Topre Realforce R2 review: A non-mechanical keyboard
I know a lot of us here at PCGamesN have been hyping mechanical switches like there was nothing better, and we stick to that thesis for the most part. But I have a confession to make: mechanics are no longer my first love, at least not for typing. That honor now goes to the Topre Realforce R2 switch: a glorified rubber dome.
Just listen to me. The Topre switch is not a traditional membrane design. Rather, each capacitive switch consists of a rubber dome on a coiled spring that makes contact with a PCB. As a result, all that inconsistent softness of a membrane plate is gone, replaced by a performance like no other on the market.
Made solely in Japan by the Topre Corporation, these keyboards can often be expensive or difficult to find in other parts of the world. But those days might be over. Now that Fujitsu has become the official licensed Realforce dealer in the US, visibility and availability have increased, and I managed to get my hands on the Realforce R2-US5-BK 55g model for free trials.
The Realforce R2 features a smooth, professional minimalist aesthetic, borrowing somewhat from the previously released Realforce RGB. It’s also not without a touch of enthusiast, with black PBT keycaps, black key labels, and a lightweight yet slim overall design. And while the Realforce may look like a business saloon from the outside, it packs a twin-turbocharged V8 under the hood. Or the equivalent of the key switch, at least. That’s just as cool, right?
There are a couple of key benefits to this capacitive design from Topre. First, there is no talk. While mechanical switches need to induce debounce to prevent the mechanical contacts within each switch from registering multiple times, the Topre switch avoids this particular problem with its unique design.
Topre’s patent (via Deskthority) says that this is achieved thanks to the fact that “a constant hysteresis can be obtained without changing the operating characteristics, even if an operating value is set arbitrarily, thus adequately avoiding chatter”. If you know what that means, good for you. Either way, he becomes a chatterless switch innately.
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The Topre Realforce R2 switch is also much quieter than many of its mechanical counterparts, a saving grace for teary-eyed youngsters gaming late into the night. Many standard mechanical switches operate a few decibels louder than you might want late at night. Fortunately, the Topre switch is here to save the day, operating with a muffled thud instead of a loud clack.
But how good is the Topre Switch for gaming? I know I’ve been talking about it as the best script change to grace God’s green earth, really endgame stuff right here, but that’s not necessarily that it suits the players well.
And while it’s not gaming nirvana, there should be a place in gamers’ hearts for the Topre Switch. It may not boast the fastest actuation on the block, and at 55g it’s a bit heavier than most, but its smooth action and ergonomic stepped sculpture design manage to prevent fatigue during long gaming sessions.
But while the games may fall a bit beyond Realforce’s wheelhouse, they still offer impressive performance across the board.
However, its price is completely prohibitive.
At $258, the Realforce R2 with 55g uniform key switches is one of the most expensive boards I’ve reviewed. In that sense, it is the end of the game. You will almost certainly never want to spend money on another keyboard again.
The Topre Realforce R2 switch may be what memes are made of, and ridiculously expensive too. But if you want a board that outlasts you, eschews the gamer aesthetic, and has some of the smoothest switches around, I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing better than embracing the meme and getting the Realforce. But the end has a cost.