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Ducky One 2 SF and Tfue PBT Keycap Set Review

By Christopher Coke on September 23, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | 0

Earlier this year, we took a look at the Ducky One 2 Mini. It was packed with features that rivaled other gaming keyboards at a fraction of the size and completely free from the need for software. Today, we’re looking at the successor with the Ducky One 2 SF. It includes everything we loved about the original in a new sixty-five percent form factor. With it, we also have the new Tfue-themed PBT keycap set and it’s a looker. Let’s dive in.           

Specifications

  • Current Price: $109.99
  • Model Name: DKON1861ST
  • Type: Mechanical Keyboard
  • Switch: Cherry MX mechanical switches
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Keycap material: ABS or PBT, double shot or laser engraved
  • Simultaneous key input: USB N-Key Rollover (NKRO)
  • Illumination: Full RGB
  • Legend printing: Double-Shot or Laser Engraved
  • Dimensions: 325 x 108 x 40 mm
  • Weight: 635g
  • Made In Taiwan

What’s the deal with these tiny keyboards?

If you’re like most gamers, you’ve probably only used a full-size keyboard or a tenkeyless - a fullsize without the number pad. Over the last year, we’ve seen a big shift toward smaller keyboards. The original Ducky One 2 Mini was what was known as a sixty-percent, meaning that it removed the number pad, function keys, navigation/editing cluster, and arrow keys. Why, when so many games use those keys, would you ever get rid of them?

The most important part of that answer is that you’re not getting rid of them. These keyboards actually use multiple layers to provide access to every button without needing to devote physical space to it. Fn+] accesses Print Screen, for example. Fn+ controls volume, and so on. Since these keys are lesser used, I’ve found it to be an excellent work around to still have access to those keys (sans number pad) without needing a ton of space for your keyboard.

The second reason is that by having less physical space, you regain more of your desktop than a full-size or TKL would allow. That means a) your desk looks neater and b) you have more room for your mouse. If you do big sweeps in your shooters, this is obviously an improvement but even if you don’t, being able to keep your mouse closer to the natural position of your arm is more ergonomic and comfortable.

What’s special about the SF version?

With all of that said, sixty-percent keyboards aren’t for everybody. They’re small and some of the sacrifices take a lot of getting used to. Sometimes, you just can’t. I’ve used them extensively over the last few years and even I struggle with the lack of arrow keys when I’m working in a word document or email. The same goes for basic navigation: home, end, page up, and page down. That’s where keyboards like the Ducky One 2 SF come in.

The “SF” standard for “sixty-five” percent. That extra five percent is made up of our arrow keys (yes!) and basic editing keys (double yes!). The One 2 is hardly the first keyboard to use this form factor but it’s unique in that it only features three buttons on the right instead of a full extra row. This gives it a look all its own. These buttons are delete, page up, and page down. Using Fn, page up and down turn into home and end respectively. The placement makes it very easy to make this transition and keeps those buttons highly functional.

For gaming and writing, this is my absolute favorite layout. It gives me everything I need, including physical arrows and editing keys (home and end are so easy to access, they may as well be physical). I now own both the One 2 Mini and One 2 SF and the SF is my hands-down favorite.

Gaming and Programmability

For gaming, the One 2 SF is phenomenal. The space saving layout and how it lets you keep your arms in a more natural position makes PC gaming more comfortable. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it will give you an edge but it absolutely does feel better than gaming on a full-size keyboard.

The SF also includes all of the responsiveness gamers demand. Full N-Key Rollover, so you can input limitless commands at one time. 1000 Hz polling rate so there’s no delay in any of your key presses. It’s also completely programmable in both lighting and macros. This side of things is identical to the One 2 Mini. Here’s what I wrote then:

In fact, it’s fair to say that this keyboard does substantially more than your average gaming keyboard, all while keeping software completely optional. All but a few important keys (like Fn) can be programmed to send macros or even shortcuts like opening your email, Windows Search, or changing your playlist. The One 2 Mini even offers mouse control and left, right, and middle click, as well as media keys for controlling volume. Using the DIP switches on the back, you can move the Fn key along the bottom row until it’s most comfortable for you or swap it with the Caps Lock like several popular coding keyboards.

The on-board customization doesn’t stop there, as you can also control all of your lighting, including programming custom lighting schemes. This is done using a built-in RGB mixer set as a second layer to Z, X, and C.  If you’d rather not bother, you can choose from nine different preset lighting effects, including your standard rainbow, but also some cool presets like raindrops and radar mode, as well as the classics like ripple and breathe.

In a fun twist, Ducky has even built games into the keyboard’s lighting. The first, Ducky Gamble, is a bit like Russian Roulette. The second is a version of Minesweeper. Both of these are necessarily simple but a fun way to kill downtime nonetheless, and a genuinely neat little easter egg to find.

There’s huge potential for customization here and users can save their settings across six different profiles that can be selected on the fly. This means you can have custom settings for each game, different apps, or just use these for different lighting modes you enjoy.

Ducky also has an intuitive software suite that will allow you to do all of this with a graphical interface and is indeed quite a bit quicker, especially for lighting. The software also includes an option to allow Razer’s Synapse 3 software to discover the One 2 Mini, opening up all of those lighting effects as well.

