For a long time, I wanted to have macro keys to my keyboard. My problem is that all gamers keyboard with macro key available in North America use the ANSI layout and I use a keyboard config that require a ISO keyboard to work properly. I could always oder from the UK, but that would cost twice the price at the end, or maybe a Japanese keyboard (there is no key between the left shift an Z, but there is 4 instead of 3 key between the M and right shift, so the key I need might be there).
As a full keyboard like I want is not easy to find, other options included specialty macro keyboard (too "gamer" and expensive for my taste) or numpads where I could record macro. On the second option, there is two type of keyboards possible, a "normal" one, that could be remapped using a software "Taran style", or a keyboard that can be programmed directly in the device (like many full keyboard with macro keys). First option is cheap, arount 10-20$, but require a software installed on the computer you use. As I want to use it at work to do simple things like copy paste (after a million time doing it, you wish you do not have to twist your fingers to hit the two keys) and installing a software require admin access, that I don't have and I dont thing IT would agree. The other option, the real macro keyboards are usually overpriced (for me) at over 100$, sometimes even 150$.
Then, I found the MAX Falcon-20 RGB Custom Programmable Mini Macropad Mechanical Keyboard.
Purchase an customer service
Before purchasing, I sent an e-mail to their customer service as it was not clear if the keyboard was saving the config inside of the keyboard, and not in the software. The answer was yes, saved in the keyboard, with the exception of the launch and sync program features. (That change the layer used when a specific sowtware is used). The second question was if it's possible to change between the different programmation layers without the software, and the answer is yes (you can configure a key to change layer or use the button under the keyboard to change the layer).
They replied to my e-mail the next day, so nothing to complain (and the info they gave is right)
I purchased the keyboard on friday and it was shipped the next monday.
That was perfect. I paid for the cheapest delivery method, so it took 2 weeks to get to me, but that is not their fault.
What ? DIY ? Actually, there is two versions of the keyboard. The assembled one for 69.99$ or the DIY kit for 59.99$. Because I am a bit cheap and that it sounded fun, I purchased the DIY kit.
In the box you get : The PCB with everything (but the switches) soldered, the metal frame, screws, switches of your choice, keycaps and the usb cord.
The installation is simple, first you screw the standof to the PCB, than the PCB to the grame, stick the rubber feets, place the switches in the holes (just check for bent pins) and solder the switches.
With only two solder points by switch, you have a total of 40 easy solder points to do. I am far from being an expert, the only thing I ever did was resolder a switch to a lamp and resolder the broken wire of my laptop powerbrick. That being said, even with my lack of experience, that was easy. The solder points are not close from each other, so no fear to join two points together.... unless you are really bad at it. Good news, all my solder points where good (or at least to keyboard work).
For the fun of doing it and to save 10$, that was really worth it. Would totally recomment if you have a soldering iron. There is also a youtube video to learn how to make it.
The keyboard itself is well made, with a tick alluminum plate in a nice dark grey finish. The keycaps are black backlight keycaps, easy to read with the led on. It come with an micro usb wire that can be attached to the top or right side, this a really good idea as it can be used in 4x5 or 5x4 config. Some people could complain that the cable is not sleavec or braided or whatever (as if I care, none of my other peripheral cables are). You can select from 4 type of MX switches or 6 type of Gateron switches. I went for the MX silent. It's the fist mechanical keyboard I use and I do not like the clicky switches at all. The main thing that botther me is that the keyboard is pretty flat, with no adjustable legs to add an angle. I will probably put something under the back feet to give it an angle, or maybe screw something in the screwholes. I understant that they do not want to have a natural slope as it would kill the option to use it on both orientation. It also seems a bit tall, but I guess that mechanical keyboard are just taller than membrane one... I'll see how it is to use regularly.
Out of the box, the 5 layers of macro are by default set as an usual numpad, with the exception of the 0 that is plit in two to add a 00 key (interresting) and the + an enter are single keys that make place to the / and * on the right row.... but what are the L1 and L2 keys ? Out of the box, they are Layer keys and change between the two first layers (white and blue).
Other than that, there is a small switch on the right side of the PCB, that just shut off the keyboard, and on the left side there is 3 buttons. All the buttons are labeled on the PCB, fist for brightness, with off an 4 level, second is RGB mode (breathe, fade in, fade out, last key stay on, rgb wave, random (and flashing random), custom (by default, 8red 46 blue 5yellow 2 green), and last button is Layer cycle, so even if you did not program a layer or layer cycle key, you can always reach this button.
I really like the style of the keyboard, it might look a bit DIY with the visible PCB under, but I like it and it also allow an additional feature, LED under the PCB to light the desk, ans as all the LED, they are RBG customisable.
I would not pay a premium to have RGB components, but if you are, I think that this device offer nice features with it's 8 modes (lister before). No you cannot combine the modes (like breathe custom), and the options are only for the color, rainbow from left to right or top to bottom, or color of individual led, as well as brightness. I guess that other big company making peripherals can have nice features like steelseries that have apps for games ( I would use the Minecraft one if it was not for the fact that my hand cover the light of the mice when I play, so I would not notice the color change with lower health).
I am not an RBG expert, but I think the offer is still solid
This is where it got a bit ugly. My antivirus started to scan when I started the installer, and it does not like the .tmp file created by the installer and even if I told the antivirus to trust that file, that was not working well and I was not able to install on my main computer. (I'll send them an e-mail later, maybe there is something they can do to fix this issue). However, I was able to install it on my laptop (that do not have an antivirus and I use it offline only), and it worked without problem.
EDIT: I deactivated my antivirus for 10 minutes and it installed right away.
The software is easy to use (they even have a video to show how it work) assigning key (via visual keyboard on screen) or programming macro keys is easy. I found that they key assignment is easier on that than on the steelseries software (with the dropdown menus by category). I do not especially like the style, of the GUI, but for the number of time I'll look at it, that does not matter that much.
It is also easy to customise the led and use the launch/sync program. The launch confir allow you to launch a software and the sync program otpion allow you to select what layer of programmation to use when you switch to a specific software. For example you can say to switch to layer 1 when you open excel, with a numpad programmed and use layer 2 when you open iTunes, with media key programmed. so when you switch between the different softwares, the layer will switch. You can alt tab between the two softwares and the layer will change after a second.
At 69.99$, or 59.99$ for the DIY kit, yes it is more expensive than some cheap full mechanical keyboard. I would usually consider is somehow expensive, especially when compared with numpads that are 10$ or 20$. However, when compared to super expensive 100+$ macro pads, that is not that expensive.
I'll have to use it more, but for not, this feel extremely good. I do not regret a second buying this keyboard and I am really exited to start using it.
And as those are Cherry switches, I know that if I really want, I can get custom keycaps to match thay I program on the keys... and good news, Max keyboard are printing custom caps!
If you have questions or things you want me to test, let me know.
Assembled Falcon 20