Filco Majestouch Model No. FKBN104M/EB
The Filco Majestouch is not one keyboard, but a series of keyboards, all variations on the theme of mechanical Cherry MX switches. The Majestouch series includes versions in white, versions in black, versions with Japanese 108-key layouts (your choice: with or without Kana characters on the keycaps), versions with English (US ASCII) layouts, versions with N-key rollover, versions with Bluetooth wireless (the only wireless mechanical switch keyboard I've encountered on the web). There are even a couple of Majestouch Minis (only in Japanese layout, though). Most of these variants are available with either the black Cherry MX linear switches or the brown ("tea axis") Cherry MX soft tactile switches. I had wondered why Filco didn't offer Majestouch versions with the blue clicky Cherry MX switches. It turns out they do, but it's not shown on the English version of the diatec.co.jp website (unfortunately, the blue Cherry clicky Majestouches seem to be available only in Japanese layouts). There is no version that combines N-key rollover AND wireless. That'd be a killer keyboard.
The version I have is the FKBN104M/EB: all black, standard 104-key English layout (with Windows keys, you can't avoid them these days), USB connection with PS/2 adapter included, with N-key rollover, and brown Cherry MX switches. The only feature this version has over the basic version is the N-key rollover feature. Other than that, it's about as basic a keyboard as you can get.
But there's basic and there's basic. Sorta like your basic black dress. Depending on fabric, cut, drape, and who's wearing it, a basic black dress can be the most stunning thing at a party. And that's the way I feel about this Filco Majestouch I'm typing on right now. It's a real looker, easily the best-looking of all the keyboards in my possession. Its slim form factor (similar to the IBM M2), and its basic black enclosure give it a sleek, understated elegance that puts something like the frill-encrusted Logitech G15 board to shame.
When the Steelseries 7G was first announced, I was tempted to order it, despite its use of the black Cherry MX linear switches, because it had the same formal elegance as the Majestouch. But the press release met with hoots and sneers on at least one forum I found, where adolescent sounding gamers found the 7G to be boring. So I know mileage varies on this. Beside the Majestouch, the IBM Model M (the 1391401) appears plain Jane, and the Avant Stellar appears muscle bound. The Happy Hacking Professional 2 looks like a kid's toy (but then that is one of the attractions of the HHKB Pro 2, that so much functionality and power, along with great key feel, could be packed into such an unassuming package). The looks of the Majestouch is not the least of the reasons I keep returning to it.
This English version of the Majestouch has a standard 104-key Windows arrangement, so there is nothing to adjust to in the layout, no unexpected or inexplicable shifts in key locations as there are in so many of the space saver models. By the same token, it suffers the same problem as all full-size keyboards in the way it forces a dangerously long reach for the mouse. Moreover, the slim footprint of the Majestouch means that when one centers oneself on the letter keys, the placement of the keyboard seems even more lopsided than with a deeper board, such as the full-size Model M's. I had to shift the wrist rest to move the psychological center of gravity to the left to be more in line with the centerline of my body.
The Windows keys (2 Windows and 1 Menu key) do eat into the space bar length, but only minimally. The space bar measures 4 ½ inches, the same as on Das Keyboard II. The space bar on the 101-key IBM Model M, by comparison, is 5 inches, so ½ inch is lost. Not enough to bother me; with only a half inch truncated I'm in no danger of missing the space bar and hitting something else. (I just noticed that the Avant Stellar, even with the Windows keys, maintains a 5-inch length on the space bar by reducing Windows keys and the right-side Alt and Control keys to standard letter-key size.) If one were to order a 108-key Japanese version of the Majestouch, I could see the gripe about the space bar size reduction.
The Windows keys have a little bulb on top with the Windows logo, all the better for touch typists to avoid pressing the keys should their fingers accidentally alight on that bulbous protrusion.
The font used on the key caps is rather more delicate than what is usually found, and has a slight italic slope to it. A Japanese web site review (as translated by Google) indicated that the lettering on the key caps was not laser-etched, so that brings up the question of how long it would take for the lettering to wear off. The review did say, however, that very good paint was used, if I understood the awkward machine translation correctly.
The Majestouch weighs in at 1.2 kg, or 2.6 pounds, only about half the weight of the full size Model M and the Avant Stellar, both steel-plated. The Majestouch does feel heavier than the larger Das Keyboard II, though, and its small footprint means that the 2.6 pounds is packed into a smaller volume. Hence, the Majestouch does have considerable heft and feels dense. I doubt if there is any metal plate inside, and I have no inclination to disassemble the keyboard to find out, but the keyboard does feel solidly built. The Diatec web site lists as one of the Majestouch features a "rigid construction of case structure," whatever that means.
