Update 1/24/24: This review has been updated to address the spacing issue between some of the keys and to remove the Con associated. After working with Akko, we discovered that two switches were not fully seated and pressing them fully into place resolved this issue. This was user error and we apologize for not catching it ahead of publication.
IQUNIX has recently launched its Super series, a line of custom keyboards that embrace enthusiast features, sound, and feel with some of the most unique designs in the entire world of custom mechanical keyboards. Today, we’re looking at the ZONEX 75, a compact keyboard with a futuristic design that somehow manages to feel vintage at the same time. Starting at $265, it’s a pricey kit, but I think you’ll agree that it’s a unique offering in an increasingly “me too” market.
- Current Price: $265 (IQUNIX)
- Gasket Mount
- Aluminum Case
- Typing angle: 6° (without feet) / 9°(with feet)
- IQUNIX PCB-Mount Stabilizers
- Case Weight: approx. 1.1kg
- Default Package Weight: approx.3.2kg
- Dimension: 346mm * 152mm * 17mm
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1 / 2.4GHz / USB-C
- Software: IQUNIX Firmware / QMK Firmware
- Surface Coloring: E-coating / Anodized
- IQUNIX Moonstone Switch:
- Pin: Linear 5-pin
- Sound: Deep & Thock
- Operating Force: 45±5gf
- End Force: 55±5gf
- Pretravel: 1.0±0.3mm
- Total Travel: 3.1±0.3mm
- Durability: 80 million actuations
- Application: Perfect for gaming.
- What’s in the Box
- Keyboard Case x1
- Knob x1
- PCB x1
- FR4 Plate x1
- Coiled Cable (Type-C) x1
- PCB-mount Stabilizers Kit x1
- Manual x 1
- Switch Puller x1
- Screwdriver x1
- Screws Set x1
- Foam Kit x1 (IXPE Switch Pad, Poron PCB Foam, Poron Bottom Case Foam, IXPE Bottom Case Foam)
- A 2.4G USB receiver and two 3000mAh Li-ion Polymer Batteries will be included if you choose the Tri-mode PCB.
- Please note the default keyboard kit does NOT include keycaps and switches.
IQUNIX Super ZONEX 75 - What Is It?
The IQUNIX Super ZONEX 75 is a custom mechanical keyboard with a unique design in a compact layout. It’s very similar to the IQUNIX ZX75 that was released at the end of last year but has been refreshed with a fully aluminum case, more colors, and an enthusiast-grade design. It also happens to be one of the best sounding keyboards I’ve heard in a long time, which is one of the most important qualities in a custom mechanical keyboard.
As implied by its name, the ZONEX 75 uses a compact 75% layout, which includes arrow keys and a full function row, as well as a selection of four navigation and editing buttons along the right side. It also includes a customizable rotary encoder in the upper right that is mapped to volume by default. This layout is a growing favorite within the keyboard community since it strikes a middle-ground between compactness and functionality. If you split your time between gaming and productivity, it’s one of the best condensed layouts there is, leaving plenty of room for your mouse hand without meaningfully sacrificing on features.
IQUNIX is known for its creative designs and stellar build quality and what we have here is no different. The keyboard case is made entirely from aluminum and is packed with personality. It uses a big, retro-style lamp by the volume knob and four exposed screws to enhance this impression. The corners are rounded and if you flip it over, you’ll see the bottom is engraved with a striped pattern. It also uses magnetic feet that can be flipped to apply a slight tilt and is one of the most unique ways to add tilt feet that I've seen with a custom keyboard.
It’s also available in seven different colors, so there’s plenty of customization potential too. The overwhelming impression is one of vintage-industrial and also vaguely futuristic. It splits the difference impeccably.
While the company is best known for its pre-built keyboards, make no mistake: this is a full-fledged custom keyboard kit. It comes completely disassembled in an equally unique, multi-compartment box. IQUNIX knows how to a) make great keyboards and b) how to present those keyboards so the unboxing feels just as high quality. The ZONEX 75 includes just about everything you’ll need to build the kit, sans switches and keycaps, and even includes a coiled aviator cable, which is a nice touch.
It meets all of the expectations for a custom keyboard kit in 2023. It’s gasket-mounted for a soft and flexible typing experience. It supports screw-in stabilizers and south-facing switches for compatibility with Cherry profile keycap sets. It also includes layers of sound-dampening foam to further tune the sound. It does need the foam to sound its best, in my opinion, which is important to keep in mind, but it delivers on the PE foam sound better than most and is genuinely extremely satisfying to hear.
The keyboard is available in three configurations. You can pick it up with a wired PCB that supports QMK and VIA but does not have RGB lighting. Or you can choose a tri-mode wireless PCB that does have RGB but relies on IQUNIX’s own software suite. It’s a shame that the wired version doesn’t support backlighting because it would look great here. The wired PCB I was sent also features flex cuts for enhanced movement.
My sample was also sent with IQUNIX’s custom Moonstone Turbo switches and its Alice Blue keycaps, but bear in mind that the final product will not ship with these — though I would highly encourage you to purchase a set of Moonstone switches for yourself at checkout. They’re some of my favorite switches this year. The barebones kit starts at $265 for the wired version and $289 for wireless.
