Chillkey is a brand new brand and is debuting with the Paw65. It’s a cute mechanical keyboard with a ton of potential to transform into one of the most unique keyboards you’ll find at its price range. Most importantly, it has the satisfying sound and soft typing feel that the best gasket mount keyboards offer, in addition to tri-mode wireless for high-speed, wire-free gaming. Starting at only $79.99, it’s a high value keyboard kit that makes for a great onramp to the custom mechanical keyboard hobby.
- Current Price:
- Barebones: $79.99
- Pre-assembled: $99.99
- Keyboard Layout: 65%
- Case Finish: Electrostatic-Coated
- Case Material: Aluminum
- Mounting Style: Gasket Mount
- Plate: Fr4 Plate
- PCB: Tri-mode, 1.2mm thickness, with Ai03 daughterboard
- Stabilizer: Plate Mount Stabilizer
- Connection Method: Tri-Mode (Wired, Bluetooth 5.0, 2.4G)
- System Supported: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
- Bluetooth Version: 5.0
- Bluetooth Support: Can be paired up to 3 devices
- Independent Driver Support: Yes
- Battery Capacity: 2250mAh*2
Chillkey Paw65 - Pre-Order Information
The Chillkey Paw65 is available for pre-order now from the following vendors:
It is available in three different colors: Purple Unicorn, Wild Rose, and Dark Blush. Each is available in a barebones configuration for $79.99 or completely pre-assembled for $99.99. The barebones version lacks switches and keycaps but includes stabilizers. We would recommend purchasing the pre-assembled version to take advantage of the excellent included switches, as buying your own will almost certainly cost more than the additional charge, and it is very well assembled.
Chillkey Paw65 - Cute But With Substance
Chillkey is a new brand and the Paw65 is its debut product, but you’d never guess it from looking at the keyboard itself. Available in three different colors (Wild Rose, Blush Pink, and Purple Unicorn), it’s a surprisingly well done keyboard that punches above its class for only $79.99 barebones (no switches or keycaps) and $99.99 fully built. It’s a custom keyboard that you can just happen to buy completely pre-assembled and includes all the bells and whistles you would expect from kits double or even triple the price.
As you might have guessed from the name, the Paw65 is a compact keyboard that uses a 65% layout, so includes arrow keys and a column of navigation and editing buttons, but lacks a function row. It comes in a two-tone aluminum case that is quite unique. The top half of the case sets into the bottom half like a tray but doesn’t sit exactly flush, creating this really neat two-tiered design. Two of the colorways also feature a knob while the Purple Unicorn version does not.
The keyboard leans into cuteness out of the box and there’s a definite feminine angle, but it doesn’t have to be. If you prefer something a bit more restrained, all it takes is changing the keycaps and not using the light diffuser. I was sent the Wild Rose (red and white) version, which has a rose theme… but maybe vampires with that bloody moon Escape key? I’m honestly not quite sure. There’s also black and pink (Blush Pink) and purple and pink versions (Purple Unicorn). Every model also comes with a circular weight in the back with a silicone pawprint insert.
Each of these models comes with an optional cat ears light diffuser that attaches to the top. This is not pre-installed by default and Chillkey includes a good alternative in the box that still lets your keyboard look good without going full kitty-cat.
As you can see in the picture above, by default the keyboard features a metal accent strip with a standard LED diffuser. I actually love the way the gold bar looks on the Wild Rose version, but each has a strip that accents the theme.
Chillkey worked with Meletrix and Wuque to bring this keyboard to life and that shows throughout its design. Internally, it uses a very similar gasket mount structure to the Meletrix Zoom series of keyboards. Instead of adhesive PORON gasket strips, the keyboard using soft foam gaskets that slide onto tabs on the plate. These encircle the plate and are sandwiched between the two halves of the case to create a soft, dampened typing experience.
The keyboard comes with your choice of a flex cut or non-flex cut PCB and an FR4 (fiberglass) plate that balances acoustics with flexible typing. A full PORON foam dampening kit is also included, which includes plate foam, PCB foam, case foam, and IXPE switch foam to tune the acoustics of the board. It also comes with a set of pre-lubed, plate-mounted stabilizers that were perfectly tuned out of the box on my sample.
The keycaps are interesting. They’re thick and made of polycarbonate and ABS on Wild Rose and Blush Pink or PBT on the Purple Unicorn version. If you like their look, they’re actually not bad at all and have a nice sound to them with a smooth, classically PC feel to them. The design is a bit… unique and won’t be for everyone. But the look is going to be divisive and shouldn’t dissuade you from picking up this kit on their appearance alone.
