Traditional mechanical keyboards have made a comeback in recent years. Generally known for being more hardy than today's more dominant membrane and scissor-switch keyboards, mechanical keys typically offer users faster, more satisfying feedback thanks to the highly detectable actuation and signature clicking sound.

vissles lp85 keyboard2
However, mechanical keyboards are also often bigger, louder, and more tiring to type on, which is why their attraction has been limited to gamers and nostalgia-seekers. In an attempt to disrupt the market, however, US-based accessories maker Vissles set out to correct these disadvantages by offering the tactility and performance of a mechanical keyboard in a compact and less finger-fatiguing low-profile design.

Enter the LP85 Optical-Mechanical Keyboard, "crafted for speed, precision, and comfort." Except instead of mechanical switches, the LP85 uses optical switches, which break a beam of infrared light to activate the key press and are meant to reduce long-term wear. Can the technology faithfully recreate the feel and responsiveness offered by mechanical input? I spent a few weeks with the company's latest keyboard to find out.

Design and Features

The Mac version of the Vissles LP85 I received came nicely packaged in a black box containing a keyboard with black keys, and a gun-metal gray chassis that's closer in shade to the iMac Pro Magic Keyboard than a space gray MacBook Pro. Also included was a USB-C to USB-A charging cable, user manual, quick start guide with a map of key functions, and some Vissles stickers.

vissles lp85 keyboard 1
Upon handling the keyboard, the first thing I noticed about the LP85 is its heft. At 547 grams, it's over twice as heavy as Apple's Magic Keyboard (243 grams) and it's easy to see why. The extra weight is due to the chunky anodized chassis, a slab of aluminum that's 12mm high at its thickest point, which is almost equivalent to the raised level of the built-in keyboard on a 14-inch MacBook Pro. That makes it just 1mm higher than Apple's standalone Magic keyboard at the thicker end, and, combined with the weight, helps it feel extremely sturdy and stable, while two grippy silicone anti-slip strips underneath ensure it's going nowhere on your desk.

vissles lp85 keyboard 4
The chassis is nicely rounded at the corners and has an almost-flat two-degree angle that slopes down to 7.1mm at its thinnest section, which gives the 85 optical keys on the low-profile board a comfortable base to rest your wrists in front of. On the top edge of the chassis is a USB-C port for charging and wired connections, and a small round metal switch to swap between Bluetooth and wired. Between the two is an indicator light that displays the charge status of the built-in 2000mAh rechargeable battery with a red or green light.

Instead of using a membrane mechanism, Vissles has opted for X-Optical switches that deliver a light beam of 0.2ms, with a pre-travel actuation distance of 1.2mm, which is shorter than a regular mechanical keyboard, and 2.5mm total travel, which is similar to a membrane keyboard.

vissles lp85 keyboard3
The Mac-style 85-key ANSI layout includes a top row of function keys with the expected macOS functions like Mission Control, LaunchPad, media, volume, and LED backlighting controls. It also fits in an additional Control key on the right of the spacebar and a column of home, end, and page up/down keys to the right of the Return key, which adds an extra inch to the layout compared to Apple's compact Magic Keyboard.

The keyboard supports Bluetooth pairing with up to three devices, and in terms of switching between them, device 1 is mapped to the Q key by default, while the second and third devices are mapped to W and E, respectively. There are also key combinations for backlight adjustment (more on that later).

Performance

I had no trouble pairing the keyboard with my 14-inch MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iPhone 13, and I didn't experience any dropouts when testing the keyboard within a reasonable range of these devices. Initial pairing to the first device involved a long press of the Fn and P keys for five seconds, after which macOS discovered the Bluetooth connection. Pressing Fn and W/E and then Fn and P pairs a second/third device. Switching between them was fast, ensuring responsiveness to initial keyboard input was almost immediate.

vissles lp85 keyboard 5
Despite being an 85-key layout, the individual keys are well spaced apart in a manner almost identical to a native Apple keyboard, which makes the keys under your fingers the ones you'd expect to find there, ensuring speed and accuracy of typing isn't an issue.

