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My thoughts on the HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S Keyboard (2023)

My thoughts on the HHKB Pro Hybrid Type-S: design, typing experience, connectivity and value.

Sid Metcalfe


November 22, 2023


I recently acquired my first HHKB Keyboard: the HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S. It has quite a better typing experience then my previous keyboards (and a great minimalist design). Below are some of my thoughts / first impressions of it.



Click on photos to enlarge them:

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The Evolution of the HHKB Keyboard

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My first impression when unboxing the Type-S was its familiar compact design. It retained the charm of its predecessors with the seamless Topre capacitive switches offering that unique tactile feedback that I’ve come to appreciate. As a programmer who spends countless hours coding, having a keyboard that responds well to every stroke while minimizing fatigue is non-negotiable. The HHKB delivers on that front, making long sessions of typing feel more like a rhythm than labor.

The Bluetooth functionality is a notable upgrade. It allows seamless switching between up to four devices, which is crucial for my work setup. As someone who juggles between a desktop, laptop, and sometimes a tablet, this multi-device compatibility became a fast favorite feature. However, I did notice some initial fiddling when pairing devices, which improved with familiarity over time.

One thing I’ve had to adapt to is the HHKB layout. The absence of dedicated arrow keys and a non-standard backtick key placement takes a while to get used to. It’s this minimalistic design philosophy that defines the HHKB, though, minimizing finger movement and aiming to prevent RSI. Once muscle memory kicked in, reaching for keys felt intuitive, although the transition can be jarring when switching back to conventional keyboards.

The lack of a USB-C charging feature at this price point is a drawback that’s hard to overlook. For a keyboard that costs as much as the HHKB does, expecting it to sport modern charging capabilities isn’t unreasonable. This is especially so when considering the alternatives in the market that offer similar features at a lower cost. Yet, the choice to use AAA batteries does have a silver lining; it removes concerns over built-in battery degradation and e-waste, contributing to its enduring build quality.

As an advocate for open source and community-driven projects, I would love to see greater flexibility for firmware customization to tailor the HHKB even further to individual user needs. While PFU provides a key mapping tool, the keyboard community thrives on personalization, and expanding on customization options would acutely align with HHKB’s target audience of programmers and heavy keyboard users.

With these points in mind, the HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S is an iteration that, despite its faults, continues to push the boundary on what a professional keyboard can be. For a more in-depth look at another product making waves in the tech community, check out my thoughts on the Lenovo Legion Go gaming experience. It stays true to its roots while adopting modern features that maintain its status as a niche product with a passionate following. Users who spend a majority of their time at a keyboard and value the aspects of minimalist design and enhanced typing experience will find the HHKB a worthy candidate—even with its premium price tag.

Keys to Comfort An in-depth analysis of typing experience

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As a software engineer, the majority of my day is spent hammering away at a keyboard. When it comes to choosing the right tool for the job, the HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S has been a significant upgrade from my previous keyboards. It took me a while to adjust to the Topre switch mechanism. Unlike the Cherry MX switches I was used to, Topre switches offer a smoother keystroke with a tactile bump near the top of the press, providing a satisfying feedback without the clicky noise.

One of the standout features for me is the keyboard layout. The positioning of the Control key where the Caps Lock is typically found is a welcome alteration, especially when using command-line interfaces or Emacs. However, the lack of dedicated arrow keys, which are essential for coding and text editing, is off-putting. Relying on the Function key to access arrow functions is something I’m still trying to get the hang of. The compact layout also impacts the location of other keys, like the backtick, requiring additional muscle memory to master.

In terms of build quality, the plastic construction felt underwhelming initially, especially considering the keyboard’s price point. Yet, after extended use, I appreciate its lightweight design for portability. Moving between different workspaces is effortless, which is enhanced by its Bluetooth connectivity that allows me to switch seamlessly between my laptop and desktop—no need to fiddle with cables. However, I did notice some Bluetooth stability issues, though infrequent, which interrupted my workflow momentarily.

It’s worth mentioning that the use of AA batteries instead of a built-in rechargeable battery comes with pros and cons. On the one hand, the ability to swap out batteries means there’s no risk of being tethered to a charging cable during a long coding session. On the other hand, it’s a bit disappointing not to have the modern convenience of USB-C charging for such a premium product.

Despite these shortcomings, typing on the HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S is a joy. Each keypress feels deliberate with just the right amount of resistance. The silenced Topre switches, a feature specific to the Type-S model, make for a much quieter typing experience—something my coworkers appreciate during collaborative coding sessions or while on calls.

Moreover, the HHKB layout encourages better typing ergonomics. The central placement of most-used keys reduces finger travel, and I have noticed less fatigue in my hands after typing for extended periods. A lesser-known but notable feature for those who appreciate customization is the programmable keys using the PFU Keymap Tool1(, allowing you to personalize key functions to suit your workflow.

In conclusion, the HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S is a solid, albeit pricey, investment for those who type for a living. Its excellent build quality, ergonomic advantages, and the sheer pleasure of typing on Topre switches make it a keyboard that’s difficult to let go of once you’ve grown accustomed to it. Like many other niche products in the mechanical keyboard community, it garners the attention and respect it deserves, understanding that no product is without its flaws.

