Shurikey Gear Hanzo EC V2 review – retro design with modern touches
The retro design combined with swappable faceplates leave a unique impression.
Shurikey Gear is a newly founded mechanical keyboard brand stemming from the same company that’s behind Varmilo. And if you’re into mechanical keyboards, you know that Varmilo is among the best brands when it comes to prebuilt mechanical keyboards. Especially full-sized and TKL keyboards.
The brand’s name stems from the Shuriken, the famous ninja weapon. Here slightly modified to match the purpose of the company, creating quality mechanical keyboards. Shurikey Gear named its first keyboard Hanzo after a famous ninja from the Japanese Sengoku Era (Hattori, not Hasashi).
So, did Shurikey Gear managed to produce a sharp weapon for gamers and typists alike, or did the Oni no Hanzo’s legacy ended up a curse? Let’s find out. Before we start, we want to thank Shurikey Gear for providing Levvvel with a Hanzo sample for this review!
What’s in the box
The keyboard comes inside a rather large, bulky cardboard box, packed inside a plastic bag and protected with a plastic cover. The box is sturdy enough to protect the board and the extra equipment, and we like its visual design. Aside from the keyboard, the box contains a rather long (1.8m) USB-C cable, a bunch of extra keycaps, a different faceplate that can be easily swappable, a keycap puller with Shurikey branding, a couple of stickers, and a warranty card.
Overall, the package is well protected with the cable and extra keycaps tucked inside a separate compartment. A smaller box placed under the keyboard hides the extra faceplate. We almost forgot: extra keycaps are inside a smaller plastic bag for additional protection. Nice.
Build quality & design
Let’s start with the design. The Hanzo is a 65% keyboard. The only extra key found here is the “delete” button. Many 65% designs feature a couple more extra keys such as “page up” and “page down” or “insert,” but you won’t see those here. The two-knob design is the culprit, and while we don’t mind the omission, some people might. Shurikey could’ve placed the “del” button next to “Enter” and then added “Pg Up” and “Pg Dn” keys at the location of the “del” button and above it, but oh well. You can’t have it all. And we like those knobs more than any extra keys.
The keyboard comes in three color choices, called the vintage computer (001), the western desert (002), and the arcade game (003). Our sample features a vintage computer design. The looks are unique, embracing the “retro industrial style,” according to Shurikey. We have to agree and add that the first two flavors also have a touch of steampunk aesthetic noticed in the knob design. Below the knobs, you can find two lights used for various notifications (Caps Lock, when pairing the keyboard, changing settings, etc.). The matte finish improves the overall look and feel of the keyboard and gives it a rugged industrial vibe.
Unique design doesn’t always translate to attractive design, but Shurikey almost hit the bullseye this time. We like the color choices of all three designs. The color choices mix rather nicely, creating a tasty gestalt that’s rather pleasing to the eye. The arcade game design goes a bit too far in the number of colors used, but that’s about the only nitpick we have regarding the color choices.
Each design also comes with an extra faceplate in a different color that adds to the modular philosophy in Hanzo’s core. Faceplates are very easy to swap, and we like both the grey and dark olive color choices of faceplates included in our vintage computer design. The faceplates are plastic like the rest of the keyboard. A bit flimsy, but after you secure them with rivets, the final impression is much higher. We hope that Shurikey will offer metal faceplates in the future.
We would like to see more modular parts in the future, including extra kickstands, knobs, and rivets, especially rivets. Rivets secure the faceplate and kickstand to the rest of the keyboard and, while plastic, like the rest of the body, they feel cheap and like they don’t belong there. Replacing them with rivets made of metal might improve the overall impression, but the knobs are the only design element we don’t dig.
The Hanzo offers something different and is a stark departure from the predominantly minimalistic design language seen in the world of mechanical keyboards. We like it, but some mechanical keyboard purists may think it’s too much. Luckily, there are many other 65% and 60% keyboards for users who believe Shurikey Gear took it too far with the Hanzo.
