Ultimate hacking keyboard review: A Truly Unique, Truly Expensive Keyboard for Pros

A Truly Unique, Truly Expensive Keyboard for Pros

by E. Fylladitakison March 12, 2020 10:00 AM EST

  • Posted in
  • Keyboard
  • Peripherals
  • Mechanical Keyboards
  • Ultimate Gadget Laboratories

66 Comments
|

66 Comments

Introduction & Keyboard LayoutThe UHK Agent SoftwarePer-Key Quality Testing & Hands-OnFinal Words and Conclusion

The explosive growth of the mechanical keyboard market over the past several years has led to an overly saturated market, with hundreds of products covering every desire and niche. Competition is certainly a good thing from a consumer’s point of view, but there is relatively little room to differentiate on features when it comes to keyboards, forcing most companies to focus their development and design efforts almost entirely on aesthetics.

Today we are taking a look at a product that (thankfully) breaks away from the norm: the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard. The company, Ultimate Gadget Laboratories, is currently exclusively focused on its development and marketing. It is a 60% mechanical keyboard designed with productivity in mind, implementing unique features and is made in Hungary – but also comes with an exorbitant price tag.

Diving right into matters, we received the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard inside an aesthetically simple cardboard box, with little artwork printed on it, yet very well-designed and practical. The keyboard and its bundle are neatly packed inside.

Inside the box, we found a basic user’s manual, one plastic keycap puller, a bag of rubber o-rings, and the keyboard’s USB cable. The o-rings are optional and can be purchased alongside the keyboard. They are meant to reduce the keystroke noise coming from the keycap bottoming down on the body of the switch but they will also reduce the effective key travel.

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard definitely is unlike any mechanical keyboard that we have reviewed to date. It is based on a 60% layout, making it the most compact mechanical keyboard that has ever come through our labs. The aesthetic design is simplistic and serious, as anyone would expect from a keyboard targeting very specific segments of IT professionals.

The 60% layout means that the keyboard is missing more than just its Numpad, as tenkeyless designs do. There are no arrow/control keys or a function key row at all. The standard function keys (F1-F12), control keys (Home, End, etc.), arrow keys, and more can be accessed by holding down the Fn key. It will be easy for an expert who has been using such a layout for a while to perform these functions but it will definitely be confusing for amateurs and users who switch between more than one keyboard every day.

 

The keycaps of the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard are simple ABS plastic, with the company offering more durable PBT keycaps as an extra. The main keys have their symbols printed right at the center of the keycap, while keys with extra characters have their primary and secondary characters printed towards the bottom and the top of the keycap respectively. Most keys also have a third character/function printed to their front side, which indicates the default function of the key while the Fn key is being held down.

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard also has two more keys meant for keystroke combinations – the Mod and Mouse keys. The Mod key is to the left of the Space Bar and the Mouse key is where the Caps Lock key is by default. This means that every layout of the keyboard can simultaneously have four different layers – the default layer, the Fn layer, the Mod layer, and the Mouse layer. Using the software, users can also choose for the layers to be active only while the appropriate key is being held pressed, or for a key to permanently toggle the layout to that layer. A seasoned expert can program more functions into a single profile than a regular person can possibly remember.

The 60% layout of the Ultimate hacking keyboard does not follow any established ISO/ANSI standards. The bottom row will appear to be entirely chaotic for most users, with the Space Bar key being smaller than the Ctrl key. There are two buttons below the Space Bar and Mod keys, hidden within the design of the keyboard’s frame. A sizable three-character display can be found at the top left part of the keyboard, next to the subtle indicator LEDs.

Perhaps the basic feature of the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is that it can be split in two. The stock cable provided allows for the two halves to be placed up to 30 cm apart, with the company providing instructions on how to make your own cable as well. The keyboard is designed so as to take expansion modules (trackball, touchpad, extra keys, etc.) but none of these modules were available to us at the time of this review.

The company provided us with a set of wrist rests for the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, which are made of real wood. They are not very soft but certainly feel very classy. These also add the options of tenting and negatively tilting to the keyboard, which can only be positively tilted without the wrist rests attached.   

Removing the keycaps of the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard reveals mechanical switches made by Kailh, a huge surprise for a keyboard of this price range. They do offer the keyboard with original Cherry MX switches but only the Green and White variants are available, at no extra cost. Choosing any of the “standard” switches, Red, Blue, Brown, or Black, Kailh switches are the only available option. It is possible that the manufacturer cannot source original Cherry MX switches for some reason and is forced to go with Kailh switches instead.

Removing the plastic frame of the keyboard reveals two PCBs with Kailh mechanical switches attached and shiny steel plates providing mechanical support. It is a shame that the keyboard has no backlighting, as we suspect that the polished metal would make it look great at low intensity levels. The assembly job is excellent but the metal is not too sturdy on its own, relying on the thick plastic frame for mechanical strength.

The heart of the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is an NXP K22 series microcontroller (MK22FN512). It is a very powerful microcontroller with an ARM-based 120 MHz processor, 128KB of RAM, and 512KB Flash memory. Such a microcontroller is a little bit of an overkill for a keyboard without fancy backlighting to worry about and highly advanced Macro commands – then again, a little bit of processing power overkill never hurt anyone.

The UHK Agent Software
Introduction & Keyboard LayoutThe UHK Agent SoftwarePer-Key Quality Testing & Hands-OnFinal Words and Conclusion

Tweet

PRINT THIS ARTICLE

Review of the Ergonomic, Split Design “Ultimate Hacking Keyboard”

A fellow ergonomic super fan recently told me that the holy grail of keyboards is a well engineered, split keyboard with mechanical keys. I completely agree. I’ve been using split keyboards for about a decade, This is the primary reason why the pain I had in my wrists were gone in a couple of weeks and have not returned! The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard (UHK), is a split design with mechanical keys. Is it a holy grail keyboard? Let’s jump in and find out. It’s a long review but stick with us. It’s worth the read.

Price and Ordering Options

The UHK costs $275. For comparison, the awesome ErgoDox EZ runs about $325. The UHK is a 60% keyboard which means that only the alphanumeric block is available. The keys are the same size as a normal keyboard but uses layers and additional keys to allow for things like escape, F-keys, or navigation keys. While is it much more compact, you still have all of the functionality of a full sized keyboard and can access all of the full keyboard keys without leaving your normal typing position. Here is a picture of the UHK next to a Kinesis Freestyle 2 for comparison.

Instead of moving the hands across the various blocks of traditional keyboards, only fingers move. The characters that are not directly available can be accessed via one of the four layers built into this keyboard.

You can order the UHK in one of 240 variations. Seems like overkill but it’s really just picking a key switch from 6 options, one of two layouts, one of 4 keycap printing options, and one of 5 case colors. I got the Kalih Brown switch, ISO layout, Mac keycap printing, and blue case. Color options also include black, dark red, orange, navy blue, and for those that can keep it clean white. Switch options also include Kalih Blue/Red/Black or Cherry Clear/Green. If you are not familiar with key switch options, the following table summarizes what’s available.

You can choose between ANSI or ISO layouts. The ANSI layout is used predominantly in the United States and the ISO layout is used in the rest of the world. Essentially the ISO layout splits the left shift key into two keys adding one for the | and \ characters. The ISO layout also has an L-shaped return key. The UHK version of ISO though comes with a bar-shaped return key. The founder of UHK has an excellent article ANSI or ISO? Which keyboard is more ergonomic that is worth a read. In a nutshell, ISO layouts force you to move further left and right hundreds of times per day to click the left shift and right return. You also can choose between Mac, PC, or Linux keycap printing to match the commands found on your operating system of choice. They only offer black keycaps though there are tons of aftermarket options to get whatever type of keycap you want and it only takes a few minutes to switch keycaps. I tested popping out a few keycaps and they came out with no problem and popped right back in.

We also got the UHK Palm Rest priced at $75 which is made from natural beech wood, which is then “machined, pickled, lacquered, and finally fixated to a powder-coated steel plate.” We are not sure what pickled wood is, but it sure is beautiful! This is my first wood palm rest and so far during testing it is comfortable. Unlike my other palm rests over the years, as this ages it should look better! If you use palm rests you know within a couple of months they can make you look like a slob as they get dirty and ragged.

