Our summer of keyboard reviews continues with another ultra compact “60%” layout. If you’re unfamiliar with this layout, you might want to check out our Poker II review first to familiarize yourself with it. This is the smallest layout that is relatively commonly sold, and achieves its small size by doing away with dedicated arrow keys, nav keys, and even the F key row. Everything is still present; it’s just hidden under a function layer.
In our Poker II review, we ran into several issues with the layout. The fact that the arrow keys were under a layer of the WASD keys caused major issues with highlighting and editing text. The KBP V60 Mini addresses this issue directly, and in fact it’s essentially a direct response to the Poker II in many ways. Not only does it look similar and have a similar layout, many of the issues we had with the Poker II have been addressed here, in an attempt to make a viable alternative to the popular mini keyboard.
KBP V60 Mini Review
As mentioned, the KBP V60 Mini is a 60% keyboard, so a lot of keys carry more than one function. Because of this, it’s important that the secondary layer is clearly labelled. In this case, they are labelled very clearly, in a font we haven’t seen on a keyboard until now – Century Gothic Bold with kerning. It’s an interesting choice, and certainly makes it stand out from both the “too boring” and “too weird” font legends out there.
To help make the legend even more legible, the KBP V60 Mini is backlit, and this bring up some of the most interesting features of this keyboard.
First of all, it has two LED colours in one model. To me, this is a great solution to the issue of wanting to offer blue LEDs because they look cool, and having colours that are actually practical. Because it is the least visible part of the light spectrum that we can see, blue just doesn’t work well in terms of making font legends appear clearly. The colour may win style points for a lot of people, but I have a feeling that most people who bought a keyboard with blue LEDs probably regret it eventually. KBParadise gets around this by using dual conductor LEDs in all models of the V60 Mini. It’s available in blue/green or blue/red. Something with yellow/orange would have been even better, but red is probably far more common. Only one colour can be used at a time, but it’s as simple as switching it with a Fn layer key.
The KBP V60 Mini has six LED brightness settings, and a “breathe” lighting effect setting that isn’t exactly very useful, but again is just one of those additional features that are good for a few style points for some people.
You may have noticed that the key legend on the KBP V60 Mini is printed in an odd way compared to most keyboards you see, with the legend vertically aligned along the bottom of each key rather than the top. This is one of the more well thought out design choices on the V60 Mini, because it solves the issue of the front printed key legend otherwise being illegible in the dark. As mentioned, it’s pretty important to be able to see the function layer legend, because so many important features are placed there. By placing the LEDs at the bottom of each switch, both the face legend and front legend are easy to read, even without having to turn the brightness up very high. Combined with the option of having red or green LEDs, this makes the V60 Mini very practical to use even if you’re unfamiliar with the layout.
This also solves the issue of the number row being lit up incorrectly. Most keyboards that have a more traditional top-aligned key legend will still print the numbers at the bottom, with the symbols at the top. The problem with this is, the numbers don’t get lit up, the symbols do! Other keyboards like the Razer Blackwidow have a reversed layout, which looks kind of weird. Or the Deck Hassium Pro and Francium Pro, which put the number and symbol beside each other at the top, so both are lit up. This also looks weird, but both of these solutions are better than not having the numbers lit up, in my opinion. In any case, KBParadise’s solution is probably the best one overall.
Having bottom mounted LEDs does present one issue that needs to be discussed however.
It’s a bit hard to see in the demonstration above, but at certain angles, the LED light shines out the bottom of the KBP V60 Mini completely unobstructed. I first noticed this when using the keyboard in the dark; when I looked down I noticed that my entire upper body was brightly lit up in green! It’s probably not a huge issue for most people, but still worth noting.
The keycaps on the KBP V60 Mini are certainly nothing to write home about. They are very similar to those on the Poker II and Race II, in that they are thin ABS caps with laser etched legends and UV coating. They are 1.0mm thick, and feel quite light. This goes with the territory of course – if you want thick keycaps made of PBT, you’ll usually have to buy your own set, or buy a keyboard that costs roughly twice as much as these ones. This can also be considered a personal preference thing – some people might actually prefer a lighter keycap, especially with lighter weight switches like Cherry MX Red.
The KBP V60 Mini has a mini-USB port on the back, and just like the Poker II and others with a similar layout, it’s not well protected against stresses caused by dropping or bending the cable. A detachable cable is an absolute must-have for this type of keyboard, but special care is required to make sure the port lasts long.
The KBP V60 Mini has four large rubber contact pads that keep it in place on your desk, despite its relative lightness. A smooth rubber is used, so they will probably need to be cleaned more often than textured pads to maintain their grip.
The bottom tray seems to be slightly thinner than that of the Poker II, but it barely flexes at all when installed.It attaches to the plate mounting from the four corner points, with one screw in the middle to keep it stabilized.
If you were worried about losing the opportunity to use one of the many custom trays that are designed for the Poker II, don’t be. The KBP V60 Mini can be installed in the Poker II tray, and all trays made for it. The DIP package may be partially obscured, and the keyboard itself is a bit smaller so there may be a gap, but the mounting points are the same. Check out this Facebook post for more info.
The switches on the KBP V60 Mini are plate mounted, giving it a great typing feel. We have only reviewed one keyboard with PCB mounted switches (the KBT Race II) but believe me when I say plate mounted switches feel much better to type on. The only drawback is when it comes to modifying the switches themselves. PCB mounted switches can be disassembled while installed; plate mounted switches must be desoldered and removed first.
The V60 Mini supports 6 key rollover via USB, with no problems with any combination. You can test your own keyboard on our N-Key Rollover test page. Poor quality keyboards will have problems with certain combinations, making gaming problematic – imagine if you can’t hold W and A at the same time while pressing the spacebar!