This performance is consolidated by the X-Optical mechanical switches, which, thanks to their unique pre-travel distance, feel highly responsive and emit a beautifully crisp clicky sound that's similar to Gateron blue switches but not as loud.

As a result, each key provides reassuring tactile feedback rather than the more muted spongy feel of typical low-profile keyboards. Typing on the LP85 is basically like using a much more durable and ergonomic version of a regular mechanical keyboard. Even after several hours of use, my fingers felt no more tired than usual, which is testament to Vissels' decision to use premium optical switches.

vissles keyboard
I also found the LP85's backlighting modes easy to use. The legend on each keycap is transparent so that the LED light shines through, making the keyboard great for typing in darker environments, and there's no potentially distracting light bleed around the keys like on some other backlit keyboards.

Pressing the Fn and Delete keys together cycles through 19 vibrant-looking dynamic backlighting effects, which really have to be seen to be fully appreciated. I had a lot of fun using the Fn+arrow keys to try out the various animated rainbow-color combinations, eight color monochrome modes, and adjustable directional "lightning" effects.


If the backlighting is too glaring you can dial down the intensity by choosing from three levels of brightness, or simply switch off the backlight altogether. To save battery, the light sleeps if you don't use the keyboard for five minutes, but they snap back on just as quickly with a tap. After 30 minutes of inactivity, the keyboard goes into hibernation mode.

The only problem I had with the LP85 during use was that it would occasionally fail to register a keystroke, but this turned out to be Bluetooth interference from a wireless TeckNet mouse. Removing the mouse solved the issue, but it's something to consider if you have lots of Bluetooth devices in your setup.

Wrap Up and How to Buy

Vissels' LP85 Optical-Mechanical keyboard is a unique wireless input device in its own right, thanks to the optical switches that Vissles has chosen to use, which have allowed it to successfully achieve the feel of mechanical input in the kind of low-profile design that's usually associated with a membrane keyboard.

vissles lp85 keyboard5
For that reason alone, the LP85 is recommended for anyone looking for a compact key layout that's responsive, highly tactile, and very well built. Costing $99, it's a fine alternative to Apple's similarly priced Magic Keyboard, but with the variety of colorful backlit RGB modes available, it's decidedly more fun.

The LP85 keyboard is available in black or white. Pre-orders can be placed on the Vissels LP85 Optical-Mechanical Keyboard Kickstarter page, with shipping scheduled for late January 2022.

Note: Vissles supplied the keyboard to MacRumors for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.

Tag: Vissels

Top Rated Comments

PDavidAlexander Avatar
3 weeks ago
I'd be down for this if it had a numeric keypad.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NewUsername Avatar
3 weeks ago
That is an awkward location for the fn key.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Darth Tulhu Avatar
3 weeks ago
I will NEVER understand why Apple doesn't put a damn backlight on their standalone keyboards.

So annoying that I have to look at products like this to get it.

And I find RGB lighting more useful than just gaming. Being able to choose a color that's comfortable for my lighting situation is nicer than not having it.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
canadianreader Avatar
3 weeks ago
Put the Fn key where it belongs and add a numeric pad I'll buy one!
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Scotticus Avatar
3 weeks ago

RGB backlight ?. Millennial gamer crap!
And it has a PrtSc key so even worse. Windows based mac wanabe. Toy for paupers.
Your internal monologue must be a horror show
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
maxfromdenmark Avatar
3 weeks ago
up to 4 days wireless with backlight switched off? not impressing
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

2022 lexus nx

Review: 2022 Lexus NX Brings an All-New Infotainment Experience With Wireless CarPlay and Built-In Apple Music

