The keyboard enthusiast community has grown exponentially in the past few years, and every new wave of enthusiasts means that more and more people will eventually be looking for their endgame keyboard. Usually when the term “endgame” is mentioned, expensive custom builds, ultra-rare vintage keyboards and/or certain overpriced rubber domes come to mind. However, if an endgame keyboard is simply a keyboard we enjoy using and looking at every day, and not something that’s just really expensive, the Leopold FC750R certainly makes a strong argument that it can be an ‘endgame keyboard’.
About the Keyboard
The FC750R is designed and manufactured by a well-respected Korean keyboard brand, Leopold. It is tenkeyless(TKL), lacking a numpad for extra space on the right-hand side, and has a standard ANSI layout. Like most modern keyboards, it is equipped with Cherry MX switches. The build quality of the keyboard is great, the switches are mounted on a sturdy steel plate inside a dense and durable feeling plastic case, making the board feel rigid. It barely flexes when I try to twist it and weighs in at a respectable 1kg(2.2lbs). The board has a very minimalistic, industrial-like design, with sharp, boxy corners and a slight taper from top to bottom. Unlike many modern keyboards like the Corsair K70 or the Razer Huntsman Elite, the Leopold does not have exposed switch housings, there is a plastic top case to cover up the switches and mounting plate. This gives it a little more protection against drops from the side.
The case has a lot of useful features built-in. On the bottom, it has four rubber pads on each corner that prevent the board from sliding around when in use. There are two spring-loaded feet, also tipped with rubber pads, that allow you to increase the angle of elevation of the keyboard. Leopold also designed the case to have a three-way cable gutter, allowing you to route its removable mini-USB cable in any direction. You will also find a bank of DIP switches that allow you to alter the layout and compatibility of the keyboard. One last notable feature is that the board has a sound-dampening mat that reduces vibrations when typing, a nice touch!
Overall, the FC750R feels like a keyboard built for function. Its construction is solid, and its features are handy and provide noticeable benefits to the user. The simple, understated design means that it does look a little dull on your desk if you’re the type that likes a little more flair in your keyboards, but I personally enjoy the professional look of productivity it gives.
The Typing Experience
The FC750R is available with the following Cherry MX switches:
- Linear – MX Red and Silent Red, MX Black and Silent Black, MX Speed Silver
- Tactile – MX Brown, MX Clear
- Clicky – MX Blue
I chose MX Reds for my board as I prefer the linears when it comes to the stock MX switches. Overall, it is a rather typical stock MX typing experience, with the standard pros and cons:
– No binding or noticeable difference in feel on off-centre keypresses, leading to a more comfortable and consistent typing experience.
– Cherry’s opaque black housings produce a thicker, fuller sound upon bottoming out, I feel that this sound is more pleasant than the sound of other Cherry style switches like Gateron’s that have a clear or translucent housing.
-The retooled switches are smooth and pleasant to type on.
– Stock Cherry switches have less wobble than their clones.
– Unless your keyboard comes with the newer retooled Cherry switches, you will find that Cherry switches are scratchy and unpleasant to type on. This is especially noticeable on the pre-retool linear and tactile switches.
– The tactile switches, MX Browns and Clears, have weak tactility that disappears when typing. If you’re a fan of sharp, strong tactile bumps, the stock tactile switches the board comes with will not be to your liking.
– MX Blues produce a very loud, rattle-ly and high-pitched ‘click’ that I, and many others, find unpleasant. Furthermore, unlike other clicky switches like ALPS or Kailh click bar switches, the sound of the MX Blue’s click does not seem to change no matter what case material, plate material or keycaps you use.
– Many people find stock Cherry switches to be poorly weighted, either too light or too heavy.
The stabilisers on this keyboard are good, they come factory lubed, and it is well done. On the stabilised keys like ‘Backspace’ and ‘Shift’, there is no rattling or mushy bottom out feel. Even the spacebar stabilisers don’t rattle!
The one large drawback I feel the Leopold has is its mediocre sound. The sound-dampening mat in the case does a great job preventing vibrations, but that’s about it for the positives. The board has a really average, boring and unremarkable clack when you type on it. The plastic case, which I hoped would have given the board a thicker, fuller sound, does not really impact the acoustics of the board. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing to write home about.
As the keyboard is plate-mounted(on a plate made of steel, a rigid material), the bottom out feel is very stiff. If you prefer the softer, more ‘flexible’ feel of bottoming out on a PCB or plastic plate, this board’s typing feel likely won’t be comfortable for you.
Let’s just get to the point, Leopold’s double-shot PBT keycaps are the best stock keycaps I have used so far. They are so good that I wouldn’t be afraid to say they are as good, or better than GMK’s double-shot keycaps. And that’s really saying something.
The keycaps on my board are White on Black, but Leopold produces various colour schemes like a grey/beige one, green/white one and many others. They are made of 1.5mm thick PBT that will last for years and years without discolouring or shining – even when heavily used. The fantastic thickness of the caps also means that they give the switches a lower pitched sound when bottomed out.
The legends are of fantastic quality. They are printed with a pleasing and professional looking font and are wonderfully crisp and sharp. Not only will they never wear out or become smudged as they are double-shot, but there are also no alignment issues to speak of. There are some very slight inconsistencies with the legend thickness on a couple keycaps, but they are incredibly minor and are impossible to notice in normal use.
Leopold also uses their own keycap profile dubbed ‘Step Sculpture 2’. They are very similar to Cherry profile, just a little shorter overall and with very slightly different angles. I’m a huge fan of the Cherry profile and find it the most comfortable profile to type on, so the Step Sculpture 2 profile felt excellent to me. I did not need any time to adjust to it and was typing at full speed right from the get-go.
The FC750R can be found on mechanicalkeyboards.com for $119USD, putting it in the mid-end price range for prebuilt keyboards. This is fantastic value for money, especially when we put it against other more popular TKL keyboards in the same price race like the Corsair K70 RGB and the Razer Blackwidow Chroma Tournament Edition.
*All prices are accurate as of 2/2/2019
Although the FC750R lacks the cool looking RGB backlighting found in the Corsair and the Razer(the Leopold only has LEDs on the lock keys), it blows them apart in every other category. The solidly built FC750R with its steel mounting plate and its dense plastic case makes the brushed aluminium plate of the Corsair feel cheap, and the thin plastic case of the Razer feel like junk. The thin, laser ablated ABS keycaps on the Corsair and Razer simply cannot hold up next to the beautiful thick double-shot keycaps on the Leopold in terms of quality. Not to mention, the font on the Leopold keycaps look 100x more tasteful than the ugly gamer fonts used on the other two boards. Unless RGB is extremely important to you, I’d say the FC750R is clearly the better keyboard.
The Leopold FC750 is a great board. While the keycaps are the only area it excels in, it doesn’t possess any significant flaws and is enjoyable and fairly pleasant to type on in its stock form. However, what makes this board so exciting for me is its potential to transform into something much better. With just a few modifications like soldering in new switches, switching up the keycaps and vinyl-wrapping the case, I believe I can turn this widely available consumer product into something that feels much more exquisite and enjoyable to use.
Soon, I will be rebuilding my FC750R into my vision of a better keyboard. Whether or not it will be ‘endgame’ is a mystery, but what I can say for now is that the Leopold FC750R is a product I can recommend to anyone looking for a reasonably priced keyboard that is built well and provides a good user experience straight out of the box.