With the Moda v2, Nixeus took its relatively simple tenkeyless Moda (v1) design and refined it into something that looks significantly cleaner and more elegant. Where the first iteration was a budget keyboard that looked the part, with a textured black finish and a chunky look, the Moda v2 has a streamlined design with a sparkled, dark gray finish that looks premium.
It is still, however, a "budget" keyboard, ranging from $70 to $87 at online retailers depending on the switch type; how well will that premium look hold up under close scrutiny?
We pored over all three Nixeus Moda v2 models— the MK-RD15 (red switches), MK-BL15 (blue switches), and MK-BN15 (brown switches)—to see if the relatively low price belied a cheap keyboard, or if the Moda v2 is a good deal for a quality product.
Part of the cost savings here comes from simplicity. The only accessory in the box is a keycap puller— although there are a few Mac replacement caps—and there's no software at all (it's a completely plug-and-play keyboard). Lighting is nearly non-existent, save for LEDs for Caps Lock and Scroll Lock, and the lone backlit key (the Windows key, which is lit to indicate when it's locked).
Nixeus uses a proprietary microprocessor (which explains why I failed to uncover a single peep about it anywhere online) that was designed in part to ensure full compatibility with Macs.
The price is also worth noting; at around $70 to $80 (the brown switch version is the priciest), you'll be hard pressed to find too many mechanical-switch keyboards less expensive than these.
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If you're into killer lighting, extra keys, extensive macro capabilities and so on, this keyboard is not for you. It's the opposite; I would describe the Nixeus Moda v2 as austere, in fact. There isn't even a bowl design of any kind. Instead, the switches are mounted on a flat backplate, with "floating" keys. It's a plastic top, but the sparkled gray finish looks high-end, and it resists fingerprints exceptionally well.
There are exactly three LEDs on the Nixeus Moda v2. Two of them indicate when the Caps Lock and Scroll Lock are engaged, and the other sits underneath the Windows key. When the key is locked (Fn+Win), the LED is engaged. This is the only key that is not opaque (in other words, it's backlit), but as you can see from the images, the LED is positioned at the top of the switch, and it creates kind of an odd, uneven glow on the keyboard.
So compact is the Nixeus Moda v2 that there's almost no bezel at all, so no part of your hand touches any part of this keyboard except for your fingertips. If you're used to a larger keyboard, this may feel funny at first, but I got used to it quickly.
Nixeus added media controls to the F keys when you press Fn—from L to R, those include rewind, play/pause, fast forward, stop, mute, volume down and volume up—and there are dedicated print screen, scroll lock and pause break keys at the upper right corner. There's just one Fn key, located to the right of the spacebar; to the left is the lone Windows key. You also get insert, delete, home, end, page up, page down and arrow keys.
This is not a particularly heavy keyboard at just two pounds, but the rubber feet on the bottom—four slim rectangles—do a fine job of keeping the thing from slipping on a wooden, metal or glass surface. There are two feet under the keyboard that flip out to give you a steeper typing angle, and Nixeus wisely covered them in rubber for a non-slip grip.
Where many keyboards these days have a braided cable, Nixeus went with a smooth rubber sheathing for the Moda v2. Some people chafe at braided cables, complaining that they catch and snag sometimes, so in that regard this is a welcome design. However, even this smooth rubber will catch on sharp edges at times, and when it does, you can get ugly scrapes and gashes in the rubber; it's not a particularly tough sheath (we presume the softer rubber is better for flexibility as opposed to a stiffer material).
There is one small design detail that’s easy to overlook, but Nixeus smartly created a trough for the cable such that you can route it from the upper center of the keyboard to the upper right or left. This gives you some flexibility in where the cable will be on your desktop. It’s a nice touch -- 10 points for Nixeus.
There are no additional ports on the Moda v2 beyond the single USB plug.
The Moda v2 comes with Kailh Red, Blue or Brown switches. We had all three versions on hand and spent time with them all. In terms of performance, they all performed as you would expect any red, blue or brown switches would. The reds are linear and fluid-feeling, the blues are clicky and loud, and the browns are an average of the two, with a bit of tactility without the noise of the blue switches.
