Customized-made mechanical keyboards are distinctive. The keycaps are sometimes a collection of totally different colours, shapes, and heights. The proprietor swears the mechanical switches are one thing particular, and so they’re all housed in a pleasant chassis, topped off with the right degree of stabilizers, lubrication, and sound dampeners.
Drop, which sells elements to keyboard fanatics, is aware of that not everybody has the time, persistence, and talent to create their excellent board. Its line of prebuilt keyboards—from the $500 Paragon Series to the extra attainable Expression Series and, within the center floor, Signature Series—search to present clients that hand-assembled customized keyboard expertise with out requiring any DIY know-how.
The Drop Signature Sequence Islay Night time keyboard is arguably probably the most distinctive choice among the many seven added to the sequence final week as a result of it is a “60 p.c keyboard”—no perform row, no numpad, and no arrow keys. That makes it a non-starter for a lot of shoppers, and the board’s $349 price tag will get it kicked off much more patrons’ lists. However for those who’re keen to splurge on a tiny keyboard, the Islay Night time is a premium method to participate in sizzling mechanical keyboard traits like hybrid switches and subtle RGB with out having to do any constructing. And also you get to pay refined tribute to Scotland as nicely.
Drop Signature Sequence Islay Night time Keyboard
Use arrow keys? This isn’t for you
Named after the Scottish island Islay, this keyboard is on a little bit of an island itself. If it isn’t apparent by now, you are not paying for key rely with the Islay Night time. It would not have a numpad, however for those who do not spend a variety of time with numbers or spreadsheets, which may be completely tolerable. By dropping the numpad, you get further desk area, a win for minimalists, small-desk house owners, and players with frantically shifting mice. However 60 p.c keyboards take the “small keyboard” factor to a special degree by dropping all navigation keys, together with the arrow keys.
You may nonetheless enter arrow keys by holding the diamond key on the appropriate facet, which serves as Fn, and [, ;, ‘, or /. The placement is intuitive. I couldn’t tell you which keys do double-duty as arrows off the top of my head, but I can find them without looking at the keyboard for more than a second. But in no way will this ever become as simple as having dedicated arrow keys. If you still insist on them, I don’t blame you. Sixty-percent keyboards aren’t just “not for everyone”; they’re not for most people. Drop offers other prebuilt keyboards with arrows (but no full-sized options).
You also get access to F1-12 and the other navigation keys by holding down the diamond/Fn. You can even toggle RGB presets and control volume with the all-powerful diamond key, but you’ll have to memorize the settings or bookmark this page. The keycaps don’t have handy side-printed legends like some 60 percent keyboards do.
By default, the one and only Ctrl key is where you’d expect Caps Lock to be, though Drop includes a Caps Lock keycap in the box should you choose to reprogram. Additionally, “Command” is written proudly where Windows users expect Ctrl, but it works the same way.
The keyboard’s layout is based on the Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB) layout, which was made specifically for coding. The HKKB form factor is meant to eliminate “every unnecessary, difficult to reach key. The near-symmetrical layout, cylindrical step design and the relocation of the ‘Control’ key help your fingers feel at home on the ‘Home row’ and reduce travel distances for your fingers and hands, reducing finger and wrist fatigue or stress-related injuries.” But “unnecessary” is in the eyes of the beholder. I find arrow keys pretty important for navigating across and editing long documents. And some shortcuts I use often—like Ctrl + Shift + V—felt unnatural on the Islay Night.
The whole keyboard is reprogrammable, but you have to work with it. QMK open source firmware isn’t as simple as dedicated peripheral apps, like Razer’s Synapse or Corsair’s iCue; it has a less-polished UI, and you’ll have to flash the keyboard yourself. But to make the transition less painful, the Islay Night comes with a Caps Lock keycap in the box.
Drop’s Islay Night is built inside the Drop + Tokyo Keyboard Tokyo60 case, a union of two pieces of CNC-milled aluminum pieces angled at 5 degrees. The whole thing is surprisingly heavy and dense. Don’t worry about this tiny clacker shifting about during aggressive typing sessions. Dark-emerald-green chamfered edges make for a pristine and unique finish that is protected by anodization. The keyboard has a one-year standard warranty, but you can add three years for $50.
Unfortunately, the quality of the case makes the simple but detachable rubber USB-C to USB-A cable seem like an afterthought.
An acrylic diffuser adds a contained amount of RGB. Preset RGB settings provide static and moving colorful effects that go well with the case’s dark green. Unlike some gaming keyboards, where each key and even the base and wrist rest are coated in RGB, the LEDs here emphasize the keyboard’s natural beauty rather than drowning it out with a blinding glow. There’s a space on the north and south sides of the perimeter, however, that interrupts the stream of lights.