Filco Convertible 2 Keyboard – yay, it’s here!

UPDATE: The Keyboard Company did Keyboard Company Filco Majestouch Convertible 2 Review on April 20th. It’s shorter, but good! Also has some pictures.

Related: In case you missed them, I wrote some blog posts about discovering the things that are mechanical keyboards, and about my decision to purchase this specific one, before I wrote the below review.

I know my previous posts about my keyboard (see links above) weren’t long enough, before receiving it, so I’ll make sure this one is even longer (over 2500 words!) since I now have it and am happy to have something on which to practice typing :-)

My first foray into mechanical keyboards has finally come to fruition! Not thrilled with DHL but not sad the keyboard still arrived only four days after coming in stock! I saw over the weekend that the Filco Convertible 2 Tactile (Tactile means Cherry MX Brown switches) made by Diatec in Japan shipped from The Keyboard Company, but didn’t know what expect of shipping “across the pond.” Not to worry, for under $25 USD shipping, it arrived in two business days; if it had been free I might compare it to Amazon Prime! But with a bit more story than that…

The Shippening

Sunday evening, I got a robocall from DHL Express with a tracking number and the announcement that they were delivering a package “tomorrow” (Monday). Sweet, and insanely fast! Sure enough, the online tracking showed the package in Cincinnati, OH and by around 5:30 am on Monday morning, it checked in to the Indianapolis DHL location. But it never listed Out For Delivery (and showed End of Tuesday as delivery-by), so I called just after noon and asked about it.

They person I spoke with told me that yes, the package was in, but no, the robocalls have been off by a day lately and the package wouldn’t be delivered until tomorrow (Tuesday), like the “end of March 24th” indicated online as well. But, since it was in the local facility, she said, it was fine if I wanted to drive over and pick it up on Monday before they closed at 8pm. So, around 4:30 pm, I drove the half-hour to the DHL Express location and…they didn’t have it. Couldn’t find it, complained up one side and down the other that the person on the phone shouldn’t have told me I could pick it up, and said it didn’t have the proper destination scan to indicate they physically had it yet. She was sorry for the trouble, but it would be delivered on Tuesday early afternoon and she would call me Tuesday morning to confirm it. I was also able to leave a signature release since I had to leave to take my wife to the airport during the day.

I was definitely disappointed, but whatever, it’s one more day, and I had resigned myself to waiting a week or more if necessary, after waiting about two months for stock to order. (For some reason my wife wasn’t as enthusiastic about me driving an hour round trip to try to pick up the shipment arriving the next day, ha! :-)

Finally, Tuesday comes. I worked half a day, took the afternoon off (airport drop off, remember?) and headed to the airport. Of course it would be delivered while I was gone, just after 2 pm, and when I got home I opened it up, looked at it for a couple of minutes, and ran an errand that needed running with the kids. Finally, got back home, and before I made the kids pizza for dinner I got to read the manual and do a little playing!

The Keyboard is Here!

Time to play! I unpacked the keyboard and the Blue O-rings, which were in a bag. Set the O-rings aside for later, popped open the two included AA batteries, and stuck them in the keyboard. Played with the key feel for a few minutes, then unwound the very nice USB cable (Mini USB on the keyboard end) with attached Velcro tie and plugged it into my Surface Pro 3 dock. Blam! It types! Almost like it’s a keyboard, ha! After I’d goofed off typing nonsense into a blank OneNote page for a while, I broke out the manual and read the English part cover to cover (English isn’t the first language in the manual, it starts on page 20, and is 15 pages long). The English isn’t native-good, but it’s a readable translation, if a bit clumsy. I was mainly concerned with the Bluetooth operation and switching between devices, since this keyboard will support four different Bluetooth devices and USB, all switchable on command. It can also use USB for power while typing on Bluetooth (regardless of battery presence; it recommends not keeping batteries installed while using extensively on USB).

Photos

A couple of pictures of the keyboard itself, and the keyboard plugged into my docked Surface Pro 3:

Closeup of Filco Convertible 2 Keyboard on my Desk

Closeup of Filco Convertible 2 Keyboard on my Desk

Filco Convertible 2 Keyboard with Surface Pro 3 Docked

Filco Convertible 2 Keyboard with Surface Pro 3 Docked

Bluetooth

I know USB to Surface Pro 3 works, so let’s give Bluetooth a try. There’s a very nice, subtle Bluetooth power button at the top-middle of the keyboard, not hard to press but easily to ignore otherwise. Power it on, hit the Bluetooth Clear button above the number keypad’s minus symbol (first time only) and then press Ctrl+Alt+Fn followed by the 1 key (keys 1 through 5 above the letters function in concert with the key combo just mentioned to switch between the four Bluetooth devices and USB functionality). At around the same time, I opened Change PC Settings->PC and Devices->Bluetooth and it located a “Keyboard” device (since the keyboard was in discovery mode from the above key combo), which I tapped and it prompted me to type a numeric code and press Enter on the keyboard. Done and Done. Now renamed the Majestouch Convertible 2 and listed as Connected, I can now type equally as well via Bluetooth, sans cable. This is great!

