Happy Hacking Keyboard Hybrid Type-S is aimed at those with highly specific needs from a keyboard: a compact keyboard layout; quiet but comfortable typing; and the need to switch between multiple Bluetooth-connected devices on the fly. Its price tag will raise eyebrows ($385 list), but it offers a package of features that are otherwise hard to find in a single keyboard.
The HHKB (as it’s abbreviated) uses a key layout even more compact than most laptops. The whole unit is compact enough to throw into a knapsack. Function keys, arrows, and many other controls are accessed by way of a special “Fn” key. Delete is directly above the Return key. There’s also no dedicated Caps Lock key; that’s accessed by pressing Fn+Tab.
Once I got used to the HHKB layout, though, typing on it was quite nice. (I wrote this review with it.) A big part of the HHKB’s cost is its Topre electrostatic capacitive switch mechanisms, which generate a pleasant amount of tactile feedback while also reducing typing clatter. The overall noise level is on a par with a soft-touch notebook keyboard. Unfortunately, there’s no key back lighting.
DIP switches and Fn key combinations let you choose between Mac or Windows key sets. For instance, when Windows is the selected key set, the Mac Option key is repurposed to become the Windows menu key. Unfortunately, the few multimedia key bindings included by default—volume controls, mute, and eject—are Mac-only.
One really powerful HHKB feature is its multi-device support. You can pair the keyboard via Bluetooth to up to four different devices—desktop PCs, phones, anything that pairs keyboards via Bluetooth—and switch between them with a Fn-Control-number key combo. It’s an appealing option for those who struggle with KVM switches or who want to use the same keyboard at work and at home. You can also connect the HHKB directly to a system via USB-C, although USB-C cabling isn’t included.
Another powerful feature is the HHKB’s key mapping utility. You can create custom key layouts if you don’t like the existing one. For instance, I remapped one of the Alt keys to behave like a dedicated Caps Lock key, and mapped the Fn+WASD keys to work as arrows, as the default arrow key bindings are not very comfortable for my hands. Key sets can be saved to files, or replaced at any time with the factory setting.
The Happy Hacking Keyboard Hybrid Type-S is wonderfully compact, comfortable, and quiet. I love its key mapping and Bluetooth switching capabilities. But I find its $385 price tag really hard to swallow.
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