Unboxing the UHK

We don’t usually care much about unboxing. You open up a product, set it up, then recycle the packaging. But the UHK begged to be noticed. Without question, it has the most elegant box, packaging materials, packing method, and attention to detail on par with any Apple product. The cardboard feels premium, has pop out tabs to make opening a breeze, and the foam packing material hugs so well I don’t think a bad day going through your favorite shipping service is going to dent this keyboard in any way. It currently ships from Hungary so maybe all of this padding is also strategic. It was a bit overkill, but with a name like “ultimate” maybe the company felt they needed to make an incredible first impression. The first thing that pops out is a thank you card from the founder. Well done UHK…now let’s get this set up!

Setting up the UHK

To help you setup your UHK, a message printed on the box says State with http://uhk.io/start. This interactive web guide will walk you through each step. First we had to select the type of tilting and had the following three options:

In general, negative tilting is going to be the most comfortable but this all depends on your desk height, your position on the desk, your chair height, and other factors. If you are unsure, start with the negative tilting to gently arc your wrist downwards in a comfortable position. If you want to change tilting later, it should only take you a few minutes to reposition the keyboard legs.

To setup, you need a small Phillips screwdriver. The site has clear instructions like “Use a Philips Ph3 screwdriver to fix the palm rest to the UHK using the 4 palm rest screws that you can find in the spacer of the palm rest box. Partially tighten the screws, then pull the palm rest away from the keyboard while fastening it to make it perfectly parallel with the keyboard, and finally, fully tighten the screws.”

The attention to detail on the parts is appreciated. The tabs, for instance, have indentions that align with the keyboard making it almost foolproof to align the tabs properly. The hardest part was popping in the legs into the tabs. Go slow so you don’t break anything! Overall it took us about 5 minutes to set up.

Choosing your Keymap

The last step in your setup is to choose your keymap. Ours shipped with QWERTY for Mac as the default. You can switch between QWERTY, DVORAK, or Colemak for either PC or Mac directly on the keyboard by pressing the function key and a specific number. An LED light on the keyboard illuminates what mode you are in. On ours, it notes QWM for QWERTY Mac and the light is always on.

Some keyboards are configured ONLY for Mac or PC so having the option to switch to any of these combinations is a really nice feature! For example, when you use a PC Kinesis keyboard on a Mac, the cut and paste key combinations may not work due to differences between the operating systems. Not having cut and paste keyboard options make the keyboard unusable between operating systems. I use PCs and Chromebooks often so having on the fly switching is a really awesome feature. The setup instructions do note that if you change the keymap to something other than the default, it will revert to the default when the keyboard powers down and then back on again. You can easily change the default keymap using the UHK Agent software. We tested on a couple of macs, a couple of PCs, a Chromebook, and a Linux laptop. All worked with no issues.

For power users, you can use the UHK Agent software to create an unlimited number of keymaps for any type of layout. For example, you may want to create a layout for all of your Photoshop shortcuts or one for all of your video editing shortcuts. Then you can easily switch between these custom layouts to boost your application productivity.

Adapting to the UHK

Don’t expect to start typing at your normal speed right away. We estimate it will take about 10 days of typing to get back to your normal typing speed, and then if you start to use the productivity layers described later, you can increase your overall productivity. For comparison, it takes about 2 days to get used to a Kinesis Freestyle split keyboard and about 30 days to get used to an ErgoDox. The Kinesis however does not have layers and thus no additional productivity gains once you get accustomed to the layers, unlike the UHK and ErgoDox.

Learning how to Use the Advanced UHK Features

The key to getting an increase in your productivity is to type without leaving the home row. The UHK has the following four layers to keep your hands on the home row in your normal typing stance.

  1. The Base layer contains regular alphanumeric keys.
  2. The Mod layer contains navigation and function keys.
  3. The Fn layer contains media keys to adjust volume and switch tracks.
  4. The Mouse layer allows you to control the mouse pointer, click and scroll.

To make the core advanced features familiar, the web-based setup guide has an interactive tutorial! This was really nice and super simple. Don’t skip this tutorial if you are setting one up. The default key mappings and layers should work well for most folks but if you need anything to change, their UHK Agent software allows 100% customizations for any of these layouts.

The Mod Layer

We’ll start with the Mod layer. The Base layer is just your normal alphanumeric keys. There is one Mod button on the bottom of the left side keyboard, and another one on the right side which is part of the keyboard case. The following image summarizes all of the navigation features:

Most likely you are going to be using this layer the most. For me, I use the arrow keys a ton so I got used to pressing the Mod button with my left thumb and then using my right fingers to move the cursor around. I also like that escape was just Mod + q. It takes practice but after a couple of weeks you’ll use the Mod key to manage your arrow key movements, web browser tabs, page around, and switch between applications…all without moving from your normal typing stance. My favorite is Mod + d which switches between open applications.

The Function Layer

The Function layer contains media keys to adjust volume and switch tracks. It also controls the function keys on the top row. Pretty straight forward and no need to show that layout. I do use the Fn key + I and K to increase and decrease my volume. These are the up and down arrow keys so really easy to remember.

The Mouse Layer

This layer can be game changing if you take the time to master moving your mouse, clicking, and scrolling with your keyboard. As the image below illustrates, you can move your mouse in any direction, control window scrolling, and perform mouse clicks all without moving your hands from your normal typing position. If you plan to use these features, chances are you are going to need to adjust the Mouse speed settings in the UHK configuration app (discussed later). To be honest, it’s so hard to break jumping to my mouse but I do plan on taking time to try and master this layer.

LED Status Bar

On the upper left part of the keyboard, an LED status bar illuminates the current settings for your keyboard. Always illuminated is your keymap option. If you depress the Mouse, Function, or Mod buttons, a indicator light shows which button is being depressed. If you double click any of these three control buttons, you are locked into that layer and the button status light remains on. You just press that button again to unlock. This is useful for locking into the Mouse layer for instance so you don’t have to hold the Mouse button down to move your cursor around.

Using the UHK Agent to Customize the Keyboard

Chances are you’ll need to use UHK’s custom software configuration at least once. They offer a Mac, PC, and Linux version which you download from their website. This software is also open source and you can get the source code over at GitHub. Some of the features you can configure include:

  • Mouse speed
  • The LED brightness of the display screen on the keyboard (note the keys are not backlit but the software shows a future option to control backlighting).
  • Firmware updater
  • A key remapper which allows you to change any key to perform any function including custom macros.

Below is an example screenshot from the Mac version. Power users will appreciate the key remapper.

Modules Coming Soon

I am definitely going to order a module when they become available. These modules extend the functionality of the UHK by connecting to the inside of the left or right side keyboard. The touchpad module is most interesting to me. If it supports multipoint gestures, this would be the ultimate setup for my workflow!

Open Source Design

The UHK Agent (configuration application), the UHK firmware, and the UHK electronics design files are developed as open source and hosted under their GitHub account (https://github.com/UltimateHackingKeyboard). You can even design your own modules! As a DIY and person who loves to fix things, having all of the design and software available is incredible. The iFixit site noted, “[The UHK] is proof positive that even compact, performance-designed, single-purpose gadgets can be designed for repair, from the ground up—complete with repair documentation.

Suggested Improvements

Overall the keyboard is extremely well designed but I do have three suggestions for things I wished were different. One, I wished that the keyboard had backlighting. More and more of us need to type at night and having backlighting makes typing at night a bit easier. There already is a configuration option in the Agent software for backlighting settings. I checked with UHK. They said it coming but don’t have an estimated date. They also noted, and I may try this!, that you can solder single color LEDs and they will work with the current version. If I end up doing this, I’ll post a quick story. Two, I wish that the LED display for the keymap was smaller. Once we set it to our desired keymap like QWERTY for Mac, we really don’t need to see it displayed as prominently. With the Agent software, you can dim this or even turn it off. If you are in an office, this LED light is, without a doubt, going to be a conversation starter! And three, I wished there was a silent switch option. If you are in an office without much space between you and your office mates, they are going to hear you typing. My ErgoDox has Cherry MX Silent Red keycaps that is as good as it gets to balance mechanical switch features with low noise typing. From my experience with lots of folks using mechanical keyboards, this Silent option is not a popular option. I did get a confirmation from UHK that silent switches will eventually be added.

