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First Look: Ducky Year of the Rat Limited Edition Keyboard

Adding street to your setup

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
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Hardware 0

Ducky is one of the biggest names in mechanical keyboards. Over the last year, its One 2 Mini has taken the competitive world by storm and near single-handedly introduced the gaming world to the 60% layout. What you may not know is that every year, the company also produces Limited Edition keyboards with unique keysets to celebrate the Chinese Zodiac. This year is the Year of the Rat and Ducky has teamed up with Taiwanese graffiti artist Bounce1029 to create a keyboard that is equal parts showpiece and work of art. 

Following the Chinese Zodiac is nothing new for Ducky. In fact, the company has been including themed spacebars in with its keyboards for quite a while. The Year of the Rat keyboard, or really bundle would be a better term for it, is much more than that. Even though it is built upon the same 60% layout and features the same functionality as the Ducky One 2 Mini, this board is its own independent product and has one feature that is brand new to all Ducky keyboards. 

Let’s start by taking a look at the package:

The box is highly decorated and absolutely eye catching. It’s just much bigger than your average keyboard box, so it catches the eye and would make for a nice display piece if it matches the decor of your gaming den. Inside, the keyboard is well packaged in a dense foam tray with individual cutouts for the extra keycaps, cord and keycap puller, and a neat little blue-switch click toy (that also holds a fourth keycap. 

Ducky also includes a matching large mouse pad. If you’re not connected with the mechanical keyboard scene, desk mats are huge right now and it’s rare to see a group buy go up without a matching pad, so this is a nice addition. It’s also just a really good mouse pad, so it’s worth more than just looks with its smooth-glide surface and stitched edges.

But let’s take a closer look at this keyboard:

To create the Year of the Rat Edition, Ducky collaborated with Taiwanese graffiti artist, Bounce 1029. It wears its street art inspirations on its sleeve. From the handwritten typeface of the legends to the graffiti art modifier keys, the keyset is absolutely unique, and it doesn’t end there. 

This keyboard is the first I’ve ever seen that has its very own character: Bounce Mouse. This little guy actually manages to be rather cute and across the keyset, you can see him getting into antics. Whether that’s getting poked by the Return arrow or hiding out behind the balloon letters of the Function button, this little guy appears all over the keycaps and even the case itself.

We’ve all seen unique keycaps, but I’ve never seen a case as decorated as what Ducky has delivered here. Like the One 2 Mini, it’s plastic on the top and bottom, but here it’s completely matte and printed with artwork on every side. Green stripes like street crossings adorn each side. The Ducky logo on the back floats in a cloud of paint vapor as Bounce Mouse runs away from his handiwork. On the back of the board, we see the same alleyway scene from the box and mouse pad. My favorite touch is the spacebar, though, which shows Bounce Mouse launching off on a spray-propelled skateboard. 

More than any other keyboard I’ve tested, this is definitely a work of art. The graffiti stylings aren’t going to be for everyone — I’m not a huge fan of the handwritten legends and green and black aesthetic myself — but it’s hard to argue that isn’t darn cool. Keyboards are a dime a dozen these days, but the Year of the Rat stands apart as one of the most unique looking keyboards you can buy today. If urban, punk, street art styling is your thing, you’re not going to find a board more suited to you.

It’s also just a darn good keyboard. Like the other Ducky boards I’ve reviewed, the build quality and attention to detail is second to none. It comes with your choice of Cherry key switches, available in your usual red, blue, and brown, as well as black, silver, and silent red. My sample was sent with red switches and they felt great to use whether I was gaming or writing: very smooth, consistent, and with minor spring noise.  Ducky also factory lubes its stabilizer to eliminate rattle.

The keycaps are also expectedly excellent. They’re made from thick PBT plastic and have a slightly textured surface to avoid shining and showing residue from finger oils. The thickness and additional denseness provided by the PBT also makes bottoming out feel more solid and substantial. If all you’ve typed on are normal backlit gaming keycaps, you’ll notice an immediate difference for the better with these keycaps. This also applies to the spacebar, which is typically thin ABS on many other Ducky keyboards but is an equally high quality here. Sadly, it does not apply to the optional keycaps, which are still painted ABS and are the only keys that are backlit.

Ducky is also using this keyboard to premiere its latest feature: hot-swappable switches. As regular readers will know, I am a big fan of hot-swap sockets because it frees you up to try different switches without needing to invest in a whole new keyboard. Simply pull the old switch out and press the new one in. Then, you’re good to go. This is great if you’re not sure which switch you’ll enjoy most or simply want to dive deeper into the world of mechanical keyboards. There is an incredible variety of switches available, far more than the mainstream market would have you believe, and is genuinely one of the most fun aspects of the mechanical keyboard hobby.

When it comes to the rest of the board, well, you’ve probably seen it before. The Year of the Rat Edition takes its cues from the One 2 Mini there with full per-key RGB backlighting and software-free programmability. There are lots of presets to choose from but if you’d really like to dial in a static layout, the keyboard comes with a built-in color palette selector and RGB mixer to find your exact hue before typing which keys you would like to apply it to. It’s a similar situation with macros, where a quick key combination takes you into recording mode when you can type your entry and then assign a position across six different profiles. Add to that features like mouse control and second-layer media keys, and despite its tiny footprint, you have a keyboard that offers more functionality than your standard TKL — as long as you don’t mind secondary layers.

Along with the keyboard, Ducky also sent along a sample of its new Premicord custom keyboard cable. It comes in two halves, each with high-quality braided sleeving, connected with an aviator jack. The device-side also comes in a tight coil.The samples above match its Frozen Llama and Horizon keysets. For only $44, these are darn good, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say they match a handmade custom cable, they come close. At a little over half the cost of my custom, that’s impressive. I just with they were available in more colorways. 

Final Thoughts

The Ducky Year of the Rat Edition is an impressive and unique keyboard. It’s street-inspired look is going to be polarizing but like all art, that’s okay. As a Limited Edition and likely to become a collector’s item over time, it doesn’t need to be for everyone. For my part, I love the creativity this board exudes. Even if it doesn’t match my personal style, its a genuinely cool piece that someone out there is just going to adore.


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