Connectivity and Portability Taking work on the go

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When I first considered the HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S, it wasn’t just the smooth Topre keys that drew me in; the thought of seamless connectivity and enhanced portability for my work-on-the-go lifestyle was equally alluring.

Working remotely from various locations, I often transition from one workspace to another. The Bluetooth feature on this keyboard is a game-changer for me. Being able to pair with up to four devices is incredibly convenient, especially when I need to switch between my work laptop and personal computer. Initially, I was skeptical about input lag, which is often associated with wireless peripherals. To my delight, the HHKB maintained a stable connection with negligible latency—unless, of course, I ran into the occasional interference, which is more of a universal Bluetooth hiccup than an HHKB issue.

The USB-C port adds to its flexibility, allowing me to go wired when I prefer that solid, non-dependent-on-battery feeling, or when I want to ensure there’s no risk of wireless disruptions during critical tasks. Yet, I’d be remiss not to mention a curious discovery: despite the presence of a USB-C connection, if AA batteries are installed, they drain regardless. It seems like an oversight for a keyboard nuanced in nearly every other way.

Another boon is that the keyboard’s batteries are user-replaceable, meaning no built-in obsolescence from a non-rechargeable internal battery. I use Eneloops, and they last about a month with my heavy use—a point that underlines its readiness for an on-the-move lifestyle. The issue of not having an integrated rechargeable battery—in the realm of premium peripherals—might be seen as a shortfall to some. Admittedly, a keyboard approaching a $400 price point could arguably include that feature.

Still, size and build play massive roles in portability. HHKB scores high here. Its compact design slips neatly into my backpack, though I’d point out that the weight, while light, might feel slightly more than expected due to the batteries. It’s a trade-off worth accepting for the benefits gained in wireless freedom.

There’s an undeniable elegance in having a clutter-free setup. No wires exude an organized aesthetic and give me the flexibility to work from any corner of my space without worrying about port proximity. However, it’s not all perfect—the lack of traditional arrow keys takes some adjustment, and when you’re attuned to the HHKB layout, transitioning back to standard keyboards can feel like a step back in time.

Overall, embracing the HHKB Hybrid Type-S has proven to be a positive move. Sure, it comes with nuances that might deter the less patient folks, and there are moments when its quirks present a bit of a learning curve. Yet, the portability and connectivity marry well with its iconic typing experience, offering a sense of efficiency and satisfaction to those appreciative of its thoughtful design. The HHKB doesn’t try to be a keyboard for everyone, but for this chronic multi-tasker and frequent traveler, it has become my constant companion, one whose value extends beyond its price tag.

Pricing and Value Is it worth the investment

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If you’re in the market for a premium keyboard and stumble upon the HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S, the price tag might initially induce a bit of sticker shock. Yes, $400 for a keyboard is not chump change - at least, not for the majority of us. But is it worth it? I’ll dive into the nitty-gritty and share my thoughts after putting the HHKB to the test.

First off, the build quality is exceptional. The all-plastic construction might not sound impressive on paper, but once you get your hands on it, the craftsmanship speaks for itself. It’s sturdy and well-made, oozing quality the way we expect Japanese products to do. You can feel the care that went into designing each aspect, from the satisfying Topre switches to the compact, sleek form factor.

Speaking of Topre, let’s address the elephant in the room - the typing experience. It’s buttery smooth with a tactile response that’s second to none; it’s like the keyboard actually wants you to type faster. And despite lacking dedicated arrow keys - something that’s initially a hurdle for many, including myself - the keyboard’s layout encourages efficiency once you get used to it. This unique layout, which has also dropped the function keys, might not be everyone’s cup of tea, though, so it’s something to consider before investing.

The Hybrid Type-S’s Bluetooth functionality is a huge plus. It switches effortlessly between up to four devices, and the stable connection is everything a power user could ask for. However, there’s a downside - the keyboard doesn’t smartly switch power sources, which means if you’re hooked up using the USB-C, your installed batteries might still be in use without you realizing it. This seems like an oversight in an otherwise nearly flawless product.

Another potential snag, depending on your setup, is the lack of an integrated USB hub, which was present on some of the previous models. If you frequently find yourself short on USB ports, this could be a significant consideration.

But where this keyboard truly shines is the longevity and sustained peak performance. Unlike other Bluetooth keyboards that come with built-in batteries, the Hybrid Type-S uses AA batteries - a decision by PFU that I highly commend. This way, you’re not tied down to a deteriorating internal battery and can keep the keyboard in service for years to come - just swap out batteries as necessary. This level of sustainability is a big win in my book and partly justifies the upfront cost.

To boot, HHKB offers a level of customization for those who like to tinker. With firmware that’s modifiable, users can tweak and tailor their experience to fit personal preferences - a gem for the programmer community that loves to optimize every action.

In conclusion, while the HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S isn’t a perfect fit for everyone, its target audience - the programmers, writers, and keyboard enthusiasts - will undoubtedly find it to be a worthwhile investment. Sure, it’s a luxury in many ways, but it’s one that delivers a return in comfort, efficiency, and pleasure that’s hard to quantify. It’s less a purchase and more an investment in a tool that could heighten your productivity and enjoyment day after day. If you fit the niche it’s carved out for, and you’re looking for top-tier performance with a touch of exclusivity - it’s tough to beat the HHKB.