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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Vinpok Taptek review: Colors, clicks, and too much key confusion

It’s hard to find Bluetooth keyboards with mechanical switches. As someone who enjoys mechanical keyboards and frequently writes on an iPad, that’s extra frustrating. The new Vinpok Taptek is a compact Bluetooth mechanical keyboard with Apple-like styling. It’s a promising product, and I like an awful lot about it—but there’s one choice the company made that made it difficult for me to use.

Let’s start with the hardware. The keys themselves have a pleasant pop and click sound reminiscent of blue switches. (After a lot of shopping, I have ended up deciding that I prefer the feel of brown switches, but so much about keyboards is personal that your mileage will almost certainly vary. This is going to be recurring theme.) The hardware is low profile, with an aluminum frame and a glossy plastic bottom. The review model I got had black keys and space gray aluminum, but there also appears to be a version with white keys and silver aluminum.

By default the square keys are labeled with Apple modifier conventions, though there is also a hardware switch to put it in Windows mode and an add-on keycap set for PC users. There’s a micro-USB port on the back, for charging or non-Bluetooth use.

The keyboard is backlit, and when I say that, I need to emphasize that it is aggressively backlit. You can have a normal boring backlight, or you can cycle through 19 different color effects. Pick your colors. Pick your effects—you can have each key light up when you press one, or shoot out a strip of colors when you press one, or pulsate like it’s at a dance club. As amazing and hilarious as it is to watch colors dance under your fingers as you type, in the end I just wanted the backlight off or solid. But again, your mileage may vary. You certainly have every option imaginable.

In so many ways, this keyboard is exactly what I’ve been looking for—it fits with Apple’s current style, offers mechanical keys and Bluetooth, and is ultra compact while still offering arrow keys. These are the keyboards I like. I’m currently using a Vortex Race 3 after previously spending a couple of years with a Leopold FC660M.

Just as I was disappointed by the layout in the Lofree Bluetooth mechanical keyboard, the Taptek falls apart for me in its choice of key layouts. The Lofree had weird round keys and modifier keys that were too narrow, most notably the right shift key, which I use all the time. I don’t use a single keyboard all the time—I’ve got that Vortex at my desk and also frequently use the Brydge keyboard I use with my iPad Pro—and I’m not going to retrain my decades of typing muscle memory just to adapt to a single keyboard’s quirks.

Here’s the bad news about the Taptek: Its right shift key is a single key width, and it’s located to the right of the up arrow key. On every other keyboard I use, the right shift key is to the left of the arrow keys, but to save width Vinpok has tossed the shift key over to the far edge of the keyboard, above the right arrow key.

Will this matter to you? I have no idea. For all I know, most people use the left shift key and I’m alone in my use of the right shift! If you had asked me before I started using the Taptek which shift key I predominantly used, I couldn’t have told you. (It’s the right, turns out.) I did just pull out every keyboard I own, though, and none of them put the right shift key where the Taptek does.

When I tried to write on the Taptek keyboard, I would get going and be enjoying the look and feel and sound of the keyboard, and then I’d try to type a capital letter and my cursor would move up a line, because I hit the up arrow key instead. My right pinky finger doesn’t want to stretch that far.

Keyboard layouts are funny things. Even slight shifts in key position can completely ruin a touch typist. I’ve used mini keyboards on PC laptops that shifted every letter key so they were above one another, rather than staggered diagonally. They were disasters. The more a keyboard designer deviates from the standard key layout, the more they risk an I’m out moment from a user. Once you cross the I’m out threshold, you might as well hand me a Dvorak keyboard or a chording keyboard, because all of my muscle memory has been rendered useless.

Again, your mileage will probably vary. Beyond the layout issue (and the need to set the backlighting to not be super aggressive) this keyboard is pretty great. I was hoping it would become my go-to keyboard for when I’m writing in my kitchen, but the key layout prevents me from doing that. Vinpok should’ve made the keyboard just a little wider and given the shift and arrow keys just a little more room.

Vinpok says the final price of the keyboard will be $199, but it’s offering discounts via its Indiegogo page as of today. So far as I can tell, this is a finished product and the product’s Indiegogo page seems to have launched fully funded, which suggests to me that Vinpok is taking advantage of crowdfunding psychology to drive sales. (They’re hardly alone on that score.)

In the end, this isn’t the keyboard for me. But if you aren’t as particular about the placement and size of the right shift key and are searching for an Apple-inspired mechanical Bluetooth keyboard, the Vinpok Taptek is worth your consideration.

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