Now that low-profile switches have hit the mechanical keyboard market, it was only a matter of time until we saw Cherry’s own solution trickle into consumer keyboards. That time has finally come with the high-end enthusiast keyboard from Mistel. We looked at their split MD600 RGB last year. Today, we’re looking at its slim, lighting-free successor, the MD650L. Is this the ergonomic keyboard you’ve been waiting for?
- Current Price: $159
- Key Switch: Cherry Low Profile (ML1A)
- Switch Type: Tactile, Silent
- Switch Lifespan: 20M presses
- Actuation Force: 45g
- Actuation Point: 1.5mm (3mm total travel distance)
- Key caps: ABS
- Construction: CNC-milled aluminum
- Macro Support: Yes
- Polling Rate: 1000Hz (1ms)
- Media Keys: Second layer
- Onboard Memory: Yes
- Dimensions: 325mm (L) x 106mm (W) x 16mm (H)
- Weight: 920g
Coming from the world of gaming, the idea of a split keyboard seems foreign. The concept, however, is far from new and you’ve probably seen more than a few keyboards apply these principles, most notably Microsoft with their Natural Ergonomic line.The idea here is that the natural position of your arms is about shoulder length apart, allowing people who spend long hours at the computer to avoid common health problems associated from lots of typing. The other element here has to do with the angle of your hands, so you often see split keyboard users raising each half in the center (though an angle kit does not ship with the MD650L).
For gamers, this type of design has the unique benefit of allowing you to unplug the right half of the keyboard. If you’re in a game, being able to drop your keyboard footprint to below six inches is very nice. The split design also allows for dual spacebars which can be remapped for in-game functions, a second Fn key, or any other key command.
The MD650L is built to the impeccable standard we’ve come to expect from Mistel. The chassis is two-piece CNC-milled aluminum. Despite being only a 65% design, the keyboard is weighty, coming in at 920g. There’s something very satisfying about having a metal keyboard that feels eminently premium - which is good because this low-profile is far from cheap.
At $159, it falls into square into the middle of enthusiast territory. With that, however, you’re getting certain features that clearly cater to discerning PC enthusiasts. The layout, for example, is one of the best in gaming and computing today, including the arrows keys and common editing/navigation buttons on the right, and dropping the lesser-used function row. Like the Micro84 we reviewed last week, absolutely nothing is lost and resides on a function layer accessed with the Fn button.
One of the biggest selling points here, however, is that the keyboard is completely reprogrammable - including macros - without any kind of software at all. One of the first things I did was remap Page Up and Page Down to Home and End, for example. After that, I used a key combination to record a macro to near-instantly fill out a web form I use for work. Two secondary layers can also be swapped into on the fly, allowing you to program in unique commands and keysets for multiple games. If you’re into alternative layouts, the keyboard also supports Colemark and Dvorak, too.
The real selling point here is the new Cherry ML low-profile switches. They feature an entirely new design which allows for 3mm of travel, which is slightly faster than a standard keyboards 4mm. They also actuate at 1.5mm, mimicking the halfway-actuation of full-height MX switches. The result is a keyboard that’s able to be much thinner and closer to an Apple keyboard than ever before for Cherry.
Typing on them feels “mechanical” but quite distinct from the nearly four dozen mechanical keyboards I’ve reviewed here. The pressure point feels almost immediate due to the low-profile design which makes them rather “pop” under your fingers. When pressing individual keys slowly, it almost feels as if they’re catching when going back over that bump. In actual use, you don’t feel this at all, but is definitely a unique characteristic of these first Cherry MLs.
The keycaps are a thick-walled ABS this time around and feature a custom angle that is almost completely flat. I actually far prefer this to chiclet-style keycaps because they feel better under my finger; Mistel is combining two worlds with this cap design, keeping the height remarkably low while not sacrificing the keycap design mechanical keyboard fans so enjoy.
Still, would have preferred to see PBT and dye-sub legends here. Mistel heads off one of those major complaints, however, by styling the keycaps with a bit of shine right from the start. It looks quite good and should prevent the natural shining of ABS for standing out over time.
The new world of low-profile switches isn’t without its challenges, however. As of this writing, only a single style of switch is available from Cherry, which is tactile and quiet. Clicky and linear fans are left out in the cold at the moment. You’ll also notice that the stem is also different, which means custom keycaps aren’t an option for the time being - not that they would be anyway at this height, but it’s one more thing for keycap makers to tool for before they’re able to release custom keysets.
The MD650L is a very nice keyboard that’s built to a high standard. I love that Mistel dropped the plastic case from the prior Barocco and went with a full metal chassis this time around. At $159, it definitely makes the keyboard feel high-end. If you’re a fan of Apple or chiclet style keyboards, the MD650L will be right up your alley. I like that they kept the keyboard trim without completely abandoning the keycap design of standard mechanical keyboards. For gamers, however, the programmability is just excellent and the ability to split the keyboard, while great for ergonomics, is even better for desk real estate when you only need one side. All in all, this is a win for Mistel and a good entry point for anyone considering low-profile mechanical switches.
- Excellent 65% layout
- Split design is great for ergonomics and gaming
- Software free programmability
- Aluminum case
- Genuine Cherry low-profile switches
- ABS over PBT keycaps
- Split keyboard means an additional wire connecting each half
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.