The Quest for the Perfect Keyboard: VortexGear Race 3

My coworker has been using this tiny mechanical keyboard for a while now, and, although I previously thought he was silly for it, I now see its appeal and benefits.

I currently find myself on the quest to find the perfect keyboard for myself as a result.

However, my same coworker says there is no such a hint as the perfect keyboard, so I should stick with the first one I find and purchase.

That became a personal challenge for me to prove wrong.

I started with a Vortex Race 3. It’s a 75% keyboard, smaller than a ten key-less, but still includes arrows and some special buttons like home, end, etc. I got it with Cherry MX Blue switches.

I like the Blue switches. They are tactile and clicky, meaning there is a bump you can slightly feel and a sound you can hear.

I like the programmable layers to create macros or simplified commands.

I like the PBT keycaps. They look and feel really nice.

I also like the extra keycaps it came with so that I could swap out the Windows key for Mac command keys.

I wish it were backlit though, and, along with seemingly everyone else, I wish the escape key were a standard 1u for customization purposes. Additionally, I wish the homing F and J keys had bumps. I believe these keys have slightly deeper grooves, if at all, which isn’t working for me. I wish it had an eject key as well. The left and right Command keys are too small at 1.25u and 1u, respectively. Finally, while I like the Blue switches, they are super sensitive. I am making a lot of typos right now.

So, my next keyboard will be the WhiteFox with Clear switches. Let’s see how a 60% keyboard works for me. More to come.

A word on my setup. I am using the third programmable layer, which is the Blue Layer or Layer 4. The Right Alt is my Fn key. Simply pressing Fn+Shift cycles through layers, and I leave mine on Blue. Why? First of all, I like blue. Second, Mac mode (Fn+M) only works properly with the latest firmware, which I cannot install without the PC I do not already possess. Mac mode automatically swaps Alt for Winkey and uses Command for Alt as well as enabling media and brightness keys on the function row to mirror an Apple keyboard all in the default un-programmable layer. And, third, all my modified shortkey commands have to be programmed, so I need to be in a layer.

Here is what I have programmed in Blue:

  • F1 (shortkey)= Fn+F1 (original combo): Mute (result)
  • F2 = Fn+F2: Reduce Volume
  • F3 = Fn+F3: Increase Volume
  • F4 = Fn+F4: Previous Track
  • F5 = Fn+F5: Play/Pause
  • F6 = Fn+F6: Next Track

And, because I can’t use Mac mode, I swapped these keys:

  • Winkey (original) = Left Alt (result)
  • Left Alt = Left Command
  • Right Alt = Right Command
  • Fn = Right Alt (keycap swap only)

I then assigned the following Automator services:

  • F7: Move to folder w
  • F8: Move to folder x
  • F9: Move to folder y
  • F10: Move to folder z
  • F11: Show Notification Center
  • F12: Toggle Do Not Disturb
  • Control+Alt+Command+F12: Sleep
  • Control+Alt+Command+’=’: Display Sleep
  • Control+Alt+Command+L: Launch application L
  • Control+Alt+Command+M: Launch application M
  • Control+Alt+Command+T: Launch application T
  • Control+Alt+Command+: Launch application W

With the WhiteFox having no function row, my layout may need to change, but that’s not something I will worry about until I get my hands on that keyboard.

Stay tuned.