HAVIT HV-KB390L Keyboard 19

HAVIT HV-KB390L Keyboard Review

Disassembly »

Closer Examination

The keyboard comes in a plastic wrap to keep it pristine and free of dust. Once removed, the first thing I noticed was how light it is, and then immediately how small. The HV-KB390L is an 87-key TKL form factor keyboard, meaning you do not have a dedicated Num Pad cluster here. This of course helps in keeping the dimensions of the keyboard on the smaller side, but there are other factors here. For one, this is a keyboard I would call bezel-less in general since the case/frame barely extend past the keys in all directions. Secondly, the use of a modified US ANSI layout with a non-standard bottom-row spacing allows for all the keys to be bunched up together without feeling cramped for space. Finally, and this is the big feature HAVIT makes sure you do not forget, there is the keyboard's low-profile nature, which helps cement that feeling further.

The keyboard has an aluminum alloy frame/plate with a matte finish and a silver trim on a thin beveled edge for some flair. Owing to the slim nature of the keyboard, there is some flex in the middle if you press down too hard, but it is otherwise solid and non-yielding in a normal usage scenario. There is the HAVIT logo above the arrow-key cluster, which is really the only piece of company marking on the front or sides, but the logo still clashes with the otherwise extremely clean and minimalist design here.

There are no dedicated indicator LEDs here, with the backlighting on the specific keys functioning as indicator LEDs instead. Single-legend placement is generally in the top-center for both smaller and larger keycaps, with the font size on the larger side of average for easier visibility. The typeface itself is fairly clean, too, given this is targeted at office professionals. It is the secondary and tertiary (yes, you read that right) legend placement that makes things complicated, with secondary legends located below the primary ones on keycaps that only have two legends and then as a superscript to the primary legends on those keycaps with three separate legends. This third set corresponds to the onboard backlighting controls, which are in turn under the primary legends. It can seem confusing, but really is not after you have spent ten minutes with the keyboard.

On the back, we see a label in the middle with the company logo, serial number, and product-certification stickers. There are rubber pads in the bottom corners, and also in the top corners, integrated into the case feet. These feet can be raised to help elevate the keyboard, and the bottoms of the two feet also have rubber pads. As such, despite the low profile and mass of the keyboard, there is enough friction against a typical desk surface to prevent the keyboard from sliding around.

The keyboard's cable is detachable as we saw, and there is a female micro-USB port at the top, on the right side as seen from the front, where the provided cable plugs in. USB 2.0 will suffice for power and functionality here given the single-color backlighting requires <250 mA at max brightness, although there is no dearth of USB 3.0 ports on a modern system today. There is a caveat regarding the cable, however, and this is why I would encourage you to be careful in not losing it. The opening for the female port is inset into the case's body such that only a thin cable would fit. A cable with more padding or insulation around the micro-USB connector would thus need some modding/trimming to fit, and indeed, I was not able to use a phone-charging cable I had around. I am not sure why HAVIT decided to do this; however, the cable they provide works very well and has a snug fit.

One of the main contributors to the low-profile nature of the keyboard is the use of a thin frame and thin bottom panel. However, the bottom panel is angled such that their claim of this being the thinnest TKL keyboard is really only valid based on measurements at the bottom. The keyboard could have been flatter and thus even lower in profile, but HAVIT chose to go this way for some reason. When we disassemble the keyboard on the next page, we will examine if there is something at the top that helps validate this decision or not.

The next contributor is the use of low-profile keycaps. These are similar to a Cherry profile, if I may make that comparison, and are shorter in height than the OEM profile keycaps we see on mechanical keyboards. They are still sculpted in a way that has the various rows help provide some assistance to touch typists, and the surface of these keycaps is slightly concave as well. The keycaps themselves are thin ABS (0.96 mm wall thickness on average), however, and all the legends are laser etched. This is a mistake given the high degree of onboard control over backlighting that relies on printed legends, since the legends will wear off sooner rather than later and ABS will develop a shine before then. In fact, if it were not for the presence of a software driver, I would have been harsher here. These do respond well to backlighting as seen above, which helps with the perceived brightness of the keyboard's backlighting.

The final piece of the low-profile puzzle, and arguably the most interesting, comes in the form of the chosen switches. As far as I can see, the HAVIT HV-KB390L is the first keyboard to retail with the new Kailh Choc PG1350 low profile switches. The original announcement of these switches showed three versions, Red (linear), Brown (tactile), and White (tactile and clicky), which all actuate at 50 g. Instead, HAVIT has here a 55 g switch with the more familiar blue color we associate with tactile and clicky switches, so I looked into it further and found out that Kailh has updated the PG1350 switch category as consisting of a 45 g Red linear and a 55 g Blue tactile + clicky version as seen here, with presumably a Brown tactile version also available. These switches have a total travel distance of 3 mm and actuate at ~1.5 mm, which is where their low-profile nature comes in. As we can also see, these are nothing like the Cherry MX switches in design and are closer to the Cherry ML switches instead, but with an offset stem that varies in size depending on the keycap's size. The larger keycaps also have a wire stabilizer that works well for all but the space bar, which does feel slightly unbalanced and in need of stronger stabilization here.
The two videos above, one of which is Kailh's original promo video (with the older information about actuation force and color for the clicky switch) while the other is my own quick demonstration, shows how these switches work. Instead of having a vertically aligned slider and plunger mechanism integrated into the switch that provides the tactile and clicky feedback, Kailh has the slider and a horizontal bar by the side do the same. This bar is connected to a pin and spring clicker on the other end, with the spring providing the tactile feedback and the bar hitting the clicker providing the clicky sound. However, given the nature of the bar moving sideways at each motion of the stem slider past it, we get feedback during both the downstroke and the upstroke here, so the feel and sound of these switches is unlike any other Cherry MX Blue or analogous clone switch.

Before we head to the next page, another note on these Kailh low profile switches; these Choc PG1350 switches were first shown late last year, with their retail release taking place on, as we see now, this keyboard. But only a few weeks ago, Kailh introduced a new series of even lower profile Mini Choc PG1232 switches with a 1.2 mm actuation and 2.4 mm total travel distance on average. Perhaps those are meant to be used with laptops, but it does put a damper on the whole PG1350 series knowing that very soon, there will be even lower-profile keyboards and switches Kailh will introduce to the market.
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