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PLUM NIZ Keyboard Micro84 EC Review - An Incredibly Light & Fast Choice for Gamers

By Christopher Coke on August 31, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

PLUM NIZ Keyboard Micro84 EC Review - An Incredibly Light & Fast Choice for Gamers

Mechanical keyboards may have taken over the gaming world but, for many of us, they’re simply too loud to use. Today, we have an amazing alternative with the PLUM NIZ Keyboard Micro84. It’s electro-capacitive, which means it’s much quieter than a standard mechanical keyboard while still feeling great to type on. Featuring bluetooth and USB connectivity, full RGB backlighting, programmability beyond any standard MK, and a fresh layout perfect for gaming, this is a keyboard you won’t want to miss.

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $129 (no lighting), $179.99 (full RGB)
  • Layout: 84-key
  • Switch: Electro Capacitive
  • Actuation Force: 35g (adjustable with choice of 10g or 20g springs)
  • Actuation Point: 1mm, 2mm, 3mm customizable
  • Keycap: PBT
  • Keycap Color: Grey White
  • Connectivity: USB (1ms report rate), Bluetooth (three devices)
  • Battery Life: 6 hours with lighting, 5-7 days without lighting
  • Programmability: Complete Lighting, Remapping, Macro Programming
  • Software: Yes
  • Illumination: Per-Key RGB (optional)
  • Size: 31cm (L) x 13.3cm (W) x 2.5cm (H)
  • Weight: 995g

The first thing to know about the Micro84 is that it’s not a mechanical keyboard. It’s also not a mushy membrane keyboard either. It’s what’s known as electro-capacitive, which means that it uses an entirely different switching mechanism of domes and springs to trigger a key press. While it does use a rubber dome, it’s a far cry from the pack-in rubber dome keyboards you and I know from the pre-builts at department stores. Instead, what you have here is far more high-end and complicated to manufacture, making them somewhat of a rarity in the keyboard world.

The leading company making these switches thus far is Topre, and it’s not unusual to see those boards begin near the $225 mark. Yet, because of their unique feeling and sound - which is notably quieter - they’re beloved among many in the mechanical keyboard community. With pricing like that, it was only a matter of time until someone else came along and offered their own cheaper alternative. That company is NIZ Keyboard, who you might also know as PLUM. I’ve spent a couple of weeks with the Micro84 and it blew me away with just how great it was for gaming and writing.

The Micro84 comes in at $129.99 for the backlight-free version and $179.99 with full RGB illumination. Either is a great price when compared to Topre but when you look at the additional features, even the full RGB version seems like a good deal.

Let’s start with the layout. The Micro84 uses an 84-key design to give you a compact form factor without the sacrifices of a 60%. Unlike many of the smaller custom keyboards we’ve looked at, it keeps the full function row intact. We also have our arrow keys in the bottom right. The real standout feature, though is the inclusion of the editing and navigation keys along the right side. For normal writing, these are a godsend but in gaming they can quickly be remapped to act as right-side macro keys, allowing you to keep your fingers on the movement controls. Despite its small size, you’re really not losing anything and actually gain some functionality over a full-size keyboard.

Getting a better angle on the keyboard, we can see that the keyset is actually loaded with side legends to map out all of your secondary functions. One major thing to notice here is that NIZ has built in two Fn buttons on either side of the keyboard. This may seem small but makes a big difference. By allowing you to use a modifier key on either side of the keyboard, using these secondary functions, or your dual-layer macros, is easier and more natural than any other keyboard I’ve used.

For gaming, the Micro84 is a powerhouse. Since the keyboard supports dual modes, you can stay in Standard/Office mode for normal use and create a whole second Custom keyset for your favorite games. Any key can be remapped to carry a macro or complete a function. You might not need a full numpad while gaming, but each of those keys can fire of a skill or command with the Fn modifier. 

Those right navigation keys are perfect for this and, if you don’t already have game bindings to their standard functions, could carry a total of eight custom commands, easily swapped with either function key. Or, you could get really creative, and bind a set of skills to left-Fn and right-Fn, putting 12 functions all along the right side.

Other additional functions include mouse control, repeat rate, character delay, three separate bluetooth profiles, media controls, and, lighting control. We also can’t forget about the ability to swap your control and caps lock keys and switch into Mac mode with the push of a button (there are extra keycaps in the box for this). Then there’s the windows lock/game mode and the ability to disable buttons entirely, which is amazing for parents of little kids amazed by the rainbow lights. Or the dual power modes or profile swapping. Yeah, the Micro84 has a lot going on.