Tuesday November 30, 2021 11:53 am PST by
Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus are starting to roll out an all-new infotainment system with large touchscreens, wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, and more, and I recently had a chance to go hands-on with one of the first vehicles to get the new system, the 2022 Lexus NX. My test vehicle was an NX 450h+ AWD plug-in hybrid priced at nearly $60,000 that comes with a spacious 14-inch main...
macbook pro 2021 verge

MacBook Pro Reviews: Fast Performance, Added Ports, and ProMotion Displays Check All the Boxes

Monday October 25, 2021 6:16 am PDT by
Apple's new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models will begin arriving to customers this Tuesday, October 26, and ahead of time, the embargo has lifted on the first reviews of the notebooks across media publications and YouTube channels. Image Credit: The Verge We've rounded up more video reviews of the new MacBook Pro models in a separate story, while highlights from written reviews can be ...
2021 mach e

Review: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Brings Wireless CarPlay to a Huge Infotainment Display

Wednesday November 17, 2021 11:28 am PST by
One of the hottest electric vehicles at the moment is Ford's Mustang Mach-E, and I recently had a chance to spend some time in a 2021 model in First Edition trim to test out all of its features including the SYNC 4A infotainment system on a massive 15.5-inch portrait display with support for wireless CarPlay. I went hands-on with the 2021 F-150 hybrid with SYNC 4 a few months ago, but the...
nanoleaf lines music

Review: Nanoleaf's HomeKit-Enabled Lines Offer Futuristic Accent Lighting

Monday November 8, 2021 2:32 pm PST by
Nanoleaf, known for its HomeKit-enabled accent lights, recently launched its most futuristic and modern looking lighting product yet - Lines. Lines are modular LED light bars that are illuminated at the back and can be arranged into different patterns and shapes for a unique design. Prior Nanoleaf products have all been panels in various shapes with LED lights in the corners, but the Lines...
soundcore frames worn

Review: Anker's Soundcore Frames Offer Bluetooth Audio Eyewear in a Range of Styles

Monday November 1, 2021 3:00 am PDT by
Anker's audio brand Soundcore last month announced the Soundcore Frames, modular Bluetooth glasses frames that offer open-ear audio and interchangeable front frames for a variety of looks. The Soundcore Frames start at $200 for a standard kit and begin shipping today, but I've been trying them for the past couple of weeks and have come away impressed with their looks, versatility, and...
Apple Watch Series 7 Rainbow Crop Blue

Apple Watch Series 7 Reviews: Larger Displays and Faster Charging, Not Much Else Has Changed

Wednesday October 13, 2021 6:17 am PDT by
Apple Watch Series 7 models will begin arriving to customers and launch in stores this Friday, October 15, and ahead of time, reviews have now been shared by media outlets and YouTube channels. In addition to rounding up Apple Watch Series 7 video reviews and unboxings, we've highlighted some impressions from written reviews below. Key features of the Apple Watch Series 7 include larger...
AirPods 3 Feature Red

AirPods 3 Reviews: Better Comfort, Snugger Fit, Improved Sound and Compelling Price Point

Monday October 25, 2021 9:46 am PDT by
Alongside new MacBook Pro models, the AirPods 3 are set to launch on Tuesday, October 26, and ahead of tomorrow's official release date, reviewers and YouTubers have shared reviews on Apple's latest earbuds. We've highlighted video reviews of the AirPods 3 in a separate article, and excerpts and details from written reviews can be found below. Design Gizmodo reviewer Andrew Liszweski...
aqara tvoc sensoor roller shade driver hub m1s review

Review: Aqara's Roller Shade Driver E1, TVOC Air Quality Monitor, and Hub M1S Are Reliable and Well-Designed HomeKit Accessories

Wednesday September 22, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Aqara makes a range of HomeKit-compatible smart home devices that are stocked in Apple Stores around the world. This review takes a look at some of Aqara's latest products, including its TVOC Air Quality Monitor and Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1, which launches today. With these new accessories, I was able to add to the HomeKit setup that I created with some of Aqara's devices earlier this...