Summary

I wrote this article using the UHK. The first half was a bit awkward as I had to reference keys constantly. But by the end of the article, I was starting to already see a potential productivity difference by keeping my hands in place. In a couple of weeks, without question, my productivity will increase. The UHK also forced me to stay on my home keys, which may even increase my normal typing speed. For instance, I didn’t realize how often I was moving my entire hand to press keys like the = sign. Now I am starting to reach for keys using all of my fingers! I should have been d0ing this years ago. This is happening to me I think because I see the wisdom of staying on the home row and am naturally looking for ways to not move my hands.

I’m committed to use this keyboard for six months and maybe come back with a long term review. I love it. Is it the holy grail of keyboards? With backlighting and access to a module or two and Silent Reds switches, maybe. Is it good enough for most ergonomic keyboard seekers? Without question, yes. It’s ergonomically comfortable, has mechanical keys, is entirely open source, repairable, built like a tank, will have 12 layers (see this Github thread that if mastered can tackle the bulk of computer interaction from one typing position, looks stunning, has three tent/tilt options, and is compact without being squished in any way. It’s also a keyboard that will get attention forcing ergonomic conversations wherever you type.

  • Author
  • Recent Posts

Kealoha

Hi, I’m Kealoha, an American engi-nerd. I’ve designed dozens of software systems for Fortune 1000 companies worldwide and institutions like MIT’s Digital Media Lab. I started to get carpal tunnel syndrome early in my career and a total
switch to ergo products has completely eliminated any pain or discomfort despite decades of crazy hours behind screens. I hope you too weave in a bit of ergo into your lives.

Latest posts by Kealoha (see all)

The ultimate Ultimate Hacking Keyboard Review

The UHK at my desk

I have been monitoring the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard since it started its crowd-funding campaign and always wanted to try one. I was very happy when László visited us at the Mechanicon 2018. He gave a super interesting talk and of course brought some UHKs. I tried them and they have been on my bucket list ever since.

A short while ago, I moved into a new apartment. I am very interested in ergonomics for people like me: power users that spend a lot of time working in front of a computer. So this was a good opportunity to level up my home office ergonomics game. A new chair, a standing desk and … a split keyboard.

The UHK is the first split keyboard that I will use for a longer period of time.

Is this Review for you?

When deciding for a keyboard I am really looking for top notch build quality. My daily drivers have mostly been from Leopold or Filco.

I need my keyboard to make me as productive as possible in editing text, be it in the browser, my email application or in my text editor. My whole organization workflow is completely keyboard based and I invested quite a lot of time to get it just the way I want it.

So when a product like UHK advertises deep configurability this means quite something for me. It has to prove that it deserves to be considered in the hours of hours of fine-tuning my setup.

Specs

The UHK shop offers a lot of different options for key switches, layouts, keycap printings and cases colors, 240 variations overall.

This is my version of the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard:

  • Switches: Kailh Brown
  • Layout: US-ANSI
  • Keycaps: Mac printings
  • Case color: Black
  • Accessories: Palm rests

Unboxing

Unboxing the UHK

The UHK has a nice packaging and even greets you with a thank you note from the manufacturer, Ultimate Gadget Laboratories.

Ergonomics are an important part of the onboarding

The onboarding tutorial is very good. You get introduced to the keyboard and how you can use the keyboard in a ergonomic way, something I highly appreciate.

I think there is even room for more: Tenting or Tilting? For now I go with negative tilting, but since you can not have both with the UHK, I would be happy to get even more information to make a decision on this.

The pre-built keyboard case feels nice and solid, all the single parts have a high build quality and get you excited for the next steps.

Assembly

The next step is to assemble the keyboard. The case, plate, switches and keycaps are already in place. But I still have to connect the keyboard to the bases to get my tilting right.

Again, the manual for this is very good and precise.

The back side of the keyboard

The alignment of the components before fixation is pretty straigtforward. There is always some knob or cavity that helps to set them properly.

The fixation itself is a bit trickier than anticipated. The UHK tutorial even provides a video how to drive screws into plastic. But to be honest, I didn’t get it — it says the screw should click(?), never clicked for me though (pun intended).

The screws are very tiny and I am very proud of myself that I didn’t let one slip off my desk. I still appreciate that they threw in three extra screws to prevent possible frustration in case of losing one.

Alright, back to the bases. After some back and forth I managed to screw in the sockets for the feet with no visible gap.

The plastic of the sockets is a bit sensitive and of course I scratch one with the screw driver. If I would want to switch from tilting to tenting the keyboard, I would need to re-assemble the feet/sockets and I wonder how often you can do this without damaging them.

On the other hand, they offer replacement feet at a very fair price, so there is really no risk that you ruin your keyboard by damaging a small part.

Snapping the feet to the sockets is super smooth.

In the end, the whole keyboard looks sturdy and solid and I am very happy and can’t wait to try it out.

Palm rests with negative tilt

Side Note: Embrace the setup!

It has been 45 minutes since I opened the package and the keyboard is not even plugged in.

Compared to building your own keyboard the excitement of opening a pre-built keyboard can wear off very fast. I love my daily driver keyboard but the setup process took about 10 minutes and then it was just there.

Due to the extensive onboarding the UHK creates this kind of journey that you usually only get from DIY keyboards.

I personally crave this customization effort. It makes a tool more worthwhile for me when I have the feeling to have a deep dive up front. So this is a lot of fun for me.

After some more information in the tutorial on the default keymaps, I am finally ready to go!

The very first typing experience

First things first, the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is very comfortable to type on!

I never really used a split keyboard and this one comes very naturally to me. Neither having two parts, nor the tilting of the board affects me.

I takes just a few minutes to get me into my typing flow and I feel comfortable. An important part in this is probably the key layout that is very close to a “normal” keyboard, especially when compared to other split keyboards.

The keyboard has a good weight so you can be sure it can keep a stable position on your desk. Nothing clatters or slips, even with the tenting. It is a very solid keyboard and I like it a lot.

However, it comes apparent that the default keymap will not work for me. So let’s look into this.

Layout / Keymap

Default key layout is printed on caps

The space bar is split and in the default keymap, there is actually only a Space key on the right, what would be the left part of the Space bar is the Mod key. As a touch typist I use both thumbs to press space, so this is not acceptable for me.

Naturally I am taking these notes in org-mode using VIM-style keybindings. The fact that Esc can only be triggered by Mod+~ causes the most pain at this point.

Outside of my evil Emacs world I use some of the default Mac shortcuts to navigate along text. In my muscle memory, I use the ones that involve arrow keys, like Shift–Command–Right (select the text between the insertion point and the end of the current line) or Option–Shift–Left (extend text selection to the beginning of the current word, then to the beginning of the following word if pressed again).

But on the UHK there are no dedicated arrow keys. You have to press the Mod key to activate the layer that gives you arrow keys. So these slightly uncomfortable three-key-shortcuts become almost impossible four-keys-shortcuts.

As you may have seen on the linked Apple support page, most of this can also be done without the use of arrow keys (in Emacs style, actually). I just have to revert decades of muscle memory, so this will cause some pain over the next days and weeks.

If you look closer at the keyboard, you will also notice that UHK sneaked an additional key between the Cmd keys and the Space bar keys: the Fn key. First I was hesistant to this. But then I realized they took the room for the Fn keys from the Space key which means the position of the Cmd key stays the same compared to other keyboards. After some back and forth I decided to not change the position of the Cmd key. For my muscle memory the physical position of the key seems more important than the strict order of the keys, so in practice it does not bother me that much.

Another important anomaly is that UHK placed the key for the Mouse layer where you can usually find the Caps Lock key. Like a lot of VIM/evil-mode users I mapped Caps Lock to Esc (when pressed alone) and Ctrl (when pressed with other keys), an essential keybinding that I am not willing to lose. So I will need to find another place for the mouse layer key.

The big remapping begins with the UHK Agent

UHK Agent

The UHK Agent is easy to use and pretty straightforward. You don’t need to set the keyboard in to a special flash mode. The keyboard must be plugged in, you start the Agent, everything is ready.

