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
10 weeks ago
I'd be down for this if it had a numeric keypad.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NewUsername Avatar
10 weeks ago
That is an awkward location for the fn key.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Darth Tulhu Avatar
10 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: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Scotticus Avatar
10 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: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
canadianreader Avatar
10 weeks ago
Put the Fn key where it belongs and add a numeric pad I'll buy one!
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ddhhddhh2 Avatar
10 weeks ago
I may have liked the feel of mechanical keyboards in the past, but over time I've started to get used to the scissor keyboards that Apple is promoting.
The previous generation butterfly keyboard was a total disaster, but I had friends who liked it, but I couldn't get used to it in any way.
As for the classic mechanical keyboards, for me now, the key travel is too long and the spacing is too wide even though the particles are clearly defined, so I will only consider the scissor keyboard.
This keyboard boasts the thickness and travel of a scissor keyboard, with the durability and feel of a mechanical keyboard, and I am willing to try it.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

twinkly

Review: Twinkly's HomeKit-Compatible String Lights Are Perfect for the Holidays

Wednesday December 22, 2021 6:51 am PST by
Twinkly has been making smartphone-controlled string lights and decorations for some time now, but earlier this fall, the company added HomeKit integration to all of its Generation II devices, allowing them to be controlled with Siri voice commands and the Home app in addition to the Twinkly app. Second-generation Twinkly devices have been available since 2019, so this HomeKit update applies ...
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...
finis smart goggle

Review: FINIS Smart Goggle Tracks Your Swim Workouts and Integrates With Apple Health

Thursday December 30, 2021 10:16 am PST by
I've been a swimmer for as long as I can remember, so I jumped at a recent opportunity to try out the FINIS Smart Goggle, a pair of swim goggles with a small display inside and sensors to help track your swims and keep on top of your metrics even while your head is underwater. The FINIS Smart Goggle kit, developed in partnership with Ciye, is priced at $235 (on sale for $188 as of this...
2022 golf r blue

All-New Golf GTI and Golf R Headline VW's 2022 Lineup With Wireless CarPlay on Many Trims

Tuesday December 14, 2021 1:16 pm PST by
Volkswagen has been working on rolling out support for wireless CarPlay across its lineup, and the carmaker recently invited me out to Asheville, North Carolina, for a look at the redesigned Mk8 Golf GTI and Golf R hatchbacks, as well as the refreshed Jetta and the rest of the 2022 lineup. 2022 Golf R Given that I've previously looked at VW's MIB3 infotainment platforms with wireless CarPlay...
caldigit element hub

Review: CalDigit's Element Hub Delivers Flexible Thunderbolt and USB Support

Thursday January 13, 2022 12:23 pm PST by
Recent advancements in Thunderbolt technology have brought the ability to include multiple downstream Thunderbolt ports on various docks and hubs, and CalDigit's Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub introduced earlier this year does just that in the form of a compact dock supporting Thunderbolt 4 and USB4. I've long been a fan of CalDigit's Thunderbolt hubs, and I've been using the company's TS3 Plus...
2022 civic

Review: 2022 Honda Civic Adds Available Wireless CarPlay

Tuesday December 28, 2021 11:49 am PST by
Wireless CarPlay is seeing increasing adoption across car manufacturers, and one of the most recent to adopt the technology is Honda, which debuted it in the 2021 Accord and has now expanded it to the Civic for 2022. I recently had a chance to spend some time in the new Civic, which delivers a familiar infotainment experience with several handy additions. My test vehicle was a top-end...
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 ...
anker maggo lineup wood

Review: Anker's MagGo Accessories Offer Flexible MagSafe-Compatible Charging Solutions

Tuesday December 14, 2021 7:04 am PST by
A couple of months ago, Anker launched its new "MagGo" lineup of MagSafe-compatible charging accessories. While they don't support the full 15-watt charging available with official MagSafe accessories and will be limited to 7.5 watts, they otherwise provide a versatile set of charging options for iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 devices. I've had a set of most of Anker's MagGo accessories for a few...

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
safari icon blue banner

Safari Bug Allows Websites to Track Your Recent Browsing Activity in Real Time [Updated]

Sunday January 16, 2022 3:37 pm PST by
A bug in WebKit's implementation of a JavaScript API called IndexedDB can reveal your recent browsing history and even your identity, according to a blog post shared on Friday by browser fingerprinting service FingerprintJS. In a nutshell, the bug allows any website that uses IndexedDB to access the names of IndexedDB databases generated by other websites during a user's browsing session....
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
tesla carplay solution

Developer Showcases Apple CarPlay Workaround for Teslas

Monday January 17, 2022 7:24 am PST by
A Tesla Model 3 owner has resorted to a workaround to implement Apple CarPlay in his vehicle, amid no sign of official support from Tesla (via Tesla North). Apple CarPlay and Apple Music support are among the most-requested Tesla features, but with no indication that Tesla is willing to implement Apple CarPlay in its vehicles, Polish developer Michał Gapiński took matters into his own...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...