IQUNIX has been on a run this year with its brand new line of SUPER custom mechanical keyboards. We’ve looked at two of these so far with the ZONEX 75 and the 1+1, both of which were two of the most unique mechanical keyboards we’ve reviewed so far. Today, we’re looking at the Tilly 60, a compact keyboard that comes in either a 60% or HHKB layout, has a built-in storage compartment, and a volume knob, as well as a unique mounting style we haven’t seen any other company do yet. It’s available for $249 for the wired version and $269 for tri-mode wireless, which is expensive but around $100 cheaper than an actual HHKB and better in every way.
- Current Price: $249 (wired), $269 (tri-mode wireless) (IQUNIX)
- Gasket Mount
- Aluminum Case
- Typing angle: 6.5°
- Media Control Knob
- Surface Coloring: Anodized
- IQUNIX PCB-Mount Stabilizers
- Default Package Weight: approx.2.3kg
- Dimension: 302.5mm * 138mm * 20mm
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1 / 2.4GHz / USB-C
- Software: IQUNIX Firmware / QMK Firmware
- IQUNIX Moonstone Switches:
- Sound: Deep & Thock
- Operating Force: 37±5gf
- End Force:47±5gf
- Total Travel: 3.7±0.3mm
- Durability: 80 million actuations
iIQUNIX Super Tilly60 - Features and Design
The Tilly60 is a compact mechanical keyboard that you build yourself. It’s a bit like a Lego kit for adults and the end result is a high-quality keyboard that makes your computer more enjoyable to use. Win-win, in my book, but IQUNIX takes it a step further by making this an in-stock purchase, bucking the run of group-buy, limited run keyboards that usually dominate the hobby. It’s still not mass produced in the same way that one of its pre-built keyboards might be (see its selection at the official store; they’re great, and I can personally recommend the Q66 as an excellent compact alternative if you want a great alternative that’s ready to use out of the box) than simply being DIY.
The Tilly60 is available in two separate layouts, HHKB or traditional 60%. 60% keyboards are pretty well-known at this point so I won’t belabor the point, but they’re very popular in the gaming world due to their small size leaving extra room on your desk for mouse movement. HHKB, on the other hand, is based on the iconic Happy Hacking Keyboard, which is a popular choice among computer programmers due to its layout and soft electrocapacitive (EC) keys. It’s roughly the same size as a 60% but has a symmetrical layout with only two buttons on either side of its extended space bar, splits the backspace, and swap Control with Caps Lock. The Tilly60 does not use EC keys and instead adopts hot-swappable mechanical switches so you have more options to make it your own.
The keyboard has a very unique design. The first thing you’ll notice is the big rectangle at its top. This is actually a storage box (an ARK compartment, as IQUNIX calls it), perfect for spare switches, the USB dongle, paper clips, coins, or whatever other tiny items you might have on your desk. There’s also a volume knob in the upper right that’s tall enough to be grabbed or can simply be swiped along the top edge.
It’s a unique design that I would love to see developed more in future version. Both of these features are functional and work well, but I see some quality of life improvements on the horizon if a revision does make its way out, like a friction fit top to the ARK box or a knurled texture to the volume knob. The lid sits fine in normal use but if you need to flip the keyboard over to open the case, it falls right out. It’s not a big deal but the kind of incremental improvement that could really enhance the execution in a V2.
Internally, the Tilly uses a gasket mount structure but the actual implementation is closer to a hybrid between gasket and top mount. This is because the “bottom case” is actually more of a “bottom plate,” so instead of having the gaskets rest there, small metal tabs screw into place beneath them, holding the whole PCB securely to the top case. This gives you the sound profile benefits of gasket mount with the consistency between rows you usually find with top mount. I’ve never seen another company handle mounting in exactly this way, and is a good example of IQUNIX’s creativity on display within the internal construction of the keyboard.
It’s a custom keyboard in 2023 and that means you have some staple features. It comes with a full foam kit that includes plate foam, IXPE switch foam, PCB foam, and another thin layer of foam that’s adhered to the bottom of the case. The keyboard sounds best with all of the foams installed, in my opinion, but this is a very subjective choice. Without the PCB case foam, there is a bit of hollowness to contend with and with it, there’s very little flex. Since it sounds best with all of the foams, this wouldn’t be a board I would choose for the flexiest typing experience, but if you remove that bottom layer, there’s quite a bit of motion to be hand when typing.
The keyboard also supports staples like south-facing switches and screw-in stabilizers. You’ll be able to enjoy full compatibility with Cherry style keycaps sets (which make up the most popular sets today) and most after-market stabilizers.
IQUNIX throws in a set of screw-in stabilizers that are quite good, but you’ll need to bring your own switches and keycaps. My sample came with the company’s Moonstone switches, which are a pre-lubed long pole linear, and are simply fantastic in both sound and feel (I’m waiting on a personal order of several hundred to arrive any day for use in future builds). If you want to get everything all at once, you can pick up a set of your own Moonstone switches here and pick up a compatible set of keycaps at the same time.
There are other options to choose from too. The default kit comes with a polycarbonate plate, but for another $20, you can purchase an additional plate made out of PC, POM, FR4, or aluminum. For $35, you can upgrade to a brass plate, though this will be significantly more still than any of the alternatives.
The Tilly is available as a wired keyboard or supporting tri-mode wireless. The wired PCB supports QMK/VIA, a community favorite, open-source, web-accessible customization tool that allows you to remap every single key. The tri-mode PCB supports Bluetooth connectivity with up to three devices and fast 2.4GHz wireless for gaming. The wireless PCB supports IQUNIX’s own software suite.
