Vissles LP85 review – impressive feat of engineering
The Vissles LP85 is a new low-profile mechanical keyboard featuring optical switches. An intriguing combination indeed, which becomes even more interesting with the manufacturer’s intention for the LP85 to become a mechanical alternative to the cult classic Magic Keyboard from Apple. Has the relatively new player in the field (Vissles was founded in 2018) managed to come up with a decent Magic Keyboard replacement for users who prefer satisfying feedback of mechanical switches? Is the LP85 a worthy choice in the low-profile mechanical keyboard market? Find out below (spoiler alert, they did, and it is, with a significant caveat).
What’s in the box
Let’s start with the selling package. The Vissles LP85 comes in a quality made cardboard box that will keep the keyboard safe even if the delivery dude decides to kick the box across your yard. Inside the box, you can find the keyboard itself, a USB-C to USB-A cable used for wired connectivity and for charging, and a user manual along with a selection of stickers. There isn’t any keycap puller here since this is a low-profile model that comes without replaceable keycaps. Overall, a quality package that will keep the keyboard safe during its travels.
The provided USB-C cable is alright. It doesn’t feel flimsy, and it isn’t too thin. It’s just a well-built but average-looking cable. We would’ve liked to see a gunmetal braid woven around it, or even gunmetal rubber instead of plain black Vissles used here. At least the cable is lengthy and will be long enough for most users. Further, the USB-C port on the keyboard is placed right in the middle, and it doesn’t feature any niches or protrusions. In other words, you can use whichever USB-C cable you want if you don’t like the default one.
Build quality and design
We won’t beat around the bush here. The Vissles LP85 has superb build quality. Visless used Anodized aluminum for the chassis, and the keyboard feels fantastic in the hands. It doesn’t wobble, twist, or creak. Honestly, this is one of the best-built keyboards we’ve ever seen. The fantastic build quality makes the keyboard feel substantial and just so dense. This makes the typing experience amazing for the most part, but more on that later.
The LP85 follows the 75% form factor, including the F row, arrows, and four extra keys (insert, home, page up, and page down). If you opt for the Windows layout, you get the regular bottom row that includes ctrl, windows, and alt keys alongside the fn key for alternate key functions. The Mac layout is a bit different. There, the bottom row includes the following keys: control, option, fn, and command. The top, F row, consists of the same secondary functions on both versions, no matter which configuration you opt for.
The keyboard’s only 7.85mm thick at its slimmest point, bulging up to 12mm at the top. This is ultra-slim and only about 1mm taller than the Magic Keyboard. The slim profile has a 2-degree slope. A 2-degree slope doesn’t sound as much but is just enough to allow for a comfortable typing experience. The keyboard’s 2-degree angle is all you can expect since it doesn’t come with any prop up feet. This might sound like nitpicking, but many users will find the 2-degree slope too low for their liking, and having an option to increase it would noticeably improve ergonomics.
While lacking height adjusting legs, the LP85 does have silicone feet to keep the keyboard stable. Not just feet but a pair of thick straps sprawling along the whole length of the keyboard. They make the LP85 super-stable even when placed on deskmats or other surfaces that can’t create grip as firm as when placed on metal or wood. Extreme stability has also to do with the surprising weight of almost 550 grams. When you hold the keyboard for the first time, you wonder how is it possible that a keyboard this slim can weigh so much. This is another plus for the Vissles LP85. The added weight not only makes it super-stable on any surface. It also makes it feel like an elegant yet quality-made piece of a marriage between engineering and art.
Our unit features a slick gunmetal color of the chassis along with black keycaps. And this design rocks. Its smooth, modern, and at the same time unique looking thanks to the large and clear font found on keycaps. The cleanliness in design continues with the rest of the body. The keyboard doesn’t have any visible details on the chassis, aside from the USB-C port (placed right in the middle of the rear side, another plus) and a small round knob for switching between wired and wireless modes. The knob for switching between modes gives firm, mechanical feedback and is pleasant to use.
Relatively sharp angles might not be your cup of tea aesthetically. Functionally, though, they don’t affect the typing experience and won’t hurt your hands because the slim form factor doesn’t allow the edges to cut into the skin during prolonged typing sessions. Overall, the Vissles LP85 is a well-built keyboard that’s surprisingly weighty. It also sports impressive looks. No matter whether you pick the white or black version of the keyboard, you’re getting a slick-looking piece of industrial engineering that scores high both in the form and function parts of the design. When compared to the Magic Keyboard, we find the LP85 the prettier one.
And once you fire up the RGB lighting, the keyboard explodes into a plethora of bright, saturated colors. The RGB implementation is almost perfect. The keyboard features per-key RGB lighting that’s outstanding both in terms of colors and brightness. Further, using RGB looks extra clean because there’s zero light bleed from keycaps. This is another proof of the high build quality and yet another positive for the Vissles LP85. Ultra-clean RGB makes the keyboard look stunning in the dark. Also, this is one of the rare pieces of RGB hardware where you can turn on the “Unicorn Vomit” mode without it looking overwhelming, silly, or plain ugly.