Blindfolded, I couldn't tell you whether these were Cherry or Kailh switches. However, I did notice a couple of slight oddities. The brown switches felt slightly stiff, although I either got used to it quickly or they loosened up with use, because I didn't have the same sensation after a day's worth of typing.
I did feel as though something was a little off with the blue switches. After many hours of use, I felt a tiny bit of extra resistance and noise—what I can only describe as shearing, as if the switches were grinding in their mounts. Further, the spacebar seems to squeak.
These are all minute issues, so much so that I don't think the audio recording of the switches will evince what I'm describing, but after extended use, it's something that started to bug me somewhat.
The key caps are made of ABS plastic, and the lettering is laser-etched with color injection. However, I observed that the opacity of the lettering was inconsistent in spots. (Read on for more on this issue in the Teardown section below.)
Before I even started the teardown process, I noticed some quality and design issues.
First, some of the keys sit slightly higher or lower than their neighbors. It's a bit tough to tell without closely examining the keyboard in your own hands, but you can see at least one of the offending keys in the provided image. (Yes, I attempted to push them down firmly to see if they would settle. No, it did not work.)
The printing on the key caps is inconsistent. If you look closely, you'll notice that the printing on some keys looks like it needs a second coat, but more importantly, some keys have lighter printing than others. Note the side-by-side comparison of the W, S and Z keys from the blue and brown switch variants. The S keys are more faded than the Z keys on both, and the W keys fall somewhere in between. (The S key on the red switch version was darker, but I left it out of the photo so the difference between the S and Z keys of the other two versions is easier to see.)
A Nixeus representative told me that this is likely an issue with the laser etching factory setting being too low. Although that's a disconcerting answer, he also told me that the keycap printing is covered under Nixeus' three-year warranty, so if your model has a similar key cap issue, the company will replace the offending caps.
Further, on most of the keys, you can still see the nib from where they were popped out of a sheet. You likely won't notice this issue—the nibs are all on the back, facing away from you—but even so, it's just sloppy. A Nixeus rep posited that these keys were probably from the end of the sheet, and this is the remnant of an injection connection, but there are still two issues: First, it's unfortunate that any shipping product would have keys with those vestigial bits of plastic. Second, the nibs are present on almost all of the keys on all the Moda v2 keyboards we tested, so I don't believe that theory is valid.
The Nixeus Moda v2's simplicity extends to the chassis. There are 10 screws holding the top plate onto the bottom plate, and they're all partially hidden under key caps.
Some of the screws were slightly stripped, although I was able to remove them all (on all three keyboards) with a little elbow grease. All the screws are silver, but on the brown switch version, two of them were black, for no apparent reason. A Nixeus rep downplayed this, noting that its partner factory was pumping out lots of peripherals for multiple companies when these particular keyboards were made, and they probably simply ran out of one color and just used another; but in the same breath, he told me that the manufacturer has assured them it wouldn't happen again. (This tells me that either Nixeus brought up my query to the manufacturer, or it's an issue that the company already noticed and complained about.)
The switch on the spacebar is mounted 180 degrees from all the rest of the switches, which I found strange, but Nixeus did this on purpose. A rep told me that if Nixeus decides to create a fully backlit version of the Moda v2 at some point, this allows sufficient spacing to do so (based on the location of the microcontroller on the PCB.)
I noticed on the blue switch model that the color on the spacebar switch is actually a different shade of blue than all the other switches, which tells me that this one switch was part of a different batch. (Unless Kailh purposely changed the coloring in its blue switches, that also indicates a lack of manufacturing consistency.) Nixeus essentially shrugged this one off, saying that the color of the switches is immaterial, as long as they perform within the tolerances of the specification.
On that note, Nixeus does have its own validation process in place for the batches of switches it gets from Kailh, which includes endurance and durability testing.
Also note the enormous gap in the backplate running under the spacebar. It's wide open, inviting all manner of dirt and dust inside the chassis. There are smaller, but still problematic, gaps next to several of the smaller switches, as you can see in the image. You can fairly easily disassemble the Moda v2 and blast some compressed air through there to clean it out, but even so, this sort of design is not ideal for cleanliness.
