Some time ago, a reader commented on one of our reviews, asking us to go deeper into the world of mechanical keyboards. He’s right, there’s a great big world out there outside of those with the word “gaming” on the box, even though those keyboards might be perfectly suited to gaming. Today, we’re expanding our exploration of the mechanical world, beginning with the Mistel Keyboards Sleeker MD870, releasing this month. It’s the most boutique board I have ever used, but for $199, is it worth buying in?
- MSRP: $199
- Model: SLEEKER MD870
- Case Color: Silver (tested) and Black (Available)
- Key Layout/Count: ANSI/87 key
- Keycaps: Cherry low-profile, PBT with dye sublimated legends (Rainbow color printing)
- Key Switch: Cherry MX (brown tested), Black, Blue, Red and Clear (Available)
- Polling Rate: 1000Hz
- NKRO: Yes
- Case Material: Solid CNC aluminum
- Cable Interface: USB Type-C, detachable (white color)
- Thickness: 19mm
- Compatibility: Windows/Mac OS
- Illumination: White backlight
I should probably say from the outset that though I absolutely adore mechanical keyboards (I own about 15 of them), the Sleeker represents my first hands-on exploration outside of the gaming sphere. That said, I’ve been going at these things for four years now, subscribe to the /r/mechanicalkeyboards sub-reddit, and am a frequent visitor to GeekHack. My wife is completely lost on my obsession with these keyboards. I’m no expert on enthusiast mechanicals, but I have a good frame of reference to approach it from. Bear that in mind as we explore this board together.
Right from the get-go, it’s apparent that the Sleeker is in a whole different class than your standard gaming keyboard. It’s packaged in a nice, heavy duty box whose clean white exterior is expertly understated and clean, like the keyboard itself. Unboxing it, the keyboard is found on a slide-out tray. Another cardboard insert with the word “Sleeker” embossed on it sits on top of the MD870. The keyboard is found in a nice white dust sleeve, the accessories in a small box to the side.
I’m not big on packaging, but I’ve never had an unboxing experience that so spoke to the overall aesthetic of the product itself. Unboxing it gives an immediate impression of quality, helped a bit by how heavy the keyboard is.
The Sleeker’s most striking feature is its all aluminum body. Most gaming keyboards opt for a think aluminum top plate. The Sleeker, on the other hand is two pieces of solid, CNC milled metal and weighs a solid 2.4lbs in its TKL version. We’re in the thick of winter here in New York and often the keyboard is cold to the touch, which is actually rather neat. This body has another benefit, though, which I’ll get to in a moment.
The keycaps are made of PBT plastic, which is extremely uncommon in the world of gaming keyboards. PBT plastic is denser and more resistant to wear; you won’t get any of the shine common to ABS keycaps. As a result, they’re also more expensive. Most gamers don’t spend much time considering keycaps, which is why manufacturers tend to go for the cheaper option in ABS. Since PBT is denser, they feel much better to type on. Their texture is slightly coarser, and the way they impact the top plate is duller, resulting in more uniform, more satisfying typing experience.
The Sleeker also uses Cherry’s low profile keycaps, as well, which allows for a very nice typing angle.
The legends on the MD870 are applied using dye sublimation. In simple terms, this means that the legend is etched into the PBT and the dye applied inside the etching. This prevents fading over time and means they’re likely to last longer than you’ll be using the keyboard. They’re also multi-color, with the left and right control sides of the main key area highlighted in blue, while the letters and numbers are featured in dark grey. The arrows and escape keys are red, and the secondary functions are green. There’s also around a dozen swappable keys, including those for Mac and Windows OS functions.
Behind the keys is an adjustable white backlight. It’s simple with only three options: on, off, and breathe. Since the keys don’t have see-through legends, the LEDs provide a kind of underglow to the keyset and it looks fantastic, really completing the clean, silver and white look the Sleeker is presenting.
This is the first keyboard I’ve ever used that feels artisanal. It’s not showy, flashing its rainbow lights and fancy animations everywhere. Instead, it goes back to the basics of design, combining materials and color choice to create a keyboard that flat-out looks good. The white aesthetic may not go with everyone’s color scheme, but should look great with most Macs.
Functionally, it’s a simple keyboard. It doesn’t record macros, but is responsive enough for any game under the sun. It includes media keys as secondary functions. In fact, its defining feature is the ability to swap between Mac and Windows profiles with a quick key combo. As a Windows user, I can’t comment on how well it works with Mac, but it’s safe to assume it works well. Since it’s not reinventing the wheel or pushing for anything too advanced, it should be plug and play. Being able to use it with different devices is sure to please those who switch OSs between devices.
What really makes this keyboard stand out, though, is just how nice it is to type on. That aluminum body is heavy and dense, and every bottom out of PBT on metal results in a satisfying thud. As any mechanical keyboard fan will tell you, the nuances of keyfeel are many and varied. In this case, the Sleeker is quite simply the nicest feeling keyboard I’ve ever typed on, and it’s fairly quiet to boot… well, as quiet as a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Browns can be. I’ve been taking it between work and home because I want it anywhere I’m writing. It really is that good.
For gaming, I do miss macro functionality. In most games, it’s not a big deal, but this is something to keep in mind if you don’t want to use AutoHotKey. It works well with AHK, though, and the light touch of Cherry switches makes them great for the rapid responses needed for gaming. The tenkeyless design on the MD870 version also keeps things tidy on your desk and frees up some extra mousing area for those first person shooters.
Only two downsides really come to mind with the Sleeker. The first is with the rear feet. They’re screw on, but ours weren’t threaded in the rear of the body and had to be glued on. They’re not quite not tall enough for my taste, as well, at under 1cm each. I like a higher typing angle, especially when using a wrist rest, so I found myself propping it up a bit to get it to taste. Second, the white keycaps really tend to show hairs and dust on their surface, so you’ll be cleaning it off more than a darker toned keyboard.
Overall, I’m extremely impressed with Mistel Keyboard’s Sleeker MD870. When it comes to mechanical keyboards, everything else falls behind how nice it is to type on. Mistel knocked it out of the park. The full aluminum body gives the keyboard a beautiful silver base that looks great with the white, color-accented keycaps and underglow. More importantly, it gives the keyboard a denseness that, combined with the nice PBT keycaps, elevates the typing experience. This is the first keyboard I’ve used that I would consider boutique. It may be simple in its functionality, but it’s impressive across the board.
- Amazing keyfeel
- Full, solid aluminum body
- Dye-sublimated, PBT keycaps
- Mac and Windows OS hot-swappable compatibility
- Boutique pricing
- Feel don’t quite elevate it enough
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.