The Nori Spring Rider is the definition of a team effort. It’s the culmination of influential custom keyboard designers, keycap artisans, and a major manufacturer coming together to deliver a pre-built mechanical keyboard that challenges value for the dollar.
Let’s face it: most people don’t want to put together their own keyboard but still want a typing and gaming experience. With its retro-inspired design, high quality keycaps, solid switches, reliable tri-mode wireless, and refined typing experience, it offers a lot for gamers and typists who want a good keyboard straight out of the box. It’s a solid, if pricey, set of keys.
- Current Price: $179.00 (KLC)
- Layout: TKL (88 key)
- Case material: ABS (top and bottom)
- Keycaps: LinWorks Keycap Set (doubleshot ABS with PC legends)
- Coil spring-mounted
- Poron foam and polyethylene foam
- CNC-machined aluminum supporting plate
- Silicon supporting plate
- Hot-swappable switch sockets
- Per-key RGB lighting with RGB underglow
- Battery capacity: 2,500 mAh
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 (3-channel) 2.4 gigahertz wireless, USB-C
- Compatibility: Windows, macOS, and Linux
The KLC Nori Spring Rider isn't out to challenge many conventions with its design. It features a traditional TKL layout, with an F13 key, which doubles as a power button. It features a stepped caps lock, and is available in either black or beige, for a retro aesthetic. The beige certainly harkens back to years past more than the black, but there's something very classic about this keyboard.
You could even say that it's simple, but having used so many different keyboards with TKL layouts in beyond, I think the better word here is refined. And that makes a lot of sense because a professional keyboard creator, Syryan, from SR Works, is credited as the main designer for the keyboard. There is a uniformity between the different sections of keys. And the thin left and right bezels in symmetrical top and bottom bezels all work together to make the keyboard feel compact, concise, and well done. It feels so natural, that you might not even think about it, which is kind of the point.
This is a keyboard designed to pull out of the box and use with no learning curve. It's meant to be the keyboard you choose when you want something better than the big brands can deliver without going all the way to a custom mechanical keyboard.
The Nori uses a plastic case made of two parts. You have the top case which is opaque and a frosted bottom case which allows for some RGB underglow. It's not very heavy, like most other plastic keyboards, but has enough heft to stay in place on the desk, which is supported by three long rubber strips on the underside.
The defining feature of this keyboard is its new spring-based mounting system. This mount uses a series of springs all around the edges of the circuit board on the bottom that hold the PCB assembly aloft. It accomplishes a similar effect to gasket mounting but in a different way. There's quite a bit of movement if you are actively pressing down, but if you're worried that it might become too bouncy during normal use, you needn't be. It actually feels very much like any other keyboard in that way, well having the sound benefit of not being tightly fastened to either case.
The second major collaboration came with Linworks. Linworks has made several custom keyboards that have gained traction in the United States and developed the reputation of its lead designer, Lin. Lin has recently been investing in his custom keycap manufacturing ability, and participated in the project by providing the keycaps.
As you might imagine, the keycaps are very good. They are double-shot and made of abs plastic for a higher pitched, poppier sound signature. The double-shot process helps ensure the durability of keycaps by crafting the legends from a whole other separate piece of bonded plastic, in this case polycarbonate. It also allows the legends to be crisper compared to PBT plastic dye sublimated legends. That is definitely the case here, although there is some minor inconsistency on the very small lowercase letters on some of the modifier keys.
Overall though, I think the key caps are pretty good, and I appreciate the nice texturing that's applied under my fingertips. KLC also includes alternate scooped F and J key, if you’d rather do away with the homing bars. There’s also a stepped Caps Lock installed by default that can also be swapped out if you prefer a normal caps lock.
The third collaborator is Namong Art, who creates artisan keycaps. They provided a custom aluminum artisan with the logo character on it. This keycap was pink on my version and has an appropriate height to fit in the top row. It makes a perfect replacement for the Escape key or the F14 power button. Free artisans are always welcome, so it’s great to see included here.
Beneath those keycaps, you have Gateron Pro Yellow switches, which is a nice middle ground pre-lubed linear switch that's well regarded in the community. It is substantially better than cherry mx reds being ever so slightly heavier to avoid typos. If you are not a fan of this switch, the keyboard also supports hot swapping using the included switch removal tool. All you need to do is pull the existing switch out and press a new one into place, even while the keyboard is plugged in, and you are good to go. This is also a nice feature for exploring further into the hobby, as custom switches come out all the time across all different price points and can completely change the way your keyboard feels and sounds. It's also a plus if you should ever spill anything on your keyboard because you may just be able to replace the damage switches instead of the entire slate.
KLC has incorporated several layers of sound dampening in acoustic tuning material within the case. There is a layer of pour on plate foam between the plate and PCB. There is also a layer of pe foam underneath that, however it appears that it does not actually go beneath the switches and so doesn't create that marbly poppy sound that typically comes with that style of foam. I am actually a bit curious as to why it was included if not to go beneath the switches but clearly KLC feels it provides some acoustic benefit. Underneath the circuit board is a thick layer of silicone to fill out the case, remove any hollowness, and create cleaner typing sounds.
Effort has clearly been made on the stabilizers as well. They are plate mounted but are well lubed and completely free of rattle. While many people would question the use of plate mounted stabilizers versus the enthusiast favorite PCB mounted stabilizers, I actually think that it's a good move here. Should you need to remove the stabilizers and add more grease in the future, or simply want to tinker with them in another way, they are much easier to remove and don't require pulling every switch out of the keyboard.