Phone Tested

Test number two, let’s try my iPhone. Ctrl+Alt+Fn, 2 enables discovery mode to pair device 2. Enable Bluetooth on iPhone, go to Settings->Bluetooth, tap Keyboard, enter code and  Enter, and it’s Connected now as well. Just like other iPhone keyboards I’ve used, this also works great! I will not use this keyboard primarily with my iPhone, but I’ll definitely use it occasionally. Now, switching between the two is as simple as Ctrl+Alt+Fn followed by 1 or 2, for Surface Pro 3 or iPhone, respectively.

Media Keys

The media keys on F1 through F8 (Volume up/down/mute, Skip Track forward and back, Play/Pause, and Stop) seem to work fine in limited testing on the computer and on the iPhone which is nice. The Fn+Sleep (F12) key puts my Surface to sleep and even wakes it up from a light sleep. The only things I miss a little from other iPhone keyboards is the ability to press the home button, which I can’t find a way to do from the Convertible 2, and a way to press “Send” (such as in Messages or Facebook where you’d normally tap the Send button on-screen). Enter goes to the next line, and Ctrl+Enter either does nothing or also inserts a newline, but neither triggers a send. No huge loss, I can reach up and tap the screen, but so far it’s the only thing this can’t do (typing-wise).

Light-wise, the Num and Caps lights double as Antenna and Battery Indicator lights, but other than status while in pairing mode or switching modes, the lights remain entirely off (even with Caps Lock or Num Lock enabled) during Bluetooth use, regardless of whether powered via USB or battery. When in USB-connected mode, the lights indicate Num Lock (blue) and Caps Lock (red) continuously like most keyboards, when those are on. They’re pretty bright if you look at them straight-on, but are fine from typing position.

The Feels!

It feels so good, like I knew that it would! It feels so nice, like sugar and spice…ok, enough of the slightly modified song, this keyboard feels great! The key travel is so much better than the Surface Pro 3, and comparable (maybe a bit farther) than my Microsoft Natural keyboard, but definitely less resistance and very speedy. I did try out the keyboard without the O-rings first. The sound is much as I’d imagined it, having tried the Cherry MX Blues and opting for Browns with just one sample key. Definitely some key-striking sound to it, and the tactile “click” is there but it’s not audible (most of the sound is either from the sound of my finger on the key or from the key itself bottoming out). Just as described, but it’s really hard to imagine without trying it! I think Brown was the right choice. I would definitely enjoy Blue as well, but as I’ve said before, I think I would slow my typing to make the Blue “clicks” sound like a nice rhythm, whereas the Browns sound great as fast as I can go. They’ll also cause less irritation to anyone around me; sometimes this won’t matter and people won’t care, and sometimes it might be a big deal, but this isn’t really louder than my Microsoft Natural keyboard and might be quieter sometimes.

“O” Yeah

I purchased the Blue O-Rings with my keyboard not knowing how much I’d like them, but knowing it would quiet the keyboard a little and reduce overall travel, potentially making it easier to type lightly and adding some padding to reduce finger fatigue (so they say). They’re a bit thicker than the Black O-rings I got with my Max Keyboard sampler (as advertised), but barely (I say barely, but the whole key travel distance is 4mm with activation at 2mm, so we’re already talking tiny here!). I installed the O-rings on a few keys and it was hard to tell how much I liked them, so I went ahead and installed it on all standard-sized keys from Q down to /. I left all numbers, function, and special keys alone, those weren’t my main concern anyway. If I did any others, it would be Space, Shifts, and Backspace. I’m not sure yet how much I like with vs. without the O-rings. It’s quieter, a bit “softer” sounding. Not tremendously, so, but it’s noticeable. Definitely less “clacking” except when I tap Backspace (which is O-ringless); that one clacks pretty loudly when I rapid-fire a correction!

