Saturday, July 13, 2024

X-Plus VickyBoard Ergo Split-V Keyboard Review: For a Select Few

Office ergonomics became a really important factor when everyone started work from home during the pandemic. Even the most careless people I knew invested in laptop risers or stands and wireless mice (along with basic keyboards) to reduce neck strain. And since many of us are still working remotely or from home, we often seek the best possible hardware to make our work lives a lot easier. And this is not just limited to your desk and chair, but extends to what’s on your desk as well. There are several types of ergonomic mice available, and even several regular ergonomic keyboards. Most of these go with a bulge or a wave in the centre with the typical scissor switches and the usual key layout, which does not require one to relearn finger positioning making them quite easy to use and adapt.

Keychron Q10 Max Alice layout ndtv KeychronQ10Max  Keychron

The Keychron Q10 Max has an Alice layout for improved ergonomics over a traditional keyboard


And then there’s the world of highly customisable (not to mention expensive) ergonomic mechanical keyboards.

First, there’s the traditional split keyboards with an Alice key layout (Keychron Q8 etc.) which shuffles the keys a bit (has two space bars and B keys on both sides), but packages it into a single-piece keyboard design. This keyboard category also has another sub-category with two physically separated halves (Keychron Q11), letting users spread out the two halves for better ergonomics.

Secondly there’s the whole world of custom-made ortholinear keyboards which are traditional looking keyboards but often have a smaller footprint given their non-staggered key layout aimed at faster typing and less hand movement.

Then, there’s the extreme world of ergonomic and tented split keyboards (Naya Create, ZSA Moonlander etc.), with ortholinear key layouts that aim to deliver the best possible ergonomics, by not just keeping your hands positioned right (or far apart) but also aim to reduce finger movements to a minimal, ensuring an almost injury-free typing experience.

NayaCreate keybaord ndtv NayaCreate  Naya

The Naya Create offers a split ortholinear key layout with hot-swappable modules


X-Plus, a Hong Kong-based company has come up with the VickyBoard, which merges the Alice key layout from the first category with an ortholinear typing experience of the second category but lays it all out in a unique cross-radial design which is similar but not the same as tented split ergonomic keyboards when they are spread apart. The company claims to get you the best of both worlds with some extra keys thrown in at right places and claims to do minimal damage to your wrists and fingers while typing.

Apart from the way it looks? Is it worth spending all that money on this keyboard? After more than a month of usage, I finally have an answer.

X-Plus VickyBoard Ergo Split-V Review: Price and box contents

X-Plus’ VickyBoard Ergo Split-V is currently available for purchase on Indiegogo and these are available in four basic case finishes (or series). You have to pick one of the four (Ruby, Sapphire, Onyx and Neon) case colours and go with the keycap options offered with each case there on. According to X-Plus, users are free to select a mechanical switch type of their choice (a selection of Gateron mechanical switches) when choosing a keyboard.

The basic kit which includes the basic key tool, charging and connectivity cable (along with a keyboard of your choice) has an early bird pricing of Rs. 14,903 (excludes shipping and custom duties) and retail price of Rs. 20,688.

XPlus Vickyboard Ergo Split V back case ndtv XPlusVickyBoardErgoSplitV  XPlus

The VickyBoard Ergo Split-V has a transparent bottom case which like the top case is made from CNC-machined acrylic


The VickyBoard All-Star kit includes a special X-Plus Key a special Switch puller tool, an X-Plus Mat and X-Plus Eva case has an early bird price of Rs. 17,304 (excludes shipping and custom duties) and a retail price of Rs. 27,309. Since all of these accessories are priced at a premium, it’s advisable to go for the latter as it offers better value.

X-Plus VickyBoard Ergo Split-V Review: Design

The X-Plus VickyBoard has a top and bottom case made entirely out of CNC-machined acrylic. My Ruby unit with its clear sapphire keycaps looks like nothing else you have probably seen online when browsing for pre-built mechanical keyboards. While the colourways are a bit bright (and highly subjective), I’m a fan of the keyboard’s overall design, solely because of how striking and angular it looks. It’s also quite the conversation starter, meaning whoever you show it too will go “Wow! I want this!” until they take a closer look, examine the oddly placed keys and give it a quick pass.

One of the advantages of a transparent acrylic case (versus an aluminium one) is that it exposes the internals of the keyboard. This basically gives enthusiasts a window into the back of the PCB along with the chips and the wiring. And it sure looks good and interesting when done right. Which is the case with the VickyBoard. Another advantage provided by a transparent acrylic case is the underglow the RGB key lighting provides on your desk mat.

