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Cannon Keys Bakeneko60 Review

An Affordable and Excellent Custom Keyboard Kit

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

The Cannon Keys Bakeneko60 is one of the best ways to join the mechanical keyboard hobby. If you’ve been watching keyboard YouTubers and touring r/mechanicalkeyboards, you don’t have to break the bank to build one of your own. Starting at only $129.99, the Bakeneko60 offers a full aluminum case, bouncy o-ring mount, and hot-swappable switch sockets to keep you clacking for years to come (or at least until your next upgrade. Is it the right starter board for you? Find out in our review. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: $129.99 (Cannon Keys
  • Cast Aluminum Case
  • 700g weight unbuilt, 1.1kg weight built
  • 6 Degree Typing Angle
  • O-Ring Gasket Mount Style
  • CannonKeys Hotswap PCB with ANSI layout (CannonKeys Solder PCB available as extra)
  • What’s Included:
    • Bakeneko60 Aluminum Case
    • CannonKeys Custom Foam Carrying Case (Black)
    • 50A Silicone O-Ring Gasket
    • FR4 Universal Plate
    • CannonKeys ANSI Layout Hotswap PCB (no LED support)
    • C3 Unified Daughterboard (with ESD protection) and JST Cable
    • Microfiber Cloth
    • (4) 2u Cherry Clip-in Stabilizers, (1) 6.25u Cherry Clip-in Stabilizer with CannonKeys Wire
    • Due to the mounting style of this keyboard, screw in stabilizers are not supported on backspace and space. We recommend using the included stabilizers.
    • Custom Bumpon-compatible Silicone Feet (if you lose them, you can use regular bumpons)

Cannon Keys Bakeneko60 - Overview and First Impressions

The Bakeneko60 aims to impress right from the start. The ethos of this kit is to deliver exceptional value for the money — and that includes the kit itself and the typing experience on the finished keyboard. For years, the starter board of choice was the KBDFans Tofu. The mission here seems to be to make that board obsolete. You get more for your money and a typing experience that competes with boards twice the price.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

The Bakeneko60 is a DIY custom keyboard kit from Cannon Keys. As a team of mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, they’ve zeroed in on some of the key issues facing newcomers to the hobby: price, availability, and needing to visit multiple stores to gather everything you’ll need. This release solves all of that with an affordable price, consistent restocks, and the ability to purchase everything you’ll need all from the same store. 

Like most keyboard kits, it comes with the case, plate to mount the switches, PCB, and the mounting hardware. This particular model also comes with a USB daughterboard and a JST cable to connect it to the PCB (a positive move for the long-term durability and repairability of the keyboard). That means you’ll need to purchase switches and keycaps separately, so factor that into your overall budget. Cannon Keys also included a very nice hardback travel case that sells for $35 by itself (putting the actual cost of the keyboard at $95, though you cannot buy it separately which is disappointing, but the case is still a cool add-on). 

The unique trick the Bakenko60 brings to the table is its o-ring mounting system. Instead of screwing the switch assembly to the case, it uses a friction fit enabled by a large 50A silicone o-ring. You assemble the keyboard outside of the case then wrap the o-ring around the outside, slotting it between the plate and PCB. This then presses down into the case until it reaches the edge-mounted stand-offs. The result is a flexible, even bouncy typing experience you can feel with every keystroke. The o-ring also isolates the keyboard from its aluminum case, resulting in added softness beneath your fingers and fewer vibrations making their way into the case to reverberate and resound.

This mounting system has its benefits, but it also has what I consider to be a notable drawback: it only supports clip-in stabilizers. Cannon Keys provides these, which is one more thing you won’t need to worry about paying extra for. The reason they’re a drawback is that they’re prone to popping out when you try to remove a keycap. If you forget to press them down, the stabilizer will rattle or not function at all. Worse, when this happens, there is a chance the wire will pop out of the stabilizer clip, which will likely require removing all of the switches to fix unless you can fit a mini-screwdriver in there to pop it back in. My results were mixed with that.                 

The case is made of aluminum, which isn’t common at this price. Competing boards, like the Tofu, cost more or are made of plastic. To keep the cost low, Cannon Keys used a casting process instead of CNC milling and colorized with paint (or powder coat for Black and Whitish colors). These production processes can cause imperfections in the finish, but the only marks I could observe on the visible surface was surrounding the USB port (pictured above). As you can see in the picture above, the dimpling in the surface is minor and completely un-noticeable unless you go looking for it. Cannon Keys really did an excellent job with the finish, in my opinion. 

In a surprising twist for a keyboard in 2022, the Bakeneko60 lacks any kind of illumination. If you type in the dark, this might be a deal breaker. For the cost, I don’t mind the omission, especially if it means more people will be able to join the hobby. At the same time, RGB really isn’t the biggest area of customization in DIY keyboards anyway: that belongs to keycaps. 

For programming, the keyboard supports QMK and VIA. This is the same open-source firmware available across the keyboard hobby, and it’s so popular for a reason. Using either the QMK Configurator or the more user friendly VIA (instant changes, no flashing required), you can remap any key and even program advanced functions, like dual action keys. There’s a learning curve for the more advanced functions but the basics are fast and intuitive. If you’re new to the hobby, VIA is the preferred option as it has less steps and doesn’t require a risky flashing process to apply your new firmware.

