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MIIIW BlackIO 83 is a Must-See See-Through Mechanical Keyboard (Review)

That Also Supports QMK/VIA

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

MIIIW has been around for a while, quietly making impressive keyboards but never really making a big enough splash to break into the mainstream. That may just change with its latest effort, the BlackIO 83 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard. Its transparent case and see-through keycaps immediately catch the eye, but it’s also fully programmable with QMK and VIA, filled with enthusiast features, comes with pre-lubed switches and stabilizers, 2.4GHz wireless, and more. It hits Kickstarter with a super early bird price of $99 that will quickly jump to $139 for early adopters. Let’s take a closer look and find out if there’s more here than fancy looks!

Specifications

MIIIW BlackIO 83 - What Is It?

The BlackIO 83 is a wireless (or wired) mechanical keyboard that stamps its design ethos right on its spacebar: Innovation in the Open. That philosophy is apparent across the entire keyboard, from the see-through case and keycaps, to the height and width specs found throughout the keyset, to the open-source QMK programming, this really is a keyboard that embraces transparency.

Pun most definitely intended, because the transparent design is the BlackIO 83s most iconic design feature. The case and keycaps are made of smoked plastic to create a sleek, transparent finish that allows the RGB to shine well beyond even pudding keycaps. The keycaps are made of polycarbonate, which allows them to be even clearer than the case, and if you look close enough, you can even see the stems that connect onto each switch. 

The top of the case is also finished in a high gloss. The arrow keys are gold in color (or silver or purple, depending on the color you choose) and are equally shiny. It’s a design choice that’s a blessing and a curse because, yes, it looks very cool but it’s also terribly difficult to keep clean and highlights imperfections (you'll notice any scratch you make, so be careful). Every part of the top attracts fingerprints and shows tiny bits of dust. My unit was an early prototype but I hope the retail models come with a cleaning cloth. It’s a looker but requires a bit of elbow grease to keep looking as good as it comes out of the box. 

The keyboard uses a 75% layout, which is a great middle ground between gaming and productivity. It includes a full function row, arrow keys, and a selection of navigation and editing buttons along the right side. In the position of F13, MIIIW has placed a Delete key for a bit of extra functionality. Thanks to the easy programmability of VIA, you can remap any key to have a secondary function, so the entire keyset is remappable and can be layered multiple times to create layouts for individual apps and games.

MIIIW has also embraced personalization in other ways. The keyboard can be used wired or wirelessly (Bluetooth or 2.4GHz wireless) and features per-key RGB backlighting. There are more than 40 settings between the preset lighting effects and color options for each, so you’re able to really make it your own. 

The wireless connectivity deserves special mention. You’re able to connect up to three different devices over Bluetooth, as well as maintain a connection via 2.4GHz wireless and swap between them on the fly. This is controlled via a selector switch on the back of the keyboard and key combinations to choose your device (and also has a slot for the USB dongle, which is a nice addition that, surprisingly, many keyboards still lack). You’ll want to use the 2.4GHz dongle for gaming, however, as it’s able to offer a wired-like 1000Hz polling rate and 1ms of input latency. The keyboard also comes with a 4000mAh battery, though with as much RGB as the keyboard offers, you’ll still need to plug it in once a week or so.

Under those tall polycarbonate keycaps, the BlackIO 83 comes with Kailh Jellyfish linear switches. These switches are lightweight and super smooth. They’re also pre-lubed from the factory so you can have an enthusiast-level typing experience right out of the box. If you ever want to change the switches, it also supports hot-swapping, so you can unplug the Jellyfish and plug in a new switch without needing to solder or even turn the keyboard off. 

The stabilizers are also pre-lubed but still had a bit of rattle out of the box. They’re plate-mount, so are easy to remove, lube, and reseat. Interestingly, the PCB looks like it supports screw-in stabilizers, though the silicone pad blocks the holes and it’s not clear that they would be compatible with the polycarbonate plate MIIIW has used here. For enthusiasts, it’s definitely worth investigating. 

Which brings us to the sound and feel of the keyboard and exactly how MIIIW pulls off its gentle typing experience. The keyboard uses a gasket-mounted structure that applies silicone gaskets around the edges of the plate. These gaskets allow for a minor amount of flex when pressed down but it’s not enough to create bounce when typing normally. Instead, they isolate vibrations from your typing to create a quieter, more dampened typing experience. 

The gaskets work hand in hand with two more layers of silicone. Beneath the plate is a silicone mute pad. This dampens keystrokes and accomplishes much the same as the gaskets, quieting down any noise that might come from the case and drawing out the sound of the switches. Interestingly, this pad also includes a thin layer that goes under the switches, similar to the PE foam you find in many custom keyboard kits. The effect isn’t exactly the same but does add a bit of extra pop to the sound profile. Beneath the PCB is a final layer of silicone case foam to remove any hollowness. 

All of this amounts to a typing experience that is soft, highly dampened, and perfect for long typing sessions in environments where loud clacking isn’t welcome. Likewise, it’s great when you want to focus on the acoustics of your switches. You won’t need to do any fancy mods with this keyboard. It’s ready to deliver a great typing experience out of the box.

With that said, if you’re coming from a keyboard that uses ABS or PBT keycaps, the BlackIO 83 will sound noticeably different. Polycarbonate keycaps have a unique sound profile. Instead of a clack or thock, they have almost a “clink” quality to them. It’s not my favorite sound profile, but it sounds decent, especially on a prebuilt keyboard you can save spending time applying mods.

Should You Buy It?

MIIIW has done a great job of developing a unique and high-quality keyboard in a field that is becoming increasingly saturated with “me too” competitors. It’s hard to stand out these days, and the BlackIO 83 does exactly that. I’m not a fan of how often it needs to be cleaned (pictures for this review required regular wiping down and still weren’t perfect) but there’s no arguing with the eye-catching look of high gloss. The “innovation in the open” design is also unique and interesting if an acquired taste.

So should you buy it? If the look clicks with you, I say yes. This keyboard offers more than a unique aesthetic. Reliable wireless connectivity, great switches, and out-of-the-box sound tuning that saves you modding time. It’s a well-put-together keyboard that offers a very good typing experience out of the box. It’s not perfect, but if the design speaks to you, it’s a solid buy and a safe bet from a company that has shown it can produce results. It leaves me excited to see what MIIIW does next. 

Find out more at the official Kickstarter page here. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

7.0Good
Pros
  • Unique design
  • Great switches (that are also hot-swappable)
  • QMK and VIA support
  • Good sound and feel out of the box
  • Excellent wireless connectivity options
Cons
  • Gets dirty quickly
  • Style won't be for everyone
  • Will still need to recharge once a week or so with RGB
  • High gloss finish will show any imperfections (scratches, marks) very obviously


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