My first change is to remap Caps Lock from Mouse to Esc/Ctrl. The user interface is very self-explanatory and it just takes a second to save the changes to the keyboard.

I also mess around with the Mod mode to change the arrow keys in the mode to VIM-style arrow keys (hjkl).

The UHK supports multiple keymaps and you can use shortcuts to switch between QWERY, Dvorak and Colemak. For me as a Mac-only user it is not of special interest. But maybe it is for others, because it is the one software feature that gets the most prominent representation in electronics.

The UHK comes with three small fourteen segment displays built into the case. As far as I could find out they are only capable of showing the current keymap. Otherwise they are rather useless for now.

There are amibitons to make them more interesting, which is good, because I don’t need to see that I use Mac QWERTY all the time. I hope for this to arrive sooner than later. Until then it is just a bit weird that you have such a prominent component to show only such a specific detail.

Display shows your current keymap, not more, not less

Lifehack: The three letter abbreviation that you can see can be changed in the UHK agent. Another alternative is to just set the brightness of the display to zero to avoid any distraction alltogether.

At the first look, I didn’t like the small extra buttons on the bottom of the case. But since I am in severe need for extra keys I start to appreciate them. They feel like a mouse key, yet work pretty good as modifier keys.

The Agent has an auto update which will alert you, when a new version is available. In the future new versions of the UHK Agent will also ship with new firmware versions for the keyboard.

To sum it up: UHK Agent is pretty awesome overall. It did exactly what I wanted it to do.

You can see my modified keymap in the screenshot. Some of the changes invoke immediate pleasure, others probably need some time and learning to work for me.

My customized keymap

However, note-taking in evil mode is now a pleasure and I am happy to test the keyboard for an extended period of time, to really find out if it works for me.

Two weeks in…

For two weeks I use the keyboard about 50% of the time and a laptop keyboard for the other 50%. This causes no noticable confusion. Somehow my muscle memory is able to distinguish between the two contexts.

So I remapped the Fn keys between Cmd and Space to Mod and changed the arrow key positions in the mod mode to VIM style. This means, pressing Mod with j and k for up and down now works in every app. I never want to miss this again!

One feature I keep stumbling above: The UHK has the feature to lock modes (like Mouse, Fn, Mod) by double tapping a key that serves as a mode key. This is kind of a two edged sword for me. If you do it intentionally, e.g. with the mouse mode, it is great. When you activate it by accident it still takes me 10-15 seconds to realize what I have done and why the keyboard behaves so strangely.

I would say I have adapted the arrow-less lifestyle about 80%. Just some slight confusion here and then in org-mode specific mini buffers.

The split-factor of the keyboard is pretty nice. I still feel like I don’t have to re-learn general touch typing to operate this keyboard. I experimented a bit with the distance of the two keyboard sides and found a setting that is comfortable for me.

I use the keyboard while sitting down and standing at my desk. The keyboard is steady and stays put during usage.

Switches

Due to the Mechanicon, I think I was able to try out a lot of switches over the years. I know what I like but in everyday use I am not able to determine the sublte differences between similar switches.

For the last five years, I used Cherry MX Browns, Cherry MX Blues, Gatereon Greens and Topre 45g switches as my daily drivers.

I chose Kailh Brown for this board, because I wanted something similar to MX Brown. In practice I actually can’t determine a difference.

Something I learned over the years is that it is not only about the keycaps themselves, but also how they are fixed on the keyboard. Again, the build quality is very good: No clang or vibrations, just a very sturdy construction.

Keycaps

What can you say about the keycaps? They work fine but they don’t spark joy in me. A lot of keyboards come with subpar keycaps and unfortunately the UHK is no exception.

Leopold keycaps are my personal standard for off-the-shelf keyboards. And you can see the difference in material and thickness in the photo.

UHK left, Leopold right

UHK provides you with an extensive guide on the keycaps and layout which is very cool for people that want to use their own keycaps instead. However, since it is a split layout there will be some struggle involved when looking for alternative keycaps (e.g. due to the split space bar).

I get that better keycaps would make the UHK even more pricier and maybe a lot of people are ok with the default keycaps. Due to the exotic layout, I still would wish UHK would provide an upgrade option to get better keycaps.

Update: I got told that UHK actually plans to provide PBT keycaps eventually. I really anticipate it and hope for an upgrade kit!

Open Source / Repairability

For me, this deserves a special shout out!
The firmware as well as the electronics design and pretty much anything else is freely available.

Additionally, you can clearly see that the keyboard was built by people that care a lot about real and deep customization.

Not only in the software but also in hardware. From the replacable bridge cable to the online shop for the keyboard feet: it shows me that you don’t have to be afraid of playing around with your setup.

Summary

The UHK is a nice, high quality keyboard that also comes at a high price point.

The defaults settings are sane and well-intended, but let’s be honest: This keyboard is for people that want to heavily invest into the perfect custom typing experience. I count myself into this target group.

Usually I am happy when the manufacturer just stays out of my way when I start to fumble with their stuff. UHK goes beyond that and supports me in many ways in the customization process: Great onboarding, tooling, repairability and documentation make it easy for me to get my way with this keyboard.

If you are willing to invest a lot of time and effort into customizing your setup the price of the hardware is usually a secondary factor, compared to the time that you will pour into it.

So if you are into ergonomics, if you want to discover the world of split keyboards and you want to customize the sh*t out of your keyboards, then this is the keyboard for you.

Spacemacs + UHK = <3


This article was first published 2019-11-17

Thank you for reading my article! If you spotted a mistake or you want to provide some feedback, please get in touch with me.

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard review: a desktop Swiss Army knife

And now time for something completely different: the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard (UHK). Straight out of Hungary, the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is a split ergonomic design featuring deep customisation options across a tiny footprint. What’s more, it comes with a lacquered beech palm rest and total tenting control – keeping you comfy while you break into the Pentagon or what have you.

To make up for its lack of real estate, the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is equipped with two mod keys, with the ability to switch between multiple customisable layers pre-programmed through the included homebrew app. What’s particularly brilliant, however, is that this simple app is by far one of the best going. How is it that keyboards built by tiny teams of enthusiasts always seem to outperform and outmanoeuvre those built by major companies? Wooting, ErgoDox EZ, and UHK all excel in this regard.

The open source GitHub-hosted UHK Agent app is the key to unlocking the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard’s potential, offering up complete control of every key’s function, secondary function, and tertiary function. And there’s even potential for one more layer alongside the keyboard’s integrated mouse functionality. That’s right, wave goodbye to mice – you won’t need them where we’re going.

Okay, maybe don’t throw away your gaming mouse just yet. I didn’t find myself reaching for the dedicated mouse toggle all that often, but it has its uses beyond our humble gaming remit.

What does come in handy for a spot of gaming are the mechanical switches hiding beneath the surface. Available with Kailh Brown, Blue, Black, and Red, or Cherry Clear and Green, there’s a wide selection of mechanical delights to dig your gnarled hacker fingernails into. All live up to the gold standard of key switches, so you can’t really put a foot out of line here. Our particular review unit came equipped with Kailh Blue switches with a subtle audible click bang on the actuation point.

From the switches out, the UHK is built to a high standard. With a sturdy metal face plate holding every switch in place through the board there’s no flex whatsoever, and the palm rest is secured by a screw on either side. The team behind the board tout themselves as “sworn enemies of planned obsolescence,” and will even try to help you out if your UHK breaks out of the two year warranty period. So you know you’re not going to get lost in the RMA system.

Featuring an optional split design, the keyboard can also function as both a single unified board or two independent halves. Each discrete half features two metal struts to secure the connection point, with a five-pin connector allowing for data to flow between the two in lieu of the coiled cable across the top. This can also act as the connection point for one of four bonus modules. These optional extras include three extra keys and a trackball, a sizeable trackball, a trackpoint, and a touchpad.

Ensuring access to all layers, there are two undercover keys beneath the split space/mod bars that offers switched functionality – the key underneath space is a shortcut for mod, and vice-versa. So if you fancy just using one half – perhaps to free up some desk space for your mouse while gaming – any layers and shortcuts you’ve designed bespoke for a game or app are still available to you.

