QWERKeyboard / Tex Beetle Mechanical Keyboard Review

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QWERKeys are a UK based startup that originally stocked Cherry MX switches and custom key caps for mechanical keyboards. Since the overwhelming success of the customisation of mechanical keyboards (see Geekhack deskthority and reddit), QWERKeys has now expanded their product range to include their own branded keyboard dubbed the “QWERKeyboard”. What we have in to review today, is the first iteration of the QWERKeyboard, which means the model I have will be tweaked a bit for it’s final release, but the main feel and look of it will remain the same. The QWERKeyboard is based on the Tex Beetle 60% keyboard, however it will be available with ISO layouts and various switch types. The current model I have in front of me has little or no obvious branding, although I have been told that some QWERKey/QWERKeyboard branding will appear. For parts of this review I may come across Tex branding, which I have had confirmed, will remain unless otherwise stated later in the review. It is apparent from the specs that the QWERKeyboard is more of a premium keyboard (taken from the Tex datasheet) and will no doubt be aimed more towards portability.

Features

  1. USB Interface
  2. HID Device
  3. Plug & Play/Hot-Swappable
  4. Firmware upgradable over USB
  5. QWERTY Layout
  6. About 60% as wide as of the standard 104-Key keyboard
  7. Uses Cherry MX-Series switches
  8. N-key rollover
  9. Memory function users can define
  10. Multi-Lingual Layout
  11. Laser-engraved Keycaps
  12. Aluminum top case design
  13. Gold plated connector

Specification

  1. Power consumption:USB 5V / 60 mA
  2. Dimension(W*L*H):124 mm*298 mm*35 mm (without stand) /124 mm*298 mm*46 mm (with stand)
  3. Weight:760 g
  4. USB Cable Length:1.8 meters
  5. Number of Keys:
    • 66 Keys(English-USA/Traditional Chinese/Korean Layout)
    • 67 Keys(Japanese/European Layout)
  6. Lifecycle of Cherry switches:50 million key presses

There is also a LED version available, although the version I have in to review is the non-backlit version, but that’s enough talk, lets take a closer look.

Closer Look

The QWERKeyboard comes in a plain white box, void of any forms of  branding, although this  could change for the final release, with hopefully some QWERKey branding. Opening the box you are presented with the QWERKeyboard in a plastic surround with a foam cushion on the lid, which protects the keyboard well. Other than the keyboard itself, there is only a USB cable in the box, although again, this could change for the final release. EDIT: It has been confirmed that QWERKeys will also be supplying an special set of key caps for any preorders, however it is unknown which will be included. My first impressions of the QWERKeyboard, is that the build quality is fantastic. The top part of the case is machined aluminium, which has a very crisp edge, clean lines and smooth corners. The keyboard itself if fairly heavy weighing in at 737g which is quite a lot considering my full size Cherry MX Board 3.0 weighs 825g.

As you can see, the keyboard is the 60% size, which means the layout has had to be changed to compensate for the smaller size. Subsequently, there is no direct function key row or modifiers such as page up/down, insert, home etc. This mini sized keyboard does however have the arrow keys, which is not often seen on keyboards of this size. I will show you later on how the QWERKeyboard adds the function keys into the small size. The only other accessory you get with the keyboard is a USB cable (USB to mini USB), which has gold plated connectors. The cable is not braided, however it does feature a ferrite choke to reduce any interference. Due to the small nature of this particular keyboard, the function and modifier keys have been combined with others, to maintain full functionality. The function keys have been combined with the number keys, which results in you having to press an additional function key (either side of the spacebar) to activate the other key function. There are also additional keys (L1-L5), which are combined with the QWERT keys. These keys act like DIP switches, which swap various functions of the keyboard around – but more on this later. The current layout is ISO UK layout, although there are other layout options such as different European layouts (french, german, nordic etc). This particular model has Cherry MX Blue switches which are tactile and require 45g of force to actuate the key. The switches are plate mounted, meaning they are more stable then their PCB mounted equivalent, although this means the keyboard weighs more. The underside of the keyboard is relatively featureless, although the inset part in the middle is intended to be covered with a sticker, which you can see in the next photo. This sticker is not attached to keyboard as standard, so it has to be applied yourself. It displays the various options that can be controlled via the L1-L5 keys that I mentioned earlier. The sticker also features the model and serial number, alongside “Designed by TEX, Made in Taiwan” and the website address. Just like most keyboards, this one also features some feet that raise the back of the keyboard. A nice feature of the QWERKeyboard is that it has a removable USB cable, which increases the customisation options. From this angle you can see some small marks on the key caps, which are most likely from the spruce the keys would have been attached to when made. Whilst this doesn’t affect the performance of the keys, it doesn’t look great if you like your keyboard to look good – which most keyboard enthusiasts do. That said, it’s nothing major and not visible when in use. The standard (right) key caps are made from ABS plastic and have the typical print for the labels. The key cap on the left is a QWERKey key cap, shown for comparison purposes. So that pretty much covers the aesthetics of the QWERKeyboard, now it’s time to put it to the test.

