No one is going to accuse Angry Miao of making boring keyboards (or earbuds). The company’s previous releases, The Cyber boardAm Hatsu and General AFA, are as developed as they are unique. When the company first started teasing its new 60% board, it seemed almost too conventional to be an Angry Miao product, but in keeping with tradition, there’s a twist here.
Look, the AM 65 Less: AM Compact Touch is a wired and Bluetooth enabled 60% keyboard with a HHKB format – which means no function keys, no numpad and, as is standard for this layout, no arrow keys. Usually, keyboard enthusiasts then place those arrow keys on a separate layer, accessible via a key combination. As you can imagine, that can be a bit of a hassle, especially if you write a lot. But having set their hearts on this layout, Angry Miao’s designers decided that instead of hotkeys, they could put a small touch screen on the front of the case. The argument here is that this offers the benefits of a small keyboard at 60% and a symmetrical HHKB layout, while still containing arrow key functions. Did I mention that Angry Miao likes to over-engineer its products?
Originally, the company had called the board the “AM 65 Less,” but that caused some confusion in the community since it’s not really a 65% keyboard either. The official name is now the AM 65 Less: Am Compact Touch.
Angry Miao sent me a review unit last month in the Famicon-inspired ‘8-Bit’ colorway (there are seven variants in all), and I’ve been using it almost exclusively ever since.
Despite the touch screen, this is the company’s most conventional keyboard to date. It features a hot-swap circuit board, so you can easily swap the switches if you wish, south-facing RGB lighting, and with the exception of the tall front, it looks pretty normal for a small keyboard.
Let’s talk about the touch screen first, as it is undoubtedly the most controversial aspect of the board. It works exactly as described and it does what it does well, but the arrow keys remain infinitely more useful. The promise here is that you won’t have to move your wrists as much as your thumbs can move the cursor since it’s already aligned with the touchpad. In reality, you’re probably going to be moving your hands more because you’re going to be using your mouse more. To correct typos you encounter while writing a word, simply go back a few letters. For everything else, what you can do by holding your finger on the touchpad becomes a bit of a guessing game as to whether you can time things right to stop the cursor where you need to. I ended up layering the cursor keys, but of course that defeats the purpose of the touchpad. Your mileage may vary.
The fact that the touchpad is on the front of the board also means you can’t really use a wrist wrestle, something that’s annoyed by the fact that the board sits at a non-changeable 10-degree angle. I ended up placing a palm rest a few inches away from the board, which left enough room to still use the touchpad, though I never found the high angle to be a problem. The company recommends a split wrist for users who want to use one.
Like all Angry Miao products, this one is unapologetically not for everyone. The fact that it feels and sounds fantastic makes up for its quirks, but I can’t help but wonder what an Angry Miao 65% board with arrow keys would look like.
One of Angry Miao’s latest innovations is the adjustable leaf spring that allows you to change the flex of the PCT and thus the typing experience from very hard to soft. Currently, most other keyboards use a gasket design and highly flexible PCBs to allow for a softer typing experience. When done right, it usually works, but on many of the keyboards I’ve tested recently, it didn’t seem to make that big of a difference. This is where you can really feel the difference between the different settings (although it takes some work to open up the board and make those changes to the springs).
In addition to the various springs, the board also comes with all the necessary tools to replace them, as well as a very nice screwdriver, an extra foam mat on the bottom, cleaning cloth, replacement cables and screws. There is no carrying case. Instead, Angry Miao opted for a soft carrying case.
The build quality here is impeccable. The company says that the CNC milling of the aluminum housing alone takes almost 6 hours, after which the housing is sandblasted and then painted (with all colorways using two colors: one for the part of the housing up to the top of the first row). keys and another for the rest). Mechanical keyboard fans are nothing but picky, but I think they’ll have a hard time finding fault with the execution here, be it the rounded corners, the painting, or even the finish on the inside of the board.
You open the board from the top, which is a bit unusual, but also makes it pretty easy to take it apart. Once inside there are a few more connections than you’re probably used to – partly due to the battery and Bluetooth module. It’s also easy to see why the board sounds good. Not only is there a lot of foam, but also a nice brass weight (the entire keyboard weighs about 3.3 pounds). Add the battery and the result is a board with very little room to sound hollow. There’s also no chatter from the screw-in stabilizers.
If you own one of Angry Miao’s Cybermat charging mats, you can also use them to charge the AM 65 Less wirelessly.
The switches that come with the bundle version are Angry Miao’s Icy Silver switches. These are premium transparent linear switches, manufactured by TTC, with two-stage springs and an initial force of 45 grams. There’s very little wobbling of the stem here and they’re very smooth, although one thing worth noting is that when I removed the keycaps, the switches often came out of the logic board with them. That hasn’t been a problem in everyday use, but still worth mentioning.
The result of all this is a keyboard that is a pleasure to type on. Each keystroke sounds like two billiard balls hitting each other, which is what I personally look for.
Like all Angry Miao products, the 65 Less doesn’t come cheap, although the price, while high, isn’t entirely outrageous in the world of high-end mechanical keyboards. The standard base kit, without switches and keycaps, costs $398, the bundle of switches and keycaps that match the variant you choose costs $498.
Considering the likes of Keychron are barely charging $20 more to go from a barebones kit to a fully assembled kit, that’s quite a difference, but many of these are custom designs and the company sells its switches for about $1 each .
We’re also talking about some thick, quality keys – at least on the 8-bit version I tested. For this version, the company uses the Cherry profile JTK Classic FC keycaps, inspired by the 1980s Nintendo Famicom, which, as far as I know, were first available in a group purchase in 2020 and now in stock at a number of suppliers. These are triple-shot ABS keycaps with latin and hiragana legends that contain a mix of the original base kit and its novelties. Other variants include keycaps that the company has created in collaboration with, among others Domikey and others.
While I haven’t tested this one, there are also two special editions. At $450 for the base kit and $550 for the bundle, the Laser kit has front left and right LED light elements (inspired by Tesla’s Cybertruck, the company says). The Mech Love version, for $515 and $615, features customizable LED elements in the open spaces next to the first row and customizable engravings on the back. It looks like the company will also make these additional LED modules available as add-ons at a later date.
Whether these boards are worth it will be in the eye of the beholder. The fact that Angry Miao is launching all of these variations must mean that the company believes it will see a fair amount of orders. It’s definitely the company’s most accessible product to date, and while the prices may seem eye-watering, they fall within the high-end custom keyboard ball game, where keycaps themselves can often cost $150 or more. As with so many ‘hobbies’, at some point you pay a lot more for incremental improvements. Whether you want a keyboard that costs as much as a laptop is up to you to decide. It’s definitely the closest thing to Angry Miao we’ve seen in building a straightforward everyday keyboard.
The pre-launch for all these variants will continue live on Indiegogo on February 2.
Bonus:HyperX is launching its first artisanal keycap today, Coco the cozy cat. The gaming brand’s 3D-printed Craftsman is available today (starting at 9 a.m. EST) and tomorrow and costs $19.99. Apparently this is the first in a series of timed designs the company plans to release each month.