As for the options, the RGB lighting system features nineteen different RGB modes coupled with nine single-color modes. They all look pretty. Again, this is a rare keyboard when an RGB lighting mode looks better than a monochrome one. There are three levels of brightness, which isn’t enough for precise tweaking. The Hanzo from Shuriken Gear and its thirty-plus levels of brightness has spoiled us. Overall, a fantastic RGB implementation. Yes, this is a low-profile mechanical keyboard made mostly for professional and office use, but pretty lights never hurt anyone. And the Vissles LP85 has some of the prettiest lights on the market.
Keycaps, switches, and stabilizers
Let’s start with the optical-mechanical switches found on the LP85. The Vissles LK525 low profile optical switches have 50g actuation force that’s on par with switches such as Gateron Yellow (50g) and slightly higher than HyperX Red switches (45g) found on the HyperX Alloy Origins Core. Further, their pre-travel distance is set at 1.2mm, which is noticeably shorter than regular Cherry MX (2mm) and Gateron switches (2-2.3mm). Compared to other low-profile switches, the LK525 have the same pre-travel distance as Cherry MX Low Profile Red and slightly shorter than Gateron Low-Profile Red switches (1.5mm). This results in noticeably faster actuation compared to regular switches.
The LK525 also feel like they have a faster actuation speed than other low-profile switches, which is mostly true when looking at the specs. The total travel distance is set at 2.5mm. This is shorter than both Cherry MX Low-Profile Red and Gateron Low-Profile switches, set at 3.2mm and 2.75mm, respectively. The response time is, thanks to the optical technology that uses a beam of light instead of mechanical parts to register the stroke, set at 0.2mm, which is very fast and should be perfect for gaming (more on that later).
Using optical switches instead of mechanical ones, aside from the faster response time, also eliminates switch debounce. This translates into better performance and tighter latencies when pressing switches. Further, optical switches, same as electrostatic capacitive ones, work without physical contact. Removing physical contact from the equation means a much longer lifespan and a much lower chance of a switch failure. Overall, optical switches are faster and have lower latencies. In practice, they are just as comfortable to use as regular ones. Faster response time is especially handy for gamers.
Until now, these optical switches sound perfect. Well, they have a downside. They’re clicky. Yup, the LP85 uses clicky switches and, at the moment, the keyboard isn’t available with linear or tactile options. If it were, we wouldn’t mind much that we’ve got the clicky version. But since this is the only version available, we have to say that we can only recommend this keyboard to users who don’t mind the loudness. Yes, the switches are quieter than what we used to (Cherry MX blues), but still, this is too loud for many users who can’t stand the clickiness. Also, while not very loud, the switches have a pretty high pitch that further ruins the experience. We hope that Visless will offer tactile and, especially, linear options in the future.
Moving on to keycaps. Vissles used ABS plastic for keycaps found on the LP85. The keycaps feature laser etches symbols (at least it looks like a laser-etched print method), clean font, and a slightly concave surface. The texture on the surface of the keycaps is pleasant to the touch; it’s gentle yet firm when moving your fingertips across the keyboard. Also, it’s fingerprint-resistant. Too bad it’ll degrade with use, replaced with the signature ABS shine that’s also a fingerprint magnet. While using PBT wouldn’t affect the sound on a keyboard as slim as this one, at least you’d get a material that will keep its pleasant surface coating even after a few months of constant usage.
The keycaps aren’t user-replaceable. While you can remove them (we don’t recommend this), the stem uses a custom sculpt meaning you can’t use other low-profile keycaps sets. This isn’t a downside since the keycaps found on the Vissles LP85 feel great and have high-quality and precise print and are also very pleasant to use thanks to the slight concave sculpt on their surface. Overall, great keycaps, but PBT would made them even better.
Finally, this is a low-profile mechanical keyboard with a very short actuation distance, meaning that you cannot mod or replace the stabilizers. In other words, there’s not much to write about.
Connectivity and battery life
The Vissles LP85 uses a 2000mAh battery that can last about five to six days with RGB turned off, depending on how much you’re using the keyboard. If you’re a heavy typist who also plays games for at least a few hours each day (like us), expect the battery life to be on the shorter end of the stick. With RGB turned on, expect to hook up the charging cable quite often. Overall, the battery life isn’t great but, to be honest, you wouldn’t expect god-tier battery life on an extra slim low-profile keyboard that uses optical switches and has top-tier RGB.
