Varmilo VB87M Mechanical Keyboard

Update: Photos Added

I’ve added some photos at the bottom of the page; I got the keyboard with the white PBT keys, front printed, black case, no backlight (Gateron Brown switches). Scroll down and check out the pics! I’m thinking about selling this keyboard, not 100% sure but I’m open to offers. Just personally don’t like the feel compared to my Filco, it’s all 100% working as it should be.

Also, updated August 1st, I seem to have been able to un-pair my devices successfully. See pairing below.

Introduction and Review

And so my new-found mechanical keyboard itch has been scratched again. Thus begins the testing of my newly arrived Varmilo keyboard! I’ll make some notes about the keyboard, and then share some function key functionality I’ve discovered.

I ordered a Varmilo VB87M model Bluetooth 4.0 (word is Bluetooth 3.0 computers will not be compatible) keyboard from Massdrop last month, and it just arrived today. When I got home from work, I got it out of the box, charged it a bit, and paired it. (As I type this, the “drop” for this keyboard is available again for 10 more days!) My version of the keyboard has a black casing, white PBT plastic keys with gray lettering printed only on the front face of the keys, and it has Gateron Brown switches with no backlight. There are several different options for coloring, switch type, and backlight available. I might get around to posting some pics at some point.

Once I’d tested 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 keyboard to press Send, for example in the Messages app. Will take some getting used to with the Gateron Brown switches I selected (instead of Cherry MX Brown like my Filco), though I do like the front-printed keycaps that can’t be worn off. Overall the keyboard feels a bit cheaper than my Filco (and it was), but since it’s tenkeyless (TKL), and still Bluetooth (Bluetooth 4.0 only), it should be a bit easier to carry on a daily basis than the Convertible 2. The keycaps are a bit slippery on top compared to what I’m used to, and the keys are a bit shorter and flatter than the ones on my Filco. I already put some spare O-rings on the keyboard and it was extremely easy. Keeps it a bit quieter when typing, as it was louder than my Filco started out I believe.

I may add more later, but I did some experimenting between the instructions, mostly but not entirely in an Asian language that’s completely unreadable to me with a few English words sprinkled in, and several helpful comments on the Massdrop discussion thread with pointers in the right direction, and I think I have most of the controls/features worked out with the keyboard. The things I’m missing so far are:

  1. How do I know when the keyboard is fully charged?
  2. How do I un-pair one or all devices to start pairing fresh?
  3. Can I select a paired device among multiple devices directly, or is it pair-order and based on currently nearby devices only? (I suspect the latter).
  4. How many total devices can be paired to the keyboard?

Here’s the rest of what I’ve learned so far. I’ve tried to put it in a reasonable order, and this is from experimenting so I’m probably missing something. Feel free to comment if you have some notes to add, or any corrections where I’ve misinterpreted something or haven’t fully discovered all the features!

Besides a small directions/manual pamphlet and the keyboard, in the box was also a USB cord (removable, used for charging ONLY and not to connect the keyboard for typing), and a small keycap pulling tool. The battery is an internal rechargeable keyboard, not AA batteries like the Convertible 2.

Power and Pairing

To pair the keyboard, press Fn+Insert and the blue light under the Insert key should start blinking. It’s in discoverable pairing mode now. (Note, when I say Fn+Insert, I mean press and hold the Fn, or Function, key to the left of the right-hand Control key, and press the Insert key before letting go of both.) Locate the keyboard’s model name, VB87M, in your device’s Bluetooth discovery area, and select it. Type in the numbers indicated on the screen and press Enter. The light under the Insert button will turn solid when paired, the keyboard should be usable now.

OK, so to change paired devices, you press Fn+Right Arrow, then Fn+Insert (or maybe just make sure all already-paired devices are off or out of range) and it will disconnect and go into pairing mode, or if there’s a second device already paired, it will switch to the other paired device if it’s in range and the device is more recently paired. It appears that if the most recently paired device is on, it will always try to reconnect to that device after you disconnect with Fn+>. If that device is unavailable (Bluetooth is off, for example), it will pair with an earlier-paired device instead. Thus, since I paired my computer first and phone second, I can turn off Bluetooth on my phone and it pairs back with my computer. Once paired with my computer, it stays paired unless I disconnect with Fn+Right Arrow and then it will pair with my phone again, if available, every time. If I turn Bluetooth off on my phone while paired, and my computer is on, it will reconnect to the computer immediately with no further action (the Insert light blinks when it loses phone connection, then turns solid when it gets computer connection back).

To turn the keyboard off, hold the Insert button by itself for about three or four seconds until the light goes out. To turn back on, press Fn+Insert briefly. The keyboard will connect to the last-connected device if it’s available. You may need to wait a few seconds after turning off before it will turn back on.