IQUNIX Super ZONEX 75 - Assembly
The assembly process for the ZONEX 75 is very straightforward. IQUNIX provides almost everything you’ll need right in the box, including the screwdriver, bits, keycap/switch puller, stabilizers, and even a sheet of paper mache to build the keyboard on. If you’ve ever built a keyboard before, you’ll find the process very straightforward — especially since the knob and daughterboard have been done for you.
The process follows the same general steps as most custom mechanical keyboards. After lubing the stabilizers, you can add the PE foam and screw them into place. Position the plate foam, if you’re using it, then add the plate and press the switches into place. IQUNIX includes standoffs but these aren’t necessary with FR4 and 5-pin switches. If you’re using a 3-pin switch, I would recommend adding those first to keep your switches stable.
Next, you need to add the PORON gasket strips to the tabs on the outside of the plate, top and bottom. Tweezers are a good tool for this but aren’t explicitly necessary or included with the kit. Next, position the plate face down into the top half of the case. One of the unique twists with this keyboard is that you actually need to screw metal tabs in below the gaskets to secure the top plate, blending a top mount and gasket mount design. Since they aren’t held up by the bottom case like most mechanical keyboards, this step is necessary for the functioning of the keyboard. Plug in the ribbon cables for the USB daughterboard and the knob and lock them into place using the clamp on the connector.
With that done, you can add the foam to the bottom case, if you’re using it to dampen the sound. I would encourage you to do so as there is a slight hollowness to typing without at least one layer of foam. Finally, place the top on the bottom and replace the four hex screws to lock it into place. Add keycaps and the top is done.
The last step is to place the magnetic tilt feet. These slot into their cut-outs and are held fast. Position to taste.
IQUNIX Super ZONEX 75 - Typing, Gaming, Overall Impressions
The final product is something special. With IQUNIX’s Moonstone Turbo switches, it is one of the best sounding keyboards I’ve tested yet, with this delightfully poppy sound signature that is simultaneously deep. This isn’t a high-pitched clack, more of a bubbly, creamy snap. This is partially due to the FR4 plate, but the combination of foams, switches, and plate really make this stand out as one of my favorite sounding keyboards of all time.
I was also impressed by how much movement this keyboard offers. FR4 isn’t the softest material, but the PORON gaskets do a good job of cushioning the typing experience. The use of FR4 is also good if this is your first custom keyboard because it makes mounting the switches quite a bit easier.
There’s a consistency to the sound and feel that I also really like. Everything from the center to the function and bottom rows that’s better than most gasket mounted keyboards. Typically, the function row sounds deeper and less lively than the rest of the keyboard but that’s not as much the case here. My theory is that this is because of the metal tabs around the gasket strips, splitting the distance between top mount and gasket mount, but I’m not positive.
Have a listen to how it sounds for yourself:
When it comes to gaming, the keyboard performs great. Since I was sent the wired version, I was able to assign my macros and key maps within VIA, which is fast, easy, and immediate using the web browser version. You don’t even need to download software. My key presses went through instantaneously, just as you would expect from a wired keyboard.
The Moonstone Turbo switches are also excellent for gaming. They have a higher actuation point of only 1mm while most traditional switches are around twice that. Their smoothness allows you to flutter them and achieve a nice linear press for improved responsiveness. They’re excellent. And… I may have bought several hundred of them for future builds after trying them here.
Looking at the keyboard as a whole, I really like what IQUNIX has done here. It functions wonderfully as a custom keyboard, but while its sound and feel define the experience, aesthetically, it’s genuinely really cool. I love the small touches, like the wide Caps Lock indicator and etched grille underneath it, as well as the exposed screws. The different color options provide a lot of variety and there are a lot of good matches in IQUNIX’s keycap catalog to really bring this together. The Alice Blue set I received matches it to a tee (expectedly).
It’s not perfect. There are some wishlist items here, like the lack of RGB on the wired PCB. Backlighting would have looked great here and it’s too bad you have to sacrifice VIA support to get it. There’s also this slightly odd spacing between some of the keys. H, U, and 9 all have slightly bigger spaces on the left side, which creates these dark gaps that aren’t becoming of a keyboard at this price. Hopefully that can be fixed in a future version.
The other hangup is simply its price. At $265 for the wired version and $289 for the wireless, it’s a pretty expensive kit. IQUNIX does provide stabilizers, which is nice, but when you factor in switches and keycaps, the price quickly rises. The Moonstone Switches and Alice Blue keycap set I received are $45 and $79 respectively or $124 altogether. For this exact build, you’d need to pay $389. The competition is still at that price, so I’d love to see switches and keycaps thrown in to make it a better value.
Price aside, I really like the IQUNIX Super ZONEX 75. It’s a unique kit that winds up looking, feeling, and sounding great. I’m usually not one for baby blue, but it’s so nice to type and play games on that I can’t help but keep it on my desk, even as a standby while I’m working on another review. IQUNIX really doing something unique with its Super series. It’s exciting to see and promises even more interesting designs in the future. We’ll be here for it.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.