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May 11, 2016

Filco Majestouch Convertible 2 [FKBC108MC/JB2] Review [English]

After my Razer Blackwidow 2013 (MX Blue) has been beat to death I decided it was time to spend the money to get a quality keyboard that will last a long time. I have been searching for the perfect keyboard for awhile now and I have finally found one that meets all my wants and needs.  This keyboard happens to be The Filco Majestouch Convertible 2 (FKBC108MC/JB2) I purchased this keyboard on Amazon.co.jp for  ¥13,626 (JPY) plus shipping or roughly $124 (USD).  Because   I am not in Japan I shipped the keyboard to my friend Keisuke in Osaka and they sent it to me in the US from there. Below you will see photos of my keyboard as well as my thoughts about it and why I chose the keyboard I did. At the end of the review is links to the product pages and Amazon Store pages of both US and JP versions. This keyboard is also available with Cherry MX Black, Brown, and Red if you prefer them to Blue.
Below is a link to 3 WASD wallpapers I have modeled after Filco Majestouch 2 keyboards:
Filco Majestouch 2 WASD Wallpapers 

What I Require From A Keyboard
There are a massive number of slightly different mechanical keyboards on the market meaning you are likely to find one perfectly suited to you if you look hard enough.

My first priority is having a keyboard with a 108 key JIS layout. This is different from the normal 109 key Japanese keyboard layout as it leaves out the second windows key on the right side of the space bar allowing the space bar to be larger. I have always preferred the JIS layout to US ASCII mainly because of the extra hardware buttons for changing modes and modifying text for Japanese input make typing Japanese faster. I find the re-positioning of some of the symbols on the JIS layout more logical and love the tall enter/return key as I often hit the key above it on US ASCII boards. Even when not typing Japanese the extra buttons near the space-bar are very useful and can be mapped to functions when playing games (through 3rd party software). You could also use a JIS layout keyboard as a US keyboard and swap the key-caps if you want a US board with extra thumb buttons.

A full number pad is a must, I use this often when doing calculations or in games to bind actions to. It is also very useful to bind functions to in programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and OBS.

My third requirement is having Cherry MX Blue key-switches. ( Kanji 青軸 | Hiragana: あおじく | Romaji: aojiku )  I have tried many Cherry MX and other mechanical switches and MX Blue are by far my favorite. Blacks are to tough and not clicky, Reds and Browns have perfect resistance but are not clicky enough, Greens are clicky but to tough, Topre and Logitech switches are to mushy, IBM switches are way to tough, Kailh and Razer switches feel lower quality compared to Cherry, and rubber switches... no. Cherry MX Blue has the perfect amount of click so you know exactly when each key will be registered and the sound makes them very enjoyable to type on. The only thing I dislike about MX Blue is that they are a bit tougher than I would like but its not to bad.

I can not live with a keyboard that does not have full media keys. Being able to change/pause songs in your music player and adjust volume with hardware buttons no matter what your computer is doing is such a useful feature. It saves so much time, you do not have to switch or minimize applications and games just to change/pause a song or adjust volume.

I wanted a black keyboard with black key-caps that wont wear badly and/or has a nice white back-light.

I am sick of keyboards and other computer parts and peripherals being designed to look like something they are not. Please stop designing things to look like race cars, space ships, ガンダム, or other ridiculous things, its just cheesy.

My Thoughts After Using This Keyboard. 

First I would like to talk about the price and get it out of the way. In Japan this keyboard is priced very well and I had no problems with spending ¥13,626 JPY ($124 USD) on a keyboard of this quality. Although in the US you will be paying about $100 USD or more over what you would in Japan and at that price I don't think it is worth it unless you absolutely need a Bluetooth mechanical keyboard. If you live outside Japan I would suggest importing one instead of buying locally to save some money. (filco warranty void if used outside Japan) 

Functionally this keyboard is almost perfect, there are only two things I think could be improved. First is the time it takes to turn on when in USB mode, if you have a motherboard that posts very quickly the keyboard may not turn on in time for you to press the key to enter the BIOS setup screen. Second is the positioning of the volume buttons in relation to the "FN" key. I can not press the "FN" and volume keys at the same time with one hand which is sort of annoying. (The volume and mute keys are located on "F1-F3") ("FN "is located between "kana" and "ALT" on the right side of the keyboard in its default position on the JIS layout board)

The Bluetooth functionality of this keyboard works well with what I had around to test it with. I connected it to my iPhone 4S and iPad 3 and switching between the four saved Bluetooth devices with the hotkeys only takes a second or two. This makes it really nice if you have multiple devices at your desk you wish to interact with using the same keyboard. I did not experience any delay or interruption in the connection other than when smashing as many keys as I could as fast as possible, then typing started to lag behind. (This seemed like a limitation of iOS not the keyboard or Bluetooth connection) 

To connect the keyboard to a new device simply press ALT + CTRL + FN and then 1-4 depending on which profile you wish to use. The keyboard will now become discoverable and save this device to the profile number you selected. You may clear the profiles by pressing the erase button next to the "num" and "caps" LED indicators. 

There is a small button on the back of the keyboard to toggle between battery and USB power, when the button is pressed in the keyboard will operate on battery power. It uses two standard AA cell batteries.