When the keyboard is charging, it seems that the Insert light blinks, even when the keyboard is powered off (however, the on/off toggle still turns the keyboard on and off while charging).

If you happen to have one of these keyboard with backlit LED lights (mine doesn’t have this feature, and the light behind the Insert key doesn’t seem to be controllable/dimmable), the Massdrop discussion seems to show that Fn+Up and Fn+Down arrow keys change the brightness between four different levels.

To un-pair the keyboard, I’m not 100% sure how to do this but either holding Fn+Delete down for several seconds until the Scroll Lock LED blinks, or holding Fn+Right Arrow, seems to have prevented the keyboard from pairing with my devices and sent it back into pairing mode. I tried this after reading about a similar keyboard model review on Reddit (of a 60% Varmilo keyboard, the VB660M), even though it’s a bit different and has a wired mode (this one does not appear to go into wired mode, even with Fn+Delete).

iOS Special Function Keys

On iOS, Here’s what happens when you press Fn + Esc and then F1 through F12:

Fn+Esc: Home button
Fn+F1: Reduce screen brightness
Fn+F2: Increase screen brightness
Fn+F3: Open Spotlight Search (returns to Home screen first)
Fn+F4: Unknown
Fn+F5: Show or hide onscreen keyboard (Bluetooth stays connected)
Fn+F6: Lock and power screen off
Fn+F7: Mute/Un-mute
Fn+F8: Decrease Volume
Fn+F9: Increase Volume
Fn+F10: Play/Pause
Fn+F11: Back Skip
Fn+F12: Forward Skip

Shift+Arrow Keys select text in any direction, much like you’re used to in Windows. Home/End/Pg Up/Pg Down do not seem to have any effect on iOS. As I mentioned above, I haven’t found a way to activate the Send button in Messages or Mail from the keyboard, if there is one (on my Filco either). I’m using an iPhone 6 with iOS 8.4 for my testing; the manual booklet appears to show that the controls for Android are similar to iOS.

Fn+Delete does NOT appear to switch into a wired mode with the USB cable attached. Holding Fn+Delete (or maybe Fn+Right Arrow, I tried both) appears to un-pair the keyboard, and in fact Fn+Delete makes the Scroll Lock LED blink a few times if held down for several seconds. But I don’t know precisely what this does beyond the Scroll Lock LED blinking!

Windows Special Function Keys

On Windows, here are some Fn key combinations:

Fn+Esc: Open new window of default web browser.
Fn+F1: Screen Brightness Down
Fn+F2: Screen Brightness Up
Fn+F3: Open Search Charm (Windows 8.1)
Fn+F4 and Fn+F5: Unknown
Fn+F5-Fn+F12: As printed on secondary keycap (lower right corner) (same as iOS for these)

The instructions say that Fn+Delete means something, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I wonder if it has something to do with forgetting all pairings, but I haven’t managed to get it to do anything I’ve noticed yet. Also, I mostly haven’t mentioned that if you press the Fn key and several other keys you can activate some of the secondary-printed functions on the key caps. I’ve focused on the things that are unlabeled. But fn+Control (Right) is the Application (right-click menu) key, for example. And there’s a Windows key on both sides of the keyboard, but Fn+Windows says it’s “Lock” but it hasn’t done anything noticeable for me on Windows or iOS. Some of the above key combinations, but not all, are hinted at in the foreign-language directions sheet.


So that’s how to use the VB87M Bluetooth 4.0 keyboard from Vermilo. I’ve still got a few days to see how I like it compared to the Filco (I think I like the Filco better in general), but it seems to be a solid keyboard, even though the multi-device selection seems more on par with the Filco MINILA Air TKL rather than the Filco Convertible 2 (but I wasn’t expecting any multi-device support when I ordered, and what’s here is livable). We’ll see how carry-ability improves with the smaller size of the TKL form-factor.

Thanks to VarholiaglimpNYR99, compuguy, and a few others in the Massdrop Discussion around this keyboard for pointers and tips about some of the above functionality! Also thanks to the instruction booklet, which had some useful pointers even though it had barely any Latin alphabet characters in it.


After switching back and forth between the Convertible 2 and the Vermilo VB87M (just in the last hour or so since I wrote the above post), I’m not sure why but the Filco is multiple times as nice to type on for me. Not sure if it’s just that I’m used to it, or maybe the Gateron Brown switches aren’t as comfy for me as the Cherry MX Brown. Will give the VM87M more of a workout soon to see how it holds up…


I got a request for some photos of the keyboard in the comments, so here’s a few. I didn’t snap any pics of the box or other contents, but it does come with a small key puller and a USB cable with a nice velcro strap for winding it up, and that’s it beyond the small folding manual with very little English.

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).


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


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.


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!