It was also an important decision because it clearly seems that this is not a keyboard you are intended to take apart. Four screws are hidden behind adhesive strips on the back of the keyboard. Pulling off the strips to access the screws wrecks the adhesive, so I would suggest leaving it be if at all possible.
Of course, I wasn't content with that and went ahead and disassembled it anyways. In the picture above you can get a look at the spring mounting and silicone pad in the bottom. You can also see the connection to the USB daughter board and the battery below that pad.
That's right, despite its retro looks this keyboard is actually tri-mode wireless. It supports Bluetooth 5.0 and 2.4GHz wireless for gaming using an included dongle. It can swap between three Bluetooth devices or the 2.4GHz dongle on the fly using a key combination. Each of these was fast and reliable in my testing and never lagged or dropped out once.
It sports a 2,500 mAh battery that’s capable of months of use with RGB off. KLC rates it as offering up to 51 days of uptime continually, 156 days of 8 hours of use a day, and 250 days with only 4 hours of use a day. If you keep RGB at its brightest settings, however, I found this to be around a week and a half of regular use (40-60 hours).
The product page for this keyboard mentions dedicated software, but I wasn't able to find it anywhere. Since this is still quite a new product, it's possible that it hasn't been released yet. It promises key remapping and macros, as well as lighting controls. Without access, I was unable to test this myself.
The final collaborator is Zalman, a company you might know from its worth with power supplies and computer cases in the DIY PC market. It’s a major manufacturer, which is exactly where they have entered this project. Using its resources, it supports production of each keyboard.
KLC Nori Spring Rider - Typing and Gaming Performance
With all of that out of the way, let's get into how it actually performs. I was especially interested about this keyboard because there are only two other models I know of, an affordable keyboard from Akko and the ultra high-end Freya from Wuque Studio, that use a similar mounting method. Spring mounting is still relatively new And in a world where bounce and flex are key attributes people look for, it holds unique potential.
As I mentioned previously, though, this isn't a keyboard that feels particularly bouncy and that's surprising. My first thought on seeing this is that it would be legitimately bouncy and it is not. And in hindsight that is probably for the best. Ultra bouncy keyboards have a tendency to be a bit distracting. Some movement is fine but too much can make your keys feel unstable and actually decrease how quickly you may be able to type.
The typing experience here is soft. The springs do a good job of distributing the impact of your keystrokes in giving just a small amount of flex beneath each press. It is not overly bouncy, however. Dismounting style also has an acoustic impact on the keyboard. Whereas silicone or foam gaskets tend to be very isolating, the springs do not have the same rounding effect on the sound profile of each key. There is slightly more definition to every press. Another way to understand that is that there is more treble or higher frequencies to each bottom out.
Regardless, I would say that the typing experience is quite good. It doesn't reinvent the wheel in either sound or feel but it delivers a quality experience that easily exceeds the pre-built options from most gaming or productivity companies popular within the United States. In both comfort and acoustics, I don't think Logitech, for example, has a keyboard that can really compete here — and that's no shade to Logitech either. It just has to do with the realities of scale and what most people care about. Customers interested in the Nori are going to be looking for these kinds of refinements or perhaps even a bit more.
And that's one of the things that does concern me about this keyboard. It's well done, there's no mistaking that. But is it enough? Today's keyboard market is one of innovation and pushing boundaries, and the Nori does that with a spring mounting system, but the implementation isn't as noticeable as I, or I think most, people would have expected it to be. That's not a knock, it just bucks expectation in that way and I could see people being surprised that there's not more movement during normal typing.
Despite this, keystrokes are crisp and clear. The keyboard leans toward the clacky side, which means higher-pitched as opposed to the deeper, thockier sound that comes from heavily foamed out keyboards. The lack of PE foam under the switches decreases its volume a bit, so while I wouldn't say this is a quiet mechanical keyboard it is quieter than many others you would find at this price point even using these same switches. That, I believe, is a result of both the plate foam and the thick silicone dampener within the case.
Wireless connectivity is very good. As I mentioned previously, I didn't have any issues at all with Bluetooth connectivity using this keyboard. It connected quickly and stayed connected until I physically disconnected it from the device. 2.4GHz connectivity is also very solid and even side by side with a wired gaming keyboard, I couldn't tell any difference in responsiveness.
At $179, the KLC Nori Spring Rider isn't exactly cheap. For pure gaming, I think you are probably better suited looking elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you are interested in exploring the mechanical keyboard hobby and want a solid foundation that will also work great for gaming, then it might be worth considering.
Its build quality, typing experience, and wireless connectivity make it a very good mechanical keyboard no matter how you look at it. But it really comes into its own when you start to think about how to apply it. It is very office friendly, which means it is perfect for a sleeper keyboard to enhance your work day. It's light enough to carry from place to place, so you could throw it in a bag and use it for gaming in the evening. If you enjoy the experience, it's also easy to enhance with other keycaps and switches. I just wish it were easier to access the internals to try out other mods.
Overall, KLC has created a very solid introductory product with its partners that leaves me excited to see what they'll do next. There are clear lessons being learned and applied from the custom keyboard community which works to its benefit. A bit overpriced? Yes, in my opinion, knowing nothing about how much it costs to make one of these things. It would benefit from being more accessible. But if you have that bit of extra money and want a great keyboard without all the ostentatiousness that comes with gaming keyboards or the extra hassle of building your own diy mechanical keyboard, it's definitely worth considering.
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