I’ve been an avid fan of mechanical keyboards for a while now. To a point where I’ve even built my very own custom keyboard with different key switches and special keycaps. As a programmer, gamer and video editor, I could call the keyboard my weapon.
Many people out there are like me, extremely reliant on their keyboards as it is their mode of work or play. That’s why many of those people don’t mind spending hundreds of dollars to customise or get a good keyboard, especially a mechanical keyboard. Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to do that.
Budget mechanical keyboards are on the rise, and to be very honest, most of them have really come up with amazing products. One such brand is Tecware and their keyboards.
I managed to get my hands on one of Tecware’s products, the Phantom Elite 87 Keys Modular Mechanical Keyboard which costs about S$79-89 dollars, depending on what key switches you pick and frankly speaking, I was pretty impressed.
The Phantom Elite 87 has a plastic lower body and alloy backplate which holds the key switches. It has flat corners and a very sleek design.
The alloy backplate is what gives the Phantom Elite its main amount of weight. The entire keyboard weighs in at 0.95kg and a 360 x 130 x 40mm dimension. Which means the keyboard is smaller but dense, and feels more premium. The keyboard is a tenkeyless keyboard which means it doesn’t have any numpad.
I think the main design perspective of budget mechanical keyboards is to make the builds look and feel as premium as possible, but still keep the price low and competitive. That is probably why Tecware went with a plastic lower body and ABS keycaps with a very simple design on the main body. Just two led lights and the keys on top, no fancy knobs or other functional gimmicks.
The keyboard also has two flippable feet to increase the height of the keyboard and the feet are fitted with rubber bottoms for added friction. The feet flip into position and have decent springs to keep the feet fitted into place when folded away. The keyboard also comes with a keycap puller on the underside and a little bit of cable management for the non-detachable cable.
The key switches are the Kaihl speed coppers. I’ve used linear and clicky keys mostly so I was pretty excited to try out these tactile key switches. The Kaihl speed coppers have a medium noise profile, 50g of actuation force, 1.1mm actuation distance and a total travel of 3.5mm.
These are considered competition key switches due to the smaller actuation distance, therefore the name Kaihl speed. This means there should be a faster reaction time when playing games, which may translate to the feeling of responsiveness. Also, the 50g actuation force means you have a slightly weighted keypress as compared to 45g. This means typing feels better, while not creating any finger fatigue when playing games or typing for long periods of time.
These key switches also have a transparent housing to allow the RGB lighting to pass through. There’s also minimal friction between the stem and the housing which gives for a smooth tactile feeling.
The keyboard is also hot-swappable, which means if you get bored of your key switches or you want to experiment with other switches, you can just unplug the switches using the switch puller and swap it out. Or if, on the off chance, one of your switches is spoilt, you can change it out with the spares as well. The Kaihl hot-swap sockets support almost all the key switches in the market except Outemus.
The Phantom Elite comes with the standard function keys, but they are also programmed with media controls and the start-up of certain applications like calculator, internet browser and file browser. You can do this by pressing the Function button + Function keys.
Of course, we have to talk about the beautiful RGB lighting that the Tecware keyboard has. LEDs are bright and the colours are vibrant. You have the option to change the styles of lighting, from scrolling to static, and you can also completely turn it off if you’re not a fan of RGB. You can do this by pressing FN + M keys(Ins-PgDn). But then again, the RGB lighting is what gives black keyboards the wow factor.
Now, the keycaps are one of the areas Tecware has taken a slight backseat. The keycaps feel like PBT as they have the textured feeling and they are double-shot which is the better version of ABS keycaps. For those who don’t know, ABS and PBT are types of plastic.
When the keycaps are double-shot, it means the characters don’t fade off as there are actually two different pieces of plastic pressed together. But the problem with ABS is that over time, the keycaps start to become shiny or “oily” looking. This may affect the laser printed keys on the keyboard which are basically the arrow keys, the function keys and the M keys.
Also, the character font could’ve been better in my opinion, as the font with the black plastic running through underneath seems like a defect but it’s actually just the font. So they could have had a better font choice for the characters.
The Tecware Phantom Elite 87 is definitely a commendable keyboard for its price point. It feels premium and has just the right amount of features for the price of S$79 – 89 for the Gateron and Kaihl versions respectively. Also if you’re a stickler for the key switches and keycaps you can actually change them out for your own personal ones. It will still look good due to the neutral looking base of the keyboard.
More information and purchase options for the Tecware Phantom Elite 87 are available at Tecware’s website.
Written by Thiru Kartik (Tech360.tv Community Reviewer)