Have you ever heard of Topre switches? Considering how hard it is to find them, one would think that they are an urban legend. They are rare to find among gamers, typists, and programmers in the United States, but they are less rare in Japan. However, once you use them, you cannot but stare in awe at how seamless and smooth they make your typing, gaming, or programming experience.
If you have never heard of Topre switches before, this guide lets you in on what they are, how they work, and the best Topre keyboards you can find.
What are Topre Switches?
Topre switches are named after their original designer and manufacturer, a Japanese engineering company named Topre. This company makes pressing parts, air conditioning equipment, and parts for electronic devices. The Topre switch is one of their best-known products. They also created the Topre Realforce Keyboard, which uses their capacitive Topre switches.
The manufacturers created Topre switches as an alternative to mechanical switches. They have rounded tops that are connected to an electric circuit underneath. This circuit is on a printed circuit board (PCB). It registers keystrokes using electric currents that do not come directly from a switch that was flicked. Instead, the sensors on the Topre switches register the keystrokes and activate actuation.
With this technique, it is easy for Topre switches to reset back to their resting place faster than the typical keyboard switch. While other keyboards (including mechanical ones) have a bounce and reset not as smoothly, the Topre does not bounce that much. This is because the spring of the Topre keyboards rests directly on the PCB, which is much different from the mechanical keyboard style.
The spring on Topre switches is used to give the rubber quite a bit of a pushback. This ensures that when force is applied to a small area, the electric sensors can pick it up and register it.
Types of Topre Switches
There are many Topre switches available. These include switches created by the original Japanese company, Topre, and other companies that now create Topre keyboards. Some of these switches include:
Standard Topre Switch
This is available in many different weights and is used in the vast majority of Topre-made keyboards.
These were used only in silenced Topre keyboards. However, the keyboard manufacturer, Cooler Master, used the purple switch in their non-silenced NovaTouch keyboard.
These are used in compact-layout keyboards. Many users assume manufacturers only made this in a 55cN weight. However, the only known cited force measurement is ’40±15%’ (40 grams with a 15% margin of error).
Two-tone Topre switches are used in the Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional. Unlike the standard keyboard switch, the main housing is molded onto the plastic. Only the plunger can be removed, compared to the standard Realforce switch, which can be removed completely from the mounting plate.
High Set or ‘Hi-Pro’ Switches
This switch can be seen in Realforce keyboards such as Realforce branded 108UG, 104UG, and 104UK. Topre OEM data-entry keyboards such as the Juki Celavi-i, Juki DATUM, Nissho KB106DE, and Hatsucoh Electronics HEKB01.
Alternate Dome Design Switches
These switches use a conductive variant. It has a slider design that you can find in the standard Topre capacitive switch. You can find the alternate dome design switch on the Sony BKE-2011, the Sony BKE-2010. Some people say manufacturers used the switch on the Sony NWS-1200; however, this is uncertain.
Cooler Master NovaTouch TKL Switch
This is a Topre-made switch that is exclusive to the Cooler Master NovaTouch tenkeyless keyboard. While you cannot switch most Cherry MX switches with Topre switches, you can switch these. This is because Cooler Master collaborated with Topre to produce these keycaps specifically.
Topre Switch Keyboards
If you are looking to buy a great Topre Switch Keyboard, these are some of our top picks. We also outline below what we love about these five keyboards.
The Topre Realforce 104UB
It is no wonder that our top pick is an original Topre keyboard made by the Japanese manufacturers of the Topre switch. The Topre Realforce 104UB is one of the best models you can find. It has a set of non-contact electrostatic switches. They are very touch-receptive. As such, you would not need to put too much weight on the keys when tapping in them.
The Realforce 104UB comes solely in black. However, you would have to customize them yourself if you want other colors. It is important to note that it might be hard to put the keyboard back together when you dismantle it. So, you should be certain that black is the color you want before you buy it.
An interesting factor of the Realforce 104UB is that it has individually weighted keys. This means that harder to reach keys are generally hit with less force and require less force to register that the key has been pressed.
It is ergonomic, quite good for gaming, and offers a seamless typing experience. Overall, the keyboard also has a great build quality. If the lack of features and color limits will not faze you, this is a laptop you should certainly go for.
The lifetime of this keyboard is 30 million keystrokes, which is typical for a mechanical keyboard. The keyboard also has 13 programmable function keys, ensuring that you can customize some of your favorite commands.
Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2
Speaking of keyboards of Japanese origins, Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2 is a great keyboard for typing anytime, any day.
It is an 80% keyboard; the Caps Lock, Windows Key, and Numerical keys have been removed. Instead, function keys are laid on the number keys. Other keys such as the Page Up, Page Down, and Home keys have also been joined with some other keys to keep the keyboard compact.
If you were looking for a keyboard that looks good, this is one you should consider. However, if you pick this keyboard because of its sleekness, you will keep it because of its functionality. The switches on the Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2 are sensitive and easy to use.
The keyboard is designed with two USB ports, so you can connect it with multiple devices if you need that. Additionally, this keyboard has a smooth matte grey finish in terms of looks.
Seasonic Topre Keyboard Realforce RGB
If you are looking for a keyboard that makes typing a breeze, the Seasonic Topre keyboard Realforce RGB is a great choice.
