This month, we’re looking at a wide array of enthusiast keyboards to supplement our usual gaming coverage. Today, we have one of the most unique: the Topre REALFORCE RGB. If you’ve only paid attention to the Razers of the world, Topre might be a new name, but they’re one of the most interesting, high-end, and polarizing types of keyboards out. With the REALFORCE RGB, they’re courting gamers, but is it worth the $244.99 MSRP?
- MSRP: $244.99
- Model name: AEAX01 (REALFORCE RGB)
- Weight: 1.4 kg (including packaging)
- Dimensions: 142 mm (W) x 455 mm (L) x 30 mm (H)
- Number of Keys: 108 Layout
- Length of cable: 1.5 m / 5 feet
- Switch: Electrostatic Capacitive & Non Contact Switch
- Key Lifetime: 50 million clicks
- Key Weight: 45g (+/- 15 g)
- Key Shapes: Ergonomic Step Sculpture
- N-Key Rollover: Full N key rollover
- Keycaps: Double Shot ABS Keycaps
- Interface: USB
- Warranty: 3 year limited warranty
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That MSRP is actually $244.99 and you would actually be lucky to find it at that price an in stock. Topre keyboards are well known for being some of the most sought after and expensive that come. This is near entirely due to the expensive keyswitches that power the typing experience, but they’re also known for being very well made and able to stand up to years and years of use.
The cost isn’t just hype meant to capitalize on enthusiasts. Topre switches are genuinely more expensive to manufacture due to their unique, more complex design when compared to typical Cherry-style MX switches. When people think of mechanical switches, what typically comes to mind are the Cherries and imposters of the world, plastic sliders with metal contacts whose unique shape colors how they feel to type on. Topre’s use what’s called an electrostatic capacitive keyswitch. It’s entirely different.
Topre’s Electrostatic Capacitive switches don’t require the same contact or friction. They work by depressing a rubber dome (hold your judgment), under which is a spring. Under the spring is a sensor that triggers the key press without contact actually needing to be made. Though Topre’s do use a rubber dome, they are not rubber dome keyboards. Where the latter uses a cheap rubber sheet covered in these domes, Topre’s use single, higher quality, more resistant domes underneath each key.
The typing experience is quite different from either a traditional mechanical keyboard or a rubber dome. Fans say it combines the best of both worlds. Detractors call them glorified rubber domes. I disagree with that. Even though they do use rubber domes in their switch, the domes are far more firm and formed around a spring, leading to keys that seem to pop under your fingers. It doesn’t feel or sound like a Cherry slider, but it does take some getting used to.
When I first unboxed the REALFORCE RGB, I was... honestly a bit put off. Topre’s feel distinctly different from a normal mechanical keyboard. There’s more resistance, for one, and they seem to pop under your fingers on their way up. The sound is different too. Instead of the usual clack, clack of a Cherry, Topre’s sound more like a thonk with the dampened sound of their domes. The REALFORCE moniker also means that different sections of the keyboard will require different amounts of force. Your main keys require ~55-65g of force, as you typically use your strongest fingers on those keys. Others, where you might use a pinky finger, are lighter to the touch.
First impressions can be deceiving. After a while, I really grew to like the poppiness of the keys and the much quieter but still so satisfying sound. If your computer is in a room with other people, Topres are a much better bet than a standard mechanical - just ask my wife who could finally watch TV without turning the volume way up while I worked.
This is also one of the first keyboards to actually increase my typing speed! One of the unique features of the REALFORCE RGB, made possible by the EC switches, is the ability to set your actuation point. Using a dedicated button you can select from 1.5, 2.2, or a 3mm activation distance, all conveniently color coded with red, green, and blue LEDs so you know your current setting. The mix of higher actuation pressure and lower activation point allowed me to increase my typing speed by nearly ten words a minute! As it happens, that higher activation pressure makes it that much harder to make typos - and the lower actuation point is perfect for quick responses in games.
The other big selling point is, of course, the RGB lighting. It’s a first for Topre, and I think they’ve done a good job here. You can select from a handful of popular presets - your standard breathing, spectrum, starfall, etc. - as well as a set a number of static presets, as well. The software also makes it easy to select your own static layout, which is what I typically prefer to do. The effects are well done, but I always prefer to see layering as an available option, opening the door to more advanced customizations. Topre is hardly alone in not offering this, however, but this is a drum customization lovers demand be banged.
The REALFORCE RGB also uses a nice white mat under the keys to create an excellent, vibrant bed of light. Have a look:
It’s also nice to see a company include a frame. There are no floating keys here, which makes sense given the different switch, but when so many other companies are “going nude” with their key switches, it almost feels novel see a full frame on an RGB keyboard.
The build quality is fairly solid. It’s a heavy keyboard thanks to its nice steel plate and doesn’t show any flex when pressed or twisted. The cable isn’t braided, but is a nice thick PVC. I was surprised that Topre opted for ABS keycaps at this price point but they did opt for a double-shot design and a nice textured finish to stave off the usual ABS shine and wear down.
At the end of the day, the Topre REALFORCE RGB, distributed by Seasonic, is an enthusiast’s keyboard. It’s a very good one that offers a fresh typing experience after years with Cherry MX keyboards and also dampens the sound common to those boards. At $244.99, it’s also a very expensive gaming keyboard. If you’re desperate to get your hands on a Topre and would like to do it with a wealth of customization options, this is the board for you. If you’re on the fence, however, it may be best to give Topre switches a try before completely buying in.
- Customizable actuation points
- Uncommon, unique switch design
- Variable key weight
- Double-shot keycaps
- Good lighting
- Topre is polarizing you could love it or hate it
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.