Popular Stories

telsa cyberwhistle

Elon Musk Urges Customers to Buy 'Tesla Cyberwhistle' Instead of Apple Polishing Cloth

Wednesday December 1, 2021 4:01 am PST by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has encouraged customers to buy the "Cyberwhistle" for $50 instead of Apple's much-discussed Polishing Cloth. The product page, which Musk shared on Twitter on Tuesday evening, offers a limited edition stainless steel whistle with the same distinctive design of the Tesla Cybertruck:Inspired by Cybertruck, the limited-edition Cyberwhistle is a premium collectible made from ...
iPhone SE Cosmopolitan Clean

New iPhone SE Reportedly on Track for Release in First Quarter of 2022

Tuesday November 30, 2021 8:08 am PST by
Apple plans to release a third-generation iPhone SE in the first quarter of 2022, according to Taiwanese research firm TrendForce. If this timeframe proves to be accurate, we can expect the device to be released by the end of March. As previously rumored, TrendForce said the new iPhone SE will remain a mid-range smartphone with added support for 5G:In terms of product development, Apple is...
maxresdefault

Five Features to Look Forward to in the 2022 MacBook Air

Tuesday November 30, 2021 1:51 pm PST by
In 2022, Apple is going to release an updated version of the MacBook Air with some of the biggest design changes that we've seen since 2010, when Apple introduced the 11 and 13-inch size options. In the video below, we highlight five features that you need to know about the new machine. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. No More Wedge Design - Current MacBook...
2017 apple tv

Cyber Monday: Original Apple TV 4K Drops to $99.99 for Amazon Prime Members

Monday November 29, 2021 12:01 pm PST by
We've been tracking Apple product and accessory deals for Cyber Monday 2021 today, and now Woot is offering a solid discount on the previous generation 32GB Apple TV 4K. You can get this device in new condition for just $99.99 if you're an Amazon Prime member. Note that this sale will last for one day only. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...
apple top apps games 2020

Apple Reveals the Most Downloaded iOS Apps and Games of 2021

Thursday December 2, 2021 12:05 am PST by
Along with naming its editorial picks for the top apps and games of 2021, Apple today shared charts for the most downloaded free and paid apps and games in the United States across 2021. The number one most downloaded free iPhone app was TikTok, followed by YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. The top paid iPhone apps included Procreate Pocket, HotSchedules, The Wonder Weeks, and Touch...
Mac Notebook Upgrade Program

Apple Introduces New MacBook Upgrade Program for Business Partners

Monday November 29, 2021 7:38 am PST by
In association with CIT as the financing partner, Apple has launched a new Mac Upgrade Program for small businesses and Apple business partners that allow companies to easily distribute and upgrade their fleets of MacBooks at an affordable price to all of their workers. As outlined on CIT's website, shared by Max Weinbach, Apple Business Partners can distribute the 13-inch MacBook Pro,...
airpods prototype translucent

Transparent AirPods and 29W Power Adapter Prototypes Surface in Photos

Tuesday November 30, 2021 7:16 am PST by
Images of transparent prototype AirPods and a 29W Apple power adapter have been shared on Twitter by Apple device collector Giulio Zompetti. The prototypes, which appear to be either first-generation or second-generation AirPods, feature clear plastic along the stem and around the outer side of the earbud, with the normal white plastic on the inner side of the earbud. Transparent casings are ...
apple view concept right corner

Apple Planning to Replace the iPhone With AR Headset in 10 Years

Wednesday December 1, 2021 2:29 am PST by
Apple is planning to replace the iPhone with an augmented reality (AR) headset in 10 years, a process that is apparently due to start as soon as next year with the launch of a head-mounted device, according to a recent report. Concept render of Apple's rumored AR headset by Antonio De Rosa In a note to investors seen by MacRumors, eminent analyst Ming-Chi Kuo explained that "Apple's goal is...