It’s outstanding how much you can do without software. Frankly, it’s enough to make you wonder why other companies continue to demand you install it. Though, perhaps it’s no wonder at all…

Usage Impressions

The One 2 SF is a solidly built keyboard. It has a decent weight to it without being too heavy. The shell is entirely plastic, though I don’t mind because the construction is nice and rigid without any flex and they’ve taken care to make the typing experience feel substantial. There’s no errant ping or reverberation from the springs and no hollow sound due to open space inside the case. They’ve even lubed the stabilizers, so there’s no rattle on the larger keys.

Like the original, the SF also comes with a high-quality PBT keycaps. They have nice thick walls of about 1.4mm. Compare that to the 1mm ABS caps found on most gaming keyboards; it’s a difference you can feel. These keycaps are double shot, which means the legends are made from a second piece of plastic and will never fade. Because they’re PBT, that also means they won’t shine and look old before their time. We’ll get to that more soon. I also really appreciated all of the side legends they included to make it easy to tell what all of the secondary functions were.

Akin to most (all?) Ducky keyboards, the One 2 SF comes with genuine Cherry MX key switches. I requested mine to be Cherry MX Silent Red since I’d only ever used them once on a competing keyboard. Combined with the well-considered case, these key switches are very quiet. They’re on par with a quiet membrane keyboard. I can easily use these in the same room with someone else and not worry about bothering them (I use this keyboard in my classroom all the time and it never bothers my students). The Silents do have a softer feel to them than normal Cherry MX Reds because of the damping elements in their construction but still feel clean and very nice to type on.

In short, the One 2 SF is almost exactly like the original One 2 Mini: fantastic.

The Ducky x Tfue PBT Keycap Set

I have a confession for you guys. I’m not a big Tfue fan, or even most streamers for that matter, but when I saw the custom set Ducky had made with him, I was blown away. It’s hands-down one of the prettiest, most eye-catching sets I’ve ever seen. When they asked me if I’d like to try a set and share it in this review, I immediately said yes.

As you can tell from the pictures, the colors are vivid and saturated. The caps aren’t backlit but the LEDs on the board are bright enough to provide and excellent underglow that still looks great. The space bar is the real star of the show featuring a gradient from pink to purple with lots of custom artwork. It looks great and really ties the whole thing together. If you don’t want to have Tfue’s name on your keyboard, they’ve also included a normal pink space bar that still looks great.

It’s also worth noting that this keycap set features 108 caps and is compatible with most standard layout keyboards. It includes a few single unit keys to fit the SF but also other sixty and sixty-five percent boards, so it’s widely compatible. Don’t feel like you have to get the One 2 SF just to use this set.

One of the most common questions I get is why a gamer should upgrade to an aftermarket PBT set of keys, even if their keyboard is mainstream, from companies like Corsair or Razer. The answer is that PBT is an infinitely better choice for keycaps and will make any keyboard feel better to use.

The reasons are many. First, PBT is a denser plastic. Put an ABS cap in water and it will float. PBT sinks. You can feel this every time you bottom out. It’s difficult to describe but typing feels more substantial immediately after putting them on. This is even more true on keycap sets like the Ducky x Tfue because Ducky uses extra plastic, making the side-walls of the keycap approximately 40-percent thicker, so the effect is amplified.

Likewise, their durability is far better than ABS. One of my biggest gripes with mainstream keyboards is that after a month, their thin UV-treated caps begin to shine and have a perpetually oily look like you’ve just typed after eating a bag of chips. These keycaps won’t do that. They’ll leave your keyboard looking great (especially with a stylized set like this) for years - longer than you’re likely to use the keyboard. Likewise, since they’re doubleshot, the legends will last forever looking exactly as good as they do right now. When the time comes when you do upgrade, you can simply take these keycaps with you.

Look - a good mechanical keyboard isn’t cheap but it’s one of the most worthwhile investments you can make into your PC after your components are in order. Your keyboard is your interface to your computer. It should feel good to use. A keyboard that feels good, like the One 2 SF with the Tfue set, makes you want to use it more. It makes you want to game more and for longer. As a writer, it inspires me to write. All because of a keyboard. Don’t sell it short by pinching that part of your computer budget.

Final Thoughts

Like the One 2 Mini before it, the One 2 SF is a fantastic keyboard. It takes everything I loved about the Mini and adds arrow keys and the most important editing/navigation buttons. It’s a wholesale improvement. At $109, the keyboard is affordable and better than most gaming keyboards twice its price. With the Tfue set at another $59.99, you can have a keyboard that enhances the look of your entire set up, will last forever, offers all of the programming of normal “gaming” keyboards without the need for software, and you’ll still wind up paying less. I could not recommend this keyboard more.

Pros

  • Sixty-five percent is perhaps the best space-saving layout available
  • Great construction, feels solid without the “hollow” feeling of many gaming keyboards
  • Stock PBT keycaps are great, the Tfue set is one of the best looking we’ve found
  • Genuine Cherry MX key switches
  • Very affordable
  • No software required (but is available) for lighting and programming

I have no cons. That may be a first.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.


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