The Micro84 also supports custom keycaps

Actually using the keyboard feels great. NIZ’s EC switches are much quieter than a normal mechanical keyboard. If you don’t bottom out, they can even be quieter than an old fashioned membrane keyboard. It’s rather hard to do that, though, so they’re a touch louder but still far more reasonable to use in an office or quiet environment. Compared to a Cherry style switch, NIZ’s ECs are much softer and make more of a gentle “thunk” sound than the usual “clack.”  Most importantly for gamers, this keyboard is fast.

The domes under the keys are weighted to 35g, which is incredibly light. Because of the electro-capacitive technology, you can also set a custom actuation point using a quick key combination. Actuation can be set in three levels from 1-3mm. It also supports N-Key rollover which was borne out in our testing.

These things combine to make the Micro84 the fastest, most responsive keyboard we’ve ever laid hands on. Amazingly, it’s far more accurate than Cherry MX Speed switches. The added tactility of the domes and springs makes all the difference in the world, allowing you to type faster and game better with fewer mistakes. I’m bolding that because we are often asked what makes something a gaming keyboard. On top of programmability, responsiveness is a major factor. That it can be so much lighter without throwing out accuracy is frankly amazing and should throw this keyboard at the top of your consideration list if you play competitive games.

If you find that’s too light for you and lowering the actuation point doesn’t do the trick, NIZ Keyboard also includes a set of 10g or 20g springs to customize the weight of each key. The only downside here is that they only include 40-50 instead of a full 84. A set of 100 is only an additional $10, so I’m puzzled why they wouldn’t include enough for the entire keyboard. It is enough for your full letter and number key set, as well as your editing keys, which is enough to get by with.

Turning to the other elements of the keyboard, the Micro84 is built to an enthusiast’s standard. It uses a heavy duty plastic case to allow the bluetooth signal to remain strong but uses a heavy plate to give the board a nice weight. The keycaps are also thick-walled PBT, which feel great to type on and will hold up well over time. If we flip it over, we’ll find cable routing channels for the braided USB-C cable, as well as dual-level tilt feet. The keyboard features a nice angle out of the box, though, so I didn’t find them necessary to use.

The reality, however, is that NIZ Keyboard is a small company compared to the Razer’s and Logitech’s of the world. The software suite, while fully functional, is a bit less user friendly and polished than those of the mega-corps they’re competing against. You can still program your keys with ease and set custom lighting schemes, but if you’re going in expecting NIZ’s version of G Hub, you’ll be disappointed. The possibilities of the lighting aren’t as vast since it doesn’t offer the Photoshop-like layering that Corsair and Razer’s suites do. That said, the lighting is bright and vibrant. With little effort, you can make your keyboard look great.

Light makes a tremendous difference in battery life, however. With it turned on at full brightness, you can expect about 6 hours of battery life before needing a charge. With lighting completely off, you can pull upwards of five days. To extend backlit battery life further, the keyboard automatically turns off lighting after a few seconds of inactivity and goes completely to sleep after an hour.

Final Thoughts

When I discovered NIZ Keyboard and the Micro84, I wasn’t sure what to expect. They used Topre-like switches but weren’t Topre and cost substantially less. Imagine my surprise when I found a keyboard that’s not only leagues better than the last actual Topre we reviewed last year, but also better than most of the mainstream keyboards we’ve had in too. $179 might seem expensive, or $129 for the non-RGB version, but it’s hands-down the fastest, most responsive keyboard I’ve ever used and doesn’t force me to make mistakes just from resting my fingers on the keys. I would put it head to head with a Corsair or Razer any day of the week and expect it to beat even their flagship models.

If you’re a competitive gamer, the choice is clear, but even if you play more relaxed MMORPGs, the layout is one of the best I’ve yet come across. The Micro84 is one of the easiest recommendations I’ve ever made.

If you like what you see here, for a limited time visit the NIZ Keyboard web store and use code "nizkeyboard5" for $5 off your order.

Pros

  • Extremely fast and lightweight
  • Loaded with extra functions
  • High-end build with thick PBT keycaps
  • Excellent layout for gaming and writing
  • Dual function buttons allow for loads of programming
  • Affordable price for EC-style switch

Cons

  • Not enough springs for the whole board
  • Software is rough around the edges
Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.