Rating:
6/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $120

The Vissles LP85 keyboard with its backlight.
Andrew Heinzman

If you’re a PC user, you can buy just about any mechanical keyboard without missing out on functionality or correct button placement. But unless you’re a tinkerer, finding a mechanical keyboard for your Mac is pretty dang tough. That seems to be the reasoning behind Vissles’ LP85 keyboard, a mechanical, colorful take on Apple’s Magic Keyboard.

Here’s What We Like

  • Extremely compact and portable
  • Awesome animated and static backlighting presets
  • Comes in Windows and macOS configurations
  • Comfortable, clicky optical keys
  • Wired or wireless

And What We Don’t

  • Backlight and Bluetooth controls are confusing
  • Some keys aren’t fully illuminated by LEDs
  • Cramped layout and poor typing angle
  • Poor battery life

I’m a big fan of this concept—Vissles took a great keyboard design and tried to improve it with game-ready, satisfying, customizable features. But the execution is a bit spotty, and unfortunately, I don’t think the LP85 will appeal to everyone.

A Design That Almost Matches the Magic Keyboard

Vissles

The concept behind Vissles’ LP85 keyboard is pretty straightforward; it’s like an Apple Magic Keyboard with clicky mechanical keys and flashy backlighting. If you don’t like typing on a Magic Keyboard, you probably won’t like the LP85. That said, the LP85 isn’t a perfect Magic Keyboard replacement, and it may turn off some Apple fans.

Design-wise, Vissles really captured the Apple vibe here. The LP85 feels super solid and dense, has an aluminum case, and has an extremely low-profile feel. It’s a sloped keyboard, and at its tallest point, it’s just 12mm thick (the Magic Keyboard is 9mm thick). The LP85’s width and height (307.6mm x 118.1mm) are just slightly larger than the Magic Keyboard’s (278.8mm x 114.8mm).

Vissles more or less copied the Magic Keyboard layout for the LP85, though the company made a few changes that I enjoy. Unlike Apple’s keyboard, this keyboard has full-sized arrow keys plus a row of page navigation keys—home, page up, page down, and so on. I assume these keys are here for Windows users, but they work fine on macOS. (The print-screen button doesn’t do anything on macOS, though you could bind it to a keyboard shortcut if you really wanted to.)

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An image showing the Vissles LP85's measurements.
Vissles

My big problem is that the LP85 feels cramped. This isn’t immediately noticeable, but after a long workday, typing on the LP85 is like tying my fingers into pretzels. Vissles went with a smaller key size than Apple, which is a bad idea in my book.

More broadly speaking, the LP85 just isn’t very ergonomic. That’s not to say that Apple’s keyboards are ergonomic either—neither the LP85 nor the Magic Keyboard have feet or risers to adjust their typing angle. And of course, both are shaped like solid rectangles, without any curvature to accommodate natural hand and wrist movement.

Previous versions of the Vissles LP85 (the macOS model) had their Function and Option keys reversed, which was pretty offputting. Thankfully, Vissles now installs the keys in their correct order. I only wish the company had added small glyphs to the Command, Function, Option, and Control keys. (Some websites and apps show these icons instead of the keys’ names, and I’m not smart enough to remember what’s what.)

I’m also not a fan of the LP85’s Bluetooth pairing process. To pair a new device, you have to hold Function and P. And to choose between your three paired devices, you have to hold Function and press either Q, W, or E. Printing these instructions on the keyboard’s underside would save customers a lot of confusion, though I’m sure you could memorize these commands in a day if you plan to use them often. Other keyboards, like Logitech’s MX Keys, have dedicated buttons for this, with clearly-labeled icons and no wonky key combinations to remember.

The Backlight Is the Star of the Show

The LP85 with a dynamic backlight.
Andrew Heinzman

I understand that clicky mechanical keys are one of the big selling points for the LP85. But to me, the backlight is what makes this keyboard special. I’m very impressed by the quality and functionality of the LP85’s backlight, although I have a couple of complaints that I hope Vissles addresses in the future.

Vissles picked some high-quality LEDs for this build—my photos don’t do a ton of justice here. Each LED is bright and crisp, even in direct light, and animations look smooth as silk.

Users can select between 19 dynamic and 8 monochrome backlight options, and yeah, there’s something for everyone. I’m especially fond of one multicolor mode, which assigns random colors to each key and changes their color when pressed. I also enjoy that you can choose which color you want to use in monochrome mode, and the dynamic animations can be increased or decreased in speed.

