Like many laptop users, my fingers have grown accustomed to laptop keyboards. So when I make the switch to mechanical keyboards, the reluctance always comes from the extra key travel, and my joints and muscles crying out to me because of its unfamiliarity. NuPhy however, ever since the first crowdfunded keyboard of theirs that we reviewed – the NuType F1 keyboard – was well aware of this matter and used low profile mechanical switches that were 40% lower, overcoming the hurdle for the switch.
NuPhy is now making a comeback with two keyboards: the Air60 and Air75, which retains the functionality of the NuType F1 while making a major aesthetic revamp. Can these new keyboards live up to its revolutionary older sibling? Let’s dive in to find out.
A Brand New Look and Build
Compared to the NuType F1, the Air 60 and Air75 almost look like they’re keyboards from a completely different company altogether – the only way you could tell they were from NuType is if you checked the bottom of the keyboards and saw the company’s branding in the signature polished stainless steel.
However, when it comes to functionality, NuPhy has ensured that the new keyboards are in no way inferior to their predecessor. They definitely have the same DNA as the NuType F1s.
Low-profile Mechanical Switches
The most notable feature of the Air60 and Air75 is the low profile of their keyboards, which measure at a mere 16 mm at its thinnest. This size allows the keyboard to be used comfortably even without a wrist rest – which, if needing one, would have been cumbersome to bring around. It also allows it to be used on top of the laptop keyboard, which was the original idea that sparked the NuType F1.
The aforementioned issue with key travel is resolved with the use of the low-profile mechanical switches, making the Air60 and Air75 easier to get used to, just like the NuType F1. Another advantage the new keyboard switches have is their hot-swapability. With three switch options – Gateron Brown, Gateron Red and Gateron Blue – the switches can now be customized by the user according to preference.
New Hot-swappable PBT Caps and Switches
The differences between the Air60/Air 75 and NuType F1 starts from the colorful, rounded PBT keycaps in the new keyboards, which are hailed by the keyboard maker as the world’s thinnest. Their profile gives off a more retro vibe, rather than the cubic island style keys.
Coined as COAST keycaps, the two color schemes available are inspired by the ocean coast. There are both a Daylight (Light) themed and a Twilight (Dark) themed set, and I personally like the more serious Twilight caps.
Swapping out both the switches and caps is an easy process, all thanks to the included removal tool. Being removable also means that the keyboard can be easily cleaned when needed.
Composite Aluminum and Plastic Body
The distinct frameless design in the NuType F1 is now non-existent on the Air60 and Air75, and has instead been replaced by a thin anodized aluminum frame on top, combined with a translucent base.
The plastic base, according to NuPhy, solves the impact the NuType F1’s all metal casing was having on the wireless signals. Though many people would prefer the idea of the all metal casing, in terms of day-to-day use, the base actually matters very little aesthetically, and the new material solves an important functionality issue.
Like any good, modern mechanical keyboard, the Air60 and Air75 can put on a RGB light show. For the workplace however, the dynamic candescence always felt a little too frivolous for me, so I’ve always found myself reluctantly turning it off.
The sidelights of the Air60 and Air75, however, present a solution to this. The two thin strips of RGB lights, just like the keyboard backlights, offer various color modes, adding that spark to the workspace while being a little more discrete.
The lights are not merely for entertainment purposes but they can be set to display battery life, connection mode as well as caps lock on/off.
Multiple Connectivity Modes
Both the NuPhy Air60 and Air75 have three connectivity modes: wired, Bluetooth wireless and 2.4 GHz wireless, which are quite standard connectivity modes to have with keyboards nowadays. What I especially appreciate is the slide switch that toggles between wireless, wired and off modes. I have always preferred hardware switches over hotkey shortcuts. What’s more, this also makes it blatantly obvious which keyboard mode the keyboard is in .
The Bluetooth connectivity can pair to three different devices, and with the addition of the 2.4 GHz USB adaptor, it can be seamlessly used between four different devices.
Air60 vs Air75
While the new NuPhy keyboards are easy to choose because of all the improvements and innovation that has gone into them, what’s a harder choice is deciding whether to go with the Air60 or the Air75. The essential difference between the two is the extra row of function keys and extra column of navigation keys that the Air75 has and the Air60 doesn’t.. In contrast to the Air60, this makes the Air75 slightly bigger, which might seem like a minute variance, but, in reality, this significantly impacts on both the aesthetics and functionality of your choice.
For those who prefer a minimalist aesthetic, the slightly reduced footprint of the Air60 makes a significant visual impact on the desktop. The smaller keyboard stylishly takes up little space and has the greater resemblance to the original NuType F1.
However, for those who use navigation keys like Home and End, as well as function keys, the Air75 is the way to go.
Personally, after being quite torn between the two keyboards, I’ve had to settle with the Air75 for its extra keys, which are essential for my workflow. In saying that, I do wish that I could have done with the minimalist Air60.
The NuPhy Air60 and Air75 may look like a reinvention of the NuType F1 but they really aren’t. They are an iterative improvement of the original NuPhy keyboard, and they have been done exceptionally well.
After using the new keyboards for a couple of months, I wholeheartedly recommend them, especially for those who want to upgrade their typing game from laptop keyboards – these are the best keyboards to retain productivity while adapting to the tactility and accuracy of mechanical keyboards. We’re awarding the NuPhy Air60 and Air75 the IBTimes Staff Pick badge.
Checkout the Air60 and Air75 on NuPhy’s website, and use the code IBT10% to get a 10% discount.
Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.