On the desk today we have the LTC Nimbleback NB681 65% mechanical keyboard.
Many of you may not actually recognize the LTC name but you may recognize the Royal Kluge brand. They are essentially one in the same. LTC produces the Nimbleback and Royal Kluge keyboards among many other accessories.
The NB681’s claim to fame comes as a slightly larger layout keyboard that has customizable RGB and hot-swappable mechanical switches at under $89.99 CAD. The closest I can come to that right now is the Epomaker Skyloong GK64X kit which currently stands at $89.99 CAD and that doesn’t come with switches or keycaps.
Compared to the GK64X, while I appreciate the compactness of the GK64X (especially the really easy “Shift+Del” combo, having the arrow keys and extra function buttons a little off to the side almost gives a level of relief. It also allows for pretty well standard sized keys. While the RShift is smaller than a standard keyboard it doesn’t really affect how I type as I typically ignore that shift key anyways.
Through a second layer you can turn this into a Mac specific keyboard and when it is set that way a light above the arrows will indicate that along with other modes like Caps and so on. On top of that all second layer functions, while not back-illuminated by the RGB like the regular indices, are labelled on the keycaps making it easy to know what functions are where without consulting a manual.
The keycaps included here are relatively cheap ABS caps again with shine through legends. They feel okay. They aren’t going to win any awards there. But for the price I honestly wouldn’t expect more. Yes I have reviewed cheaper boards that, on the surface, have nearly the same features. And, they do what keycaps are supposed to do, show you what the keys are and allow you to type.
Under the keycaps we have hot-swappable mechanical key switches in a brown flavour. They are not CherryMX switches but 3-pin switches from a manufacturer called Huano. No I’ve never heard of them but no doubt that is how LTC is keeping the costs down on the NB681. The performance and feel is about what I’d expect for a CherryMX clone. They are not as smooth as Gateron Brown switches and the tactile bump feels a little more exaggerated than the Gateron’s as well. In fact I’d say they feel a lot like blue switches without that extra click sound.
The RGB lighting has good colour representation on the Nimbleback though I would say it is a tad dim like a lot of Keychron keyboards I have. It does shine decently through the shine-through legends though and I also have my keyboard set to a bit of a dimmer pink/purple colour (though still on maximum brightness). In the dark the lighting is plenty bright however and makes it easy to see where your hands are.
Around the front, and sadly right corner of the keyboard, there is the connection for the removable USB C cable, and in a first since reviewing my Tesoro Tizona, there are two USB 2 connectors for plugging in a mouse or charging a phone or even plugging in a USB drive. This is a really handy feature especially if your computer is under your desk.
The black NB681 that I have is plain other than along the wrist side NIMBLEBACK is printed on the right corner. I don’t necessarily hate this. Some may have preferred it to be somewhere else but I think it is fair for a company to promote itself on it’s product. In this case it would be easy to remove it with a magic eraser or something like.
The bottom of the Nimbleback reveals four rubber feet in the corners and two risers moving the typing angle from a shallower 5 to a less shallow 10%. This is really nice to see as many mechanical keyboards don’t give the option of different angles. Even my brand new $200 CAD Keychron Q2 only has a shallow angle for typing. More on that another day.
The build quality is here though. I can’t twist the case at all. It’s also not too light but not too heavy either. That makes it easy to move around and take with you if you so choose.
There is no wireless capability here. Only USB C connectivity. I have no problem with this. While many of my keyboards do have bluetooth connectivity I have found that the connection can be spotty at best if your keyboard is not line-of-site with the bluetooth antenna of the device you are using.
The keyboard did come with a wire keycap puller which is fantastic. They also send along a switch puller of the cheaper U-shaped variety but not the worst one I have seen. They also send along four extra brown switches. That blew me away. I haven’t seen that with any keyboard I have purchased with hot-swappable switches. I did not have any dead keys on arrival but it is still nice to see.
LTC offers some software to completely customise your keys and create macros. Their software also allows you to change the RGB lighting. You cannot change per key lighting though and that is something I would like to start seeing with these manufacturers. Also if you have already set up a lighting mode using the key combinations on the keyboard itself, the LTC software will override those settings.
The software is low grade. I cannot remember the other company that had this issue right now but the first time you boot the software up no text shows anywhere and you have to muddle around until you can find the box that selects English as the language. Then all the text shows up. I don’t understand how software can go out this way. Please fix this manufacturers. If you are offering software to do these things make sure they work. Test them. Otherwise, honestly, don’t bother.
LTC offers a 60 day money back guarantee and an 18 month quality warranty. That is also fantastic. Most of these mechanical keyboards, outside major gaming brands like Asus, HyperX and SteelSeries, don’t offer any warranty or don’t make it easy to know what your warranty is.
I typed this review of the LTC Nimbleback NB681 on the aforementioned keyboard. I do really like the layout. I appreciate the risers and I appreciate LTC sending the unit with extra key switches. The two USB 2.0 ports up front are a fantastic additional feature which I also appreciate.
Typing on it was a pleasure. I do look forward to playing with it some more with different switches on board. I am slowly becoming a linear switch guy though for typing things I still prefer some tactile feedback and the browns still do a great job of that.
I highly recommend the Nimbleback NB681.