The keyboard features white backlighting that’s pretty strong at max level. We love that one of the knobs controls the backlighting intensity. Knob adjustment means that you have ultra-granular backlighting control instead of the usual three to five backlighting levels with more than 30 intensity levels. We haven’t seen this on any other keyboard, and we love it! You can set the intensity entirely to your liking while pressing the knob shuts off the backlighting completely.
The keyboard comes with six different lighting effects in total. You can circle through other effects by combining the Fn and arrow keys. The same combo increases and decreases lighting effects speed. There are five-speed levels, and we like that we finally found a keyboard with an ultra-slow breathing effect. On other keyboards, the breathing effect is too fast, even at the slowest speed. Shurikey explained that RGB is missing due to the unique design of the switches and the PCB (more on that later). With that said, we don’t mind the white LEDs, but we reckon many users will look at this as a negative.
The Hanzo’s a thick and chunky boy. Almost as wide as the Keychron K2 and much heavier. The keyboard is mainly of plastic, with the kickstand and the inner plate being the only two elements made of metal. With that said, it hardly flexes even if we put our strength into it. The plastic faceplate feels flimsy, but once you secure it with rivets, it’s stable and doesn’t wobble or move except for the small area below the knobs. The keyboard has quite wide bezels on all sides, making it longer than most 75% designs. Thick bezels might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we don’t mind them.
The build quality is surprisingly sturdy given the modularity, rivet-based faceplate mounting mechanism, and plastic body. Overall, excellent build quality with all parts feeling sturdy and well-built. Aside from the rivets. We don’t like those. The metal kickstand is a very nice touch, at least aesthetically. More on that later.
Keycaps, switches, & stabilizers
Moving on to the keycaps, they’re high-quality double-shot keycaps made of ABS plastic. Now, ABS is usually considered a budget option, inferior to PBT. But this time, we can’t say these keycaps are budget-minded. They’re thick (1.5mm), with quality molding, and without any imperfections when it comes to legends. They’re semi-transparent and are readable in the dark, even with the backlighting set at its lower level. Do note that the north-faced LEDs make the number row harder to read than the rest.
There are some imperfections along the keycaps borders, and one of the corners of the “K” key is brighter than the rest. Shurikey noted that the final product wouldn’t have any imperfections. Remember, this is a pre-production sample and not the final product. Further, the company pointed out that they will print the secondary functions on the side of the keycaps. Finally, the final keycap design should feature brighter colors, but we like the colors as they are anyway.
The keycaps feature Cherry profile and are a joy to type on. The texture on the top is slightly grainy, and it feels great. The only downside of Shurikey using ABS plastic; nasty ABS shine will replace that beautiful sandy texture after some time. Overall, great keycaps, despite being made of ABS plastic.
If you like them, you should know that Shurikey plans to sell them separately in the future. The company will offer them in sets of 167 keys, meaning they should fit any keyboard form factor, even the 75%. All three keycap sets look stunning and, once they’re on sale, we can see a bunch of mechanical keyboard fans looking to buy them, us included. At the moment, you can pre-order them via IndieGoGo at an excellent price (for a high-end set of keycaps).
Switches used on the Hanzo are the Varmilo EC V2, electrostatic capacitive switches shedding off most downsides seen on the EC switches. These switches look like regular mechanical switches and don’t feature the combination between a rubber dome and mechanical design, as seen on Topre switches. This difference is a massive improvement and allows the Varmilo EC V2 to feel like regular mechanical switches while offering all of the advantages of electrostatic capacitive switch tech.
First of all, these are non-contact switches. Instead of the switch stem closing the circuit between the two metal contacts when pressed by making them touch each other, like on a regular switch, EC switches close the circuit without the two metal contacts physically touching each other. This contactless design gives these EC switches a much longer lifespan and removes the key debounce effect found on regular mechanical switches. Next, Varmilo EC V2 switches look and feel like standard mechanical switches instead of combining the rubber dome and mechanical design.
With that said, the Shurikey Hanzo isn’t a hot-swappable keyboard because these switches aren’t compatible with regular hot-swap PCBs. Other than that, these switches are pretty good. First of all, the box design decreases wobble, especially on the clicky Ivy version found on our review sample. They wobble like Gateron Brown and Yellow in the N/S direction but are more stable in the E/W direction.