Cannon Keys Bakeneko60 - Assembly 

Assembling the Bakeneko60 is quite easy. In fact, it’s one of the easiest assemblies you’ll find on a custom keyboard. There are only four screws to hold in the USB daughterboard. Everything else can be done by hand, no tools required. 

The basics of how to build a keyboard still apply here (refer to this guide I wrote for Tom’s Hardware for step-by-step instructions). You’ll need to prepare your stabilizers by lubing them and clipping the feet. Because they’re clip-ins, they simply snap into the board. From there, all you need to do is position the plate and press a handful of switches into place around the outer edge to secure the plate. With that done, you press switches and keycaps into place. 

With the assembly built, you stretch the gummy o-ring around the outside of the assembly. It slots in between the plate and the PCB and is held in position by the switches. This does mean that if you need to remove a corner switch, you’ll need to take off the o-ring to keep it from snapping inward. That’s not as big a deal as it sounds as, once the ring is in place, you plug in the JST cable for the USB connector and simply press it into the case. There are no screws or anything else that makes removing it difficult should you accidentally pop a switch out. 

From there, load into VIA and make sure you didn’t bend any of the pins on the switches. There’s a built-in switch tester, so all you do is press each key once and make sure it responds. If it doesn’t, pull it out, straighten the pin, and re-insert. Change any keymaps you’d like on the Configure tab and you’re done!

Cannon Keys Bakeneko60 - Our Customized Build

For our build, Cannon Keys sent along a set of its new CXA doubleshot PBT keycaps and linear Lavender switches. Before going into how I modded the kit and my impressions, it’s worth taking a moment to talk about these in-stock products, because if you decide to pick one up, they’re worth a recommendation.

Starting with the switches, Cannon Keys has struck gold with its new CXA profile keycaps. These keycaps are made of durable PBT plastic, so they’ll never shine. The legends are made from a whole second piece of plastic that’s bonded to the first, ensuring they’ll never chip or fade. The legends are centered and use a crisp, professional looking font. The word here is clean, ladies and gentleman. I was sent the Black on White set, but you can also get White on Black. 

What really stands out, though, is the profile of these keycaps. They’re about the same height and sculpt as Cherry profile (the same used by boutique keycap makers like GMK) but they’re spherical, like terminal-style SA keycaps. They’re honestly the best of both worlds and are very comfortable to use over extended sessions. 

The switches are also great. They’re made by Durock (JWK) and are factory lubed, so are exceptionally smooth right out of the box. They also have a very nice, light, and clacky sound profile that I quite enjoy. Like many pre-lubed switches, I found that the consistency across the entire wasn’t perfect, so I did go back and re-lube them and they improved in both sound and feel. At $45.50 for 70 switches, they come out to $0.65 a switch, which is right in the middle for boutique switches like this. They’re reasonably priced: not too cheap, not too expensive. 

Onto the actual build! As a keyboard enthusiast, I had to mod the Bakeneko65. Since I was also writing a guide on keyboard modding and needed extra pictures, I went full bore. Here’s what I did:

  • PE Foam Mod: I cut a sheet of PE foam to place between the switches and PCB. This adds some extra “pop.” PE foam is sold as packaging material for dishes and is quite cheap. This is what I used.
  • Tape Mod: Three layers of green Frog Tape painters tape on the back of the PCB. This acts as an acoustic filter to deepen the sound of the keyboard.
  • Stabilizer Pads: Foam cushions placed under the stabilizers on the PCB to cushion bottom outs. Purchased from KBDFans.  
  • Holee Mod: This mod involves placing a strip of fabric band-aid inside the stabilizer. It eradicates any and all rattle. Applied only to the spacebar. Dielectric grease used on all other stabilizers. 
  • Poly-fil Case Dampening: To preserve the flex of the keyboard and remove some of the hollow sound from the empty space in the bottom of the case, I put wisps of Poly-fil. Yes, the same stuff used for teddy bears. Teddy boards are a thing, okay?

Final Impressions

With the board built, how does it stack up? Out of the box with zero mods, it’s pretty good. Easily one of the strongest entry-level keyboards you can get under $130. Because of the empty space in the case, there’s room for the sound to bounce and project, so it’s not a quiet keyboard (at least without silent switches). The combination of Lavenders and CXA keycaps creates a typing sound that’s a bit deeper than Cherry profile keycaps but still higher pitched than any of the SA variants available today. It’s a genuinely great entry-level board if you just take it out and built it as-is.

Take the time to mod it and it becomes even better. The Bakeneko60 easily tops the Drop Carina in sound and feel and definitely outperforms the Tofu. I would even choose it over the Bakeneko65, which is the more recent release, due to the increased flex in the typing experience. For anyone picking up this keyboard as their very first, I would recommend clipping and lubing the stabilizers and applying the tape mode. Those two along make for a huge improvement in the sound of the keyboard. 

Overall, this is a major win for Cannon Keys. The whole package here is really exceptional for $129.99. The aluminum case and o-ring mounting system aren’t common at this price. Pair it with some switches that match your taste and a set of keycaps to get it looking fresh, and you’ll have an able companion for typing, gaming, and everything in between.

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

8.5Great
Pros
  • Easy assembly
  • Full aluminum case while still remaining cheap
  • O-ring mounting system is soft and flexible
  • Very comfortable typing experience
  • CXA keycaps are excellent
Cons
  • Clip-in stabilizers only
  • Regular restocks - but still not consistently available


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