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Angry Miao AM Compact Touch Review: Small and Innovative

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
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Hardware Reviews 0

Angry Miao is nothing if not innovative. Among all of the companies making peripherals today, they operate at the forefront, pushing boundaries to deliver forward-thinking features and outstanding typing experiences. Today, we’re looking at the latest creation from this imaginative team, with the AM Compact Touch, a 60% keyboard with capacitive touch arrows, a flexy leaf spring mounting system, see-through keycaps, wireless changing, and more. Starting at $398, it comes at a high price, but offers the company’s best typing experience and most compact form factor yet. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: Available at IndieGoGo
    • Standard Base Kit: $398
    • Special Edition Base Kit: $450
    • Standard Bundle: $498
    • Special Edition Bundle: $550
    • Mech Love Customizable Base Kit: $515
    • Mech Love Customizable Bundle: $615
  • Product Name: AM 65 LESS
  • Model Number: AM12
  • Typing Angle: 10°
  • Structure: Two-stage adjustable leaf-spring
  • Drivers:  No additional drivers required, supports N-key rollover
  • Programmable: Yes, Lighting and Layout
  • Switch Mounting Style: Hot-swappable
  • Connectivity: Wired, Bluetooth 5.1
  • Indicators
    • Caps Lock indicator on PCB (between number 6 and 7)
    • Bluetooth status and battery level are displayed through in-switch LEDs (standard edition) or the blocker RGB lighting (special RGB edition)
  • USB Port: USB 2.0, Type-C, supports USB-C to USB-C
  • Battery: Lithium polymer 5000mAh
  • Qi Wireless Charging:  Wireless charging 5W, starts charging automatically when battery power
  • drops below 85%
  • Weight Base Kit: 1.40kg, Bundle 1.47kg

AM Compact Touch - What Is It?

With the Angry Miao Compact Touch, it’s all in the name. It’s a compact keyboard, adopting a symmetrical 60-percent design that’s at once reminiscent of the legendary Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB) as well as contemporary 60-percents, like the Ducky One 2 Mini. It’s tiny, lacking a function row, arrow keys — at least as you would usually think of them —  and navigation and editing buttons. Some are mapped to function commands by default but all of them and more can be remapped yourself using Angry Miao’s DIY customization website. 

The Compact Touch isn’t like most other 60-percents, however. Right away, you’ll notice that there are only two keys on either side of the Spacebar instead of the usual three. This is the HHKB inspiration, adopting the symmetrical design of this classic keyboard for a more aesthetic, balanced appearance. It keeps a full-size Backspace, however, and doesn’t swap Caps Lock for Ctrl like the HHKB. Having tried both, I found the Compact Touch to be much easier to use compared to the HHKB proper, partially because of the layout changes and also because it offers much more programmability to tailor the layout to my own preferences.

The other part of the name comes from the headline innovation this time around: a capacitive touch panel along the from edge, directly below the Spacebar. This touch panel is mapped to arrow commands, giving you full access to arrows without needing dedicated keys. And since your thumbs always hover over its exact location, you don’t have to stretch to access it. The panel is about two inches long and is controlled with swipes to trigger directions. Holding your finger on a swipe holds the arrow key. It’s intuitive and works well, for the most part, but isn’t as speedy as dedicated arrow keys for quicks taps. 

Angry Miao is a company of enthusiasts, innovators, and designers, and its keyboards cater directly to custom keyboard enthusiasts. The Compact Touch spends as much time focusing on innovative, forward-thinking features, like its touch panel and wireless Qi charging coil, as it does emphasizing features that cater to its sound and feel as a typing device.

To that end, what’s happening inside the keyboard is almost as interesting as what’s happening outside. First off, the case (which, okay, isn’t inside the keyboard, but is super important to everything that is), is made of heavy aluminum that’s the product of nearly six hours of precision CNC milling each. The case is surprisingly heavy but is composed of a chin piece, and a top shell that sit on top of a heavy base with an additional weight. All around that blocky base are springs that suspend the PCB. 

It’s available five different colors for the Standard Edition: Back to the Future (DeLorean silver, black, and gray), Night Drive (purple and black), All Black, Hard Candy (pastel pink, blue, and white), and 8-Bit (beige, cream, and burgundy). There’s also a Tesla Truck inspired special edition that reveals a pair of RGB headlamp LEDs on the left and right side. A pricier Mech Love edition is also available which adds a contrasting chin piece with a pair of customizable RGB diffusers facing upward instead of forward. They all look great, frankly, so it’s dealer’s choice. Each kit is available barebones or with switches and keycaps as a bundle for about $50 more. 

Inside that case is Angry Miao’s best keyboard system yet. From the top down, we have a flex cut plate and thin 1.2mm hot-swap PCB that includes even more flex cuts. Unlike some keyboards that over-emphasize the cuts, I don’t think the Compact Touch sounds flat or lifeless. It’s delightfully poppy and has a deep, thocky sound signature — AM’s best yet. 