There are four EC V2 flavors in total. Three of them are linear, and one is clicky and tactile. We don’t like clicky switches, but these Ivy switches are pretty pleasant to type with once equipped with a pair of headphones. They have an actuation force of 50g and a tactile force of 60g. The actuation distance is 2.30mm with a total travel distance of 4mm.
The clicky Ivy switches have substantial tactile feedback, noticeably more pronounced than on Gateron Browns. We like it, but the clicky nature of the switches is a turndown. On the other hand, the three different flavors are pretty good. The Daisy option has an extremely light actuation force of 35g, so that we can recommend these only for gaming. The Sakura and Rose have their actuation force set at 45g and 55g, respectively.
We recommend the latter two both to gamers and typists since they’re easy to press but not too light in a way that would trigger accidental key presses. Finally, all of the switches are extra smooth. Even without lubing them, you get a surprisingly soft feeling when pressing the switches. As for the sound, the Ivy ones are, as we already said, loud as hell, but the linears are reasonably quiet even without lube.
Stabilizers and knobs
The stabilizers are top-notch. Varmilo keyboards always had great stabilizers, and we like that Shurikey is continuing the tradition. They’re factory lubed in just the right amount to have zero rattle while being responsive, without a trace of that nasty, mushy feeling you get when going overboard with the lube. They’re also relatively quiet and consistent when pressed. Overall, these are the best stabilizers we used on a prebuilt keyboard. Hats off to Shurikey.
Finally, let’s talk a bit about the two knobs. One controls the backlighting, and the other is for volume control (press for mute). They’re made of plastic but look much, much better in person than in photos. They have substantial mechanical feedback when rotated, which puts some other high-end keyboards (cough, Logitech G915, cough) to shame. We can say the same about the click. It feels substantial, deep, weighty, and extremely pleasant. The knobs are removable, and we would like to see Shurikey offering metal knob options in the future.
Connectivity & battery life
The Shurikey Hanzo offers both wireless and wired modes. The removable USB-C cable is thick, but it feels a bit cheap. Braiding it would make it look and feel much better. It’s tightly packed with a Velcro strap which means it will stay angled for a couple of days before straightening. Not great. The USB-C port placement is on the right side of the keyboard. Again, not great. Especially if you have a wired mouse, we always prefer a USB port in the middle or on the left side of the keyboard.
The wired performance is excellent. The keyboard comes with a Game Mode that halves the latency from 10ms to 5ms. We haven’t noticed the change while playing games such as CoD: Modern Warfare (yup, still alive and kicking) and Splitgate (imagine Halo 2/3 but with portals). Wireless performance, based on the Bluetooth 5.0 protocol, is pretty good. We didn’t experience any missing or ghost keystrokes while typing.
During gaming, you will feel the increased latency when playing fast-paced shooters. The extra latency didn’t noticeably affect our K/D ratio. With that said, we had a couple of encounters that would’ve ended much better for us if we managed to make that last tiny strafe adjustment but failed because of the extra latency. Overall, the keyboard has one of the best wireless performances, at least for Bluetooth keyboards. A 2.4Ghz dongle would surely make things better, but, hey, Bluetooth performance is serviceable for all tasks besides playing fast-paced games.
The best thing about the Bluetooth implementation is that you can completely turn off the power-saving mode. The default setting is 5 minutes, but you can change this to 30 minutes or turn it off completely. We love this feature and would like to see more manufacturers offer it since we want options. We don’t mind charging the keyboard more often if that means we can pause the video in an instant, even if we didn’t touch the keyboard for an hour.
The keyboard’s fast to turn on when in power-saving mode. It takes about a second, which is noticeably faster than our experience with the Keychron K2. Do note that you can turn it on only by pressing the space button. You can also completely turn it off by pressing Fn+Delete. In that case, it will turn on by pressing the space bar three times in fast succession. Once you turn off your PC, the keyboard will automatically enter sleep mode after five minutes when in wireless mode and instantly when in wired mode.
