Mechanical Keyboard Review: Quisan Magicforce 68-Key Keyboard (Backlit, Gateron Red Switches)

Posted: August 6, 2017 in keyboarding
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As I’ve already reviewed the basics of the Magicforce 68 in an earlier article, I won’t go into great detail about the basic design. It’s a minimalist ‘board without going too far outside the realm of sanity. Light but solid, it is suited to taking along with you.

The big draw here is the switch, to be honest. Unless, of course, the backlight looms large in terms of your requirements.

The Magicforce line is one of the few that come in multiple different switch types, but the same chassis. The least expensive of the Magicforce ‘boards feature Outemu switches. These are in the $40 range (Spring 2017 for all prices quoted here). I found that the brown-switch equipped board of this type performed well. It felt just a little rough, and had a few squeaky keys, but was otherwise fine. It didn’t feature backlighting, but this didn’t prove to be a large concern for me.

For just a hair over $60, the same ‘board is available with Gateron backlit switches. For something like seven or eight dollars more than that, you can get the actual Cherry MX switches.

I had plenty of Cherry-switch ‘boards, but had not used any Gateron switches. Thus, I purchased the keyboard being reviewed today. The feeling around the ‘Net is that Gateron may well have outdone Cherry with their duplicates of said switch type. Some maintain that the Gaterons are smoother than the Cherry equivalent.

We shall see if that can be determined. We shall use Great Science to do so. Gird up thy loins, readers. Just sayin’.

Packaging:

The Gateron version of the Magicforce comes in the same box as the less expensive version. Two differences:

1) There is a key puller included.
2) There is a USB – B to Micro USB adapter, so you can plug your ‘board into stuff like tablets and phones. That is, in all actuality, a pretty cool value-added feature.

Other than that, it’s a solid, no frills box. No extra cash went into making it wrap-around printed or otherwise blinged out. That’s fine.

Unboxing:

Everything arrived in good condition. The keyboard is in good shape and all the keys work. I don’t seen any difference, qualitatively, with regard to the chassis. Same format, same feel. That is what I expected, but sometimes, a higher member of the “line” will have some subtle things going on. More chamfered edges. Something. It appears that we’re just paying for the more expensive switches in this case.

First Impressions:

The key caps on this keyboard may be just a hair thicker than the ones on the less expensive version. They are double-shot ABS, such that the legend on each key is illuminated by the backlight. This type of key tends to be more expensive. The double-shot process ensures that you’ll never wear the letters off the keytops, no matter how much you use them. It’s another piece of plastic, used to fill in the void in the white ABS of the primary component.

The font of the legend is that somewhat gamer-style block lettering that you’ll see all around. My suspicion is that there are only a handful of companies making the key caps, and that most of these Chinese-made ‘boards are using the same subcontractor. That’s okay. Economies of scale. I get it.

With the LED off, the legend is a sort of gray-on-white affair. It is legible enough and has decent contrast. There is but one color of LED here. That’s white. In this case, the white is fairly true to that spectru, with perhaps just a hint of blue. There are nine brightness values, from subtle to somewhat dazzling. I prefer two clicks up from “off” myself.

The typing dynamics, in a general way, are similar to the other Magicforce 68 that I have. All the keys are in the same location. The general force required to activate them is the same. I can’t directly compare them in certain ways, since one has a brown switch, while the other has red. Brown switches are tactile, whereas reds are linear.

That said, what does the early tale say? The red switches feel smoother. Smoother by a good bit. This is not surprising, as even Cherry MX Brown switches tend to have just a bit of friction to their movement. It appears to be a component of the switch design.

The noise the ‘board makes? Quite quiet, as you might expect a red switch ‘board to be. The chassis of this ‘board isn’t resonant, so it’s just the low clack of the keys as they hit the top plate. About the same sound as the brown switch model. Perhaps just slightly quieter. Certianly quieter than the red-switch model from Drevo. Actually, a whole different sound.

Unlike the less expensive version of this keyboard, I’m not sensing any “ping” or resonance when striking any of the keys. While that was not particularly loud in the other version, it was noticable with some of the keys around the right-center of the ‘board. I don’t have any real clues as to what that means. It could be that the sound is an element of that particular ‘board, because I don’t notice any structural differences from the outside. It could be a slight inconsisntency in the the bottom tray…something else. Without buying up a whole bunch of them, there’s no way to know. I can tell you that the brown-switch version did need a bit of lubrication on the stabilized keys to quiet down, and the Gateron-equipped version did not.

I find that I’m able to type well enough with this keyboard, without any real acclimation time. I don’t believe it’s any faster than the brown-equipped version. Time will tell. Does it feel like a red-switch ‘board? Yes. Does it work? Yes. More than that, I will only be able to determine after further study.

More on key feel:

The Gateron red switches are right on the verge of being too light. I have to really alter my typing a good bit to work with them. I find that I’m more likely to make a whole string of random key presses if I have some kind of technique breakdown. They are very smooth and buttery, but boy, you have to ease up in order for them to really work to their best effect.

After a bit of research, I realized why there is a significant differnce in the way this ‘board feels, when compared with the Drevo, also a red switch mechanical. Here’s the skinny: Outemu switches, like in the Drevo, are all heavier in resistance than Cherry MX switches, right across the board. Red switches from Outemu operate at 55 grams of force, which is significantly more than what I’m seeing here. With the combination of a super-smooth switch and one that is very light, I have to really take it easy with the Gaterons.

If I have been typing on a higher-effort ‘board, this one takes more than a little mental recalibration. Even after I’ve typed hundreds of words on the ‘board, I find that I’m more likely to make accidental key presses or the like.

For me, the resistance with the Outemu reds is dead-on for me, while these are so light that I have to be pretty careful. If you’re a fan of very light resistance, or you’re concerned that the volume of typing you do on a given day puts you into a spiral of fatigue and pain, this might be just the thing.

One final thing is that the repeats on the keys is set very fast by default. If left at this setting, using the backspace or delete key to make larger scale corrections is going to be challenging at best. As a gaming ‘board, I suppose this high cyclic rate could provide great advantages, but not so much for typists. The stock setting is up at 60 characters per second, which is very, very fast. There is a 40 and 20 character per second setting, which is instituted with the FN key, plus W, E, or R. (R being the highest setting). 20 characters per second appears to be what a normal keyboard would call for. Turning it down eliminated the confounding problem that I initially felt was a major drawback of this ‘board. What did I learn? Read the instructions, or at least try and intuit the feature set before belly aching.

Is it worth it?

That is more than a little debatable. A gaming usage case may find that tings like the adjustable repeat rate on keys would serve them well. The light keys may also help you in WASD games and the like. In the realm of gaming keyboards, this is still very inexpensive, and the form factor is really very cool.

The version of this keyboard that features Outemu keys and no backlight is a significant amount cheaper. A little more than $20. Again, that’s not a lot in the scheme of things, but the percentages between a $40 and $62 keyboard are fairly big.

 

I wrote the bulk of this review months ago, and my initial conclusion was that I wasn’t sure that the Gateron Red version of this ‘board was worth it. I had reservations, primarily about the typing feel. With the stock caps, I still have vague concerns in this regard, but there’s a second story here.

The Rest of the Story: 

I recapped this keyboard with Kannanic (also called Bossi) PBT key caps. They made a world of difference. Likely the largest difference I’ve ever experienced. Far better sound, far better feel. Yes, we’re now looking at a keyboard of significant cost, nearly a hundred bucks (I used two sets for a purple and gray color scheme). Even with this additional cost, totally worth it.

Recommendation: 

This, when capped with a nice set of PBT key caps, is my go-to, primo travel/small form factor keyboard. It’s the jam. If you need something small that will slip right into a backpack to take along, this here is your E-ticket ride.

Cheers, and Happy Typing.

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Comments
  1. Alan says:

    Is there a link to this one?

    • Alan, I’ve put comments with links to the replacement keyset and the keyboard. If you prefer a clicky key model, there are versions of this same ‘board with the blue, clicky switches, rather than the red switches, which are linear and do not have a click mechanism.

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