The keyboard is also decked out with layers of foam. There’s plate foam, to isolate the sound of the switches, IXPE switch foam to add the aforementioned pop, and case foam to remove any hollowness or ping that might otherwise come from typing. The keyboard does have a typical “foamy” sound, but I quite like the way Angry Miao has tuned it. 

Below that, I’m delighted to share that the Compact Touch brings back the adjustable leaf spring system found in the AM AFA. It’s a very novel implementation. Rather than have the PCB sit on foam or silicone gaskets or screw into the case itself, a series of flat, angled springs cut upward from the top and bottom edges of the case. Silicone tabs fit into the end of each, which slot into and cushion the PCB. Below the spring is a silicone blocker that can be moved between two positions to allow more or less movement. Angry Miao includes softer copper springs and harder stainless steel springs to fine-tune the amount of movement you’ll feel when typing. It worked well on the AFA and is just as good here.

The Compact Touch also features a suite of other features that enhance the experience. It features Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity with a big 5,000 mAh battery. It’s also one of the only keyboards I’ve ever heard of that features a big, visible Qi charging coil in the bottom to charge wirelessly through a desk mat or Qi charger. It features hot-swappable switches and customizable per-key RGB. 

Since the keyboard uses a touchpad, QMK and VIA programming is out. Instead, it utilizes Angry Miao’s online DIY configurator. This allows you to remap keys across multiple layers and is similar to QMK but doesn’t quite offer the same level of customizability. These changes are then downloaded as a firmware file that can be flashed to the keyboard using AM’s downloadable software.  

AM Compact Touch - Performance 

The sample I was sent was a preconfigured Standard Bundle. This version came with Angry Miao’s see-through polycarbonate Glacier keycaps, linear icy silver switches, and pre-lubed screw-in stabilizers. Depending on how you build yours, the typing experience will vary, but I stuck with the bundle since it was very good straight out of the box. 

The first thing I noticed was how much better the Compact Touch sounded compared to either the Cyberboard or AFA. Each board has gotten incrementally better. The AFA was already quite good, in my opinion, but the Compact Touch really hones in on that poppy, rounded sound that’s popular today. The mix of the foam composition, Icy Silvers, and PC keycaps gives it unique character that I haven’t heard on another keyboard. It’s soothing.

The leaf spring implementation is awesome. There’s no other way to put it. I just love the amount of movement it’s able to achieve. The stopper can be moved forward or back to adjust the amount of movement. The frontmost position is similar to other gasket mounted keyboards, but in the rear position, it offers substantially more, especially at the sides of the keyboard. 

It isn’t what I would call bouncy, though. The case and stoppers keep things well enough contained that during normal typing, you only feel a bit of softness under the fingers. During gaming, pressing harder on WASD, however, you can see much more movement. 

The arrows, on the other hand, are more hit or miss for me. I see what Angry Miao was going for here, and to a degree, succeeded in achieving. The touch panel works and gets easier to navigate with the more you use it. It allows the CT to have a 60-percent footprint with 65-percent arrows. But having to swipe instead of tap naturally slows down how quickly you can you them. When I’m using arrows, it’s often for a lot of fast, repeated presses to navigate a screen or line of text. The touch panel feels much less efficient for that purpose. 

For basic navigation and selecting between options in games, it works well. After testing it, I wound up adding dedicated arrow keys to a secondary layer anyway so i could press them more quickly. So, it’s a bit of a swing and miss for my personal use case, but if you’re the kind gamer that doesn’t use arrows often and only needs them for inputs here and there, this could be a good fit.

The Compact Touch is probably my favorite HHKB inspired keyboard, however, and is easily my favorite of Angry Miao’s to type on. Being able to reprogram keys makes the layout entirely more functional and the fullsize Backspace key makes typos less frequent when I’m already trying to erase something. 

AM Compact Touch Typing Demo

While this video captures the essence of the keyboard well, I personally hear the real life sound to be a bit more rounded and poppy.

Final Thoughts

Like most of Angry Miao’s catalog, the AM Compact Touch seems laser targeted at a particular audience, which means it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s expensive, and the touch controls don’t make for a complete replacement for dedicated arrow keys, but the improvements to sound, feel, and footprint make this a very satisfying keyboard to type and game on nonetheless. If you’re a keyboard enthusiast, or like the idea of an HHKB with more customizability, this is a solid bet.

This keyboard is currently available for pre-order at IndieGoGo.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

8.0Great
Pros
  • Leaf spring design is excellent
  • Innovative touch arrows
  • Best sound and feel from Angry Miao yet
  • 60-percent footprint with extra functionality
  • HHKB-inspired but much more usable thanks to additional programming and smart layout changes
Cons
  • Very expensive
  • Touch panel isn’t great for quickly tapping arrows
  • Keycaps show dust and fingerprints easily


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight