Topre keyboards are, in some ways, the cream of the crop when it comes to mechanical keyboards. The switches have some of the best tactile feedback you’ll get on a keyboard, and they’re all built to a high standard. But this makes them incredibly pricey, and we won’t blame you for seeking some advice about the best Topre keyboard before taking the plunge.
Since there aren’t that many Topre keyboards, treat this more as an introduction to the wonderful world of Topre (and Topre-style) boards than a true “best of” list. That said, we still think there’s enough variety for anyone to find the best Topre keyboard for their tastes. But enough preamble; let’s get started.
Our Favorite Topre Keyboards
A quick note before we start. Topre/Realforce released the R3 versions of their Realforce keyboards sometime late last year or early this year and have officially discontinued the R2 variants. However, the R3 boards are currently only available in limited quantities directly from the company, making getting a hold of them quite challenging.
Given that stock levels of the R2 boards seem relatively healthy as of writing, we’ve opted to discuss the R2 keyboards even though they’re on the way out. We’ll update this list once the Realforce R3 boards become more readily available in the US.
1. Realforce R2 TKL
|Switch Type(s)||Topre 30/45/55 g and variable|
|Keycap Material||Dye-sub PBT|
|Connectivity||Fixed USB cable|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||14.52 x 5.59 x 1.53 inches|
The Realforce R2 TKL isn’t just the best Topre TKL keyboard, it’s arguably the Topre keyboard. You get Topre’s excellent switches, high-quality thick PBT keycaps, and a metal switch plate, all in the space-saving (and, in my opinion, aesthetically pleasing) TKL form factor.
The Realforce R2 TKL comes in two guises: a uniformly-weighted version with 30, 45, or 55-gram switches, or a variable version with a mix of weights supposedly designed to be more ergonomic. I much prefer uniform weights, especially for gaming, so that’s what I’d recommend. Still, the variable-weight option is ever so slightly more relaxing on the ring and pinky fingers (provided you touch type), so it’s worth trying out if you get the chance.
No matter what weight you choose, you’ll be typing on what I consider to be some of the best stock PBT keycaps you can find. They’re thick and have a unique key profile that’s somewhere in between Cherry and OEM. I like them a lot, and their quality makes the relative lack of customization options easier to live with.
And that brings us to the biggest issues with mainline Realforce and Topre mechanical keyboards: a severe lack of customization. Barring the Realforce RGB, Topre switch stems don’t support Cherry MX keycaps, so you’re stuck with the original keycaps or one of the few aftermarket key sets.
You also don’t get any programming or macro functionality on the Realforce R2 boards, which is a shame considering how expensive the keyboards are. Sure, they’re fantastic to type on, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some more options to make it your own. Thankfully, the upcoming R3 boards will have full remapping via software.
Those quibbles aside, there’s a lot to like about the Realforce R2 TKL. Excellent keycaps, solid construction, and wonderful tactility make for an amazing board. It’s pricey, yes, but I’d argue it’s worth almost every penny.
Need the Numpad? The full-size Realforce R2 offers all the same goodness (and drawbacks) in a 104-key layout.
2. Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2
|Switch Type(s)||Topre 45 g/45 g Silent|
|Keycap Material||Dye-sublimated PBT|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||11.6 x 4.3 x 1.6|
The Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2 (or HHKB Pro 2, as it’s more commonly known), is arguably the most iconic and imitated Topre keyboard on account of its signature 60% layout. Combine the brilliant layout with a light and breezy typing feel, and you have the makings of a classic keyboard.
It’s impossible to discuss the HHKB keyboards without talking about the layout. Beyond the visual appeal of its pared-back and central bottom row, the big deal is the HHKB’s key mapping, inspired by old-school Unix workstations. There are a few key differences which combine, in my opinion, to create the perfect layout for typing.
First up, the Control key to the left of A, where Caps Lock usually is. Then you get Delete (or Backspace) key above Enter, in place of the Backslash (\) key. Escape is to the left of 1, while Backslash and Tilde (~) occupy the two spaces usually taken up by Backspace.
Of course, this makes the HHKB a slightly difficult Topre keyboard to get used to. But spend some time with it, and you’ll likely find it impossible to go back to any other layout. The HHKB’s Control and Backspace positioning feel perfect to me, and it’s likely one of the main reasons it attracts such an ardent following amongst enthusiasts.
Like most Topre boards, the HHKB isn’t programmable, so you’ll have to live with most of the layout decisions here. However, you do get a few DIP switches for changing a few settings. You can choose between Windows and Mac OS modes, add an extra Fn key on the left ◇, and switch the Delete key’s default behavior between Delete and Backspace.
