Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB) - An Overview

Reading time ~4 minutes

First Impression

Prior to using the HHKB, I had currently been using the Keychron K2 on Gateron blues with 0.5 o-rings. I really liked the bluetooth connectivity and tactile switches but the stabilizers were still a bit too sluggish.

When the HHKB arrived, I went ahead and adjusted the DIP switches so I can activate the function modifiers in MacOS. I was aware of the changes I needed to overcome when working with a 60% keyboard. I knew what I was getting myself into from the get-go. Since I do a lot of code development, it took some time for muscle memory to set in-tune with the new keyboard layout.

DIP switch configuration table.
DIP switch settings for MacOS.

About 10 minutes in, every key press I made felt very satisfying. Every action was very smooth and tactile. There was an initial bump followed by a very smooth glide throughout the remaining key press. Even though the keyboard is completely made out of plastic, there is no flex at all and it feels very sturdy. The key caps are made out of PBT except for the space bar which is made out of ABS. After a while, I finally understood why this keyboard is beloved by many mechanical keyboard enthusiasts. It is, if not the best keyboard I have ever used up until now.

Design & Layout

At first glance, this keyboard is pretty small. In fact, it contains 60% of keys that are contained in a full keyboard layout. The function row, arrow keys, numpad, caps lock, and special keys are all gone. Now you may be asking, “why would anyone do this?”. Simply put, most of these keys are hidden behind a secondary function layer which can be activated by holding down the function key (Fn). As for myself, the Fn key is in the best location for my right pinky which I use to access all the function modifiers without breaking a sweat. The key side labels indicate the usage of the Fn key. The longer I use this keyboard, the better I understand its awesome design.

Control and caps lock.
Arrow keys.

After a while, I begin to notice myself having to re-adjust the keyboard back to its original position on my desk. It turns out that there are only two working rubber feet on the bottom of the keyboard. This sliding problem was quickly mitigated by super glueing two thick rubber washers in place of the plastic bumps.

Addition of a rubber stopper to prevent the keyboard from sliding.

The rubber washers created the perfect height and angle for my typing preference. Even though there are two levels of feet adjustment under the keyboard, I find that both levels are still too high without use of a wrist rest.

Side view of the HHKB.

The Topre switches found in the HHKB are rated for 45g of actuation force. Apparently this is known to be the “sweet spot” in terms of tactility. The tactile feedback that this keyboard produces is from the rubber domes bottoming out when a key a pressed. Before moving forward, this isn’t your ordinary rubber dome you find in a stock HP keyboard, these switches have their very own patent.

The topre switch that resides under the key cap.

TL;DR

This is my very first 60% keyboard with Topre switches. It has been an enjoyable experience so far with minor modifications made to it and I plan to lube the Topre switches in the near future. For more info on the HHKB, it can be found here.

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Published on January 03, 2020