Connectivity options include wired mode and Bluetooth 5.0. When used in wired mode, the keyboard’s instantaneously responsive, no matter what you’re using it for. Even in fast-paced games, such as Halo Infinite, the Vissles LP85 has a great response time. When using it over Bluetooth, the response time isn’t noticeably slower. When typing, you won’t notice the difference. When gaming, though, the lag spikes found on virtually every wireless keyboard using Bluetooth are evident. They won’t affect your performance in single-player games, but in titles where one wrong move means a difference between earning a frag and getting killed, you’ll want to use the provided cable.
Now, while not perfect for gaming, Bluetooth mode is ideal for everything else. The keyboard paired quickly with every device we threw at it. An Android smartphone, PC, Windows laptop, and an iPad all worked perfectly with this keyboard. Do note that you can only use up to three devices at the same time. Switching between devices is fast and without hitches. The Vissles LP85 works with a vast assortment of devices. Mac OS, iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, it works on everything.
Now, the keyboard has a 30-minute sleep timer by default, which is plenty of time not to give you delays when pressing the space bar to pause YouTube videos. A 30-minute sleep timer might be less than ideal for users who prefer watching movies in front of their PC but, for us, this timer is just right. We would’ve loved to see a setting that allows users to tweak the sleep timer or turn it off completely. Of course, after it goes into hibernation, it takes a second or two for the keyboard to wake up. As always, this can be annoying, but at least (in most cases) you won’t have the wake-up lag happen to you while needing an instantaneous response. Like when pausing videos. As for the RGB, it turns off after five minutes of inactivity, which is OK with us.
If you’re a person that doesn’t mind clicky switches, the Vissles LP85 will most likely be a joy to type on. The concave keycaps present a perfect landing spot for the fingertips; the switches actuate with ease and give pleasant feedback when pressed. The space between the keycaps is a bit narrow compared to regular mechanical keyboards but perfect when comparing the Vissles LP85 to the Magic Keyboard. With that said, if you can’t stand clicky switches, don’t buy this keyboard. They aren’t super loud but have that high pitch that hurts the ears.
When we use the keyboard with headphones, the typing experience is indeed sublime. After a couple of days of getting used to it, we found ourselves loving this keyboard, as long as we could not hear it. Considering that the Vissles made the LP85 for typists, Apple users who want to move on from the Magic Keyboard, and office use, we can’t understand why the company didn’t offer the keyboard in linear flavor. The Magic Keyboard, after all, is pretty quiet. We would expect a competitor to offer something similarly quiet if they try to make the Magic Keyboard users replace it for their product.
And even if you like the clicky feel, we doubt you’ll be able to use this keyboard in an area that contains other people with their sense of hearing working as intended. This is just too loud for a keyboard made for the office and long typing sessions. You can try using the keyboard in an office, but we reckon that you’ll have to use the Vissles LP85 for self-defense after a couple of days. Thankfully, the impressive build quality, aluminum-made body, and substantial weight make it a fine defensive weapon. On the other hand, the clicky switches make it a poor typing tool in an office space. Or in a school environment. Of for working from home if your partner, kids, or other members of your family can hear you typing. Unless they like Cherry MX Blues. And there aren’t many of them out there.
In the end, the Vissles LP85 is an impressive feat of engineering marred by lack of choice. This keyboard’s built like a tank; it looks slick as hell and is much prettier than the Magic Keyboard. Next, it features a 75% form factor, a perfect middle ground between the portability of 65% and 60% keyboards, and the bulkiness of TKL and full-sized models. The list of positives continues with excellent keycaps (even though they’re made of ABS), impressive RGB implementation, and a choice between Windows and Mac layouts. Battery life isn’t great, and the Bluetooth connection is stable if occasionally laggy.
But the lack of switch options means that many keyboard aficionados won’t come near this keyboard. It’s just too loud and clicky. Further, if someone is thinking of switching over from the Magic Keyboard but likes silence, we reckon that person won’t even consider this keyboard. This is why we advise Vissles to consider offering the LP85 with, at least, linear switches. If that were an option, we would recommend this keyboard to everyone looking for a well-built low profile mechanical keyboard that looks good and feels great to type on. But since that choice doesn’t exist, we can recommend the Vissles LP85 only to users who aren’t sensitive to clicky switches.
If you’re one of them, this will most likely be the best low-profile keyboard you’ve ever used. And yes, it beats the Magic Keyboard with ease, as long as you don’t mind the loudness. At the moment you can order the LP85 on IndieGoGo for an Early Bird price of just $100. For this price it’s worth gambling if you haven’t used clicky switches before and don’t know whether you’ll like them or not. After the IndieGoGo campaign ends, you’ll be able to get the LP85 for $130. This is $30 higher than what the Magic Keyboard sells for. If we take into account all of the upgrades even with an $30 higher price, the LP85 is definitely worth it. Again, as long as you don’t mind clicky switches. If Vissles decides, sometimes in the future, to offer the LP85 with linear switches, feel free to add a whole point to our score.