do), which is absolutely not an option when you have a small workspace filled with full size keyboard and a traditional mouse.
It feels really great when I type on it and the I really like the layout. Ctrl key is right below the Tap key and the Esc key is right next to 1 key which is really convenient for using Emacs and Vi.
It's not for everyone especially if you need the function keys and numberpad often (I find that lack of arrow keys is not much of problem even when I need them as the fn key combination for that is placed at very convenient locations), but if you are a developer or a scientist working on linux environment I highly recommend it.
Fortunately when I bought it Japanese Yen was really weak so I paid almost half what it costs now. Now I am regretting I didn't buy two of them so that I can use one at home and another at work...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2013
Was disappointed by it's tactile feedback first time put my hands on it. It felt wobbly and sticky comparing to Cherry MX series switches. And I was really thinking about selling my HHKB on ebay.
Though decided to perform speed typing test. Performed 3 runs with Das Keyboard Model S and HHKB Pro 2. The best result for Das Keyboard was 380 strokes and 15 mistakes, for HHKB — 406 strokes and 2 mistakes.
Decided to sell my Das Keyboard after this :)))