There are hordes of mechanical keyboards out there, now that old-school clicky switches have made a glorious comeback. But as any keyboard fan will tell you, the deeper you dig into the mech world, the more you find yourself on a never-ending upgrade train. The iKBC MF87 was the final stop on train for me.
iKBC may not be the most well-known brand (and their products sometimes go under the name of their parent company, Vortex), but keyboard enthusiasts have come to know them for offering high-quality products for relatively decent prices. In general, the highest quality keyboard you can get is one you build yourself—most mass-produced keyboards just don’t have the same high quality parts as the boutique options you can buy separately. But if you don’t want to go quite that far, iKBC’s MF87 and MF108 are some of the most well-built keyboards you can buy, for $170.
That may seem like a lot considering you can buy mechanical keyboards for a mere $50, but the differences between a cheap keyboard and a high-end one are readily apparent. I wrote about it here, using the CODE keyboard as an example of a high-end board—and now that I’ve found the MF87, I wish I could go back and re-write that piece, since it blows the CODE out of the water.
Case in point: the case. Most keyboards, even many pricier ones like the CODE, use a plastic case. Occasionally, you’ll find one that mixes some plastic casing with a metal plate on top. These aren’t bad, of course—some plastic cases feel quite nice—but nothing quite prepares you for a full, CNC aluminum case like the one on the MF series. This thing is four pounds of solid metal, meaning it isn’t going to flex, slide around on your desk, or wear down as you rub the soft-touch finish you find on many plastic cases. It also gives the keys a slightly different, higher-pitched sound when you strike them, rather than the louder “thock” you get on plastic keyboards. The case doesn’t get shiny or greasy, either, and it’s easy wipe down if it ever does get a little schmutz on it. When you first pick it up, it’s so heavy it almost feels like overkill, but now every other keyboard feels just a little cheap to me in comparison.
The MF series is also one of the only mass-produced keyboards I’ve seen come with PBT keycaps. You can read more about the glory of PBT keycaps here, but here’s the short version: they’re textured, more durable, and won’t wear down and look greasy or “shiny” in the same way typical ABS keycaps do. The MF series uses iKBC’s double-shot injected, shine-through PBT keycaps so you can see the backlighting under them, and the double-shot molding process means the legends will never wear down. Some people may not love the legends on these keycaps, since there are “breaks” in the letters—and I’ve also seen a set that had some imperfections in some letters or numbers—but this is a side-effect of the otherwise most durable keycaps you can buy. (If you don’t like them, you can always replace them with another set, though! I caved and swapped the Esc key for a cheap ABS Transformers keycap I got on eBay, because I just couldn’t resist.)
Speaking of the backlighting, there were no corners cut there either: this keyboard has full, per-key RGB backlighting, which means you can create your own color layout key-by-key—or go with one of the pre-configured layouts, including the full rainbow “unicorn vomit” look that’s become rather popular today. You can also add effects like raindrop animations, ripples, and even play a built-in game of “Snake” (which is really more of a gimmick than an actually fun-to-play game, but it’s there). All told, there are 16 different LED modes, which should be more than enough to suit whatever fancy you have.
You can configure the RGB lighting solely with special Fn key combinations laid out in the manual, so it can take a bit of time to set up, but the results are bright and beautiful. Some may actually see this as a corner cut—particularly compared to “gaming” keyboards that come with easier-to-use configuration software—but frankly, I consider it a plus, since I hate installing janky keyboard software and signing into an account just to configure the lighting (I’m looking at you, Razer). You can store multiple lighting profiles on the keyboard itself, too, so you can switch between them at will and take them to other PCs. (Side note: you can also use the Fn key to switch between built-in Dvorak and Colemak profiles, if that’s your thing.)
If there’s one thing I don’t love about the keyboard, it’s the rubbery USB cable—but since it’s detachable, I was able to swap it out for a braided microUSB cable from Anker for a much nicer look and feel.
The MF series comes in two versions: the MF108, a full-size keyboard with a number pad, and the MF87, a “tenkeyless” version that eschews the number pad for a smaller footprint (and, thus, better ergonomics for right-handed mouse users). Interestingly, both versions cost the same $170 on Amazon, no matter what switches you choose. Sadly, the MF87 is only available in Cherry MX Brown and Silent Red, but the MF108 comes with Cherry MX Blue, Brown, Red, or Silent Red switches. The MF87 has appeared with Blues and Reds in the past, but for some reason, those aren’t currently available on Amazon.
It may seem weird to mention the actual switches this far down in the review, but if I’m being honest, they’re probably the least remarkable part of the keyboard—only because they’re the same great switches you’d find in other well-made boards. Cherry’s switches are solidly built, durable, and feel consistent across the board, and while I wish there were even more options—I actually had someone swap some Zealios into my personal deck because I’m crazy like that—you at least have a choice between the most popular switches Cherry offers.
Ultimately, though, the feel of a keyboard is about more than just the switches—it’s the switches coupled with the makeup of the case and the keycaps, and in this case, it’s those parts of the board that put the MF series in a league of its own. A custom built keyboard with this level of quality could easily run you twice as much money, so if you want to take your mechanical obsession to the next level without going broke and learning to solder, the MF series is a great buy. And if you can’t bring yourself to spend $170, there are cheaper options from iKBC that are still great value for money, like the TD108 and the super-compact Poker II and 3. For me, though, the MF87 is—dare I say it—my keyboard endgame, and I can’t imagine any keyboard that would tempt me to upgrade.