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NuPhy Air75 Keyboard Review

I enjoy mechanical keyboards but find myself typing faster and with less errors on cheap-and-cheerful low-profile membrane keyboards from the likes of Dell and A4Tech. Finally, a Short Circuit video made me aware of the existence of the NuPhy Air75 keyboard which is compact, low-profile, mechanical, wireless, RGB-backlit and, Apple users rejoice; Mac-compatible. What more could one ask for? Well, perhaps that's the problem, but we will get to that.


First Impressions


The packaging comes with a nicely designed and comprehensive list of the myriad of key shortcuts to change things like the connectivity mode, backlight and sidelight settings, sleep mode setting or to do a factory reset. While we are on the subject, no further information is provided on what "sleep mode" is but the keyboard will automatically power-off after 30 minutes of idling regardless of that setting so... your guess is as good as mine on that one.


And on reverse of the aforementioned key shortcut list there is a picture of an anime-style waifu. And she's on the box art. And there are stickers with her included as well. For some a nice touch, for others a very tired "oh come on! does everything have to be gamer-y?", as when you take a look at the keyboard itself, it really doesn't look like a gamer-focused product, does it?


Incessant need of marketing teams to please everyone notwithstanding, the board itself screams quality. The frame is aluminium. The caps are PBT and the design itself brings memories of the gray-and-white keyboards of old, but with a modern, designer twist.



You can connect the NuPhy to up to 5 devices at a time. 3 via bluetooth 5.0, 1 via the 2.4 Ghz wireless dongle and one through a USB C cable (included). I immediately opted for the 2.4 GHz connection as it allows for low-latency input for the occasional gaming session.


The range is abysmal, though. If you get up from the desk and carry the keyboard around even a pretty small room you will experience missed keystrokes and delays. But all that could be forgiven. You're supposed to use keyboards at a desk, right? Well, if the dongle is any further than about 10 cm from the keyboard, the input becomes inconsistent. I kid you not. If you have a desktop PC that's sitting on the floor you might have to run an extension USB cable for the dongle. At that point, is it really wireless? You might as well plug in the included USB C cable.


Battery Life


The Air75 uses an internal battery that you can charge with the USB C cable. You can use the sidelight to view current battery status but it’s not particularly useful as it’s going to show green throughout almost the entire charge and will suddenly start blinking yellow if it’s running low, at which point you have maybe 2 minutes to plug it in before it’s dead. So, by all means you may get caught while playing an online match or doing time-sensitive work.

For my typical use one charge is enough to last a week, and that’s more of the same of what I’ve read other users report online.

They also report that after a few months of use the battery is only good for a day, so I guess I’ll get to find out eventually whether my wireless keyboard is even less wireless than 10 cm from a dongle.


Typing Experience

Upon plugging in my $110 keyboard eager to get full enjoyment from a more pleasant, better typing experience to cheap, low-profile membrane keyboards I’ve grown to tolerate I… immediately hated it. At least at first.

The keycaps are shorter than on “standard” mechanical keyboards, yes. But other than that, no immediately obvious consideration was put into adjusting the shape to the form factor. The surfaces of keys ended up becoming larger, but they are still right next to each other as they would on a standard board. That results in your fingers catching on neighboring keys as you type, which then results in accidental keystrokes. That, I believe could be alleviated if the surfaces of the keycaps were slightly smaller, so that they would taper towards the top a bit more, or if their overall sizes were a little smaller thus creating small gaps between keys. But here we are with a shape that could be described like this: imagine a standard height keycap and slice it in half horizontally.

Overall, now that I spent a few weeks accustoming myself to the quirky shape of the keycaps I’m feeling rather satisfied with the experience, though I wouldn’t call the NuPhy Air75 the best keyboard to type on.

As for the switches, you get a selection of red, brown or blue mechanical Gaterons. I’ve opted for the browns and they feel perhaps somewhat more linear than some other brown switches I’ve experienced before, though I would still describe them as perfectly fine.

The switches are hot swappable, made even easier by the included keycap and switch removal tool, so that’s neat, I guess. 3 additional switches are included but only one can go bad before you need to spend money on replacements, though, as they are 1 of each kind, not all three of the variant you selected upon purchase.


Bells and Whistles

You also get individual RGB lighting with a variety of modes you can select through proper keyboard shortcuts. That’s fine, but the keycaps don’t have shine-through characters so the light doesn’t actually light them up. And while during the day you may taste the RGB rainbow just fine, at night it won’t actually do anything to help you see the keys. All in all, the RGB lighting on this keyboard has the distinct stink of an afterthought.

On top of that you get two sidelights that also feature a few switchable lighting modes, but can be turned off in which case the left one serves as a caps lock indicator and the right one can be a battery indicator if you so desire.

Function keys serve also as media controls and buttons for basic operations such as changing the brightness of your screen or, rather annoyingly, bringing up Teams. That last one will minimize whatever full-screen application you may be running so that’s not exactly well thought-through.

My understanding is the optional software you can download from NuPhy’s website should allow you to modify the behavior of function keys but I haven’t been able to try it out because the software would not detect the keyboard. At least I think that’s what was going on. Clicking on the tray icon did absolutely nothing. Windows would even warn me upon running the installer for it that it’s unrecognized software. So, I guess it’s not ready, to put it kindly.

If you don’t want your keyboard to lay completely flat you might enjoy the nice magnetic snap-on rubber feet that raise the back a bit for improved typing comfort, if that’s how you like it.

If you’re willing to pay extra $19 you will receive a carrying case, but note that it doesn’t include a space for the aforementioned rubber feet or the 2.4 GHz dongle.


All Things to All People?

That’s probably what the marketing team wanted and probably not what the engineers wanted.

It’s a serious, high-quality product. It’s compatible with Macs. It’s gray and white or gray and other different gray, depending on your choice at purchase. But there’s an anime girl on the packaging, on the manual leaflet and there are anime girl stickers in the box. It’s a product for professionals, but there’s RGB lighting.

It’s wireless but instead of doing one type of connection properly (and if they were to fully go ahead with the “it’s for gamers and has waifus and RGB” rhetoric that should probably be the low-latency 2.4 GHz connection) they did multiple ones poorly.

It’s an expensive product for people with expensive tastes but includes a cheap-toy-tier battery, an even worse status indicator and software that doesn’t work properly months after release of the product.

But put the identity problem aside, is it worth recommending? Honestly, knowing what I know now I would have gone with something different for that money. But then, what would that be? If you need it to be a 75% compact, low profile, mechanical and low-latency wireless this, I believe, is your only option, as others only support a Bluetooth connection or are bigger.


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