One unique thing about this keyboard is that it allows you to change the actuation point on the keys. This is something you will not find in most other keyboards, even Topre ones. So if you have a particular actuation point that you are used to, you can set the keyboard to it.
The RGB backlights act as a much-needed exotic touch that the first two keyboards we recommended above do not have. You can assign colors to different keys and change colors as you go. If you are used to boring keyboards, this is definitely not boring. If you are a programmer, the customizable function keys will interest you as you can customize complex keyboard commands into it.
If you are looking for an ultra-small Topre switch keyboard to fit your space, this should be your top choice. The Leopold FC660C 65% keyboard keys are great for typing and programming.
The Topre switches on this keyboard are top quality. It is also perfect for people who are looking for a small keyboard, especially when they do not have a large space.
Realforce R2 PFU Limited Edition
This is one keyboard that has a great ergonomic form. It is perfect for typing and programming.
It is also highly responsive with 45g keystrokes. In addition, the Realforce R2 PFU Limited Edition has a divisive keyboard. So, if you love a full keyboard with all the keys divided into sections, you are on track with this keyboard.
Are Topre Switches Worth Buying?
First, it is important to note that all Topre switches or Topre switch keyboards are quite expensive. If you’re looking to justify the cost, some of the things we list below might help.
Topre switches are a great way to make typing less of a task for you. If you are someone who taps away at your keyboard all day, you would want to ensure that you can use the best keyboard. Topre switches make using keyboards more efficient, seamless and certainly, less stressful.
So, if you like the feel of the switches, you should go for it. However, you also cannot just swap out your normal switches for Topre switches. You would have to connect the switches directly to a printed circuit keyboard to do this.
The following are some reasons Topre switch keyboards are expensive:
One key reason for the price of Topre switch keyboards is the exclusivity. For a long while, the Topre Corporation was the sole producer of Topre switches. They held the patent until the mid-2000s, when others could make Topre clones. However, because the brand was exclusive for so many years, all Topre keyboards could also set their prices at the Topre Corporation price.
Topre switches do not function with contact. Instead, when you tap on the keys, they actuate using PCB capacitive-sensing capabilities. The spring on top of the rubber dome compresses when you tap on a Topre switch. This then sends a signal to the PCB to let it know that the switch has been actuated. This special PCB cannot be found in most keyboards.
Used for a Unique Purpose
If you are buying a specialized keyboard like a Topre switch keyboard, you have a reason. Some people buy it for gaming, but a few people prefer this keyboard for typing. Others buy it because of its ergonomic qualities.
However, because most people are more familiar with other mechanical keyboards, the price of the Topre switch keyboards can stay up.
Unique Build Quality
Most Topre keyboards have an excellent build quality. While they differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, most of them are created with durable materials, ensuring that they last longer and look good.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you have more questions about Topre switches, we answer them below:
What Do Topre Switches Feel Like?
Many people say that Topre switches feel like a rubber dome. That is close to the truth. Some people also say that it reminds them of the Cherry MX Red switches. However, Topre keyboards feel more solid compared to rubber dome keyboards.
In addition, you can actuate a Topre without bottoming out the key; this gives it a much different sound from other switches. Topre switches are also quite smooth to touch without them being slippery. It feels pretty smooth to tap on without causing errors.
What Do Topre Switches Sound Like?
Topre switches sound quite different from other keyboards, including mechanical keyboards. Many users think that Topre switches are quieter than most mechanical switches. However, this sound is one of the reasons why some people do not like Topre switches.
Some people complain that they are used to the sound from other mechanical keyboards and are disconcerted by the absence of sound from Topre switches.
When the switch bottoms out, you can hear a distinct ‘thock’ sound. These switches do not sound quite like the normal keyboard switches you find. If you want to create an even more silenced experience, you can get an expert to take the keyboard apart and rebuild it.
Can You Install Topre Switches Yourself?
Topre switches are pretty hard to install by yourself. Even if you are a person who is great at doing things like this, Topre switches can give you a run for your money. This is because they have to connect to the PCB to send keystroke signals to the computer.
As such, installing Topre switches into your normal keyboard would mean that you swap out your keyboard’s entire circuit board for the Topre PCB.
Doing this is almost impossible as the keyboard might not be the right size or shape to fit the switches and the PCB.
Are There Health Benefits of Using Topre Switches?
Fortunately, Topre switch keyboards are not just nice to have. They are quite great for people with wrist mobility issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis. For these people, normal typing can be pretty exhausting. So it helps to have a keyboard that makes typing easier for them.
This is possible because Topre switches have a very high actuation point. This means you do not need to put too much pressure on the keys for it to register your strokes. If you can only apply low pressure to the keys, you will still get your keystrokes recorded.
Are Topre Switches Tactile?
If there is a word for ‘more than tactile’, you should use it for Topre switches. The very premise of Topre switches rests on the fact that they are tactile. You can feel each keystroke clearly, and you can type effortlessly.
Topre switches are some of the best mechanical keyboard switches you can find. Because they are so expensive, many people might not have encountered them or used them before. However, they have proved to be some of the best gaming, typing, and programming keyboards you can find.
If you are looking for a keyboard that makes your daily use of your computer easier for you, you should get yourself a Topre switch keyboard today.