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Here’s where I start complaining. While most of the LP85’s keys shine with a solid color, keys with long names (like Command and Caps Lock) aren’t fully illuminated. I think Vissles should’ve shortened some of these key names (replace Command with CMD, etc.) to make the backlighting more consistent.

Oh, and this problem might sound familiar—you have to use weird keyboard shortcuts to control the LP85’s backlight. I wrote out the instructions on a sticky note and tacked them on the bottom of the keyboard, which was easier than keeping the instructions at my desk.

Optical Keys: You’ll Love Them or Hate Them

An illustration showing the LP85's optical key design.
Vissles

Because the LP85 is a mechanical keyboard, it’s a lot louder than Apple’s Magic Keyboard. That said, this keyboard may feel a bit different from other mechanical beasts, as it utilizes optical switches instead of linear or tactile switches.

Optical switches use light to detect when you press a key. As a result, they tend to have very little resistance and an incredibly fast response time. The “debounce delay” you hear about in other mechanical keyboards doesn’t exist in optical keyboards, so naturally, they’re a popular option among gamers. (And yes, this keyboard is super responsive. I didn’t notice any delay over a Bluetooth connection.)

The LP85 with a green backlight.
Andrew Heinzman

But if you’re used to mechanical keyboards with linear or tactile switches, an optical keyboard like the LP85 may feel a little too “light” or “mushy” when typing or gaming. The LP85 has an actuation force rating of 50g—comparable to Cherry MX Red switches but much lighter than other popular options. (That said, the LP85 is a bit faster than a Cherry MX Red keyboard, as it has just 1.2mm pre-travel and 2.5mm of total travel.)

For what it’s worth, I think Vissles went with the optical technology to keep this keyboard as dense and low-profile as possible. Sticking tactile switches in a chassis this small may be impossible.

As for the keyboard’s sound—well, it’s definitely clicky. The sound isn’t as weighty or loud as what you’ll get with some keyboards, but it gets the job done. (Personally, I wish that Vissles offered this keyboard without the clicky sound. I really only care about the optical switches and backlight.)

Again, I think the LP85 is a solid upgrade option if you’re using a membrane keyboard and want something clicky. But some people may prefer heavier, louder, bigger switches. I should also reiterate that the LP85’s keycaps are not replaceable; what you see is what you get.

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Battery Life: I Have Bad News

The Vissles LP85 USB-C port and Bluetooth/Wired connection switcher.
Andrew Heinzman

Looking for a Bluetooth keyboard with amazing battery life? Well, this ain’t it. The LP85 has a relatively small battery, and because it has backlit keys and optical switches, it only lasts a few days on a charge.

I work at least eight hours a day, and I spend most of that time typing. In my experience, the LP85 lasts about two days with its backlight fully illuminated. When the backlight’s turned off, the keyboard can go about five days before dying.

That’s a pretty abysmal battery life—about two days short of the Keychron K2 and other popular mechanical keyboards. It’s also half the battery life you’ll get with most rechargeable membrane keyboards.

Just to be clear, the LP85 works over a wireless or wired connection. Those who plan to use it with a USB cable don’t need to worry about the battery.

If you want a Bluetooth mechanical gaming keyboard with good battery life, I suggest buying one that takes AA or AAA batteries. The Logitech G613 is such an option, as it lasts about a year on a pair of AAs. (Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of Mac options in this space.)

Who Is the Vissles LP85 For?

The Vissles LP85 keyboard without its backlight.
Andrew Heinzman

It’s clear that the Vissles LP85 is an exciting alternative to Apple’s Magic Keyboard, and it may even appeal to PC users who want something compact, mechanical, and flashy. But there are a lot of pain points that may turn off some customers.

Solely in terms of pricing, I think the LP85 is a solid deal. You get a well-made optical mechanical keyboard with great backlighting for $120. But this keyboard is a bit cramped, its optical keys may not appeal to all people, the battery life kinda stinks, the keycaps aren’t replaceable, and the backlighting presets aren’t the same thing as programmable RGB.

For gamers, I suggest looking for something a bit more comfortable and robust. But if you just want a flashy, mechanical, portable take on the Magic Keyboard design, the LP85 is a solid option. It just isn’t a perfect option.

Here’s What We Like

  • Extremely compact and portable
  • Awesome animated and static backlighting presets
  • Comes in Windows and macOS configurations
  • Comfortable, clicky optical keys
  • Wired or wireless

And What We Don’t

  • Backlight and Bluetooth controls are confusing
  • Some keys aren’t fully illuminated by LEDs
  • Cramped layout and poor typing angle
  • Poor battery life