KBP V60 Mini Layout
At first glance, the KBP V60 Mini may look almost identical to the Poker II, but they function layer is laid out completely differently. A lot of issues I had with the Poker II are resolved here. While the layout of the navigation keys aren’t laid out as intuitively as they are on the Poker II, at least they are labelled more clearly. Besides, the reason they had to be shuffled around was to make room for what I think was a brilliant decision – The V60 Mini has two sets of Fn level arrow keys; one under WASD, and the other under PL;’
This solves one major problem I had with text editing on the Poker II. Using WASD works great in games, but when you’re highlighting text, it is completely unintuitive to use your left hand to do so. This is especially the case when using CTRL to highlight rows and words – you can’t use the right CTRL or SHIFT keys with Fn, because they have their own Fn layer. Highlighting text is something I do a lot, and it was a nightmare with the Poker II. The KBP V60 Mini isn’t exactly perfect for this, but it’s a lot easier, and more intuitive. If that was the only difference between the two, this would definitely be my 60% keyboard of choice. It’s not though – it actually gets better.
By default, both the KBP V60 Mini and Poker II have only one Fn key on the right side of the spacebar. The Poker II places it where the right “Win” key would be, and the V60 Mini replaces the right “Alt” key which I don’t believe I have ever typed in my 30+ years of using keyboards. However, both have options to enable an extra Fn key on the left side. On the Poker II, you can change the left Win key to a second Fn key (unfortunately they don’t provide extra keycaps for this, so you’ll just have to remember that “Win” means “Fn” when switch 3 of the DIP package is enabled).
The KBP V60 Mini on the other hand, has a six pin DIP, allowing you to adjust the layout of both the left and right side of the keyboard, including three alternative ways to add a second Fn key, depending on how you want the other keys to function.
It may look a bit confusing, but you just need to find the layout you like on each side, and stick with it. You will also notice that switch 4 enabled Mac compatibility mode, placing the modifiers in a familiar layout. Personally, I use the first option, which replaces Capslock with a second Fn key. I also enable switch 3, which makes ESC the main function of that key – by default it’s a ~ key with Esc under the function layer. Personally I use Esc way more than ~, so it’s a good thing the V60 Mini gives you the option.
With so many different layouts, it would be really confusing to have a lot of keys work different from their labelled function. Thankfully KBParadise has you covered. Every single alternative layout has an extra keycap to go with it. This includes a Mac key, and that right Alt key that I don’t think anyone ever uses.
KBP V60 Mini Typing Sound Test
Compare Typing Sound:
- Vortex iKBC Poker II: MX Brown, Plate Mounted, ABS
- KBT Race II: MX Brown, Board Mounted, ABS
- KUL ES-87: MX Clear, Plate Mounted, ABS
- Topre Realforce 87U: Topre 55g, Plate Mounted, PBT
- Razer Blackwidow 2013: MX Blue, Plate Mounted, ABS
- Deck Francium Pro: MX Red, Plate Mounted, PBT
- Deck Hassium Pro: MX Brown, Plate Mounted, PBT
Typing on the KBP V60 Mini feels “like it should” – like a lightweight plate mounted keyboard with Cherry MX switches and thin ABS keycaps. It’s not the best feeling keyboard in the world, but the 60% layout is the draw here. The KBP V60 Mini is a Honda S2000; if you want a Lexus, buy a Topre instead.
At this point I should bring up an issue I had with the first batch production model I am testing here. Apparently KBParadise ran into some control issues with their first batch of products, and the stabilized keys don’t bottom out properly. This means the backspace, enter, and shift keys feel ‘mushy’ when pressed. Cherry stabilized keys often have this feel, but this is actually much more noticeable. According to KBParadise, later batches won’t have this issue, and to be honest I hardly noticed it after the first few times. It’s worth considering though, as the current batch being sold seems to have this problem (if it hasn’t been sold out already, that is).
I think the designers of the V60 Mini probably would have agreed with my assessment of the Poker II, since most of the complaints I had about it were addressed directly in their design. My main complaints with the Poker II were the lighting/illegible key legend, and the somewhat inflexible function layer. Both of these were completely solved by KBParadise, and the result is in my opinion the better 60% layout keyboard.
Does this mean you should run out and buy one now? It really depends, because the 60% layout itself has some inherent issues. While the V60 Mini is more flexible than the Poker II, it’s still obtrusive to have to hold so many keys to highlight text and use the F-key row. If you spend a lot of time doing this, you may want to opt for a slightly larger layout. However if you don’t think you’ll ever use these functions – maybe Vim is your editor of choice – then none of this should matter to you.
The KBP V60 Mini is available with several different Cherry MX switches. This includes the usual – red, brown, and blue. However there’s also a model with green switches available now, and I think they may even offer my favourite – Cherry MX Clear. There is even talk of a version that uses ALPS style Mattias Quiest Switches that will be made available in limited quantities soon.
V60 Mini vs Poker II – Which One to Buy?
If you have already decided on a 60% layout, you are probably wondering which of these you should consider buying. After all, they share a very similar layout, and sell for roughly the same price (around $120, depending on switch choice).
To me, the V60 Mini only has advantages, with only one downside; the lack of macro programming. If you can’t live without that, then the choice is clear. However it offers better lighting options, better layout customization, and still works with Poker II trays (though some of the DIP package will be partially covered). As long as KBParadise gets the Cherry stabilizer issues fixed, I think it’s a pretty easy recommendation for those who have already decided on a 60% layout. Be warned though, that the layout itself presents some issues that you will absolutely need to consider before making a purchase. For a lot of peope who need dedicated arrow keys, an 80% or “Tenkeyless” layout is the way to go. These are usually the same price anyway, and often cheaper.