I think the HHKB Pro 2 is one of the best Topre keyboards ever; its combination of typing feel, layout, and portability make it a must-have in my arsenal. It’s pricey for the size, but I think its strengths justify the price.
The HHKB Pro 2 is available in charcoal and white, with printed and unprinted keycaps. There are also silenced (Type-S) and Bluetooth (Hybrid) versions, so you have quite a few versions to choose from. Check out the whole range on MechanicalKeyboards.com to see your options..
3. Realforce R2 RGB TKL
|Switch Type(s)||Topre 45 g|
|Keycap Material||Double-shot ABS|
|Connectivity||Fixed USB cable|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||14.52 x 5.59 x 1.53 inches|
Topre keyboards have never been the go-to option for fans of RGB, but that changed a few years ago when the company introduced the Realforce R2 RGB. It takes the normally conservative styling of the Realforce boards and adds a dash of RGB bling, along with a few extras to suit the new aesthetic.
The Realforce R2 RGB is broadly similar to the non-RGB version, albeit with only one keyboard switch option. Going with 45 g Topre switches makes sense given the “gamer” target demographic. It’s a relatively light mechanical switch that shouldn’t prove too tiring over long gaming sessions, aided by the option to choose between 1.5, 2.2, and 3 mm actuation points.
Realforce also ships the R2 RGB with a small handful of key spacers in 2 mm and 3 mm thicknesses designed to reduce key travel. Combine them with a shortened 1.5 mm actuation point, and you’ll have a gaming-friendly low-profile feel to your keys with the option of reversing it when you need to type.
However, adding fully-customizable, 16.8-million color backlighting hasn’t come for free. The R2 RGB uses double-shot ABS keycaps instead of the usual high-quality PBT you get from a Realforce board. It’s doubly disappointing when you remember that even mid-range Cherry MX boards now ship with long-lasting double-shot PBT keycaps. Unsure what this all means? Check out our guide to keycap types for a comparison of both materials.
On the plus side, the R2 RGB comes stock with Cherry MX-compatible stems. So you won’t have any issues finding a replacement set of keycaps if the stock ones don’t do it for you. It’s a shame you’re getting ABS keycaps on a board this expensive, but at least you’re not stuck with them. Silver linings and all that.
Overall, the Realforce R2 RGB TKL is notable and worth considering simply because it’s the only legit Topre board to sport per-key RGB. The ABS keycaps are a substantial cutback, but the MX stems help make up for it somewhat. If you want Topre and RGB, this is really your only option.
The Realforce R2 RGB is also available in a full-size layout.
4. Leopold FC660C
|Switch Type(s)||Topre 45 g/Silent 45 g|
|Keycap Material||Dye-sublimated PBT|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||12.91 x 4.37 x 1.57 inches|
Leopold’s FC660C isn’t the only Topre board that comes with “silent” switches, but the company’s design and material decisions make it the quietest one out of the box. So if you want a silent Topre board but don’t want to get your hands dirty with modding, the FC660C is the Topre board for you.
Topre switches are relatively quiet to start with, primarily since the rubber dome eliminates any bottom-out “clack.” But the plunger (check our buying guide for a diagram) makes noise on the upstroke when it hits the plastic housing, which is where most of the noise of a Topre board comes from.
The FC660C’s switches have a small cushioning ring around the plunger that mutes this upstroke clack. You can get these switches in the HHKB Type-S, but something about the FC660C’s metal plate, case, and keycaps combine to make it quieter than the HHKB. In fact, we’d argue it’s nearly silent and one of the best quiet keyboards outright.
Of course, most of the standard Topre drawbacks apply to the FC660C too. Keycap compatibility is an issue, although you at least have some options now from companies like KBDfans.
Like most Topre boards, the FC660C lacks key remapping or macro programming. However, you do at least get some DIP switches that allow for some minor layout tweaks. These let you swap Left Control and Caps Lock, Win and Alt, Win and Fn, and disable the Win key entirely. So you get something, even if it’s still not quite on par with even $100 keyboards these days.
So it’s not perfect. But like all Topre boards, it has it where it matters: great key feel and generally above-average materials. Add the silent Topre switches into the mix for a silent keyboard with the kind of tactility you can only dream of with silent Cherry MX switches.
5. Niz X87
|Switch Type(s)||Niz Electro-capacitive 35 g / 45 g|
|Keycap Material||Laser-engraved PBT|
|Programming||Macros and remapping|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||12.20 x 5.23 x 1.37 inches|
Niz’s X87 isn’t exactly a Topre keyboard, as it doesn’t use Topre switches. However, its electro-capacitive keyboard switches are almost direct clones of Topre’s mechanism, and the X87 provides a similar—albeit not identical—typing feel. Crucially, it does this at a relatively more affordable price point, making this a good jumping-off point for the curious.