I’m going to give the O-rings a try for a couple of days (I think). I do mostly like the slightly shorter travel, though my left hand, being my weaker one, seems to feel a bit more tension (which is does on my really short-travel Surface Pro 3 as well) when typing with the shorter travel. Hard to tell for sure as I used the keyboard without the O-rings for such a short time. I’ll probably take them out at some point and give it a workout without them. The keyboard comes with a Filco Key Puller tool, and it took some time to put the rings on but it wasn’t bad. A toothpick came in quite handy for getting the rings pushed all the way down; my fingers are too big to fit into the keys!

Typing is very fast and comfortable. A typing test I randomly found online pegged me as high as 99 words per minute (as low as 80 with more complex material) with some brief tests and between high and perfect accuracy. That seems about right; I’ve hit that sort of speed before on my Keytronic Lifetime Designer keyboard in my teens (I still have it but it’s PS/2) and have only intermittently tested myself elsewhere, on keyboards I don’t recall, since then. The words flow fast and free, is my point, which was of buying this keyboard, the point! Here I surpass 1800 words in this post and I’m still enjoying myself, so we’ll see how much more I subject you to (hey, I’m not forcing you to read this! My wife would agree, but it’s doubtful she’ll make it this far).

Tag It and Bag It

Bluetooth keyboard. Remote work locations. Portable computer, large keyboard (heavier than the computer). What does all this mean?!?!? I need a case! Keyboard cases for traveling with full-sized mechanical keyboards are not the most common thing to find online, but with a bit of searching I managed to track down some Reddit posts with a few links, and after some further research, I ended up ordering a Grifiti Chiton Fat 17 sleeve that looks about the right size and is only $15 with Prime shipping. There’s also a manufacturer’s page and the Massdrop discount page with 3 days left on a discounted version. I almost bought it at Massdrop, but it doesn’t ship until April 10th and with shipping it’s $13.74, so the savings wasn’t worth it for me. If I were buying multiples and could combine shipping the $8.99 pre-shipping price was pretty nice. While at Amazon, I also picked up Anker phone/tablet stand to make it simpler to use the keyboard with my iPhone when the need (ok, want) arises.

Quick Note on the MINILA Air

Just a quick aside about another Filco keyboard that I almost bought and why I didn’t. There exists a Filco MINILA Air (MINI LAyout) model keyboard that supports Bluetooth and USB, in a very small, 60%-sized form-factor (there’s a non-Air version without Bluetooth, also). See the Diatec manufacturer’s page and the Keyboard Company Blog Review. I was very tempted by this prior to finding the Convertible 2, especially since the Convertible 2 hadn’t been released when I was doing my research. It would certainly be more portable. However, the main thing holding me back (besides the fact that I like the tenkey decently well and really like my navigation keys!) was the Bluetooth setup. It could pair with three devices, but it paired in an oldest-first manner, so whichever of your devices was on, if more than one, it would pair with the one you’d paired with the earliest. So you could have a “preference order,” but couldn’t easily change it, nor specify which device to connect to from the keyboard itself. The Convertible 2 fixes this very well as I detailed above. However, if you’re only going to use one Bluetooth device, or just one at a time, and you want a very small, tenkeyless keyboard, the MINILA Air is probably worth a look. I did like all the options available with the special function keys they added! Even if I would have preferred a simple tenkeyless layout, leaving the arrows and Delete/Home/End etc. alone.

Conclusion

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m loving this keyboard! I’ve used it while writing this review to compose iMessages on my iPhone by switching back and forth between devices. I’m having fun on speed tests. I’m guessing, though I haven’t used it for that yet, that typing time entries for work will become more fun as well, as long as the fun holds out :-) Maybe I’ll even have to take up blogging again regularly? It’s unlikely, but possible. If you want one yourself, The Keyboard Company now has “Lots in stock!” of the Cherry MX Brown, Blue and Red varieties, and I couldn’t be happier with their service, even if I wish the exchange rate were a bit better at the moment. Other than that, it was as simple and easy as ordering from a US-based vendor! They answered my research and pre-order questions via Twitter in a timely manner (and their blog is informative), but I never had any personal contact with their team during or after the order (they did email me a tracking number). For now I’ll keep on typin’ in, just not in this blog post!

Comments

One Response to “Filco Convertible 2 Keyboard – yay, it’s here!”

  1. Varmilo VB87M Mechanical Keyboard : David Szpunar Exists Differently on July 10th, 2015 05:20

    […] it on my Surface Pro 3, I paired it with my iPhone, and it works pretty well there also. Unlike my Filco Majestouch Convertible 2 (and here and here), it seems to have a shortcut for the Home button; but sadly, no way on the […]

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