One choice feature of these keyboards, though, is the fact that Nixeus opted for Cherry MX-compatible stabilizers. Nixeus worked with its manufacturing partner to get these "MX-compatible" stabilizers; they're not made by Cherry, but they are compatible with Cherry (and other) aftermarket key caps. These replace the Costar stabilizers that Nixeus formerly used that were unfriendly to customization.
These MX-style stabilizers also make for easy key cap removal and replacement, and they're not nearly as prone to breakage as Costar-style stabs, with their metal bars and fragile plastic parts.
The PCB itself is almost pretty, with a striking electric-blue finish, and it looks clean, with welds that are precise and tidy.
Overall, the Nixeus Moda v2 is such a stripped-down keyboard. It boils down to a nice-looking PCB with switches mounted onto it, sandwiched between two pieces of plastic. It's almost like Nixeus' design philosophy was to offer something as close to a stock Kailh experience (is there such a thing?) as possible, like Nixeus wants its keyboard to get out of the switches' way. That's actually a rather refreshing concept.
Tests And Performance
By default, the Nixeus Moda v2 offers 6-key rollover, but you can engage Nkey rollover using Fn+F9. The F9 key is labelled with "NK" for your convenience, although there is no LED informing you that the Nkey mode is enabled or not. Without something like the AquaKey test to check, it's difficult to know if the keyboard is set to 6-key or Nkey.
Further, do not attempt to alternate between the two settings in the heat of a battle. It takes several seconds to engage and disengage the Nkey mode, and during that time, the keyboard does not respond to input.
We checked all three Nixeus Moda v2 keyboards, and all successfully engaged every key when Nkey rollover was engaged.
It may seem strange to offer a way to turn NKRO on or off, but Nixeus built this function with both Apple users and legacy hardware in mind. A rep told me that the Macs do not support NKRO, at least on this keyboard, so offering 6KRO as a baseline was important. Further, on legacy PC hardware that may not fully support NKRO, the 6KRO default setting ensures that the keyboard will work properly.
You can hear the differences between the blue, brown and red switches in the video. What you're hearing should be mostly "standard" blue, brown and red sounds. The switches "float" on top of the back plate as opposed to being nestled into a bowl design, so there's very little to abate the switch noise.
I believe it's subtle enough that the mic couldn't pick it up, but on the blue switches (as I mentioned earlier in this review), I detected a slight grating noise. This is something I have not noticed on other blue switches, including other Kailh blues.
The Nixeus Moda v2 is a compact, simple keyboard that gives you mechanical switch performance at a relatively low price. If you're into a more austere look, don't care about fancy lighting nor the ability to create macros or program keys, and prefer a tenkeyless keyboard, the Moda v2 was designed with you in mind. It was also designed for Mac users, with spare Mac key caps in the box, key rollover options that OS X supports, and some secretive, proprietary tech under the hood.
However, what are we to make of those chassis and key cap build quality issues? Nixeus explained away some of the oddities I noticed, and in fact some of them (like the flipped spacebar switch) were done to solve a specific problem.
For the other issues, on one hand the occasional inconsistencies and design oversights throw up little red flags for me. On the other hand, I could not detect any problems while using any of the three Nixeus Moda v2 keyboards. In fact, I found the compact design and switch implementation attractive, user-friendly, and comfortable. I liked these keyboards, and I was not looking forward to setting them aside to start testing others.
Therefore, in response to the aforementioned issues, I would suggest just a twinge of caution.
It's like if the food at your favorite restaurant is superb and inexpensive, but the tables and floors are always dirty. You can choose to ignore the latter because you love the former, but you're taking a slight risk. When it comes to the Nixeus Moda v2 keyboards, enjoy the meal—it really is tasty—but don't say I didn't warn you. For myself, at such a low price ($70 to $80), I'd be inclined to take the risk, especially with the security of knowing that Nixeus offers a three-year warranty, just in case.