And it’s easy to know which layout or layer you’re currently running with, as the UHK features a large digital display in the top left that offers a three digit, customisable short-hand for layers set in the Agent app. For example, I have named my bespoke layout “420” due to the macros I have set up. That’s why. That’s why I did it.

The screen certainly adds to the retro aesthetic. And I’ve had mixed responses to the UHK in the office, that’s for sure. While most will (correctly) lean towards it being a beautifully-crafted throwback to days of computing past, others have not been approving of our review sample’s mustard yellow colourway and functional clutter.

With a price tag of $350 for both the UHK and the wooden palm rests, this does, however, makes a Topre Realforce look cheap. The price reflects the quality of the product, and the size of company producing it – but it does weigh heavily on the features and functionality on offer. The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is truly for die-hard enthusiasts and efficiency aficionados alone.

While I can’t say for the UHK’s proficiency in hacking, I can attest to its proficiency in just about everything else – including making a better, more efficient typist out of you. As a keyboard for staunch workaholics that never want to lift their fingers from the keyboard, to its efficacy as a split ergo gaming pad, the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is fundamentally a joy to use. It’s easy and succinct customisation software makes it easier than ever to elevate your macro game and take control of your desktop – a feat seemingly only possible with dedicated enthusiasts behind the wheel.

Truly, you won’t find anything quite like the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard anywhere else, even among the best gaming keyboards going. And if you fit neatly into its target audience, you likely won’t settle for anything less than what it has to offer. What it does, it does exceptionally well. However, if you don’t quite fit into the slim overlap in the keyboard enthusiast/power user Venn diagram, you probably stopped reading back at $350 – and I sure as hell don’t blame you.

You’ll find few, if any, faults with this lovingly created enthusiast board. However, if you’re not quite sold on all of its features, you’ll struggle to justify the cost.

8

I wrote a review of the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard for you nerds

This is a post about keyboards. Well, about one keyboard, but we’ll probably go through a bunch to get there. It’s going to be long, and some of my less Tinder-profile-worthy personality traits will probably become obvious, but we can get there together.

There are two types of people who will want to continue past this point. First, those interested in mechanical keyboards to the extent that they care what other people think about them. Second, those who enjoy reading about other people’s nerd stuff. Maybe specifically about keyboards, but it’s likely that this person enjoys reading anything decidedly nerdy. Either because they’re nerdy, too, and it makes them feel better to know they’re not alone, or they’re so normal — and fine with that — that it amuses them to see other people go off the deep end. 1 It’s ok. Everyone loves Sheldon. Everyone is welcome.

The first keyboard I can remember liking to the extent that I would talk about it was the diNovo Edge. That was around 2001. Up until then keyboards had just been a tool, not something I noticed or cared about. I went through a few iterations of the Edge, eventually ditching them because Logitech makes horrible drivers for Mac. Oh, and they required drivers on a Mac. And dongles.

For years since then I’ve always come back to my aluminum Apple bluetooth keyboard. I don’t even use the latest one, the Magic Keyboard, but the one that still had a workable arrow key cluster.2 Not for lack of curiosity, and certainly not for lack of trying: I have a Das Keyboard, a Matias Laptop Pro,3 a Matias Tactile Pro, an ErgoDox,4 a couple old diNovo Edges, and a few others, mechanical and non, just laying around, moping, and hoping that I’ll put them up for sale to someone who’ll actually use them. I have piles of keycaps, a couple switch testers, and a fancy key puller. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars (probably over a thousand over the years) trying to find a keyboard that made me feel more powerful than I did on my trusty Apple aluminum keyboard. Even the ones that got really close still had deal-breakers for me.

I have a litany of reasons why every fancy keyboard I try might fail to make it into the “primary keyboard” spot. The foremost thing that always kills my momentum is that moving any key in the modifier cluster (Cmd, Opt, Ctrl, Fn) too far from where my muscle memory has known them to be for years inhibits my ability to function efficiently. It’s a crippling dependency I’ve created for myself, but I feel that the time and effort it would take to get as good with a new layout as I am with the standard layout (on every single laptop and Apple keyboard) I use would be too arduous to be practical.

I’ll also admit that the feel of typing on most mechanical keyboards doesn’t thrill me the way it seems to thrill some others. The less clicky the better for me; I prefer Cherry Browns and Reds to Cherry Blue, but they all feel awkward and slightly laborious to me. I’ll concede that I do like to use the Matias Laptop Pro with my iPad for writing. I do get that mechanical keys can be pleasurable. Once I get used to the key travel, it’s possible for me to dig it.

I’ll also admit that, despite the above complaint, I type more accurately on mechanicals most days, owing partly to the fact that my fingertips have some numbness, especially in my right hand, as well as guitar string callouses, and feeling flat key edges isn’t always possible. It’s certainly easier to feel big, tall keycaps. But I still never loved the feel of hitting the keys. That’s not to say I think the Apple Aluminum is the top tier of typing pleasure. It’s ok — nothing to write home about, but with that one I can work.

Here’s what always happens: I’ll try a keyboard out for a while, just for writing. That will usually go well and I’ll see hope for it. Then I’ll start launching other apps and run into confusion with my shortcuts and muscle memory. Then it always seems to compound once I get into a code editor, especially if my bracket keys have shifted at all. Pretty soon, no matter how determined I am, I just can’t justify the lost minutes of productivity every hour as I look down at the keyboard and watch my fingers still repeatedly trigger the wrong shortcut, operating of their own accord. Then I start to think about how even if I spend a whole weekend mastering this keyboard, I’ll need to shift my keybindings and BetterTouchTool and Karabiner and Keyboard Maestro shortcuts to make them more efficient on this new layout, and then they won’t work well on my MacBook’s built-in keyboard… and then I give up.

I think this might finally have changed.

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard

My penultimate keyboard in this story was the ErgoDox from MassDrop, a Teensy-driven hacker keyboard. While it didn’t pan out for me, I realized that if I was going to make a mechanical work, it had to be utterly programmable.

I backed this “Ultimate Hacking Keyboard” when it was crowdfunded. I don’t even remember when I committed myself to the purchase. Judging by the price tag (>$200 US), it was long enough ago that I wasn’t as broke, and not as phased by the future ding to my wallet as I was when it finally came around. Turns out it might have been worth it, and that this one might be the best bet for getting me on to a new keyboard. Smart money says I’ll be back on the Apple aluminum within 2 weeks (just judging by history), but here’s why I think there’s a chance.

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, henceforth referred to as “UHK,” can function as a one-piece keyboard, or you can break it in two to create more ergonomic layouts. I liked the split nature of the ErgoDox, but I find the best position for me is just barely split apart; the ErgoDox at the same angle required the halves to sit farther apart than I found comfortable. You can also attach the lift stands at any of the 8 corners (when it’s split apart), which means I had the chance to find out I really like the “tenting” arrangement (raised in the middle, sloping to the sides).

Like the ErgoDox, it’s hardware-programmable. You can control exactly what key code(s) each key sends, and it has a visual layout editor for your computer. It can switch between different keyboard layouts; it comes stocked with Mac and PC versions of Dvorak, Colemak, and Qwerty layouts, and you can add your own and replace the buttons or assign new ones for switching between them.

The programming happens in “layers,” each layer being a different layout with certain keys triggering the switch between layers. Same thing that happens when you hit the Fn key on any keyboard, most keys suddenly have a different function and some no longer do anything at all. The ErgoDox had six layers, which got to be a little too much fun for me. I had to have printed diagrams to use the beast I created.

The UHK has more keys than the ErgoDox to begin with, which means it requires less creativity to assign all the usual keyboard keys. As such, I don’t find the three layers the UHK offers to be limiting. There’s a Function layer (when you’re holding the Fn key) and a Mod layer (holding the proprietary Mod key). It comes with some thoughtful defaults, but you can (and I did) completely modify every key to your own liking.

Because the Space bar is split in half, the UHK turns one half of it into an extra button (a Mod button). Below the space bar on each side is a flat button you can also program. By default they’re assigned to Space and Mod, opposite of the button above it, so you have both keys on each hand. The default layout takes one handed keyboard use very seriously.

