Replacing my keyboard
Olivetti ANK 27-101 vs. Leopold FC900R PD
Recently I had to think about replacing my old keyboard. I've been using an Olivetti ANK 27-101 keyboard for almost 20 years – since around 2001. These keyboard were made in the early 90's (model year 1992 from what I gather) so I'm sure that my keyboard had a long and eventful life even before it came to my possession. It saw me and my wife through 3 theses (Master's and 2 PhDs) and this year I started using it professionally while working from home. Unfortunately, lately it started to show it age. Pressing a key would sometimes fail to register, or the keyboard would continue acting as if I'm holding down a key when I already lifted my finger.
For those interested in this stuff, the keyboard uses rubber-dome switches. It is audible but not as loud as other mechanical keyboards. I really like it for its retro looks and for the sturdiness. Also it is reasonably pleasant to type on it. The keys don't feel as wobbly as those on run-of-the-mill office keyboards.
I decided on getting a mechanical keyboard as a replacement. Top-of-the-line mechanical keyboards these days use mostly Cherry MX switches and these come in different varieties. For me, I chose to go with the red switches because they are linear. Linear means that there is no pressure threshold you need to overcome to register a key press – think the smoothness of the light dimmer control vs. the click of the regular light switch. It's not that I hate the clicky keyboards – the blue Cherry MX switches give very satisfactory feedback with every key press – however, such keyboards are quite loud and seem to be slower to type on.
Call me old-school about the design, but I really dislike the modern gaming keyboards with RGB backlights and what not. I read good reviews about the Leopold FC900R PD keyboard (made by a South Korean company) and I was delighted to find out that one of the color scheme options for it matches almost perfectly with the Olivetti design. You can see in the image how similar the two keyboards look next to each other.
After spending a few weeks using the Leopold keyboard, I can say that I really like it but the typing experience isn't at all similar to the one with the Olivetti keyboard. The key travel is smoother but much deeper. As a result, typing is definitely slower. While browsing code, I could scroll down line-by-line with the arrow key much faster using the Olivetti. They keyboard is also louder. On the other hand, the haptic feedback is much improved - there's greater control and precision when pressing keys, as well as typing in general is simply more enjoyable. The keyboard feels sturdy and the quality seems to be on par with that of the Olivetti.
I know that it takes time to get fully accustomed to a keyboard - so only time will tell how much my purchase will grow on me. For now, I don't regret my choice and I'm looking forward to using my new keyboard for at least as long as the old one.