As of this writing, the IQUNIX software is still being developed. It’s available and functional but is being built upon to add additional remapping options. Currently, it’s not clear that certain keys are unable to be rebound, like restoring Caps Lock to its usual position. Likewise, even though it’s possible to get rid of split backspace and restore that key to its normal position physically, the software does not actually allow you to swap the two current keys into a single backspace. IQUNIX tells me that they’re working on these features, but if you plan to remap keys and assign macros, the wired PCB is still the better bet currently.
IQUNIX Super Tilly60 - Assembly
Assembling the Tilly60 is mostly straightforward but there are a few things to be aware of. First off, the battery on your unit may come disconnected for shipping. This isn’t a big deal as it is a fairly simply plug-in but you should know this is an important step unless you’re just planning to use it wired. The other thing to be aware of is that, because of its unique gasket/top mount blend, you’ll need to place metal tabs below each gasket and screw them into place. Apart from that, it’s very straightforward.
As always, begin by lubing your switches and stabilizers. With that done, you’ll need to place your PE foam (if you’re using it) and screw the stabs into place. After that, you can attach your standoffs to support the PC plate. This isn’t completely necessary but helps keep the soft plastic of the plate from bending during switch installation. Position the plate foam and plate and install switches.
If you'd rather have a slightly softer typing experience, you can ignore the standoffs and simply begin by placing switches into the top four corners. I then place a switch in every two slots around the edge of the keyboard before moving to the middle keys and doing the same. This helps support the plate before moving to the middle switches.
With that out of the way, it’s time to install the gaskets and position it in the case. The gaskets are adhesive and will need to be placed on the top and bottom of each tab on the plate. After that, it can be placed face down in the top half of the case and secured with the metal strips. Place the PCB foam if you’re using it and plug in the two ribbon cables. Put the backplate on, fasten, install keycaps, and you’re done.
IQUNIX Super Tilly60 - Typing and Gaming Impressions
The Tilly60 sounds just as good as I expected it to following IQUNIX’s previous two Super keyboards. With this line, its really shown that it knows how to design a custom mechanical keyboard that sounds amazing. The Moonstone switches have this deep poppiness that is downright intoxicating for a keyboard enthusiast like myself but even if it’s your first custom keyboard, you’ll see what I’m talking about. The Tilly60 is exactly why words like “creamy” are used to describe keyboard sounds.
The unique mounting structure also has benefits in the consistency of the sound and feel of the keys across the keyboard. Traditional gasket mount keyboards have big differences in the sound and feel of keys along the top and bottom rows (the F-row in particular). Here, because of the way that the gaskets are sandwiched in, they're a lot of more uniform, which makes the whole keyboard more consistent.
The key feel is pretty firm. With the PCB foam installed, there just isn’t room in the case for much flex to occur. As a result, you get the sound isolation benefits of gasket mount but don’t achieve the same level of movement as the 1+1 and ZONEX75. Removing this bottom foam restores that movement enough that you can even see it when typing normally. The sound takes a hit with a bit of hollowness, but I was able to really help this with a bit of poly-fill inside the case. Whether you should have to mod a $245-$269 keyboard is another matter, but I’ll leave that to you to decide if it bothers you. For my part, it was a pretty easy mod that only cost a few dollars and took five minutes to apply.
I was sent the HHKB layout, which takes some getting used to. It wasn’t my first time trying this layout, so it didn’t take me long to adapt, but if you’re new to compact keyboards, be prepared for a bit of a learning curve. This layout demands secondary functions to provide access to arrows, navigation and editing buttons, and tools like Delete and Print Screen. IQUNIX thoughtfully positions most of its secondary functions within easy access of the right hand when holding the Fn button, which makes adapting quite a bit easier. I did have to go into the software and modify the bottom row to add a Windows key for OS shortcuts, however.
The wireless dongle worked perfectly and reliably, and since the tri-mode PCB doesn’t support RGB backlighting, the battery only needed to be recharged once in the last several weeks (and probably because I didn’t charge it first after taking it out of the box).
Update 12/13/23: IQUNIX reached out to us to share that RGB lighting on the wired version was a point of discussion in the design of this product. Ultimately, the team opted for versatility with the layout, supporting customizations like split keys, to provide users more choice in the functionality of their keyboard. Unfortunately, allowing these would not have left enough room on alpha keys for backlighting.
For gaming, it performs very well, but I would definitely encourage picking up the wired PCB if you’re planning on recording a lot of macros and adding remaps to your layout for individual games. The software allows you to program most of the keys, but doesn’t always display when a key cannot be remapped. Instead, it will look like your changes are saved when they haven’t, which can be a bit confusing. It’s not unworkable, but VIA solves this, albeit with more limited macro capabilities.
The size itself is very good for gaming, if you need a lot of mouse space. For shooters, it's great, opening the door to low sensitivity arm sweeps which can improve accuracy.
Overall, however, this is a pretty great option for fans of the HHKB or 60% layout. IQUNIX are masters of sound, feel, and design. That’s completely true with this keyboard. Hear it for yourself in the demos below from two of my favorite keyboard creators.
The IQUNIX Super Tilly60 is a very good custom mechanical keyboard. It has a unique design and paired with the right switches (like IQUNIX’s Moonstones), it can sound amazing. There are still some rough edges with IQUNIX’s software that should be fixed with time, but if you know you’ll be doing a lot of remapping and don’t need wireless capabilities, the wired option is the safest bet — at least for now. Ultimately, this is a very solid keyboard and another great entry in the growing Super line-up and leaves me excited to see what interesting designs IQUNIX comes out with next.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some articles may contain affiliate links and purchases made through this will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or related to compensation in any way.