We recently presented design directions and edge finishes for the keyboard. As the design team gets to work with your feedback to make sure the new V’s keyboard cover looks and feels as good as it can be, let’s have a look at the mechanical side of the keyboard.
Between the crowd development of the first-gen V, feedback from end users, and enthusiastic discussions about the new V in our community, we think we have a good idea of what a good keyboard should be like. There are of course, as always, trade-offs. So when making decisions about the new keyboard, we want to make sure what matters to you guys!
The first-gen V Keyboard has mechanical limitations that have left some users frustrated. It shouldn’t matter what order keys are pressed in, for a key combination to work. Additionally, key combinations of up to three keys, especially those involving modifier keys, should always work reliably. To this end, we’re keeping a close eye on how the keyboard modules we consider handle multiple simultaneous key presses, or so-called ‘roll-over’. A majority of end users may never notice the difference, but for those who rely on keyboard shortcuts to work efficiently, and other power users, these things matter, and we intend to get them right.
When we set out to create the first V, we wanted to support as many international keyboard lay-outs as possible. To that end we asked for your input, both to let us know which lay-outs you needed, as well as how they should be laid out. Turns out, some of these layouts ultimately sold very few units, and every additional layout adds complexity and cost to both manufacturing and shipping. It is likely that we’ll support fewer lay-outs this time, based on the sales numbers from the first-gen product. Of course we’ll run this by you guys ahead of time to make sure we offer the right ones!
As with the first-generation product, our keyboard will be limited to ANSI- and ISO layouts. We’ve seen great suggestions from the community, like @yan78’s mechanical layout that can change between ANSI, ISO, JIS and ABNT just by changing out the key caps. As much as we love this idea, the reality of the situation is that a completely custom keyboard module with custom key caps is outside the scope of what we can create.
That said, we are in talks with multiple keyboard manufacturers, and if the dozens of different keyboard modules they have on offer don’t fit our needs we can even have a keyboard module customized. Of course, a bespoke keyboard comes with a higher price tag than an off-the-rack one, so if we are to go that way, we want to make sure you guys think it’s worth it!
What kind of keyboard layout do you prefer?
- I prefer an ANSI layout
- I prefer an ISO layout
- I prefer a JIS layout
- I prefer an ABNR layout
- I prefer a different layout
There are a number of ways to handle the cursor keys. The three most common methods all involve half-height up- and down-cursor keys. But to either side of this pair, there are many interesting possibilities… What we’ve found before, is that people aren’t big fans of full-height left- and right cursor keys. Even though they look good, using them leaves something to be desired. More popular was the option where the left- and right cursor keys are half-height like their vertical brethren, forming the shape of an inverted T. Of course, having half-height left- and right cursor keys means there’s potentially room for additional half-height keys, like PgUp and PgDn, or Home and End. But does adding these keys just unnecessarily complicate things, leading to unwanted key presses?
What kind of left- and right cursor keys do you prefer?
- I prefer full-height left- and right cursor keys
- I prefer half-height cursor keys (‘inverted T’ layout)
- I prefer half-height cursor keys and extra PgUp/PgDn keys
- I prefer half-height cursor keys and extra Home/End keys
Another thing that differs between keyboards is the number of modifier keys like Control or Alt. Whereas a desktop keyboard has plenty of space and generally comes with Ctrl, Win and Alt to the left, and AltGr, Win, Menu and Ctrl to the right of the space bar, laptop keyboards don’t have this luxury. A left- and right Shift key are standard fare, but based on the keyboard module there may be anywhere between two and four additional modifier keys on the right side of the keyboard…
Back when we were developing the V, we chose to go with Alt(Gr) and Menu to the right of the space bar, as these keys are both unique on the keyboard. But we have also heard requests for a right Ctrl to more easily reach shortcuts on that side of the keyboard, or a second Fn to execute Fn+cursor one-handedly.
What are the most important modifier keys to have on the right side of the keyboard?
Assume that the left side of the keyboard features Ctrl, Fn, Win, Alt. You can pick up to 2 options.
The first-gen V Keyboard has one indicator light, to show its charging and battery status. But there are other states of the keyboard that people may want to be able to see at a glance. Most commonly, keyboards will feature lights for any state that alters the way the keyboard behaves, such as CapsLock which affects all letter keys, or NumLock which affects the behavior of the keys in the numerical pad. For a laptop keyboard, NumLock may not be as interesting, but instead Fn-lock, which affects the behavior of the function row keys, could very well be!
Adding indicator lights for these might be very useful for end users, but they also come with a price (for example, even the tooling to manufacture the light guides quickly runs into the thousands of dollars!). So before we add a bunch of expensive features no-one needs, let’s check!
Which indicator lights are important to you?
- I want both a CapsLock light and a Fn-lock light
- I want a CapsLock light, but don’t need a Fn-lock light
- I don’t need a CapsLock light, but do want a Fn-lock light
- I don’t need a CapsLock light or Fn-lock light
Our first-gen V Keyboard features a backlight module that can display a number of colors. More important than the color of the backlight, may be what it actually illuminates. Because of the construction of the key mechanism and keycap, most of the light in the first-gen V shines out from between the keys, creating a ‘halo’ of sorts around the keys, but not doing much to light up the legend. It shows you where the keys are, but not what they do.
Which backlight style do you prefer?
- I don’t like keyboard backlight
- I prefer a key halo backlight
- I prefer a key legend backlight
- I prefer a key halo and legend backlight
To fit a full-sized Enter key into the first-gen V’s ISO keyboard, the manufacturer made the ] and \ keys thinner than the other keys on the keyboard. This appears to be a common solution among keyboard manufacturers, though it’s not the only solution. Apple, for instance, keeps these two keys full-sized and instead puts the Enter key on a diet.
Which style do you prefer?
- I prefer thinner ] and \ keys with a full-sized Enter
- I prefer full-sized ] and \ keys with a thinner Enter
- All keys need to be full-sized, anything else is a deal breaker
- I don’t use an ISO layout, this does not apply to me
Sometimes it seems that fans of Macs and fans of Windows PCs just can’t get along. But everyone seems to agree that Apple has perfected the touchpad, offering an experience that causes many MacBook-users to leave their mouse at home – if they own a mouse at all. Windows laptops in contrast, are often seen accompanied by a mouse. In recent years, it seems other touchpad manufacturers have finally started to catch up to Apple in terms of comfort and precision. And Microsoft’s move to include standardized gestures in Windows Precision Touchpad drivers makes it so that even the benefits of Apple’s lauded multi-touch gestures now seem achievable to Windows users.
That said, there are still some advancements where we can’t quite match the fruity giant, such as the ability to click anywhere on the touchpad’s surface. None of the manufacturers we’ve spoken with are able to mimic this feature of Apple’s Force Touch Trackpads.
What we can offer are features like textured cover glass, satisfying clicks along the bottom, Windows Precision Driver support, and a large touch surface. If that is what people want, of course! Touchpad afficionados seem to prefer their pads as large as can fit in a device. Those who prefer a mouse may not care about this, instead arguing that a smaller touchpad is less likely to be accidentally tapped.
What is the best size for a touchpad?
- I hate touchpads, get rid of it altogether!
- Smaller touchpads are better
- The touchpad on the first-gen V Keyboard is just the right size
- Bigger touchpads are better