The Niz X87 comes with 35-gram and 45-gram switches. These do a decent job mimicking Topre switches, but I think they’re closer to tactile MX Browns than Topre switches. They’re not bad, but I don’t like them all that much. That said, I know a few people who find their weighting and key feel preferable to legit Topre boards.
But even if the key feel is debatable, other aspects of the X87 are genuine improvements over most Topre keyboards. First up, you have full remapping and macro support, which Realforce has only introduced on its latest R3 keyboards (which are still unavailable in the US as I write this).
You also get MX-compatible stems, meaning you have a much more extensive range of custom keycaps to choose from. Lack of customization has always been one of the main drawbacks of a Topre board, but that’s not something you’ll have to worry about with the Niz X87. A detachable USB-C cable also adds another customization option for all you cable-heads out there.
Overall, the Niz X87 is a decent Topre board alternative that stands out with improvements such as key remapping and MX keycap compatibility. The switches aren’t entirely on par with the full-fat Topre experience, but the Niz X87 gets you some of the way there at a much more agreeable price. So it’s worth checking out just for that.
Topre Keyboard Buying Guide
There are no two ways about it: Topre keyboards are expensive. So let’s run through some crucial pre-purchase information before spending $200 (or more) on a mass-produced keyboard.
What Are Topre Switches?
Topre switches are electrostatic capacitive (or “electro-capacitive”) switches. They use a rubber dome and conical spring arrangement on top of a PCB to provide tactile feedback and key sensing respectively. Pressing on a key compresses a rubber dome—the signature tactile bump and key feel—which in turn pushes down on a conical spring.
The PCB detects the keypress once the spring is fully compressed, which happens partway through the key’s actuation. The main advantage of this design is that there’s no mechanical contact, so you don’t encounter any of the chatter issues that can plague mechanical-contact switches like Cherry MX.
This diagram should give you a better idea of how Topre switches work:
It’s important to mention that even though Topre switches use rubber domes, they’re a world away from the $10 dome-over-membrane keyboards you’ve used. Topre domes are much more tactile, with crisper action and none of the mushy bottom-out of regular domes.
Are you paying a huge premium just to go back to rubber domes? Sure. But these are the best domes you’ll ever use.
Topre vs. Cherry MX
If you’re reading this as a Cherry MX user, you’re probably wondering which is better: Topre or Cherry MX? And while I love Topre switches, I don’t think it’s possible (or fair) to try and claim that one is definitively better or worse than the other. It depends on what you want and what you like.
Topre switches are the ones to go for if you want tactile feedback. They have an unmissable tactile bump at the start of the travel that offers much more satisfying feedback than most tactile MX-style switches. The fact that Topre switches use rubber domes gives them a slightly more cushioned feel, which can help reduce typing fatigue somewhat.
Topre switches also have an incredibly pleasing “thock” on bottom-out that sounds quite unlike most other switches. Many Cherry enthusiasts spend a lot of time and effort looking for this “thock,” to the point where we have aftermarket switches like the Boba U4T that claim thockiness out of the box. But nothing is able to quite match how Topre switches sound, in my opinion.
On the other hand, Cherry MX (and clones) have the advantage of variety. Topre switches only come in three different weights. In contrast, there are a ton of different MX tactiles that offer subtly different takes on the idea of a tactile switch. And if you’re not a fan of tactility, you can opt for linear MX switches instead. Topres are only ever tactile.
Cherry MX boards are also a lot more customizable. From the basics like aftermarket keycaps and custom casings to full-on custom boards, there’s much more room to put a unique spin on an MX keyboard. Topre keyboards, on the other hand, are all relatively conservative, with few customization options available.
Unless you’re willing to mod your Topre board with custom MX-compatible sliders (or buy a Niz), you’re stuck with the default keycaps or one of the few sets from companies like KBDfans. Even then, they’re still quite conventional; no striking GMK colorways here, sadly.
Overall, both have strong pros and cons. If you value tactility, then I really don’t think you can beat Topre. But not everyone has the same preferences or priorities; as great as Topre switches are, they can’t offer a linear or clicky experience like MX-style switches. My suggestion? Use both!
There might only be a small handful of Topre keyboards out there, but that doesn’t mean finding the best Topre keyboard will be easy. When prices are this high, it’s best to take your time and choose wisely.
That said, the Realforce R2 should be the starting point for anybody interested in getting into Topre. It leads by example as far as quality and typing feel goes. But if you’re the 60% type, then the HHKB Pro 2 is the board to check out. All the best!