It is heavy enough to impart a reassuring sense of stability. And it definitely doesn't move around on the table. That is in part due to the four generously sized rubber pads on the bottom of the board; they measure 1 5/8" by 3/8":
Das Keyboard II, by way of contrast, has only two rubber pads, both near the front edge, which measure a measly 11/16" by 3/16":
There are no rubber pads near the rear edge of Das Keyboard, just the rubber bottoms of the adjustable feet which, when folded up, still project a bit beyond the bottom surface, perhaps to function as grippers:
The thing is that they don't work at all. I can push Das Keyboard to the edge of my keyboard stand with one finger:
When I push the Majestouch with one finger, the combination of the heft and the rubber pads is such that it pulls the swiveling keyboard stand along with it:
The size of the rubber pads is just one of the small touches that distinguish the Majestouch. Another one is the stress-relief grommet where the cord comes out of the keyboard:
Compare this again with Das Keyboard II, a supposedly high-end keyboard:
Yet another small touch is inclusion of a Velcro-like cord tie:
The keys have a distinctive texture, quite unlike any other keyboard in my collection. I was trying to find a way to characterize the feel, and the only thing I could come up with was that it felt like extremely fine silt. A couple of the Google-translated Japanese reviews said it was like frosted glass, so maybe that's a more accurate description. One of the reviews says the texture of the Majestouch is inferior to what is found on Topre Corp. keyboards, but I wouldn't know about that. It feels pretty good to me.
In the website specs for one of the Majestouch models (not the one for the model I have, but I'm sure it applies to my model as well), it says:
After a period of sustained use, I do notice a faint whitish smudge on the right-hand side of the space bar, and a soft cloth (a Googalie in this case) does remove it:"Top coated" to prevent from the scratch or damage on the keys and chassis.
* Occasionally, you can see the finger print spots on the top coated surface on the key and chassis (It is outstanding on a black model.) Wipe out with a soft fabrics to remove the spot.
My mid-level Dell desktop machine does not have a PS/2 port, so I could not fully test the N-key rollover feature, which theoretically permits all the keys to be depressed simultaneously and register. While connected via USB, the Majestouch does register 6 keys when pressed simultaneously, the limit of USB bandwidth.
This particular model of the Majestech comes with the brown Cherry MX switches:
I decided to try to remove the Enter key, out of curiosity if nothing else, and was distressed to see the assembly come apart upon removal:
Those little white pieces are stabilizing spacers on either side of the switch, and I had to figure out how to thread them through the metal wire and how they're supposed to sit before I could reseat the Enter keycap:
It was enough of a hassle to do this that from now on I'm going to avoid removing the larger keys unless I absolutely have to.
The first thing to be said about the brown Cherry switches is that they do not click, despite what the ergocanada.com website says. Try as I might, I could not discern anything that could be described as a click when depressing a key, even when I did it very slowly. No click.
The brown MX switches have a very light touch, a bit lighter than the blue clicky Cherry switches, I think. According to the specs, the brown Cherry MX's have 4mm of travel, with the key actuation point at 2mm. They remind me a bit of the Cherry ML switches on the G84-4100, except the brown MX's have a bit more travel to them and slight tactile feedback, whereas the ML's have none except for the thud of bottoming out.
When I first tried out the Majestouch, my typing speed plummeted and I made a lot of errors. I think it was because the key feel was so different from the other boards that I have, and also because the onset of dry weather, and my failure to use moisturizer, left cracked skin on my palms and fingers, making it a bit painful to type. But even with the frustration of my typing going to hell on the Majestouch, I found myself returning to it again and again, and looking forward to using it. The light touch makes it probably the most comfortable board I have. When I put in sustained time on the Avant Stellar, my fingers start to feel numb and fatigued. With the Majestouch, it's as if my fingers were at a spa. For speed and accuracy, I still seem to do best with an IBM Model M buckling spring board; whenever I return to a Model M after playing around with other boards, it's as if my fingers had found their way home again. But if typing can be said to be physically enjoyable, it is the brown Cherry MX switches in the Majestouch, now that I have adjusted to them and brought my typing up to near normal speeds, which at this moment is giving me the greatest pleasure. This is coming as something of a surprise to me, because I've been firmly in the camp of those who feel that the clickier, the better.
This particular version of the Majestouch may be just one step – with its N-key rollover feature – beyond basic black, but it’s the belle of the ball to my eyes and fingers. This keyboard, with its combination of looks, build quality, thoughtful touches, and mechanical soft tactile Cherry switches, is definitely worth at least the roughly $100 that its cost in Japanese yen translates into . Whether it's worth it when the substantial increment in commission and shipping fees is added to the base cost is another question, and something each person will have to decide as an individual matter of taste, preference, and need.
As for me, I'm going to quote from the Google translation of some Japanese blog entry about the purchase of a Majestouch, which reflects my own feelings with haiku-like directness:
"The design is simple, it was bought. Repentance is not."
Source: Filco Majestouch Model No. FKBN104M/EB - mr_sf_applet - geekhack forums