Tempest's Kirin: User-friendly keyboard worth its price

User-friendly keyboard.
User-friendly keyboard.

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. But the Monarch with the Cherry MX Blue switches was out of stock. So, I reviewed only the Cherry MX Blue Kirin Crayon.

The keyboard uses polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) keycaps, which are said to be of better quality than the more common acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) ones found on most keyboards.

PBT keycaps are more wear-resistant than ABS ones, so its lettering and texture tend to remain intact after heavy usage. But PBT keycaps have a grainy texture, unlike ABS keycaps' smooth feel. I prefer this though - the keycaps provide resistance and do not leave an oily residue.

But the PBT keycaps on the Crayon look thin. I do not know if it was a design decision to let the keyboard's backlight shine through.

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

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 at its rear. This port also allows for wired connection to a computer, if Bluetooth connectivity is unreliable.

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

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

  • FOR

    •Superb value for money

    •Easy to switch to Mac keyboard layout

    •Durable PBT keycaps

    AGAINST

    •PBT keycaps feel a bit thin

    •Carrying case not included

    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

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

After using the Kirin with the backlight switched on for about two weeks on a full charge, I found its battery still going strong - definitely longer than its rated 60 hours.

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 offers the best value for money among its peers in terms of features, material used and build.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2020, with the headline 'User-friendly keyboard worth its price'. Print Edition | Subscribe