It also has a Mouse layer. When you hold down the Mouse key, the i/j/k/l cluster becomes controls for your mouse cursor, and the mod key that’s under your thumb becomes left click. The extra mod button at the thumb becomes right click. Y/H scroll vertically, U/O scroll horizontally. It’s nifty, but I can’t see being so desperate to avoid my trackpad (I really love my Magic Trackpad) that I’d spend the time to actually be comfortable doing it. You can, however, use the Mouse layer as an additional keyboard layer, simply reassigning the mouse movement keys. Numeric keypad, anyone?

All of the keys can have secondary functions, much the way that the Hyper key5 does one thing when you hold it while pressing another key, and something else (escape) if you just tap it. On the UHK, I used this to turn my tab key into the Mouse key when I hold it, and replace the Mouse key with a caps lock key. So I can have my Hyper key and not have to relearn all of that, too.

Layers can be activated while holding down modifier keys, but you can also set keys to toggle them into one state or the other. You can use this to switch fully into a layout with task-specific keys for web browsing or media consumption, just a click away from having your regular keyboard back. I’ve actually found this pretty handy.

It has add-on thumb modules available that you can attach where the halves break apart. According to the shipping notice I got, I apparently also have two of those coming (an extra button cluster and a trackball) but I’m kind of happy I can just spend some time getting used to the keyboard before I go trying to extend it.

Why I think it’s working for me

Short answer, obviously, is “because it’s really expensive and it has to, dammit,” but I could say that about any of the other half dozen pricey keyboards on my shelf.

First, I like the mostly-standard modifier key layout on my left hand. I shuffled some keys around to get it right, and I made the left half of the space bar the actual spacebar (by default it’s a Mod key). It turns out I always hit the spacebar with my left thumb, and that was going to be a nearly impossible habit to break.6

Next, having more keys in standard locations, combined with total programmability, allows it to cover all of the things I need and not leave me feeling like I compromised on anything or had to make too-tough decisions about where to put a key when it couldn’t be where I needed it to be.

As I said before, the split layout and option for “tenting” risers is great for ergonomics. I need that. Yes, there are less expensive keyboards that do exactly that, but… programmability.

I don’t even know how to measure or quantify key travel, but I know that this one has the right amount for me. I was instantly accurate while typing on it. I can’t say that for the Matias or Das keyboards, and definitely not for the ErgoDox.

The switches are Cherry Brown (I think), and make no click noise of their own. So it’s still noisy like a mechanical always is, but not thunderous on a desk or annoyingly “buzzy” once you get up to speed.

Lastly, it’s not generally considered a feature, and is obviously the standard for mechanicals, but I like that it’s USB. It’s for my desk. I have USB ports everywhere. Why would I want a keyboard that needs batteries or recharging? Hardwire me.

The arrow keys

You may have noticed my obsession over the years with keys related to cursor movement. I like my arrow keys a certain way, I create Karabiner hacks to enable vim navigation, and use a bunch of keybindings to avoid having to use the arrow keys as much. I also know all of the emacs bindings for cursor movement that are built into macOS. All of that to say that I was immediately enamored with the lack of arrow keys on the UHK.

On the UHK, the arrow keys are part of the Mod layer (in the default settings), so holding Mod down you can use i/j/k/l as an arrow cluster. This means not having to leave the home row to use them, but also means that something as simple as an arrow key now requires a key combination. At first this was daunting, but after 2 days it became natural for me. The toughest part for me happens when using a combo like “select by word,” which is Option-Shift-Arrow. Now it’s Option-Shift-Mod-[i/j/k/l]. And when I want to switch to selecting by character in the same selection, I have to think for a second to remember which of those three modifiers to let go of. Like I said, a bit of practice and it’s becoming quite intuitive, and definitely beats sliding off the home row just to move the cursor.

The same issue exists with the escape key, which is now Mod-backtick. I usually use the Hyper (caps lock) key as escape anyway, but sometimes hit that upper left key out of habit. Now doing that sticks a backtick into whatever I’m writing. Switching the habit fully over to the Hyper key will alleviate that issuue.

My concerns

A short list of grievances, because if you’re still reading, there’s a 96.541% chance that’s what you’re looking for.

Update: The UHK team contacted me about all of these and between firmware updates and some tips, they’ve all been resolved

  • It’s easy to hit bottom space/mod keys accidentally when not paying attention, which is especially annoying if they’re set to permanently toggle a mod or function layer Make sure they’re not set to toggle, or at least only on double click. This is the default anyway.
  • Sometimes the bottom space/mod keys stick. If I wanted that to be a toggle, I’d have told you, UHK. Gently pull the case keys away from the keyboard (toward you) a bit and they stop sticking.
  • Occasionally after a Command-Shift(-Mod)-arrow, the Command modifier sticks and requires releasing and re-pressing the mod key before getting normal arrow function again. If I thought that three modifier keys got confusing, remembering which finger needs to tap before the other finger presses is a nightmare. A firmware update resolved this completely.

Customizations

Just as a record/inspiration for the masses, here’s some of what I’ve changed so far, because if you’re still reading, you get a kick out of this kind of thing.

  • Duplicated the escape, delete, and fn keys from Mod layer to Fn layer for consistency
    • Replaces the layout switching keys, which I’m not going to be using enough for them to be worth accidentally hitting
  • Tab key to mouse as secondary function
  • Mouse key to Hyper (caps lock/Karabiner)
  • Swap thumb space/mods (I always space with my left)
  • Re-order the left modifier keys to Apple layout: Fn, Ctrl, Opt, Cmd
  • Moved the media keys in the Fn layer and added Pg up, Pg dn, Home and End to their appropriate spots on the i/j/k/l cluster
  • Updated the app switching shortcuts so Mod-D brings up the app switcher (Cmd-Tab), then D moves right and S moves left (Cmd-Shift-Tab), and F sends Cmd-Q, which closes whatever app is highlighted when the App Switcher is up

Closing thoughts

I’ve been using this keyboard for 3 days now. That’s not very long, but I’m more comfortable on it after three days than I have been with any other mechanical after a week. That’s promising. And I’m actually having fun (obviously, enough fun to think “I should write about this”). Over breakfast when I thought about heading to my office, my next thought was “cool, I get to use the UHK.” I never got to that point with other attempts — even with the ErgoDox, and I really wanted to love that keyboard.

The backers are slowly getting their keyboards now, and if you want to pre-order one, it’s estimated to ship by October. Just in case this rabbit hole sounded like fun to you, too.

  1. Ok, I guess that’s at least three distinct types. I didn’t realize that until after I’d finished writing the sentence, and I don’t have an editor here to stop me from just fixing it in the footnotes. ↩

  2. You know, the MC184LL/B. ↩

  3. Admittedly, that one was free from the Macstock swap table, but it’s one of my favorites out of this list.  ↩

  4. And that one was a gift ↩

  5. You know, that Capslock hack we all use — at least those of us who would read this far in an article about mechanical keyboards. ↩

  6. This is a safe space, right? Can I also admit that about 50% of the time I hit “y” with my left index finger? My grade school typing teacher would have hated that. I’m not sure when I developed the habit, but I have to break it now that the y is way over on the right half… ↩

BrettTerpstra.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees when linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard Review: In-Depth {Explanation}

Keyboard evolutions have drastically changed in the past several years, many unique and exceptional keyboards are being produced by the manufacturers.

From Membrane, Mechanical to Custom layout keyboards is rapidly being evolved with a set of many new and advanced technology to make user’s typing experiences better and feasible.

WKL, HHKB Layout keyboards, and Vintage keyboards are always hot favorites for the keyboard enthusiast who loves the design and concept of custom keyboards.

Apart from these designs, you probably heard about the Split keyboards that generally split down the middle and allow more flexibility in position and comfort to your wrist during typing.

In Split keyboards, Ultimate Hacking Keyboards are immensely popular among keyboard lovers.

To know why? We’ve come up with a detailed article about Ultimate Hacking Keyboard which will provide each and every precise detail about this keyboard including Pros, Cons, and an in-depth review with practical applications.

Let’s get dive into the details to explore Ultimate Hacking Keyboard!

Table of Contents

What is Ultimate Hacking Keyboard?

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is a split mechanical keyboard that comes with Cherry Mx and Kalih switches for actuation and provides great comfortability and wider wrist movement while typing due to its split design.

