Brutal60: A Brutally Honest Review

The Brutal60, keycaps are GMK White on Black and ePBT CYMK Modifiers
This is a review of the R2 Brutal60, parts of this review might be inapplicable to future revisions of the Brutal60.

Truth be told, I wasn’t sold on the Brutal60 when it was announced. Pictures of the prototype frankly looked quite boring, and the worse-than-average quality control standards meant I had little faith that it could be daily driver material.

Despite my reservations, I couldn’t resist picking one up when the opportunity arose to play around with it for a bit before flipping reselling. After using the Brutal60 for just over three weeks, I can safely say that my initial impressions were inaccurate. The Brutal60 is a good board at a great price, and here’s why:

The Value

The Brutal60 sold for $190USD during its round-2 group buy and was sold in-stock for its round-3 buy at $210USD. This makes it one of the most affordable aluminium 60% cases with a proper (read: non-tray mount) plate mounting system. While this affordable price does come with one concerning drawback, a less stringent quality-control process, my Brutal60 arrived in near-perfect condition without any of the dents, nicks, or scratches that I expected, only some very minor streaking on the anodised aluminium surface on the left side of the bottom case.

The Design

Loosely inspired by the Boston City Hall, the Brutal60’s design borrows from Brutalist architecture to form a simple yet imposing-looking keyboard. Photos seem to exaggerate the keyboard’s proportions a little, the wide and aggressively sloped top appeared cumbersome in photos, but looked surprisingly sleek in person. Upas, the designer of the board, says “in a sense, [the Brutal60 has] a seamless design!” While I remain unconvinced by his explanation, I do feel that the Brutal60 is a good looking board. It also has to be said that the Cannonkeys logo on the bottom looks fantastic in my eyes.

The board is by no means perfectly designed though. A minor “flaw” I spotted is the size of the port cutout, it is excessively large and mars the otherwise refined look of the board.

The Build Experience

Aside from having to unscrew a slightly excessive number of screws, building the Brutal60 was a smooth and hassle-free experience. Switch cutouts on the plate were perfectly sized and everything was easy to align, no complaints here. I built my Brutal60 with a GH60 PCB and Holy Pandas if that information matters to you.

The Typing Experience

The Brutal60 is top-mounted with the option of using o-rings to make it an isolation mount. I felt no noticeable difference in typing feel with or without the provided o-rings, but your mileage may vary. The default FR4 plate also feels no different from an aluminium plate to my fingers, despite FR4 being the softer material on paper. Typing on the Brutal60 will likely be a familiar experience to anyone who has previously typed on a top mount keyboard, medium-stiff and consistent across the board. It might not be anything new, but there isn’t anything wrong with it either.

The Acoustic Experience

Acoustics might be the Brutal60’s biggest weakness, ping-y and unpleasant to my ears. No matter what I tried, the board pings a fair bit when bottoming out, even after building it with a foam in-between the PCB and plate. However, my experience does seem to be an isolated one, I couldn’t find any posts or comments complaining about ping in the Brutal60. This could be an issue with my particular unit. Nonetheless, it is what stopped this keyboard from being daily-driver status in my eyes. You might not encounter this issue though.

Conclusion

As of the writing of this review, there are currently no group-buys running for the Brutal60, but I was told by a member of the community that there will be another round of the Brutal60 sometime next year. In the aftermarket, this keyboard hasn’t been performing well, usually going for around its group-buy price, sometimes less. Though this just means you will be able to get one without breaking the bank.

Having said all this I do think the Brutal60 is a great pickup for anyone looking for a 60% keyboard that provides a solid typing experience and pairs well with most keycap sets. I see it serving well as a board to test or break in new switches, or board to bring to work if you fear for the safety of your more expensive customs. You will be able to find the Brutal60 kit on Canonkey’s website if another round does come, in the meantime, it shouldn’t be difficult to find unbuilt kits on secondhand marketplaces.

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