After an impressive debut with the low-profile X-1, I was eager to check out some of the other designs from rookie keyboard maker Hexgears. The Impulse, a mid-range model with Kailh’s Box switches, doesn’t disappoint.
This design is missing some of the more whiz-bang features of more expensive options, notably any kind of programming function. It makes up for it with a combination of utilitarian features and excellent build quality.While a less than perfect, the Impulse offers a light show that should appeal to gamers and a selection of switches that will make your fingers jump for joy. For under $100, it’s an easy mechanical keyboard to recommend for both beginners and connoisseurs.
BOX Switches Highlight the Hardware
Hexgears sent us the Impulse equipped with Kailh BOX White switches and “pudding” caps. The first point first: this is one of the only pre-built keyboards available with the BOX switch designs.
Broadly similar to the familiar Cherry key switch and its innumerable clones, Kailh’s BOX switches add a plastic square around the stem. This keeps the keys compatible with standard keycaps, while also making the travel much more stable and smooth. Hexgears is offering the keyboard with BOX Brown (middle stiffness and tactile, a noticeable bump with no click), BOX White (middle stiffness and clicky) or “Hako Clear,” a more niche and much stiffer tactile switch.
The Kono store sells the Impulse in only one size, but with combinations of single-color white and RGB LEDs and the “pudding” two-tone keycaps featured in this review, with prices ranging from $80-100 depending on those options. The keyboard is marketed as “spill proof,” but that’s more a function of the key switches themselves than anything else. With those stems extending all the way around the entrance of the switch and keycaps firmly in place, it’s very difficult for water (or Coke, or coffee, or beer, et cetera) to get to any of the delicate mechanisms inside. Hexgears says the keyboard is IP56 water-resistant, good for anything short of a full dunk into liquid.
Other charms of this design include per-key LED lighting and a full ring on LEDs around the plastic casing, PBT (read: fancy) plastic keycaps with shine-through legends, and a six-foot braided cord.
All the Lights and Sounds
In a word, this keyboard is solid. While you don’t get the full metal body, detachable USB cord, or modular switches of more premium designs, its excellent build quality surpasses most of the better-known keyboard builders in this price range.
Kailh’s BOX switches make for a smooth, even travel on the keys, and the two-tone pudding keycaps make for dramatic lighting even at lower intensities. While not explicitly a “gamer” board—the lack of linear options will surely bum some out—the independently-controlled light show for the keys and the LED ring will surely delight users who like to make their desk into a miniature rave. The key stems and standard layout are compatible with all ANSI-formatted keycap sets, so the Impulse is a good board if you’re looking to customize it after purchase.
Underneath you get the usual fold-out riser feet, though the keyboard is thick enough that I doubt many users will want an even taller profile. A gently curving deck, with a rather large printed logo on the top edge, is the only other adornment. If you need to open the plastic case (see the water resistant testing below) it’s easy to remove the screws and expose the circuit board.