The pairing process is straightforward, and the Hanzo can be paired with up to three devices simultaneously. You can easily switch between devices by pressing Fn+Q/W/E. You have to type a code during the pairing process on some devices (Windows PCs). Other devices (smartphones) use a more straightforward pairing process that doesn’t include passwords.
As for the battery life, the 4500mAh unit will last for weeks with the backlighting turned off. With the backlighting, depending on its intensity, you’re looking at five to ten days of usage before the battery runs dry. Turning the battery saver feature off will drop this substantially. The battery charges via the provided cable, and since the keyboard uses USB 2.0 protocol, we recommend plugging it overnight when charging since charging over USB 2.0 is slow AF.
One of the lights below the two knobs (right) will flash in red and blue when the battery’s low. While charging, you can check whether the battery is charged by pressing the Fn + right Alt button. Flashing means the charging isn’t complete, while constant glow means you can hook off the cable.
Typing on the Hanzo feels pretty good. Disregarding the clickiness of the switches, the board sounds nice most of the time. Despite Shurikey placing a silicone noise dampener between the plate and PCB, we can still hear ping-like reverb when pressing specific keys. The worst offenders are the right Alt and Fn key, 7, and the chunk of keys located around the letter Q.
With that said, the keyboard doesn’t feel hollow when typing. It feels relatively dense and sturdy, which we like. ABS keycaps have a slightly higher pitch than PBT ones, so get PBT keycaps if you want that signature thock sound. Still, even with ABS keycaps, we like the overall sound of the keyboard, aside from the reverb.
After opening the keyboard (a simple but tedious process since there are 20 screws all over the top plate and the housing) and installing the foam we can say that the pinging almost completely disappeared, at least when the keyboard is lying flat. When propped up, there’s still some ping when you hit the W and Fn keys but it’s barely noticeable and not perceived while typing. Further, the overall typing sound has also improved; it’s deeper and more pleasant to the ear. Now, the keyboard’s a happy clacker. Overall, the results are pretty good and well worth the time spent performing the whole procedure.
Now, while the kickstand is aesthetically pleasing, using it has its downsides. For instance, to rotate it, you have to hook off the cable. And then, while in the downwards position moving the keyboard towards you will drag the kickstand, causing it to fall back into its original position. Giving that the keyboard’s almost entirely flat at its default position, using the kickstand feels almost obligatory, compounding the issue.
As we already said, the Hanzo’s a thick boy, so we used a wrist rest. The keyboard doesn’t come with one, meaning that you’re potentially looking at an extra expense if you end up getting this keyboard. Also, since this is a 65% keyboard, you’ll often use the Fn in combination with other keys. The keyboard supports a bunch of extra functions, some of which we already listed. As for the F row, you can either press the Fn key in combination with a numeric key for one-time use or press Fn + Enter to switch numeric to F row and vice versa permanently.
Shurikey Gear Hanzo EC V2 – conclusion
Shurikey’s first venture into the world of mechanical keyboards is a resounding success. The Hanzo is an attractive keyboard with a pretty good build quality and unique design. We like its retro industrial design and modular nature. Swappable faceplates are a fantastic feature. In the future, we would like to see metal faceplates and knobs that would make this keyboard even better. The only detail we don’t like is the rivets. They feel off and look cheap.
The keyboard doesn’t support the hot-swap feature, but Varmilo EC V2 switches are great if you pick the right flavor. High-end, thick ABS keycaps are another plus. As for the wireless performance, it’s great for typing and serviceable for gaming. Just use the cable while playing fast-paced games. Battery life is outstanding, and the keyboard has a lot of little things and a unique design that adds to the overall experience—stuff like the granular backlighting control or the option to turn off battery-saving mode.
At $130, it should be a solid buy for everyone looking for a quality prebuilt keyboard featuring excellent keycaps and stabilizers. A prebuilt keyboard that sounds (mostly) good while typing. There’s some reverb, but we reckon a thin layer of foam on the bottom should remove the issue. At the moment, you can pre-order it on IndieGoGo and save some cash while doing it. The second way is to pre-order the Hanzo via MechanicalKeyboards.com.