The best way to review the performance of a keyboard is through many hours of use across many difference games and programs. Typically I run the tests across a week or more to best find the positive and negative aspects of the product – and not only that, sometimes, they can be quite different to what I’m used to, so it takes time for it to settle in. For the tests, I used the keyboard for gaming and general use (in fact I’m using it now to type this review), across a week to potentially discover any faults with the keyboard. Setting up the keyboard was very simple, it is just simply plug and play, with no drivers required. Gaming First up was gaming, so I played many games of my current favourite FPS – Battlefield 3, Diablo 3 and some Supreme Commander 2.

Battlefield 3 was up first and straight away I was finding the keyboard very pleasant to use, however, it is not without it’s disadvantages, mainly being that to change seats in vehicles you need to press F1 through F5, which of course is made more difficult by having to press an additional Fn key to activate the key. This was a major pain and took a while to get used to. For games of less intensity, the lack of direct function keys also became a bit of an issue, although the general use for both Supreme Commander 2 and Diablo 3, with the blue switches really felt great and to some degree improved my performance, down the the tactile feedback you get from the switches.

That said, the switch type is down to preference, so you may find this experience different. General Use The main purpose of the QWERKeyboard is for typing, which makes perfect sense with the blue switches. The tactile feedback is great, although I wouldn’t recommend using it in a room that you share with others as it’s very loud compared to the other switch types and even rubber dome keyboards.

The lack of dedicated function keys isn’t so obvious when you are typing or just using it for casual internet browsing, as there isn’t the same pressure to perform well that you get whilst playing games, however the I did miss the dedicated delete and home/end keys as I tend to use these keys quite a lot for when I’m typing/coding. The addition of volume +/- and mute is a nice touch and I did find myself using these fairly often.

The size of the keyboard meant I could take it on my daily commute to my place of work and use it instead of the rather old and rubbish rubber dome keyboard I have to put up with. As I already mentioned, the keyboard is quite heavy, although the build quality and durability of the keyboard meant I could just chuck it into my bag and take it around with me. So that pretty much sums up the performance of the keyboard, now it’s time to conclude the review.

Final Thoughts

I’d like to start the conclusion off with a reminder that the QWERKeyboard I was supplied with for this review, is currently still in the beta stage of development so much could change in terms of aesthetics, however performance should remain the same. The QWERKeyboard’s 60% size is ideal for anyone who likes to take their keyboard around with them, whether to work, college or even LAN events.

The look of the keyboard is very appealing and the aluminium case looks great and gives it a solid premium characteristic. Typing and gaming on the keyboard was also a pleasure, however this is subjective as I favour blue switches over the others – so you may find this different to how I did. The keyboard is not without it’s flaws however, as when you are gaming the lack of dedicated function keys does mean you are one step behind on your enemies, though with practise this could be reduced.

Whilst the QWERKeyboard is perfect for travelling with, due to it’s design and build quality it does weigh a fair bit, although this is often a sign of good quality. The price is also a potential problem with this keyboard as it’ll set you back around £100 – which would get you a decent full sized keyboard.

Overall the QWERKeyboard is superb for anyone who is after a great looking , well performing and portable keyboard. If you are willing to pay a premium for aesthetics and it’s portability and don’t mind making a compromise for the lack of dedicated function keys, then this could be a worthy contender. Sure this could be seen as nothing but a rebranded Tex Beetle, but currently these are very difficult (and even more expensive) to source in Europe, so availability combined with the great support I’ve experienced with QWERKeys, makes this particular iteration stand over the rest.

Whilst I’m very eager to give this keyboard the best award possible, I’ll hold back until the final version is available, so for these reasons I’m not going to award it with the editor’s choice, but since the QWERKeyboard is so well designed I am awarding it with the:

 

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value
3.8

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