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Input Club Kira Review: Best Mechanical Keyboard 2018

By Christopher Coke on December 21, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Input Club Kira Review: Best Mechanical Keyboard 2018

Worlds are colliding. Custom enthusiast keyboards and gaming keyboards are joining together thanks to our friends at Input Club. In today’s review, we’re looking at the Kira, the single best keyboard we’ve used all year. Whether you’re a gamer, writer, or a regular joe who just wants to bring their computing experience to the next level, this is a keyboard you won’t want to miss.

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $179 (plastic), $259 (metal) (Kono Store)
  • 99 Key Condensed Full Size Layout
  • Hot Swappable Switches
  • Injection Molded Plastic or CNC Aluminum Keyboard Frame
  • Fully Programmable Without Active Software 
  • Per Key Configurable RGB Lighting and Underglow 
  • PBT Dye Sublimated Keycaps 
  • USB Type-C to Type-A Cable
  • RGB LED Indicator Lights 
  • N-Key Rollover 
  • Compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac 
  • Open Source Hardware
  • Switch Options:
    • Hako True - Clean and Smooth Tactile
    • Hako Clear - Slightly Firmer Tactile
    • Hako Violet - Light and Airy Tactile
    • Kaihua Speed Copper - Faster Tactile
    • Box Reds - Reduced Wobble Linear
    • NovelKeys Box Pale Blue - Sharp, Heavy, and Clicky
    • Novelkeys Royal Purple - Super Tactile with Smooth Bumps
    • Cherry MX RGB Brown - Standard Quiet Workhorse
    • Cherry MX RGB Blue - Loud and Smooth Clicky

The Kira is the latest keyboard from Input Club, one of the most exciting indie companies in the business. Input Club is a small team out of California birthed from inside the mechanical keyboard community. They know what it takes to make a great keyboard; they know what people clamor for and what frustrates them; they know exactly what it takes to transform a keyboard from idea to real, usable product.

That’s probably why they’ve been so successful with each of their crowdfunding campaigns. The Kira hit Kickstarter with a modest goal of $50,000. By the time that campaign ended, they’d raised more than 810% of that goal, finishing out at just over $405K. This has been the ongoing story of Input Club. Every time they’ve come forward with a new keyboard idea, it does just enough to excite people all over again and explode their funding goals.

There’s a lot that makes this board special, but the biggest and most appealing for gamers is the layout. There is no wasted space; the keys are condensed down into a single slate, allowing you to have nearly every function of a full-size keyboard with the footprint of a tenkeyless. We looked at a board with a similar layout this week with the Vortex Tab 90 but the Kira takes that to the next level, butting the number pad directly up to the main key set. Rather than separate the two with a vertical line of editing keys, they’ve been shifted above the number pad for easy access. Extremely rare-use keys, like Insert, Pause, and Scroll Lock have been removed and shifted onto secondary layers.

For my personal taste as a gamer, this is the best possible layout you could arrange. You sacrifice nothing in the keys you have available and have arrow keys at the bottom. You maintain the function row for games that pre-bind to it. You keep the number pad for non-gaming tasks or to use as a macro pad. All of the editing and navigation keys are in place for when you need to get some writing done. It’s a full-fledged, unique, incredible looking, and even better feeling keyboard.

On top of this, the Kira also features multiple layers for keybinds. What you see on the legends is Layer 1. By holding a two-key combo, you open up a whole second set of keys, mapped as Animation Layer by default. By holding a different combination, you can access the Control Layer with your language options, rollover settings, media controls, and program shortcuts. Any and all of these can be remapped or reprogrammed using Input Club’s Configurator, which will even offer support for online when it releases in the near future. Since it completely rewrites your keyboard’s firmware, any changes you make will work on any PC completely software free.