The mechanical keys can be programmed like many mechanical keyboards with the company’s software.

This ultimate hacking keyboard comes with many unique functionalities such as add-on modules like TrackPoint, Trackball, Touchpad, and key cluster.

Whereas it can significantly improve the wrist posture during typing, and provide more ergonomic operations by allowing to type on two different keyboard halves. 

You can easily understand the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard concept by looking at the following significant highlighting points below:

  • Cherry Mx and Kailh Switches
  • The bridge cable that connects halves.
  • Both ABS and PBT Double-shot Keycaps

UHK is produced by the manufacturers to offer every bit of customization according to the user’s wrist which can give a wider edge in typing experience.

Consisting of Cherry Mx and Kailh switches for actuation makes this keyboard sturdier and more durable as Cherry is the king of switches whereas Kailh switches offer Crunchy and Crispy clicks.

This keyboard is definitely looking the best keyboard at the first glance for the keyboard lover who prefers wrist comfort over everything, but reviewing this keyboard on all technical benchmarks will clear all the doubts.

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard Specifications

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is equipped with some exceptional specifications that no other mechanical keyboards have.

This put the UH keyboard in a very special category, especially since its trackball and touchpad functionalities are very rare to see in conventional mechanical keyboards.

I’m sharing a specification table for the Ultimate Hacking keyboard which gives you a brief overview of this keyboard.

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard

Switches

Cherry Mx Green, Clear, Kailh Blue, Brown, Red, Black

Keycaps

ABS Plastic, and PBT for premium variant.

Layout

Dimensions (WxDxH)

11.38 x 5.2 x 1.14 inches (289 x 132 x 29mm)

Inside the Box

Braided USB Cable, Plastic Keycap Puller, a bag of rubber o-rings, and User’s manual.

Media Keys

Yes, can be accessed with Fn keys.

Weight

2. 2 pounds (1kg)

Warranty 

2 Years 

$275, the price can go up with additional components.

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard Review

Reviewing this UHK on all technical benchmarks will give a clear conclusion on whether you should invest your money on it or not.

Sometimes there is intense hype created by the promoters about any product so it’s become over priority to uncover all these things and come up with a clear perspective.

Here are all the vital factors that need to be discussed practically along with some positive upsides and downsides.

1. Design and Layout

The layout for Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is derived from a 60% keyboard as there is no function keys row as well as no numeric pad on the right side of the keyboard.

Arrow keys are also missing due to achieving a very compact design.

That’s the reason when a user takes a first glance on the UHK, they can easily notice that the keyboard is absolutely compact with a minimalistic design.

UHK occupied the dimension of 11.4 x  5.2 x 1.1 inches (289 x 132 x 29mm) without a wrist pad, apart from the build quality looks solid due to its premium high-quality manufacturing components.

Talking about its Split design structure, This Ultimate Hacking keyboard can be split in the middle, as a result of more flexibility in wrist movement and can be set as the user’s preferred position.

The well-installed split design mechanism is certainly a vital property of this UHK that not only enhances its overall typing experience but put this keyboard stand apart from the crowd.

2. Keycaps and Keyswitches

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is made with both ABS and PBT keycaps (for premium variant) which are considered very premium plastic material that doesn’t get shinier texture with time.

Compared to ABS vs PBT, PBT keycaps are always ahead in terms of better holding, and durability and provide a sturdier build to the keyboard.

By using PBT Keycaps in UHK, printing legends never get faded as well as the RGB lights are more luminous and better shine through in Ultimate Hacking Keyboard.

Although PBT keycaps are generally more expensive in terms of price but it definitely pays off.

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard comes with the most popular mechanical switches Cherry Mx and Kailh switches so it is certain you won’t need to compromise on switches performance.

Many high-quality mechanical keyboards come with Cherry as there is no match for Cherry switches especially their durability and guarantee of actuation.

In terms of Keycaps and Keyswitches, I can say it can’t be much better beyond this combination.

3. Typing Experience

This is the most dominating technical benchmark a keyboard lover goes through before opting out of a mechanical keyboard.

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is considered the first UHK’s split 60% keyboard layout, the main purpose of implementing this mechanism is to achieve excellent productivity and to protect wrist and fingers fatigue during typing.

This keyboard truly served the purpose it has launched for, well you can adjust your wrist position accordingly by setting up the halves.

The halves are connected with the replaceable bridge cable which can be stretched and narrowed as needed.

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is equipped with Cherry Green and Clear, Kailh Blue and Black switches providing a heavier actuation, strong tactile feedback with a loud clicking sound.

Due to having a high actuation force, the probability of error generation is relatively less as required high pressure to actuate the switches. You can easily rest your fingers on these switches as well.

You won’t be encountered with accidental keypresses, thanks to its heavy switch profile.

IF you’re used to typing on a light switch, Ultimate Hacking Keyboard will not disappoint you as it has Linear Red switch options in its lineup too.

For gaming and silent environment, UHK with Red switches is the ideal choice for people.

4. Software Configurability

UHK AGENT SOFTWARE

All features associated with Ultimate Hacking Keyboard can be customized with the help of software called ‘UHK AGENT’.

UHK AGENT software is very powerful open source software that allows deep configuration of your UHK as well as you can ramp any key, and customize the sensitivity, mouse speed, and LED brightness according to your preference.

The software can be complex for some users who don’t know much about the customizations of mechanical keyboards as it is equipped with lots of functionalities.

Apart from these customizations, there is an option called ‘Keymaps’ which can be helpful in establishing Colemak for Mac, Colemak for PC, and for all different platforms.

UHK AGENT software can simply be downloaded from the Official website of UHK website after reading the complete manual carefully.

Gradually you will be used to this software and know all the functionalities by using it for your Ultimate Hacking Keyboard.

5. Extreme Customizability

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard features lots of switch variants in its family lineup.

The variety of switch options helps users to decide to pick switches according to their needs and requirements such as some users are habitual of typing on lighter keyboards whereas some users feel comfortable on havier switches.

For heavy variants, UHK features Cherry Green and Kailh Blue switches which usually have higher actuation (80g, 50g consecutively) points for registering a keystroke.

Whereas UHK has Kailh Red and Black switches that are linear switches and fall in the light switch category due to their low actuation and no tactility.

As far as case colors are concerned, UHK offers 5 different case colors which are Brown, Blue, Orange, and White, so user can pick their favorite UHK color set accordingly.

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard offers 4 different custom layout keyboards, again it’s a nice thing for a user to pick their perfect custom layout keyboard, I would go with 60% layout as it is more satisfying than others.

Switch Variants

Green Switch

Clear Switch

Black Switch

Blue Switch

Brown Switch

Red Switch

Actuation Force

Switch Profile

Highly Clicky

Tactile

Linear

Clicky

Tactile

Linear

Tactility

Highly Tactile

Tactile

No tactile feedback

Strong Tactile

Tactile

No tactile Feedback

Noise Level

Very Loud

Moderate

Very Loud

Moderate

Very Quiet

6.

Idiosyncratic Modules

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard features 4 significant modules which make this keyboard very special and Idiosyncratic compared to other conventional split keyboards.

These 4 modules enhance the overall efficiency and functionality of UHK, these modules are:

  • Key Cluster Module
  • Trackball Module
  • Trackpoint Module
  • Touchpoint Module

Keycluster Module: Keycluster Module is the most useful module that can be embedded on the left keyboard half.

It has 3 regular keys, 1 mini trackball, and 2 mini buttons that can be pressed and give an additional edge during typing.

Trackball Module: This trackball module is placed on the right side of the keyboard half that can be accessed by the right thumb to obtain better precision while typing.

Trackpoint Module: This module of the UHK is installed on the right side of the keyboard half.

The Trackpoint module will certainly remind you IBM ThinkPad laptop. If you used IBM Thinkpad previously you will get more connected to this module.

Touchpad Module: Again this module is designed to place on the right side of the keyboard half which can be very useful if you have a habit of clicking with the right fingers.

A user can trigger a click by tapping on it.

7. LED Display

Display LED screen is mounted on the top left of the UHK that offers users to get essential information about the active functionalities of the keyboard.

First of all, on the left side, there is a locked icon that shows the status of CapsLock whether it is on or off.

