KnewKey’s typewriter-esque Rymek mechanical keyboard is a stylish yet flawed trip down memory lane

US-based KnewKey recently got in touch to ask if I would like to sample a Rymek review unit, which is currently available on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. Being a sucker for mechanical keyboards, I obviously said yes.

Mechanical keyboards come in all shapes and sizes these days. In recent years they’ve enjoyed a resurgence in popularity among gamers and office workers — from journalists to developers — who appreciate the comfort they provide over laptop keyboards with shorter travel keys.
 
Rymek, a retro-styled mechanical Bluetooth keyboard from San Jose-based KnewKey, isn’t aimed at any of the above crowds in particular. Rather, it’s for people who long for the retro stylings of 1950s typewriters, and the full aesthetic experience is delivered thanks to clack-emitting keyswitches, saddle-shaped keycaps and a fondle-worthy handlebar/scroll wheel combination.

The people behind the Rymek claim that, unlike similarly-styled competing offerings such as Qwerkywriter, this new model doesn’t abandon usability in the name of aesthetics. But are they telling porkies?
 
Before we get to that, let’s take a moment to admire the device itself. The Rymek is a weighty slab of glossy plastic that tips the scales at 1.3kg — roughly the same as a current-gen MacBook Pro. That’s fairly heavy for a tenkeyless unit, which is worth bearing in mind if you’ll be slinging it into a backpack on the regular. On the plus side the Rymek’s reassuring weight adds to its nostalgic typewriter charm.

A combination of a glossy plastic body and LEDs positioned under each key makes for a unit that looks pretty fancy when sitting under lights. However, the Rymek begins to look less impressive when dust begins to gather under its key caps. Expect to run a cloth over it once a week to keep it looking in top condition.
 
The Rymek is easy enough to connect to a laptop or mobile device using either a wired or wireless connection. My 2016 MacBook Pro detected it immediately when connected via USB and displayed the usual keyboard configuration wizard. A second micro-USB port is positioned around the back for charging the Rymek’s internal 2000mAh battery.

It’s possible to pair the Rymek with up to three mobile devices using Bluetooth, which is as easy as holding down the fn key and pressing the desired function key (F1/F2/F3), completing the pairing process with a final press of the Bluetooth pairing key located below Esc.
 
The keyboard comes with a plastic stand that slots into two holes in the back and keeps a tablet or smartphone in place. It feels fairly flimsy and I wouldn’t trust it to hold anything bigger than my 9.7-inch Galaxy Tab S3, which was steadfast once moved into position.

Two of the keyboard’s features that help pile on the nostalgia are its handle and scroll knob. The former lets you switch from Bluetooth to wired mode in an instant, which you may want to do if you’re typing up messages in your smartphone’s Whatsapp app and working on a Google Docs document on your laptop the next, for example. As for the scroll knob, well, it works pretty much the same as a mouse wheel.

So, onto the important bit: what does typing on the Rymek feel like? Pressing down a key does indeed elicit the type of pleasant ‘click’ associated with Gateron/Cherry MX Blue switches, but any initial enjoyment soon dissipates.

The Rymek suffers from a high degree of key instability that makes attempting to type on it at speed feel like pressing down dinner plates affixed to the top of pogo sticks. The result is a mushy and disappointingly cheap-feeling typing experience that belies the Rymek’s sharp looks and retro swagger.

It’s highly unlikely that anybody is going to want to use a Rymek for undertaking any degree of professional work — or anything that requires more than a few hundred words to be generated for that matter.

I recognise that typing is a highly subjective activity. Even so, I was fairly shocked to read glowing reviews of the Rymek typing experience from publications such as The Next Web, which declared it a “delight to type on”. Compared to an actual typewriter, perhaps. Other mechanical keyboards? Not so much.

The reality is that at the Rymek’s full price of $199 (£154), you’re twenty quid short of picking up a Topre Realforce and a solid stand for your smartphone or tablet. Load up Internet Typewriter, and you’ve snagged yourself a superb typing switch and convincing typewriter sound effect for around the same price. You’d be getting the best of both worlds.

For sheer novelty, however, the Rymek is tough to beat. It offers typewriter authenticity in spades, and I’m sure that anybody who has never experienced a mechanical keyboard before and wants one that looks like a typewriter would be thrilled with KnewKey’s effort.

Final thought: the Rymek is a well-built, attractive and fun trip down memory lane that would do the job for bashing out the occasional social media update or typing short emails. For me, anything more is a huge ask.