I had an original NK65 and sold it. I regretted that sale, so I was keen to jump on the new updates.
My goal with the NK65 is to have a quality hot swap board to test and break in some switches. I was hoping to grab the Entry edition, but I (and a couple of thousand others) was not quick enough.
On a second attempt, I managed to grab the silver NK65 V2.
The NK65 is a budget board, but it still packs quite the punch. In your box, you will receive a travel case, the board itself, PCB, and stabilizers. It comes pre-flashed with VIA and is very much ready to go.
I broke it down to check out the foam inside. I also had a brain fart and forgot that I did not need to disassemble to pop out the stabilizers for rubbing. Love or hate plate mounted stabs, being able to easily pop them out anytime to make adjustments is quite lovely.
Speaking of the stabilizers, I noticed my fingers getting a bit greasy while breaking them down. It looks like they do come lubed out of the box. I wish I would have known this ahead of time. It would have been interesting to give it a try.
However, once I had them all apart, it did not look like the best lube job, so I cleaned them up and applied a little 205g0 and then put everything back together.
With this being a Novel Keys board, it felt only right to go full Novel Keys.
I went with some NK Creams that had previously been lubed with 205g0 and 105 on the springs for the switches.
In what was an absolute first for me, I got all the switches in without bending a single pin. The NK65 has some excellent RGB options (including layer indicators, which I love). Unfortunately, the creams do not let much light through, but that is OK with me since I typically disable it anyway.
For the keycaps, I went with newly released NK OSA Mr. Sleeves.
Overall (excluding tax/shipping and the fact I had 205g0 on hand), the total cost was $335. The cost is way more than the price of a membrane board, but in the custom keyboard world, it is a steal, especially considering the result.
What I like:
- Price - this is an excellent board for the price.
- Complete package - everything you need to get started minus switches and keycaps
- Nice case - I work at home FT, but I could imagine this being an ideal board to take to and from the office every day. It is not overly heavy, but it is solid. At the price point, I would have little fear of moving it around each day.
- Indicator lights - I rarely do RGB, but I am a fan of layer-based indicator lights.
- Via by default - pre-flashed and ready to go.
What I wish was different:
- The corners are very sharp. I get every minute of machining adds to the cost, and the goal of this board is to be as affordable as possible. Slightly rounded corners would go a long way and likely keep the board in pristine shape long term.
- Integrated plate - I am usually OK with integrated plates. The ones I have tried (M60-A and Luna) have all sounded reasonably good (as does the NK65). However, they limit flexibility to experiment. With a board that targets those new(er) to the community, more options to test and customize would be nice.
- Layout - This is my least favorite 65% layout. There is no split backspace, stepped cap lock, or blockers around the arrows. Also, the 3x1.25u 6.25u 3x1u bottom row is awkward.
- Coiled cord - This is a cute idea, but I found the cord's material made it hard to maneuver and could not get it to lay flat. I would rather have had a simple straight cable or no cable.
Having said all that, the cons are super picky on my part and likely not an issue for most people. If you are looking to make your first custom mechanical keyboard purchase, the NK65 is a great place to start. You get a solid board, from a good company. Since it is hot-swap you can use it figure out what type(s) of switch you enjoy.
Bonus - NK65 V2 with GMK 9009 (I loved this combo)
Novel Keys confirmed they had experimented with lubing the stabs, but the result was not consistent enough. I guess I got
luckyand got one of the test boards. ↩︎
I am making a big assumptions about what NK and their customers want from the board. I could be wrong and both sides want something that just works. If that is the case, the integrated plate works as expected. ↩︎
I cannot remember a hot swap PCB with split backspace or stepped caps, so this is much more wishful thinking. ↩︎
I much prefer a 7u and 3 to 4 1.25u to 1.5u modifier keys. ↩︎
I do believe that 65% is the ideal board size for your first custom ↩︎