If you work in an open office, the prospect of mechanical keyboards can seem daunting. You don’t want to incite the rage of your coworkers. But some boards are quite quiet and even pleasing to the ear. One of the classics in that genre, the Happy Hacking Keyboard, just got its first update in years. Say hello to the Happy Hacking Keyboard 3, or as its friends call it, the HHKB 3.
Instead of using keyswitch mechanisms that are made out of plastic like most mechanical boards, the Japanese-made Happy Hacking Keyboard uses a mechanism called “Topre,” which consists of a rubber dome combined with a metal spring under each key. There is some dispute among the most insufferable nerds whether these count as “mechanical” but what matters is that the keys have a quiet snap that feels terrific and also sounds quite nice! I’m typing on one right now, and I have to give it my full endorsement.
The newest version of this board, the Happy Hacking Keyboard 3, comes in a few flavors. The HHBK 3 Pro Hybrid introduces AA battery-powered Bluetooth capability and a USB-C wired connection, where previous versions were required to be wired, and used a very old-fashioned and fairly rare mini-USB cable. There is also a “Type-S” version of the Pro Hybrid, which adds integrated silencing dampers to be even quieter than the already quiet stock model. Or, there’s also a Classic model, which drops the Bluetooth altogether, but still sports the USB-C port for its wired connection. Lastly, each model is available in black or classic grey, and with printed caps, or blank ones.
The HHKB 3, just like its predecessors, comes with a few caveats. These keyboards have a plastic body which, while not the most premium material, makes the tiny little board extremely portable. This is crucial because you will never want to stop using it. Also its layout is strange, as you can probably tell at a glance. By default, the key that is normally “Caps Lock” is designated as “Control,” though this is something you can change because the HHKB 3 lets you reprogram any key using software on your computer.
What you can’t change is that there are no dedicated arrow keys. Instead, these are hidden in a “Function layer” that you select by holding down a modifier key, much in the same way your keyboard’s symbols like !@#$ are hidden in the “layer” you select by holding shift. In short, this keyboard takes a little getting used to.
After using an older, non-silenced, Japanese model for several months straight, I can’t recommend the HHKB enough — if you’re willing to open your wallet a bit. A silenced Pro Hybrid model will run you $280, the normal Pro Hybrid is $231, and the classic is $190. For now! Those prices are discounted for launch. But if you’re willing to spend, it’s an iconic daily driver that will not let you down.
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