It sounds dramatic, but I write for a living. Spending hours staring at a screen while pawing away at an unforgiving slab of plastic can induce significant fatigue on my fingertips. I’ve been using the new butterfly mechanism keyboard on my 12-inch MacBook for the greater part of the past year, and yes – my weary fingers have been longing to get back to a real keyboard.
KnewKey sent in the Rymek keyboard in to VR Zone for review, and we’ve thoroughly put it through its paces. The Rymek couples the comfortable typing experience provided by its unique saddle-shaped keycaps and selection of Cherry MX Blue and Brown switches with the veritable elegance of its retro typewriter-inspired design.
I’m a very, very practical person. With a healthy dose of scepticism, I began the review of this keyboard, and boy did I change my mind.
Though not without its quirks, we found the Rymek to be a practical keyboard with reasonably pleasing styling – all coupled with a comfortable and ergonomic typing experience provided by its mechanical switches and unconventional keycap design.
Unboxing and First Impressions
The Rymek was shipped to me from its home in China. I had received the one in Classic Black, the version in black with rose gold keycaps. There is also a version in Caramel Brown, with an off-white body and orange-brown keycaps. Both colour schemes are rather unisex, and reasonably aesthetically pleasing to my eye.
The unboxing experience was reasonable and would make for a decent gift. A black cardboard sleeve bearing the KnewKey and Rymek branding slides off to reveal a more modest brown cardboard box that opens with a lid. You immediately see the keyboard, which is a plus. A foam insert holds the metallic rose gold device holder, micro USB cable and return lever – more on that later.
The Rymek is sturdy with significant heft. Its body is a glossy plastic – not something you’d see on a typewriter from yesteryear, but still pretty pleasing to the eye. The return lever, document holder and keycaps are all rose gold, although the plastic keycaps felt slightly odd since they lacked the heft, texture and feel of metal keys normally used on traditional typewriters.
It thankfully omits the ubiquitous RGB lighting in favour of a simpler array of white LED lights located under the key. The keycaps consist of a flat, D-shaped surface that connects to the switches under the body of the keyboard with a plus-shaped stem. The keys themselves are backlit by that light, too.
Ergonomics and Form Factor
The Rymek is solidly and heavily built. With its four rubber feet, the keyboard remains firmly planted on my desk, even in rough usage and with lateral pressure applied.
As a predominant laptop user that prefers a flat keyboard layout, I found the slight angle of the keys acceptable. However, users are unable to adjust the tilt of the keyboard surface, which might be a deal-breaker for those that prefer the stronger angle of desktop-style keyboards or are sticklers to a completely flat style.
The saddle-shaped keys have a rounded bottom edge that fit well with the pad of my fingertips. I can’t say if I prefer this shape over the more ubiquitous rounded keys found on similar type-writer inspired keyboards, but I was able to readjust my muscle memory for touch typing rather quickly.
After about three hours of use, I was able to fall back in the ballpark of my usual typing speeds.
The white LED lights were useful since my workspace is usually rather dark. It comes with multiple lighting modes: one with the lights completely on, a few with varied rippling and pulsating effects. It also has two modes where the LEDs are only activated on keystrokes – one with the activated key lighting up for a few seconds, and another where it triggers a ripple of lights on surrounding keys.
However, I was unable to turn the lighting effects off.
The keyboard also lacked an on/off indicator and is powered on by pressing the power button in the top right-hand corner (like on a MacBook) for three seconds. Perhaps the fact that the LED effects could not be turned off was essential in aiding me in finding out if my keyboard was powered on.
Controls and Typing Experience
I’m a touch typist so the lighting effects, while somewhat gaudy, did not bother me at all.
The US layout was exactly what I’m used to, but if you prefer other layouts, it should be easy to rearrange the keys without any dedicated tooling. The keyboard, however, did have an extra column of keys to the right of the backspace and enter keys. This inevitably led to some frustration with mistaken key presses – I’m rather used to those important keys being located on the right edge of the keyboard.
The Rymek comes with an option of blue or brown Cherry MX switches. The blue switches that came with our review unit appealed to me greatly as I write much, much more than I game. Clicky and with a healthy rebound, its keystroke is distinctly reminiscent of the experience an authentic manual typewriter would feel, though with a lot less rebound, activation pressure and sturdiness.
The Platen knob on a typewriter resides on the right of the paper feed and is used to adjust the indentation of the document. The Rymek’s volume control knob takes a visual cue from its analogue ancestor and is tactile and responsive: a particularly enjoyable feature for a digital native whose experience has been inundated by key combinations and touchscreen sliders.
The Rymek’s metal control lever on the left resembles the line space lever on a typewriter and is used to toggle between wired and Bluetooth wireless modes. Flipping the lever causes the lights on the keyboard to blink three times to indicate changing of modes, but there is no visual cue to show if it is in Bluetooth or wired modes.
One of the reasons I had stuck with my less-than-spectacular Logitech K480 keyboard is its support for multiple devices. Though not in a way as neat as the Logitech’s three-stage dial, the Rymek is able to switch between three devices and is compatible with both Mac and PC. I might have preferred if the return lever had been used to alter between paired devices: it would be a very elegant solution, and a productive one as well.
However, connectivity had its quirks. The keyboard incessantly disconnected from both my MacBook, Microsoft Surfacebook 2, and Dell XPS 13 when unused for around a minute. Tapping a key wakes it, but it takes a second to reconnect with my device for keystrokes to register, which has been particularly frustrating. This can be fixed by attaching it via USB cable to your device, but that does defeat the purpose of its Bluetooth capabilities somewhat.
Should I get one?
I appreciated the styling, aesthetics and ergonomics of the Rymek, especially as a writer who spends most of his time behind a keyboard. At its USD99 (SGD132) promotional price for early buyers, the Rymek does pack a serious punch for its pedigree as a multidevice Bluetooth mechanical keyboard.
It does retail at an MSRP of USD199, which makes it rather expensive for its mostly-plastic build and other idiosyncrasies like its connectivity problems.
If you’re looking for an aesthetically pleasing centrepiece to your workspace, and appreciate the feel of mechanical keyboards, the Rymek is a brilliant choice if obtained at its promotional price. Content creators and other users who appreciate productivity and ergonomics would find the Rymek’s build and functionality to be sufficient and appropriate for their use.
However, for gamers, or those who are particular about keyboard layout (keys to the right of the Enter/Shift/Backspace keys), lack of an option to turn off all lighting effects, or the issues with connectivity, the Rymek might not be the perfect choice for you.
The Rymek is now available on Indiegogo at a promotional price of USD99 for early birds and will continue to be on sale at an MSRP of USD199.