Varmilo’s new Sakura Pink EC switch is nigh, and we’ve got the MA104C full-size keyboard to test them in person. The Sakura Pink EC switch is the first switch produced by Varmilo. (Typically, Varmilo uses Cherry switches in its keyboards.) The new switch uses the same Electrostatic-Capacitive technology as Topre, except it does not include a tactile rubber dome or conical spring. It uses a traditional Cherry-style switch design with a spring and plastic slider. For fans of Topre, this is bad news (no “thock” here), but those who adore Cherry MX Red (linear) switches may want to check out this switch.
The mechanism for activating the switch is contactless. That is, there is no physical contact between metal parts when the key activates. Instead of a gold crosspoint contact, it senses the actuation by proximity. This means that there is less wear and tear during operation, which may increase the switch’s life span. We do want to point out, however, that the spring itself, or maybe the plastic slider, could still be a point of failure.
The word “contactless” makes it sound like this switch is light, linear, and smooth. You’d be correct, but the plastic slider and spring still provide resistance. In fact, the contactless mechanism in the switch doesn’t really affect the feel of the switch. They have the same 45g actuation force as Cherry MX Red, and they have a shorter actuation point of 1.8mm (compared to MX switches’ 2mm). Indeed, when we compared the Sakura Pink EC switches side-by-side to Cherry MX Reds, we found them to be minimally different. The new switches feel a little bit smoother, though, and there’s no subtle “chatter” like you find on Cherry MX Red switches. These are very subtle nuances, however, and the lower travel distance would probably affect your typing or gaming the more than any other aspect of the switch.
If you were looking for an even lower travel distance, there are Cherry MX Speed switches, which offer just 1.2mm, or Kailh Speed switches, which hot 1.2mm to 1.5mm actuation.
At first feel, this switch does not stand out as substantially different than the many custom switch options that use the Cherry-style design. Switches already seem to last forever, so durability is not something you need to really worry about. Also, there’s always the option to lube switches or swap out springs for a smoother feel on the switches you already own.
Replacing a physical mechanism that can fail with something that is theoretically wear-and-tear free without a loss of tactility is not a bad thing, however. Although this particular switch is linear, perhaps the Electrostatic-Capacitive design could give Varmilo more freedom in what it can produce in the future. For example, just as Topre has done, Varmilo could offer users the ability to set different actuation points. We have yet to see a tactile, clicky, or heavier linear version of the switch.
Above is a sound test to compare Cherry MX Red with Varmilo’s Sakura Pink EC Switch. Both keyboards have a steel plate, but the Ducky keyboard (with the Cherry MX Red switches) has thin ABS keycaps whereas the Varmilo includes thick PBT keycaps. The difference in keycap materials significantly affects the sound. For a more direct comparison, pay close attention to the switch when we press it without a keycap at the beginning of the video. Listen for the subtle chatter found on the Cherry MX Red. The audio levels were adjusted, but you may still need to wear headphones to hear the difference.
For those interested in the keyboard itself, here’s a quick recap and spec table: We really appreciate the build quality. There’s a steel plate that adds rigidity and a solid feel when you're typing, and the case is made out of plastic with a wood grain texture. That’s a bit of an odd look for some, but at a minimum, the textured case prevents fingerprints from smearing it up.
The font is modern with dye-sublimated lettering. The keycaps are on the thicker side, at 1.4mm, and they’re made of slightly textured PBT. Its Cherry-style stabilizers felt smooth--it appears that Varmilo went through the trouble of lubing them. The addition of the colorful modifier keycaps are much appreciated, but there are some gray replacement keycaps in the box if that isn’t your style. (Do note, however, that they are not true CMYK or RGB. They are Yellow, Orange, Purple, Cyan, and Magenta).
Media controls are on the function layer of F7-F9, and the volume controls are on the function layer of F10-F12. The keyboard has full white LED backlighting, and the USB port is Mini-USB. The price has not been disclosed yet.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Varmilo MA104C|
|Switch||Sakura Pink EC|
|Lighting||White (Solid, Breathing)|
|Polling Rate||1,000 Hz|
|Keycaps||Dye Sub PBT|
|Construction||Plastic case, Steel Plate|
|Accessories||Keycap puller, Modifier Keys|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||440 x 137 x 34 mm|