Tech review: Tempest Kirin Crayon mechanical keyboard offers great value for money

The best part is there are no special placement of keys or odd-shaped keycaps that you find with some TKL wireless keyboards.
The best part is there are no special placement of keys or odd-shaped keycaps that you find with some TKL wireless keyboards.PHOTO: TEMPEST

Developed by local tech start-up Tempest, the Kirin tenkeyless (TKL) wireless mechanical keyboard is the six-month-old company's first product.

It comes in two designs - Monarch (black) and Crayon (white) - and a choice of Cherry MX Blue, Red and Brown key switches, for those who prefer clicky, linear and tactile feel respectively.

I prefer black keyboards with clicky switches. However, the Monarch with the Cherry MX Blue switches was out of stock. So, I only get to review the Cherry MX Blue Kirin Crayon.

The keyboard uses polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) keycaps, which have better quality than the more common acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) keycaps found on most keyboards.

PBT keycaps are more wear resistant than ABS ones. In other words, the lettering and texture of PBT keycaps tend to remain intact after long and heavy usage.

However, PBT keycaps have a grainy texture, unlike ABS keycaps' smooth texture. Thus, the feel might be a tad "rough", especially when you first use them. I prefer this though, as the keycaps provide some resistance and do not leave any oily residue.

But the PBT keycaps on the Crayon look a tad thin. I don't know if it is a design decision to let the keyboard's backlight shine through.

Nonetheless, it is rare for wireless mechanical keyboards to have backlight. The two TKL mechanical keyboards I own - Filco and IKBC - do not have it. So I find it refreshing that the Kirin has backlight, even if only in white.

In addition, while most wireless keyboards use AA or AAA batteries, the Kirin has a built-in 1,850mAh lithium-ion battery that can be charged via a USB-C port situated at its rear.

This USB-C port also allows for wired connection to a PC or Mac computer, if you do not trust the reliability of Bluetooth connectivity. Plus, you can use the computer to charge the keyboard when it is out of juice, so there is no interruption of its use.

Design-wise, the Kirin looks pretty much like any TKL keyboard in the market. But the Crayon model has a colourful design. Some of its keycaps such as the directional keycaps are in blue, while others such as the Control, Windows and Alt keycaps are in different colours.

 
 

The best part though is there are no special placement of keys or odd-shaped keycaps that you find with some TKL wireless keyboards. Thus, you do not need to re-learn the position of the keys and can pretty much start typing right away.

Since I am using a Mac most of the time, I am delighted that the Kirin allows for a Mac keyboard layout by pressing two keys - Function and S - simultaneously. No more having to go to System Preferences and manually change the key functions. And when you need to swap back to the Windows keyboard layout, you just need to press the Function and A keys at the same time.

After using the Kirin with the backlight turned on for around two weeks from a full charge, I found its battery still going strong. Definitely longer than its rated 60 hours battery life.

There are no instances of Bluetooth connectivity drops or lags during the review, which is something not even my more expensive IKBC keyboard can boast.

 
 

And at $149, the Kirin probably offers the best value for money among its peers in terms of features, material used and build.

One quibble is the lack of an included cover or carrying case. Given how lightweight (1kg) and portable the Kirin is, it would be nice to have one.

Hopefully, it might be something Tempest can offer in the future since it is already selling keyboard accessories (keycaps and cables) on its website.


FOR

- Superb value for money

- Easy to switch to Mac keyboard layout

- Use of more durable PBT keycaps

AGAINST

- PBT keycaps feel a bit thin

- No included carrying case

TECH SPECS

PRICE: $149, available on tempest.sg

SWITCHES: Cherry MX Blue

CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, USB-C

WEIGHT: 1kg

RATING

FEATURES: 4/5

DESIGN: 4/5

PERFORMANCE: 4/5

BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5

OVERALL: 4/5