My first foray into mechanical keyboards was in the form of the Filco Majestouch 2. Back then, Filco was the king of the hill, and there weren’t many options to choose from.
Unfortunately, despite mechanical keyboards supposedly being able to last a lifetime, my ‘E’ key started failing on me a few months back—sometimes, keypresses wouldn’t register. I brought it in to X-treme Solution at Sim Lim Square to see if they could fix it; unfortunately, it seems there was some problem with the PCB that they claimed couldn’t be fixed cheaply.
Filcos are supposedly still the best out there, and in fact, the price has increased by $20 since four years ago. However, I wasn’t that keen on spending so much money again on what is essentially the same keyboard. The Majestouch 2 hasn’t been updated all these years…
So I looked around Sim Lim Square hoping to find something affordable. X-treme Solution sells a Ducky for just $99, but I didn’t quite like the feel of that keyboard, plus the fact that you get a Ducky logo in place of the Windows key.
I went back to Tec-Drome, the place where I bought my Filco four years ago, and they introduced me to the TTsport Poseidon Z. While it normally sells for $129, he offered me $114 if I paid by cash. Deal.
I’ve been using the keyboard for two whole weeks now, so I think I’m qualified to write a review about it.
I should probably say this right off the bat: the Poseidon Z doesn’t use Cherry MX switches. What is uses instead is a Kailh switch; something that looks exactly like a Cherry MX switch, and feels almost exactly the same. Perhaps if I were to use my old Filco and then compare it side by side with this Poseidon Z I would notice the (sutble?) difference, but in daily use the Kailh switches feel the same to me. Mine are the Kailh Brown switches, for the record. I was contemplating switching colours, but after testing Red, Blue and Black, I still felt most comfortable with brown. Of course, mechanical keyboard purists may disagree with me.
What are Kailh switches anyway? Well, it’s basically a cheaper Chinese replica of the Cherry MX switches. Apparently the patent on these switches expired years ago, thus opening up the market to third party clones. They’re currently being used in Razer keyboards, among others. Some people claim that Kailh switches have looser tolerances in that one switch may feel slightly different from the other. This is true to a small extent, though it isn’t at all noticeable in day-to-day typing. Others also claim that Kailh switches are not that durable. That may be true too; in Amazon reviews of the Poseidon Z keyboard as well as the TTsport forum itself, there are several complaints of ‘chattering’–basically when you depress one key, the key repeats itself a few times. I haven’t had this problem yet, but we’ll see down the road.
One mitigating factor is that Thermaltake is confident enough to back this product up with a five-year mechanical switch warranty. This keyboard is distributed by Convergent Systems, a rather reputable distributor in the Singapore tech circle, so that might put a prospective buyer’s mind at ease. At least, it’s one of the reason why I was willing to step out of my comfort zone and try a supposedly inferior switch for a change.
Keycaps and typing experience
The profile of the Poseidon Z’s keycaps are built to a lower profile than the conventional ‘OEM profile’ used on most other mechanical keyboards. In my experience, this lower profile makes the typing experience somewhat more comfortable, and easier to get used to. Most of my time is spent at work typing on a flat, laptop chiclet keyboard (though a Lenovo ThinkPad, nonetheless), so my muscle memory is more attuned to lifting my fingers up just a little before reaching for the next key. Thus, on a conventional mechanical keyboard, if my finger doesn’t lift up high enough, I might end up accidentally striking neighbouring keys instead (and thus, typos). Due to the Poseidon Z’s lower profile, this is somewhat less of an issue, though it still happens to me from time to time.
The keys also slope somewhat differently from typical keys, though I can’t say this is for the worst. In addition, the bottommost row uses some pretty non-standard key sizes, so you will probably never be able to find aftermarket keycaps for these. A custom stabiliser, perhaps inspired by the Costar style used by Filco keyboards, and a non-standard Caps Lock stem positioning means that you probably can’t swap out all those modifier keys on the left and right side of the keyboard (e.g. the Enter key, Shift key, etc.). In fact, if you’re looking for a mechanical keyboard you can customise, this isn’t the keyboard for you. Though you can replace the numeric keys and alphabets just fine (they are standard-sized), the differing profiles means that these keys will be of a different height from the modifier keys.
The keys themselves have a slightly rubberised feel to it. This perhaps explains the water stains in the photo on the left (when I use the keyboard after washing my hands). Hopefully, this rubber coating is durable and does not become sticky over time–something Razer mouse owners can all attest to. The keys are translucent at the point where the letterings are etched so that the backlight can shine through.
Speaking of the backlight: I’ve never been a fan of backlights. If i had a way to obtain this keyboard without a backlight option, I would’ve opted for it right away. Unfortunately, the Poseidon Z only comes in either a blue backlight, or the fancy new RGB lighting. Since blue was cheaper, and since I was supposedly able to turn it off, I took the blue.
However, there is just one fatal flaw: if you don’t want the backlight, you will have to turn it off every time you turn on your computer. This keyboard has no memory or profiles to speak of. There are four levels of backlighting, and by default, the keyboard opts for level two. Using the Fn+F11 and Fn+F12 keys (the Fn keys replace the right Windows key, which I take little issue with; I hate it when keyboard manufacturers try to replace keys with no alternatives, such as Ducky with the context menu key), you can toggle down/up the brightness or turn it off altogether. But it always defaults back to level two upon a reboot.
That wouldn’t be a problem if the backlighting was mild. However, the blue LEDs are searing–even when trying not to look down at my keyboard, I experienced a strobing effect in my eyes whenever I moved them.
If you see my photos, perhaps you wouldn’t realise that the backlight is so strong. That’s because I did a little modification to my keys–I punched a hole through some aluminium tape, and slotted it below all my keys (basically I was inspired by this). I’ve tried different types of tape, and aluminium turned out to be the best. It was sticky, yet malleable enough not to affect the feel of the keys one bit. If you can’t stand the backlight, I suggest you do the same thing as well. Now the glow is a pleasant, non-distracting blue, and I can look down and admire the keys without worrying about my retinas getting burnt.
There aren’t many other features to talk about on this keyboard. There is a row of multimedia keys at the top, which are pretty nifty and saves me from having to use AutoHotkey to emulate them. There is also a Windows lock key at the rightmost edge of the keyboard, which curiously looks like a ‘refresh’ button. There are two keyboard legs as usual, though I think this deserves special mention as they don’t buckle under the keyboard’s weight when you push the keyboard forward. On my Filco, I never ever used the legs because the keyboard was so heavy (and the rubber feet were too tacky) that when I pushed the keyboard forward, the legs folded.
There’s also true NKRO via USB, something that was missing on my Filco. There’s actually conflicting reports of this keyboard being 6KRO or NKRO. Perhaps NKRO functionality was added somewhere between revisions, but I can confirm based on mashing as many keys as I could that this keyboard is NKRO. Though, NKRO may be a double-edged sword if you’re a Mac user: it doesn’t work on OS X.
Despite its searing backlight, non-standard keycaps and the constant fear that the Kailh switches will fail before its time, the Poseidon Z is a pretty competent keyboard for $114. Design-wise, it a nice change from all those gaudy designs you tend to see nowadays. Build quality is great, with no creaking sounds whatsoever when you press down on the plastic (which I experienced on my Filco previously). If you can’t stand the backlight, I suggest adopting the aluminium tape mod which I did. If you need any help, feel free to drop a comment below and I’d be more than happy to assist.
Notes: 5-year warranty on the mechanical switches; fulfilled by Convergent Systems.