There are two switch options available depending on the model you choose, Pink Lotus (linear) and Sprout Green (tactile). The switches both use POM housings and UPE stems and each has a long-pole design with 3.5mm of total travel distance. The Pink Lotus switches are heavier requiring 60gf to bottom out while the Sprout Greens only require 45gf. Both also include an RGB light diffusion lens to help your RGB shine its brightest even though the housings are opaque. The Pink Lotus switches are very similar to Wuque Studio’s WS Morandi switches — a premium switch that has become quite popular in the custom keyboard space due to its sound and feel — and are worth buying the pre-assembled version on its own. They have a very slightly higher-pitched sound than the Morandis but are extremely close. Buying these switches on their own would cost more than just buying the pre-assembled version outright. Picking up a set of Morandi’s would add $40 to your total.
You can also swap out your own switches at any time since the switches are hot-swappable. You don’t need to solder, simply pull out the old switch and replace it with a new one using a standard switch puller.
Another similarity to the Zoom65 is that the keyboard uses a hidden-screw design. The Paw65 is made to be disassembled and tweaked, but if you look around the exterior, you’ll find that there are no visible screws. Instead, they’re hidden beneath the keycaps to provide a cleaner look.
As a final high point, the keyboard also sports tri-mode wireless. You can connect over USB or wirelessly using Bluetooth 5.0 (up to three devices), or over a much faster 2.4GHz connection using the included dongle. For gaming, the 2.4GHz dongle is just about perfect, offering you a wired-like connection speed of 1ms.
It comes with a pair of 2,250mAh batteries (4500maH total), so you can play wirelessly anywhere from around a week to a month or more depending on if you use its RGB backlighting. The backlighting looks quite good but will drain the battery in around 50 hours. Without RGB, you can easily stretch that to double its battery life.
Apart from using plate-mounted stabilizers, the only other concession to its entry-level leanings is that the keyboard does not support VIA or QMK. Instead, you’ll need to use the Chil.Key software. It’s not the most polished but allows you to remap up to two layers of keys with everything from single buttons, to combinations, to macros, and even tap commands to tie multiple functions to a single key. It works well and the changes save to the keyboard, but I found it impossible to remap preset keys like WASD media controls, even though they didn’t show up in the software at all. There’s also no way to map lighting controls, which is disappointing. Hopefully, this gets updated in the future. It does let you remap the FN button, however, which is great if you like to reposition it to your left hand like I do.
Chillkey Paw65 - Customization, Typing and Gaming Impressions
One of the things I love about this keyboard is how easily you can transform its look. The case is so unique and full of potential but the stock keycaps undermine its look to a degree. By simply changing them, you can have one of the most unique-looking custom keyboards available under $200. It does require an extra investment of around $30 for keycaps (it doesn’t make sense to put an expensive set of keycaps on such an affordable keyboard), but there are many available on Amazon and it’s worth it, even with that investment.
You have the choice: keep it completely stock and embrace the cute aesthetic — in which case, strap on those cat ears! — or swap the keycaps, keep the accent bar, and create something more refined. I opted for the latter with a set of Yuri keycaps.
With such a small change, the keyboard is able to jump from being cutesy and feminine to something else entirely. Well, mostly…
There’s no way around the pawprint weight, but since you rarely ever see it, it’s less of an issue than it might otherwise be. And for the price, this is a reasonable trade-off to the overall look and feel the keyboard is able to provide.
The typing experience is soft and quiet. With the included switches, keystrokes are very dampened and deep sounding. This is definitely a thocky-sounding keyboard. My unit had flex cuts and there’s a good amount of softness beneath the keys and noticeable flex when pressing down. It’s not the softest but is almost exactly like the Meletrix Zoom keyboards in sound and feel.
Hear it for yourself here:
Some might even consider this keyboard to be too dampened. I’ve tried a handful of different switches and am happy to say that the quietness is largely related to the switches. Popping in a set of WS Onions or Akko Cream Yellow V3 Pros adds a lot more life and liveliness to the typing sound. I think it sounds very good stock but, just like with keycaps, this is a keyboard that really pays dividends when you start experimenting.
For gaming, I found it to work very well. Using the software, I was easily able to come up with a layout for my most recent go-about with World of Warcraft, mapping my skills to a smaller, easier-to-access cluster and macros to the three navigation and editing buttons on the right. The wireless functionality is spot on and 1-to-1 with playing wired in my testing. I lack the equipment to test for millisecond latency, but in how it actually feels to play, there’s no discernible difference between 2.4GHz and wired.
I did run into some issues with the software, however. For some reason, lighting effects stopped taking. No changes I made would apply to the keyboard, even though I saved and applied them. Uninstalling and reinstalling fixed this, but there’s definitely still some polishing left to do there.
The Paw65 is an especially versatile keyboard. The low price, for many users, is going to mean investing in a separate set of keycaps to transform it into something more personal. But you don’t have to, and that’s the cool part about it. It provides you with an especially strong and great-looking base to build off of, if you choose. At $79.99, $99.99, or even $150, this would still be a very good buy. It’s a high value kit with a ton of potential straight out of the box.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.