There are four switches on the underside of the keyboard that allow you to change how certain keys on the keyboard act. On the JIS layout version Switch one disables the "Super" (win) and application menu keys, I have no idea why anyone would want this but it is there if you do. Switch two swaps the location of "CapsLock" and "Left CRTL" keys as seen in my photos above, this is useful to prevent accidental presses of "CapsLock". Switch three swaps the position of the "ESC" and "半角/全角" keys on the JIS layout keyboard. Switch four swaps the positions of "FN" and "Right ALT" on the JIS layout keyboard.

Unfortunately this keyboard acts as a standard US keyboard not JIS when connected to an iOS device even when changing the hardware keyboard to "English (Japan)" or "Kana" This is a limitation of iOS not the keyboard. The device you are using must have support to use a JIS layout keyboard otherwise it will act as a standard US keyboard. Below is a photo I took of the manual which explains what will happen when the keyboard is recognizes as an English keyboard. The light grey keys shows what each key will be when in English mode. The dark grey keys that are crossed out will do nothing.

Bullet Point Translation: 
※ The above is our own validation, please make an inquiry to Apple Japan for officially validated functions.
※ Kana mode is not supported because the characters are unable to be registered.
※ [half-width/full-width] [non-conversion] [conversion] [katakana/hiragana] keys as well as all special keys such as "Print Screen" "Home" "End" will not be registered.
※ The shortcuts which are available are in the table to the right. (below)
Hotkey Table Translation:
Shift + ⬆ ⬇ ⬅ ➡   =  Select a range of text
Super (Win) + A   =  Select all
Super (Win) + X   =  Cut
Super (Win) + C   =  Copy
Super (Win) + V   =  Paste
Super (Win) + Z   =  Undo

Filco boards in general are very clean and simple looking. The case is just big enough to fit what needs to be inside and is no larger than that. There is no attached wrist wrest which I see as a plus because it means you don't have one to annoy you if you don't want one (like me) and can add the one of your choice later if you feel the need. The key-caps have very sharp and high contrast printing using the "Futura" typeface with regular weighted and italicized font. The "filco" logo in the top right looks nice and classy, I would prefer no logo at all but I do not mind it since its not overstated. The only thing I dislike about this keyboard visually is the LED indicators. The LEDs are very bright (blue and red) and are not frosted/fogged so they shine out like a flashlight. This is not a huge deal for me though because they can be replaced very easily for almost free. Below is a picture of the brightness level of the default LED indicators.

Even if two keyboards use the same switches they can feel very different depending on how well the rest of the keyboard is built. This keyboard is very solid, there is no flex, vibration, or movement when typing making it easier to accurately push each key the same distance each time. The low vibration also reduces echo to the point where this keyboard is about half as loud as my Razer Blackwidow which has the same switches. Having the keyboard not shake, flex, and vibrate when you are typing is really nice for games like osu where you are tapping the keyboard very fast while having to aim with the mouse very accurately. Lots of movement can easily upset the mouse, this is not a problem with this keyboard. The key caps feel smooth but not slippery and are very light which allows you to feel the actuation of the switch better and can help with key return time. The etching on the key-caps is very thick and can be easily felt, its not unpleasant but something to note if you are particular about these things.

This is the highest quality keyboard I have ever seen/used. Even other boards that use the same design and PCB as Filco still feel inferior. The case itself is made from a thick textured hard plastic that looks and feels really durable. The switches mount onto a thick metal plate which is painted black, the switches themselves seem to be mounted more firmly than my Razer Blackwidow 2013 that has some wiggle room between the switch casing and the metal back plate. The key-caps are a smooth black plastic with a thick white laser etching that I do not expect to wear off anytime soon. The rubber feet on the bottom are large and the perfect amount of sticky, they don't move when there is slight pressure on the keyboard but slide easily if you intend to slide the keyboard. The rubber feet are also glued to the board very securely which is a nice change since all the feet on my Razer Blackwidow fell off. The only part of this keyboard I would like to see improve quality wise is the detachable mini USB, a more reliable plug like full sized USB or USB B would have been nice.

After using this keyboard for a good amount of time I decided to clean it after noticing some crumbs underneath the keys. I removed all the keycaps and the case as I normally would with any keyboard, the case is rather easy to remove, unscrew the 3 torx screws and pull the case apart near the Filco logo, then pop the 4 clips under the plastic on the side with the space bar. I then soaked the keys in a solution of isopropyl alcohol and warm water. DO NOT DO THIS! The alcohol reacted with the plastic and melted the sides into a white powdery film, the key caps also became very brittle and started breaking, I needed to order a replacement set. I have washed all my keyboards in alcohol before so I found this rather strange, if you order this keyboard please just use water to clean it. 

Product Links

108 key JIS Cherry MX Blue (FKBC108MC/JB2)
Filco JP Product page: Majestouch Convertible 2 青軸・フルサイズ・日本語かなあり
Amazon JP store page: FILCO Majestouch Convertible2 青軸(Cherry MXスイッチ) 日本語108メカニカルキーボード Bluetooth3.0&USB 無線/有線両対応 カナ刻印あり BTマルチペアリング4台対応 ブラック FKBC108MC/JB2 
104 key US ASCII Cherry MX Blue (FKBC104MC/EB2)
Filco US Product Page: Majestouch Convertible 2 Blue switch/US ASCII  
Amazon JP store page: FILCO Majestouch Convertible2 英語キーボード USB・Bluetooth (無線) 両対応【フルサイズ 104キー Cherry製キースイッチ メカニカルキーボード ASCII・US配列】 (青軸) 
Amazon US store page: Majestouch Convertible 2 Blue switch/US ASCII FKBC104MC/EB2

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