The second icon lies in the middle that tells you whether the UHK AGENT software is connected to the keyboard.

The last icon shaped as a triangle shows whether the adaptive mode is enabled to auto-switch keymaps or not.

The wider three letters indicated in red colors tell the abbreviation of the Keymaps.

Is Ultimate Hacking Keyboard Good For Gaming?

From a gaming point of view, Ultimate Hacking Keyboard features linear switches (Red and Black) which are excellent considerations for gaming.

As linear switches are the most prominent switches for gaming due to their express fast response time, Fast typing speed with a very quiet sound profile which makes these switches ideal for Hardcore gaming.

But some points need to be clear if you are planning to buy Ultimate Hacking Keyboard for gaming.

First of all, If you are coming from a conventional layout, this UHK might look strange at initial while typing as it has complex functionalities within a compact design. So it needs lots of time to get used to it.

As far as the performance and functionalities are concerned, this UHK has everything which a gaming keyboard needs to have. A joystick and a mouse pointer make it more gaming oriented.

But the question may sustain surrounds the layout, if you have experienced using this layout then you can buy Ultimate Hacking Keyboard for gaming.

What Devices is the UHK Compatible With?

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard (UHK) is compatible with most of the latest operating systems. It works seamlessly with Windows, macOS, and Linux.

So for Computer and Laptop systems, you don’t need to be concerned about UHK’s compatibility.

If you want to use UHK with your phones, you can simply use it as it can run smoothly with OTG-supported devices.

You can use UHK AGENT software to get more clarity about its compatibility, features, and applications.

Is Ultimate Hacking Keyboard Expensive?

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard comes at a higher price point of 300$ on various platforms, On UHK’s official website its price is $318 for a regular Blue switches UHK.

In addition, if you add extra components the price becomes more expensive so considering this price point I would say Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is very expensive

There are some other options as well available on the market which are similar to UHK and give tough competition to this keyboard. Metadot’s Das Keyboard 5Q is a great alternative for UHK.

You can buy UHK on some popular platforms as well as on its official site:

  1. ultimatehackingkeyboard.com

Conclusion

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is definitely an excellent keyboard with lots of idiosyncratic features and functionalities.

Its split design, mouse pointer, UHK AGENT software, and additional modules not just beatifies the typing experience but get adapted to the typing environments.

With many positive aspects, I have observed some downsides as well because the price for this Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is very much expensive, and adding some extra components will bring its price too costly.

A fresher who came from a conventional keyboard has to face some difficulties in typing on this UHK due to its complex layout and needs time to get used to it with its modules.

One thing is very forward that UHK is for dedicated and specific keyboard enthusiasts, this is not the product that everyone prefers to buy.

If you fall in this category then no one can stop you to buy your favorite Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, and believe me it’s dominant in all benchmarks for what it is made.

For average users, this keyboard may look strange and nail-biting.

I hope this post was helpful to you.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers!!

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard FAQs

What is ultimate hacking keyboard v2?

The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard v2 is an upgraded version of UHK v1 which has some significant improvements over the v1 like the keycaps materials, Software Enhancements, and more extreme productive and ergonomic.

Does UHK support hot-swappable functionality?

Yes, the ultimate Hacking Keyboard supports the hot-socket functionality which simply means you can change mechanical switches without the stress of soldering and desoldering.

Does UHK is programmable?

UHK offers fully programmable features so that a user can program switches with the help of its open-source AGENT software.

traditional input method — Hacker’s Keyboard, TouchPal X Keyboard and GO Keyboard

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Too many keys: Hacker’s Keyboard
    • Initial setting
    • Keyboard layout and brief functionality
    • Functions and features
    • Decoration
    • Hacker’s Keyboard Conclusions
  • Minimalism and function: TouchPal X Keyboard
    • Initial setting
    • Keyboard layout and brief functionality
    • Functions and features
    • Decoration
    • Conclusions on TouchPal X Keyboard
  • Simplicity: GO Keyboard
    • Initial setting
    • Keyboard layout and brief functionality
    • Functions and features
    • Decoration
    • GO Keyboard Conclusions

Intro

In our last review of keyboards for mobile gadgets, we reviewed the most popular applications: Smart Keyboard, SwiftKey Keyboard and Aitype Keyboard. But besides them, there are other equally valuable and interesting representatives. Let’s take a look at them too.

A lot of keys: Hacker’s Keyboard

As you know, hackers are tough people. They need a lot of keys, while functions, design and other «bells and whistles» are useless. After all, everything you need, they already know how. This is how Hacker’s Keyboard can be summed up in three sentences.

Initial setup

recommendations

After visiting the Hacker’s Keyboard menu, you immediately understand who it was created for. The layout is extremely simple. More precisely, it is not there. Before us appears a dark background, a standard font, links to application items and a brief briefing. It is worth noting that all interface elements are in English.

Click on «Enable keyboard» and select our keyboard, repeat the same with «Set input method». Thus, we activate this keyboard in the system. If necessary, you can immediately add an input language and download a dictionary. Everything is simple and concise.

Keyboard layout and brief functionality

After the appearance of the keyboard itself, it is not immediately clear whether this is really Hacker’s Keyboard. In portrait orientation, everything looks standard, without exaggeration, like a regular AOSP keyboard.

Only the top line with additional characters and the ability to change the input language with a swipe on the space give out a little third-party application. But it is unlikely that a novice user will notice this.

Keyboard behaves appropriately. And after the opening of the symbols, there are no differences from the standard one. All the necessary letters, numbers and signs in their places.

All of this in portrait orientation… But one has only to turn the gadget 90°, and we immediately find out why this keyboard is called a hacker keyboard.

The alphabetic layout adds a lot of additional keys that you won’t find even in the SwiftKey Keyboard and Aitype Keyboard. This is Ctrl, and Alt, and Escape, and Win, and even Fn. In addition, there is a panel with numbers at the top of the keyboard, and holding down in their area allows you to enter various characters.

Each of the «unexpected» keys will not be superfluous and will definitely come in handy. The arrows will be useful in the browser, in the text editor and even in Google Play. Win and Escape will not interfere with programs like «Remote desktop», and Ctrl and Alt will be indispensable when typing.

After pressing Fn, we find ourselves in the very «lair» of the Hacker’s Keyboard application, where the Num pad, f-keys and many other buttons are waiting in the wings. A user remote from programming, application development and other things does not need them, but a hacker simply needs them.

Functions and features

When we get into the settings, we will not find anything unusual there. More precisely, we will not find anything there. You can only change the size of the keys, select the number of rows of the keyboard layout, install a graphic theme and adjust a couple more settings for special keys.

Keyboard layout changed to four and five lines. As you can see, there is a digital strip as the fifth line. Below are additional keys: Fn, Ctrl, Alt and others.

Above is the minimum and maximum possible keyboard size in portrait orientation.

Hacker’s Keyboard has a separate word hinting feature, that is, «prediction» of words. But with the Russian language, even after installing the appropriate dictionary, options for entering words are not offered.

Hacker’s Keyboard doesn’t have a lot of features, but given its purpose, it’s fine.

Decoration

As already mentioned, Hacker’s Keyboard is the twin brother of the standard keyboard. Themes can fix this defect. Yes, you can change the graphics in it. There is only one nuance left — there are only four themes, there are no third-party ones.

There is also a copy of the Apple keyboard and an experimental theme. If everything is clear with the first, then the second is very interesting. It does not look bright or colorful, but given the name and purpose of the program, just right.

Two other topics.

Hacker’s Keyboard Conclusions

Hacker’s Keyboard has almost no functionality. The most elementary ones, in the form of input with a capital letter after the dot, should not be taken into account. But the advantage of the application is its extreme unpretentiousness, because the developers paid the main attention to the keys. And Hacker’s Keyboard layout does indeed have all the keys.

The keyboard has no design, it is standard. There are no third-party themes, there are only four types of textures that are initially already installed for free.

Hacker’s Keyboard is a multi-key keyboard. This is her main feature. And it is completely free and deserves attention as a worthy replacement for the original keyboard.

Download Hacker’s Keyboard from Google Play

Developer Klaus Weidne
Cost Free
Requirements OC Android 2.2 and later.