What would you say if I told you there is a whole other subset of mechanical keyboard enthusiasts who pay more for keycaps than people do for entire keyboards? There are custom keycap sets that are offered on group buys, and people often pay in excess of $100 in advance only to wait for more than a year, too. What if I now told you there were individual keycaps that are sold for more than some keyboards? Welcome to the world of artisan keycaps, and what better way to talk about it than with Jelly Key.
The Vietnamese brand is an offshoot of Joiha, which itself has quite a past if you are interested. Starting as a headphone store nearly a decade ago, the company soon realized the interest in handcrafted goods in the audiophile market, which is infamous for money spent faster than a brand-new Silicon Valley hire would. Custom handmade headphones using local Vietnamese materials gave them the experience and resources to set up a studio for more, which a co-founder with an interest in mechanical keyboards used to start Jelly Key.
The Jelly Key brand itself had fairly humble beginnings, starting off making designs to decorate individual keyboards akin to headphones, but word soon spread, and the keyboard community took notice to where group buys are now the only way to get new Jelly Key keycaps. The primary components are resin and clay, but the company soon learned how to use miniature models, crystals, glitter powder, and paper, Vietnamese and Japanese wood, watch gears, fluorescent components, alcohol ink, and so on. I have here two keycaps to help better showcase the brand, which were a big deal to get given these things are either unicorns or sold for a huge markup on the second-hand market. So let's thank Jelly Key for sending the samples to TechPowerUp!
8-bit Pipeline City
When it comes to anything artisan, the unboxing experience is as important as any other aspect of the product. After all, this is your first impression of a product you paid lots for based on word of mouth and some online photos. So I was curious about what it will be here, especially since I am a sucker for cool unboxing experiences. Jelly Key clearly cares about every single aspect of the product, so much so that there are multiple blog posts devoted to packaging updates. The latest one from last year talks about a more environmentally friendly tweak with the move from Styrofoam to solid paper boxes as seen above. The paper is also made from recyclable materials and has the Jelly Key logo on front. A list of contents has been put inside, on the side, along with a seal with contact information. Opening the packaging reveals the actual product box.
The product box is held in place by a shaped compartment in the solid paper packaging, and then we get wood with no innuendo (unless this gets you very excited, of course). Everything was designed, prototyped, and manufactured to work for Jelly Key's needs. There are three box sizes to fit a single 1u keycap (round box), slightly longer keycaps or two 1u keycaps (also called Enter box), and then an even larger box we will see on the next page. This is the Enter box, so expect to see a slightly longer keycap, too. With the rounded smooth finish to the wood, the box nicely fits into my hands, and there is also a hand-applied seal to.. seal the deal. A marketing tagline is etched into the back, but I suspect most won't even get there before they open the box.
The box opens up like a luxury chocolate gift box, which it might as well given the whole luxury market this operates in. There is a foam lining on the lid, with the actual keycap inside a thicker foam piece with a cutout to snugly host the product. If you order two 1u keycaps, they will ship together in the same box, but of course with a different foam piece with a divider in between.
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