Quick Look: Jelly Key 8-Bit Series III Neon Era Artisan Keycap 11

Quick Look: Jelly Key 8-Bit Series III Neon Era Artisan Keycap



Jelly Key Logo

If you are new to the world of artisan keycaps, I recommend reading my first article on them courtesy Jelly Key itself, which also goes over the what and why of these very custom, very niche products. That article went over two example keycaps from the Vietnamese company, and I then had another soon after in the form of a quick look article going over two other such keycaps before a third one came up. Each time, I was left wondering what could be next aside from other designs and themes, and Jelly Key must have been contemplating this very thing as the latest group buy is quite something to behold. Thanks to Jelly Key for arranging a final prototype keycap for TechPowerUp—especially early enough for the quick look to go out while the group buy is still going on!

This one is all the more relevant to me since the Jelly Key 8-bit Pipeline City was the first artisan product I had covered, which was definitely an inspired take on Nintendo's Mario universe. With the all-new 8-bit Series III, Jelly Key has gone with a more generic base, but far more complex execution involving different effects, character models, items, and even banners and ads to make this seem like a busy city being lived in. I also appreciate the cover art made by the designer and chose it as the title image for this article. Let's now take a look at Jelly Key's newest artisan keycap series in the form of a 2.25u keycap in the "Pixel Town" theme.


I have previously covered in more detail how Jelly Key spent more time on the actual packaging design than many companies spend on entire keyboards, and I had already seen all three sizes of the solid paper boxes used by the company, which are in turn made of fully recycled materials. Based on my previous experiences, I already knew this box was going to contain a 1.5u to 3u sized keycap. It has the Jelly Key logo on front and a list of contents on the side, along with a seal with contact information. Opening the packaging reveals the actual product box held in place by a shaped compartment in the solid paper packaging, and we then get a small wooden box with a rounded, smooth finish.

As always, the hand-applied seal is a nice touch with Jelly Key products, and a marketing tagline is etched into the back. Note that this is only a concept prototype; retail products will come with the entire contents listed on the packaging above. As such, I was also told that the keycap may not fully represent the quality of finished products from the group buy, so keep that in mind as we move forward. The box opens up to reveal the keycap presented like a gift. There is foam lining on the lid, with the actual keycap inside a thicker foam piece with a cutout to snugly hold and protect the product.

Closer Examination

Jelly Key's previous 8-Bit Series II was titled Pipeline Bots, and it was a nice segue from the first series that was simpler and relied on other established media for something more organic. For those interested, the company has a nice tale about what is going on here in the so-called Neon Era. Things are futuristic and cyberpunk-like in more ways than you'd imagine looking at this keycap. We see a city in the middle of a fight with different forms of technology, but there are also relatable elements throughout, including a skyline and roads. What got me right away was the immense number of individual models in play, but also how they came together in a layered approach to be cohesive throughout no matter which angle you view the keycap from.

The 8-Bit Series III has keycaps in OEM, SA, and even Cherry profile to make for three very different height options for these keycaps. Where it matters is the difficulty incurred in bringing the same base design to fruition, especially on the Cherry profile without as much room as the other two. What I have here is one such keycap in the Cherry profile, and a side view shows how close the internal elements come to the resin pour in the mold. The additional support for OEM and SA will certainly cover the vast majority of end users on the market.

Turning the keycap around confirms this is a prototype courtesy the large not for sale metal badge insert, with retail units sharing the Jelly Key logo. The keycap has thick walls at ~2.4 mm on each side, and perfectly executed crosspoint stem compatibility for all Cherry MX-style switches on the market that conform to the physical shape and layout. Some switches may have an issue though, especially if they have light pillars on the outside similar to these Kailh switches we covered earlier.

There are four themes for this series—War Zone, Neon at Dusk, Skyscraper Citybot, and Pixel Town—which share the same design down to the individual layer, but differ in the colorways and banners to where they come off quite differently given how much is going on everywhere. In fact, look at the supposed back of the keycap here no one is going to really see once installed. There's still a lot going on, with a sewer system and what looks like a subway even. This approach of getting every view to do something is why I have no problem saying this series is technically better than the first one, with the comparison photo above showing how the older keycap has a poor view with the keycap installed, as you will see this most of the time. At the same time, there is a sense of too much going on too without much breathing room between the various elements. It's all the more evident compared to all that "empty space" on the other keycap.

This explains why I feel the Jelly Key 8-Bit Series III is best with larger keycaps, with the example space bar keycap above having new things you will notice each time you look at it. There's also the impact of something from elsewhere in the keycap too, including explosions from missiles and road segments connected by literal underground activity on the sides. I can totally see the space bar keycaps being the most popular of this series, and I can't really recommend going with anything smaller than 2.25u to better appreciate the intricate labor and time spent on each. Another thing to consider is that these are receptive to UV lighting, which gives the Neon Era tagline a whole different meaning. It also adds to the ongoing futuristic city theme and may affect which of the four themes you pick if purchasing.

I used the Anne Pro 2 keyboard to demonstrate the keycap installed, and its clean white base makes for a good supporting cast. Jelly Key has this particular 2.25u keycap in a Cherry profile, and it is best used on the L.Shift key. However, I chose to place it on the Enter key just to show how it would look there since the rest of the keycaps use an OEM profile, and it would be out of place. It would be fair to say that this would be quite the statement on your keyboard, and given there is no getting around this, you might as well go big(ger)! I know I'd have certainly preferred a space bar keycap rather than this one.
  • The 8-Bit Series III: Neon Era artisan keycaps from Jelly Key are currently available under the group buy option that ends June 14, with no further sales planned. The keycaps are available in four themes, three profiles, and eleven sizes for a total of 132 combinations that cost $52–98 each. As seen on the group buy page, there are further discounts and gifts for those buying multiple keycaps, including a non-resin covered space bar keycap that should be absolutely amazing to look at and feel.
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Jun 28th, 2022 21:36 EDT change timezone

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