Velocifire NK01 review: a wireless mechanical keypad
Outemu Blue, 60g
Pad printed ABS
7 oz. | 6 x 3.5 x 1.5 in.
Wireless, battery saving capabilities
The Velocifire NK01 is remarkably cheap. Even so, it touts high build quality. A thick plate and plastic case keep flex and other bad behavior to a minimum. Its switches are also rather well behaved. Finally, it has significant range.
Its Outemu Blue switches may be a bit too loud in terms of spring noise for some. They're also less tactile than Cherry MX Blue switches. Finally, I'm not convinced that the keypad's power saving features are working correctly.
The Velocifire NK01 arrived in a tiny cardboard box surrounded by a thin plastic sheet. It isn’t the greatest packaging, but the NK01 doesn’t weight tons so damage is unlikely.
A simple manual, wireless USB dongle (with a cap), and the keypad itself are the only contents. At this price, I wouldn’t expect a keycap puller.
The NK01’s build quality is surprisingly good. In a rather shocking show of quality (which I suppose should be expected from Velocifire by now), it uses a metal switch plate and thick plastic. Creak and flex are nonexistent. A few screws, which thread into plastic mounts, hold it together. That’s expected.
I’m not fond of the heat-staking mechanism used on the LED window, nor is the LED red as stated in the manual (oops). It appears that a soldering iron was slashed along both sides of the window to hold it in place. I pity the lungs of the factory workers that produced the NK01. That bit of ugliness is only visible on the inside.
The screws must have been a bit wider than expected, as some of the switches have trimmed or sheared lower shells. Thankfully the screws are painted black to match the plate.
The PCB and plate are great given the NK01’s price point. The plate is impressively thick, actually, with an average thickness PCB.
There are also rolled edges, which add even more stiffness to the assembly. It should be able to survive some serious wear and tear.
Four pads rest on the bottom of the case. It isn’t equipped with flip out elevation feet, but those are rare on keypads anyways.
Switches & stabilizers
Outemu Blue switches populate the keyboard. I think I could grow to like them better than Cherry switches. Their click is higher pitched, but much more distinct and less rattly. They are slightly less tactile, though, so that might be a dealbreaker for some people. I think they’re also a hair less smooth, but it’s barely noticeable.
There is also moderate spring noise when using the keyboard. Some of that will vary based on desk construction, as my work area sounds particularly hollow. Overall, their performance is quite impressive.
The stabilizers feel fine, but I noticed that the sliders jump out of the wires easily during keycap removals. They pop back on just as easily, though, so it isn’t a big deal. You can see one missing in the photo above. It was there, but stuck to the keycap.
One word: cheap. They’re pad printed thin ABS. They will shine and wear down with time and use.
There are relatively few features to discuss. I’d say that two are worth mentioning: the calculator key (which is just a nice touch) and the wireless functionality itself.
I’m pretty sure that the keyboard doesn’t shut down to save battery as advertised. The two second hibernation doesn’t appear to activate, nor does the Num Lock LED turn off in a reasonable amount of time. That’s only while the computer and wireless dongle are powered, though. When the dongle is removed or its host computer powered down, the keypad Num Lock LED will remain on until one presses a key. Then, and only then, will the whole keypad (including its Num Lock LED) shut down.
It’s also worth mentioning that this thing has crazy range. I walked three walls over in my house and my laptop still picked the NK01 up loud and clear. That’s pretty crazy considering its tiny power supply. Other than that, though, the NK01 is a “what you see is what you get” product.
Labels & branding
The labels and branding are passable. The Velocifire logo on the NK01 is properly saturated, unlike the VM70 (which had a grayish look to its flames). Its rear label is plastic, as expected. There is also a stray QC sticker on the back that you’ll want to peel off.
The Velocifire NK01 features an impressive range, price, and quality level. I’m guessing that its battery life won’t be the longest, nor will everyone like its switches or aesthetic. Its keycaps are also abysmal. Even so, it has potential. It might be worthwhile to design a custom case for it, complete with an on/off switch. The prank value is also quite high given its range. If one were to discreetly pop the dongle into a computer, one could spam keypad commands from the next city block. That may not even be complete hyperbole.
If you need a wireless mechanical keypad on the cheap, this is as good as gold. I’m not terribly fond of certain design decisions, but Velocifire was probably accepting the lowest bidders to keep costs down. If its quirks seem inconsequential, this is a keypad for you.
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