The keyboard which Varmilo sent me is the MA105C, a full sized mechanical keyboard. The version they sent me is specifically the Panda edition of this keyboard. It comes with their own dye sublimated cherry profile keycaps. The Alphas of the board are in a bamboo style font to go along with the Panda theme. The spacebar has a highly detailed design of a panda on it. Again, this is dye sublimated and not pad printed! The board has white in switch LED’s which are dimmable through function layers. It is a special edition and so this means that it comes with a couple of extras; a cuddly panda toy and panda edition Varmilo desk mat.
The switches are their brand new electrocapacitive (EC) mechanical range of switches. These switches may look the same as standard contact switch like a Cherry MX switch however these are contactless switches. On a standard switch when a switch reaches actuation point it is physically pushing two contact leaves together to register the switch has been pressed. Whereas the new EC switch uses electro capacitance to register the key press. As the key is pressed, the stem pushes the leaves closer to one another which when close enough changes the capacitance and make the switch register a keypress. Have a read here if you want to read more about Capacitive keyboard technology. This means that there is no physical contact and therefor no resistance. This means that the switches contacts will not wear out over time and mean that the switch has a longer lifespan compared to other mechanical switches. Theoretically the EC switches have got no lifespan because of the contactless design, compared to the 50 million actuation lifetime of Cherry MX switches.
EC switches have been seen before, they can be found in variants of Topre using the cup rubber and canonical coiled spring. However, Varmilo has taken that idea and packaged it into a MX mechanical switch. The specific switch which is on this board is their Sakura Pink switch. With a 45g auction point, these have been pitted up a very similarly weighted Cherry MX Red. Here is the force curve as a reference for these Sakura pink switches:
Here is a picture of a Cherry MX red force curve for comparison:
The stem itself is reminiscent of the box style of stem by Kailh. This is to reduce the amount of stem wobble which can cause the stem to rub against the housing and cause more friction and possibly more noise. There are two other switches currently in the Varmilo switch range; these are the Greenery and Rose switches. The greenery is their tactile variant, the Rose is a linear but is slightly heavier than the Sakura pink at 55g.
The Week Ahead
To be able to get to know the board fully I will be using it as my sole keyboard for the week. The keyboard will be accompanied by a switch tester to compare the EC switches with a few other popular linears; Cherry Red, Gateron Red, Cherry Black, Gateron Black, Cherry silent red, Gateron Yellow, Invyr Panda and a Nixdorf. All of the switches on the switch tester have had lube added to the springs and stems. The switches in the Varmilo keyboard have the stock lube.
This keyboard will be used for both work and play as it would become my daily driver, If I had to head into work… it was coming with! It would be used to write lengthy work emails and play action packed games of Overwatch (Not to a high standard).
Thoughts After a Week of Testing
At the beginning of the week I would say I was not an advocate of linears as a whole. My keyboard collection consist of loud clickies and heavy tactile switches. This keyboard has come as a refreshing contrast to my norm and is a real game changer with the 45g linears.
The switches were smoother than anything I had tried. My friends had to put up with me telling them how smooth they were compared to the other switches, I was really gobsmacked to how smooth they really were! Beating out the likes of the Cherry silent reds on sound and Gateron reds on smoothness. I tried them time and time again against the other linear switches and drew the same conclusion each time. Simply put, they were the best linear switch I had ever tried and this was without adding lube to them!
The board itself is very well made; I tried bending/ flexing the board to see if I could get some noises out of it but it stayed mute. The plastic felt solid throughout and would need some serious abuse to break it. While typing I noticed that there was very little echo when I was bottoming out the switches. I believe that this is down to the overall build quality of the board.
I was called into the office once during the week and the board came along for the job. Even though it was a full size board, it was compact enough to fit in my bag alongside my laptop and other bits. When I got to the office I was worried that the board would be too loud and I would get some weird looks, however the switches were perfect for the office environment and kept the board silent. While the board did look a little out of place alongside the Dell rubber dome boards of my office, it was complimented by one of my colleagues who said that the panda spacebar was cute.
Through the week while gaming late at night, I noticed that the green caps had a slight shine through to them. This was only on the green caps and not on any of the others. I measured them quickly and all the caps are at least 1.3mm thick. After noticing this, I decided to swap all the caps out for a set of DSA dye sublimated caps by signature plastics to see how they fared. I wanted to test if there was any shine through on these DSA caps but also to see how the DSA profile worked with the Sakura EC switches. The DSA caps at 1mm did not have any shine through to them at all and they worked quite nicely on the switches with the same amount of key wobble and overall switch feeling. Even though I am a big DSA fanboy, I would say that these linear switches felt subjectively better with the stock caps.
I am coming from this week of testing astonished. The switches were simply out of this world compared to other linears I had previously tried. I was expecting after a few days that they would lose their smoothness and show their true colours but this didn’t happen. They kept the same silence and smoothness throughout.
The keycaps overall are a really nice addition to a board at this price range. The quality of the dye sublimation is very high and the printing on the spacebar is extremely detailed, however the green keycaps let it down slightly. They just aren’t quite thick enough to stop the light shining through them. It left the keycap having an outline of the stem and keycap supports being shadowed onto the other side. However, this is only a small gripe really as overall feel of them is nice.
The build quality of the board was surprisingly high for the price point. I have owned Ducky’s and Filco’s in the past and they have not been as solid as this board. The plastic used for the outer shell is thick and sturdy and the plate is strong with little to no flex. The case feet hold the board up well giving it a solid base. I can’t fault the construction of the board as it’s very well made.
For me, this board is very well rounded in all its aspects, especially for the price. You are getting a great combination with the new EC switch technology, keycaps and the build quality of the board.
This keyboard was sent to me for free by Varmilo to test and review. This is not a paid review and so will be impartial and my honest opinion of the board and these switches. The information given has been taken from the Mechanical Keyboard Wiki or given to me as a part of the review pack from Varmilo.