As a gamer, I adore this. Your entire keyboard can instantly shift into hundreds of macro keys (or even just your numpad into dozens). But I also love it as a PC user that believes your keyboard, your main interface to your computer, should be able to do whatever the heck you would like it to do. This level of reprogrammability, including the ability to set custom layer-shift buttons, allows you to make your keyboard your own in a way few enthusiast keyboards and even fewer gaming keyboards do without specialized software.

Input Club has also gone above and beyond in making the Kira beautiful to look at. The RGB illumination is bright, vibrant, and completely customizable. There are six preset animations on board and twenty static colors to choose from. You can make custom animations and choose from the whole array of hues inside the software if you’d like to design your aesthetic from scratch.

Switch lighting is only one half of the equation. The entire underside, rising high on the back is a frosted acrylic diffuser masking a ring of customizable LEDs around the base. This provides an excellent underglow effect that just looks fantastic. The only criticism I’d offer here is that the diffuser isn’t frosted or thick enough to prevent some hotspotting. You’re never looking at the rear of your keyboard and it certainly doesn’t look bad, so this is more of a nitpick than anything.

The Kira also comes with an eye-catching colorway. The default keycaps blend white, gray, and provide you a selection of orange, blue, purple, or pink arrow, enter and escape keys for flair. These keycaps are high quality PBT with slight texturing on their surface for grip. They come in at about 1.4mm in thickness and are dye sublimated so the legends will never fade.

Underneath those caps, you have your choice of switch, including many that you would never find on a mainstream gaming keyboard. Our sample was sent with Hako Clear switches. Hakos are Input Club’s custom designed switches. The Clears are a heavier switch with a tactile bump similar to Cherry MX Clears. They’re designed to get harder to press the farther you go, training you not to bottom out. Before this review, I’d never used this type of Hako switch and I love it.

One of the neatest features here is that the switches are completely hot swappable. Using the included switch puller, you can easily pull switches out and swap them with any other, allowing you to completely change the feel of your keyboard whenever you choose. This has been one of the most fun elements to the Kira, pulling one set of switches to try out another without having to buy a completely new keyboard. For $30-50, you can buy a new set of switches and explore switch types you’ll never find pre-built into a mainstream board. If one ever breaks, it literally takes seconds to replace it.

Typing on the Kira feels great. It’s a solid board with a nice weight, so there’s no reverberation or pinging echoing throughout the body. With the Hako Clear switches, I’ve even managed to increase my typing speed by more than 10 WPM because I make fewer typos. This is one of the boards that flat out makes using your PC more fun.

As if all that weren’t enough, there are two more things we need to highlight. The first is the excellent hardshell travel case each keyboard comes with. The Kira may be “the one to rule them all” for a lot of us, and this case ensures you’ll never have to worry if you travel with it. Second is that the entire top part of the case is completely swappable! In fact, it’s actually held in place by magnets and notches. I received mine in black-toned aluminum, but if I ever wanted to change, all I’d have to do is pick up new ring and I’d be in action.

Closing Thoughts

I’m a strange bird. I love keyboards. Collecting them and swapping between them is one of my hobbies and a privilege of having the position I do. As a result, I’ve used a lot of mech keys. Dozens of gaming keyboards and lots of expensive enthusiast keyboards. So, I don’t take it lightly when I say that the Kira is my hands-down favorite of any keyboard I’ve used. It’s the best keyboard Input Club has ever released and a new high-water mark for the pre-built world. For gaming keyboards, it stands head and shoulders over anything the mainstream has released in my adult life. It’s better built, feels better to use, looks better, offers incredible programmability, and maintains all of it on any machine without requiring software. If I had a higher award than Gold, the Kira would get it. Buy this keyboard.

Pros

  • Looks amazing
  • Excellent build quality
  • Feels amazing to use
  • Comes with an assortment of colored “flair” keycaps
  • Included hardshell case
  • Fantastic programmability
  • Online firmware configurator due out anytime
  • Hot swappable switches and top plate

Cons

  • High cost of entry

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

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.

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