XPlus Vickyboard Ergo Split V RGB dark ndtv XPlusVickyBoardErgoSplitV  XPlus

It’s very hard to beat the VickyBoard Ergo Split-V’s RGB lighting and ground effects


One detail that stands out apart from the transparent design of the keyboard and the keycaps is the X-Plus logo. It’s way too large, garish and ruins the look of the keyboard in my opinion. And to make things worse, there’s two of them one at the top centre of the top case and another to the left of the directional keys.

The finish of the CNC-machining process of the acrylic case is fantastic, but it’s worrisome that the screws which hold the two halves of the case together have no metal sleeve but drive directly into the acrylic case, which is putting a lot of faith into something this delicate.

As soon as I pulled it out of its package, I quickly noticed some deep scratches on my review unit, right out of the package. During the review period, subject to regular typing use, I did not manage to get any new scratches on it, but it is very easy to get a deep scratch on this one if it makes contact with a metallic object on your desk.

XPlus Vickyboard Ergo Split V logo ndtv XPlusVickyBoardErgoSplitV  XPlus

The X-Plus logo is an eye-sore on this gorgeous acrylic case


Now acrylic is about 10 times stronger than glass while giving a similar look and feel to a fabricated product, but it is not resistant to breaking, in fact polycarbonate as a fabrication material is a lot stronger than acrylic and glass. The upside of using acrylic is that it does not yellow like polycarbonate and is also resistant to flexing to a certain limit, which makes it quite sturdy in the case of this keyboard.

My shipping experience with the VickyBoard Ergo Split-V was not done right and so my keyboard arrived wrapped in a bunch of foam sheets and bubble wrap, minus the usual branded cardboard packaging. The prototype keyboard I received was clearly thrown around during the shipping process and so has several deep cracks on its acrylic case. While this makes it evidently clear how delicate acrylic can be, I’m hoping that the shipping experience with the properly packaged retail units (that were shipped out in February, 2024) are a lot better and safer.

The VickyBoard Ergo Split-V offers a 75 percent layout with 72 keys. But thanks to its additional keys that are all well-spaced out for better ergonomics, it will feel a lot larger compared to a regular 75 percent layouts.

My review unit included a Ruby colourway with clear sapphire keys and Gateron yellow mechanical switches. The Eva case was shipped separately and it included a basic connectivity and charging cable along with a basic keycap puller tool.

XPlus Vickyboard Ergo Split V side case ndtv XPlusVickyBoardErgoSplitV  XPlus

The X-Plus VickyBoard Ergo Split-V keyboard uses transparent Cherry profile keycaps made of acrylic


The entire key layout is angled at 6-degrees and sadly this cannot be adjusted mainly because it was intended to provide the best comfort by the manufacturer. This typing angle cannot be adjusted at all as the case does not have any adjustable fold out feet to make any fine adjustments like you would find on regular pre-built mechanical keyboards.

The Cherry profile keycaps that came with my review unit are of the transparent type and made from acrylic. They have a nice matte translucent finish on the top surface with transparent sidewalls. I’m not a big fan of these because it’s hard to read the characters on the keys (with the backlights on or off) and they don’t sound as good as the usual PBT keycaps.

XPlus Vickyboard Ergo Split V switches ndtv XPlusVickyBoardErgoSplitV  XPlus

The PCB supports hot-swappable switches


The PCB inside the case also supports hot-swappable switches, meaning you can swap the switches with a variety of available options. However, I must add that I found the cutouts in the acrylic case for the switches to be very tight, making swapping very difficult with the provided switch and keycap puller.

X-Plus VickyBoard Ergo Split-V Review: Performance

The cross-radial design of the keys means that both halves of the layout have been angled inwards and then fanned out. The keys also have an ortholinear layout, meaning that your fingers mostly end up moving up and down and not across, making typing more comfortable. This combination along with a 6-degree incline of the 72 keys made it rather comfortable to type on, but you will have to invest in a set of ergonomic gliding wrist rests (also used for mice) or get an Alice layout or split wrist rest (two piece) to make the typing experience more comfortable as there is a proper one-inch clearance from the bottom till the keycaps given that this keyboard does not use low-profile switches.

For daily work use, I have a regular 65 percent keyboard with regular QWERTY layout. So I attempted to try and rewire my muscle memory to adapt to this keyboard’s unorthodox layout. I must confess that I did not succeed, as this key design and layout has a steep learning curve and needs you to rewire your muscle memory, given that most of us are used to regular keyboard layouts.

