Mechanical keyboards: you either love or hate them. I very much fall into the former category, and so it's been really exciting to see them surge in popularity in recent years and watch their design evolve.
The Nuphy Air60 is one of the smallest and quietest mechanical keyboards I have used. And I've used a lot. And while that kind of goes against the key features one very much associates with such a device – bulk and noise – it works for me.
I have been using the Nuphy Air60 with my work Windows PC, and as a MacBook and iPad companion for a few weeks now, and, a few niggles aside, I'm enough of a fan to see it take a spot in our round-up of the best mechanical keyboards. Here's why...
Design and build
The Nuphy Air60 is a lightweight, compact mechanical keyboard, which lends itself perfectly to those wanting a travel companion for their tablet and/or smartphone. It has a slightly sloped frame, and little rubber feet in each corner underneath for stability and to enable it to act as a MacBook companion.
It sits between the key rows on a MacBook key bed, still allowing full access to the trackpad. I'll be honest, I was a little confused when I first saw this, like, why? However, having used it as a MacBook companion (it's currently sitting on top of my 2020 MacBook Air), I have to say the experience is quite the novelty, and, to an extent, enjoyable.
But not for too long. The height of the keyboard off my Mac makes it feel a little unnatural to use, and not the most comfortable of typing experiences after a while. That said, it's a cool feature and nice to have the option to use it in this way, but I struggle to see why anyone would buy it for this alone. Maybe if you're experiencing sticky or faulty MacBook keys, or one for the die-hard mechanical keyboard fans, perhaps?
There is a USB-C connection on the left, which is not accidental. If you want to use this keyboard with a MacBook, the (included) shorter USB-C cable can easily be attached for a wired connection.
The top part of the case is solid aluminium, giving it a premium feel, and hides much of the plastic lying underneath. Both materials are highly durable, which is good considering this device lends itself perfectly to travel and all the possible wear and tear that might entail.
To fit the keys into such a compact device, compromises had to be made, and so the keyboard layout itself looks – and feels – a little different, which, for some, might be a dealbreaker. The right shift key is a single unit wide, instead of its usual bigger width, which I have to admit was really frustrating when I first started using it as I would often miss it and press the up arrow instead.
The left shift key is also marginally more narrow, which has subsequently placed all the keys on the bottom row slightly to the left. However, I didn't notice this in use. There are also only two control keys in the bottom left corner, as opposed to the usual three, which also meant I often pressed arrow keys (in their place) by mistake.
I can see the idea in trying to mimic a MacBook keyboard with this design and the arrow keys in that position, but it definitely took a while to get used to, particularly if I switched to using my MacBook or Windows laptop keyboards.
Features and typing experience
The two questions on everyone's mind when it comes to a mechanical keyboard are how it feels and what it sounds like. So let's start with the former. The Nuphy Air60 features low-profile brown (tactile) Gaterons, which, in plain talk, means the small mechanism underneath each key has a short distance to travel and quicker actuation for a fast, smooth and comfortable typing experience.
This, for the most part, is true with the Air60. The keys require little pressure to activate, which means you can type quickly. However, it also makes them slightly more sensitive to touch, which doesn't necessarily lend itself well to such a compact design, particularly if your hands and fingers are on the larger side. The slightly different layout of the keys also means a period of usage is required for your brain to adjust and not accidentally hit some by mistake.
So what about the sound? The brown Gateron has a medium sound level, by which I mean it's loud enough to clearly be a mechanical keyboard, but not so loud you're going to irritate the hell out of everyone around you. There are other Gateron options available for this model – quieter red (linear) and louder blue (clicky) – depending on how much noise you want to make. Overall the typing experience is solid and enjoyable, if you can master the somewhat annoying learning curve of the different layout.
The Air60 has a cool RGB LED setup, with strips on each side, which can be controlled independently via the function, question mark and arrow keys. The LED strips can also be used to display certain settings, such as if caps lock is on, if connectivity mode is active and the battery level. The keyboard also has a number of pre-built animations and static colours.
There aren't any customisable options when it comes to lighting, but I honestly don't think that takes anything away from this device. There are a number of animations to choose from, and they really add to the Air60's design (rather than making it look tacky, which can certainly be said for other options on the market).
Another standout feature of this keyboard is its flexibility when it comes to connectivity. The Bluetooth mode is probably one of the best I've come across in a while - it's simple, solid and presented little to no latency or reconnection issues, even when connected to multiple devices (it supports up to four).
To save battery there is a handy auto-sleep mode, where the keyboard powers down after six minutes of inactivity, and wakes up with the simple press of any key. Speaking of battery life, the Air60 is also up there as a top performer for me, lasting almost a week of full use (with LEDS on) before it needed charging.
The Nuphy Air60 also has a custom case (sold separately), which doubles as protection and a tablet or phone stand. The keyboard is connected to the case magnetically, which feels secure but also easy to remove.
The Nuphy Air60 is at the higher end of the mechanical keyboard price range, costing $99.95, plus an extra $19 for the Folio Case, should you desire. There are, of course, cheaper options available, but this is the best mechanical keyboard iPad companion I've used. Add to that it's brilliant battery life, excellent connectivity and the fact that it's light, durable and highly portable and you're getting excellent value for money.
Should you buy it?
If you're new to mechanical keyboards, this is a great starting point. It's easy and comfortable to use, and has a not too loud but still very satisfying 'click' to its keys. It functions well, and looks good at the same time.
It's also a brilliant iPad companion, particularly for the iPad mini, which currently doesn't have a dedicated Apple Keyboard Case or Folio. So if it's an iPad accessory you're after specifically, this one is well worth a look.
The price might be a bit off-putting for some, particularly with many cheaper options available. And the slightly different keyboard layout might not suit everyone. But if you want an easy-to-use mechanical keyboard that is highly portable, has great connectivity, super-long battery life and oozes style, you'd be hard pushed to find another that ticks all of these boxes.