XPlus Vickyboard Ergo Split V key layout ndtv XPlusVickyBoardErgoSplitV  XPlus

Even ortholinear keyboard users will find the fanned out cross-radial design unique


However, I did attempt several tests with this one and while I was obviously low on speed, I did realise that it was immensely comfortable given that my hands were firmly planted in place while typing. The reason for this are the additional keys placed bang in the centre of the split layout. This includes a delete, enter, control and shift keys which we often reach out for on either side of the regular key layout while touch typing. The positioning of the two space bars and the centred delete key is also something I got used to and found to be very convenient. All-in-all this keyboard does what it claims to do which is to effectively reduce typing strain on your wrists (with a wrist rest), it’s just that you have to adapt your typing style drastically to a new layout, which will take plenty of time, unless you are an enthusiast who is already accustomed to using ortholinear keyboards.

The keyboard by design supports hot-swappable switches. As for the switches, these are your typical Gateron G Pro yellow mechanical switches, which by trait are linear but require a bit of force (50g) even though they have decent pre-travel (2.0mm). These sound fairly standard (quiet) but offer a comfortable typing experience. While most of the switches worked just fine, I had two damaged switches out of the package which had bent pins.

XPlus Vickyboard Ergo Split V keycaps dark ndtv XPlusVickyBoardErgoSplitV  XPlus

It’s hard to read the characters on the transparent keycaps


I had my doubts about how well the keyboard would sound given the acrylic case (which is not good for acoustics) and the acrylic keycaps. To be very honest, it sounded very hollow and not satisfying at all, compared to a fully metal pre-built keyboard at this price point, which sounds a lot better in comparison.

While the acrylic case and acrylic keycaps have some impact on the sound, regular PBT caps (available on the enter and space keys and other case variants) would have improved this to an extent. The case thanks to its acrylic design isn’t plate mounted, but has the PCB directly mounted on to the CNC-machined case, which made for a rather stiff typing experience given that the whole mount is rigid and has zero flex. Add to this the transparent design and it is hard to even add any sound dampening mods to this case to kill any unwanted sounds or vibrations.

Given that this isn’t a keyboard built for the masses I still missed a simple mac/windows switch, which would conveniently let me switch between a Mac or a Windows layout. The function key row is also missing, so these will need to be reconfigured via software.

The keyboard does not use your typical VIA software for key-remapping but goes with a custom QMK solution for key-remapping and macros. It’s not as convenient as VIA where remapping happens on the fly when making changes on a web-browser. Out here, you have to make changes on a web-browser, download a configuration profile and manually load (read: flash) profiles every time you want to remap a set of keys, which can get annoying if you have a complex setup.

XPlus Vickyboard Ergo Split V extra keys ndtv XPlusVickyBoardErgoSplitV  XPlus

The placement of the additional keys just like the cross-radial design takes some getting used to


While remapping and loading keyboard profiles was not the problem, I was in for a surprise as the cable I received for review was not supported by the keyboard. Thankfully, I did have a spare one lying around and it helped me manually get into DFU mode. And I had to get into DFU, because I wanted to reconfigure some of the keys which are by default setup for Windows.

Apart from its striking design, another feature that really stands out is wireless connectivity. While you can connect the keyboard via a cable for low latency, you can also connect it wirelessly (increased latency) via Bluetooth. Wireless connectivity should also work better here given that the case isn’t made out of metal which is a problem with most premium wireless keyboards. Additionally, the X-Plus VickyBoard Ergo Split-V can connect and switch between 5 devices (including Android and iOS), which is better than the usual 3.

Battery life is pretty good overall. The 3,000mAh battery lasts about a week of use with LED lights but can last several weeks with the lights off. Charging speed is not something I tested out, since this is not a keyboard one would travel given its weight (1.4kgs) and how delicate it is.

X-Plus VickyBoard Ergo Split-V Review: Verdict

The X-Plus VickyBoard Ergo Split-V is a keyboard I want to use on a daily basis, because of how good it looks in all its glass-like acrylic glory. But for me it’s not worth retraining my muscle memory to adapt to an ortholinear cross-radial layout because I am more comfortable with a regular keyboard layout. And this also means that it’s all down to personal preferences and your willingness to adapt to something new.

With that said this is definitely not a keyboard for everyone and definitely not for the casual user looking for a properly ergonomic mechanical typing experience. It has a really steep learning curve and is meant to be a showpiece that will sit on the shelves of enthusiasts or those who are already used to the ortholinear key layouts (and probably already own a few similar keyboards). Even seasoned split keyboard or Alice layout users should find themselves scratching their heads over this one, because of the cross-radial design and that’s a lot to ask even for a keyboard that looks this good. This one caters to a niche audience and these are exactly the customers who will find this keyboard enticing.

Ratings out of 10

Design: 8
Performance: 8
Value for money: 7
Overall: 8

Attractive design
Built for RGB fans
Good ergonomics
Can connect to 5 devices wirelessly

Acrylic case and construction is delicate
Key remapping is quite complex
Needs a split palm-rest to be effective

Affiliate links may be automatically generated – see our ethics statement for details.

Source link

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles