Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way right away: I just wrote about how I ended up with the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID after a few years of fooling around with mechanical keyboards. This first impressions piece about the new Nuphy Halo96 96%/1800 keyboard may as well look like some marketing tomfoolery.
To be clear, it’s not. I pre-ordered the Nuphy Halo96 a few months ago and have eagerly awaited its arrival. I had to use a keyboard in the meantime and the Magic Keyboard quickly became a comfortable and efficient tool at the office.
I truly expect the Magic Keyboard to be my long-term keyboard at the office.
But at home, it’s a different story. At home, I have my little home office/photography studio, which was in dire need of a photogenic keyboard that receives some “oohs” and “ahhs”.
That’s why the Halo96 sits on my desk right now.
This is a very, very quick first impressions review — there aren’t many folks out there with a Halo96 right now and I want to provide some insight on whether you should take a serious look.
In short, you should.
This is a great pre-built keyboard, complete with a 96% layout, fabulous out-of-the-box switches, and a stunning aesthetic design. This keyboard screams taste, which is exactly what I was hoping for.
Here are some first impressions of the brand new Nuphy Halo96 mechanical keyboard.
This keyboard is heavy. I imagine $400+ MODE keyboards with brass or copper plates are heavier, but for a pre-built, all-plastic build, the Nuphy Halo96 is built like a tank.
That weight helps provide a sense of surety and confidence in the board when typing — this board won’t move under your fingertips and ensures you can hammer away on a lengthy blog post without worrying about misplacement.
The keyboard is made of plastic, mind you. It’s not the most durable keyboard you’ll ever find, but again, for a pre-built, this is fantastic.
We’ve all come to know Nuphy for pumping out some of the best looking mechanical keyboards on the market. The Halo65 and Halo75 keyboard designs are echoed here, with an exterior ribbed design and halo lighting that really beckons for your attention. Depending on the colourway you prefer — I, of course, opted for the white model despite the inevitable mucked up keys — this keyboard will catch attention faster than any other desk accessory you own.
These white keycaps have a large, legible legend, firmly visible in all light (other than no light at all; for that, you’ll need the shine-through keycaps), and unique to Nuphy keyboards in general. I love the contrast between the white keycaps and the all-black legends.
While the keyboard ships with alternate keycaps, out of the box the Nuphy Halo96 has pastel-coloured Enter, Return, Escape, and space bar keycaps. These keycaps are stunning. They are beautiful and eye-catching and I have no idea why anyone would ever want to use the alternative options.
The yellow space bar is known as Nuphy’s new “Ghost Bar”. In short, there is some extra dampening built into the space bar itself and some extra dampening appears to be glued to the board’s chassis. The result is a dampened and wonderful space bar experience. Unfortunately, only the yellow space bar comes with these extra features — the included and extra white space bar is a regular ol’ space bar with no dampening additions.
Finally, I highly recommend getting the Nuphy wrist-rest for the Halo96. This wrist-rest is unlike any other on the market — the translucent epoxy design imbues minimalism and taste on your desk.
The key reason I like the wrist-rest: I am a huge hater for wearing watches while I type on the built-in MacBook Pro keyboard. The watch band hits up against the aluminum body, causing scratches and friction. It’s for this reason I most often opt for an external keyboard of some sort. The Nuphy wrist-rest is sized just right for my hands so as not to have my Apple Watch band scratching it all the time. I’m unsure if Nuphy considered this when they designed the wrist-rest or if it’s a happy by-product. Nonetheless, I’m happy with the design.
This keyboard and wrist-rest combination is indeed the most beautiful mechanical keyboard you’ll find on the market today.
Feel and Typing Experience
I ordered my Halo96 with tactile Baby Kangaroo switches. These switches are fantastic, with a great sound, reasonable feel, and a nice little bump on each downstroke. I’m not enough of a keyboard aficionado to describe how the keys feel, but I would have no reservations saying the Baby Kangaroos felt a lot like my favourite Kailh Box Browns. Maybe a little bit higher pitch on the clickiness side, but that’s it.
But the purpose of this particular keyboard purchase was as much about the design as it was about the hot swappable features of the Halo96. The very first night after the Halo96 arrived, I ripped out the Baby Kangaroos and put in the Gazzew Boba U4 Silent tactile switches — switches I’ve had in my ZSA Planck EZ for awhile, but not inside a full-sized mechanical like this.
I’m quite happy so far. The 62G Boba U4 Silent tactile switches have a wonderful feel, albeit different than my experience with the Planck EZ. The switches were easy to install and the included Nuphy keycaps seem to fit nicely on top the Boba Silent stems.
I’m equally impressed with the typing experience in general. It’s such a treat to have a full-sized, fully-capable keyboard in this form factor. I quite like not having to reach so far to the right to reach the mouse or Magic Trackpad.
This said, if you’re a numbers person at all, 96% keyboards do introduce some needed muscle memory changes — I constantly hit the right arrow when I’m thinking I’m hitting the “0” key. I work in Excel quite a lot each day, so you can imagine how frustrated I get when I think I’m typing “1,000,000” and instead get “1, , “. I’m hoping it’s just a retraining of muscle memory.
This is the only hiccup I’ve run into, though. I don’t find the right Shift key to be too small, nor do I find it an issue to find the arrow keys by feel. I do run into the occasional issue with the left Command key (the three keys to the left of the space bar are all slightly smaller than their counterparts on the Magic Keyboard), but none of this can’t be overcome.
More on that “Ghost Bar”: by and large, Nuphy put in some extra dampening features in the space bar and along the space bar switch area to dampen the space bar keystroke and provide a more pleasing sound. Nuphy greatly succeeded here — this is the best space bar on any keyboard I’ve ever tried. So much so that I didn’t bother to remove the provided switch when ripping out all the Baby Kangaroos for the Boba silents. I instead opted to leave the space bar switch in place and deal with the different feel from the other keys. So far, no complaints whatsoever.
I’m quite happy with the feel of this Nuphy Halo96 at this point. The key caps are excellent, the ability to hot swap to your favourite switches is now table stakes in the mechanical keyboard world, and a full-size keyboard in this type of footprint is invaluable.
There’s a chance this keyboard follows me back to the office and the Magic Keyboard ends up being my home keyboard instead.
Other Miscellaneous Thoughts
The Nuphy Halo96 has a ton of capability under the hood, most of which doesn’t really come up in my day to day use.
- The Halo96 has a nice set of backlighting features, especially the halo light around the edge of the keyboard. This halo light is very unique to Nuphy keyboards and ensures they stand out of the crowd. I’m not much of a backlighting user, as I work in well lit environments all day, every day. I also think the lights on the Planck EZ are a bit brighter. The Halo96 has lighting capabilities for those who need it, but I suspect there are better lighting options out there if that’s your thing.
- The Halo96 ships with multiple connection methods, including Bluetooth, wired, and USB receiver. The USB receiver is stored right inside the keyboard and actually protrudes slightly from the edge of the keyboard chassis. I’m not a fan of this. First, the USB receiver is USB-A, ensuring I need an adapter to use it. Second, the receiver literally protrudes from the side of the keyboard body, eliminating any perfect flush design you’d otherwise hope for. I think this little dongle can ship alongside the keyboard rather than inside the keyboard.
- You’ll likely need to buy the wrist-rest if you want to get the most out of the Halo96. This is a thick and heavy keyboard and I can’t imagine writing this review without the translucent wrist-rest. It’s only $20 or so and should accompany any keyboard sitting in your Nuphy shopping cart.
- The Ghost Bar is truly fabulous. Aside from the multi-coloured keys, my colleagues immediately noticed the feel of the space bar. The dampened feel and sound is wonderful to the thumbs and ears and is likely to be copied by other keyboard manufacturers over the next few months and years.
I don’t ever want to be known as the guy who rushes reviews to the web for the sake of getting clicks — to me, it’s far more valuable to write that long-term review that provides true insight.
I hope I’m not coming off as though I have a long-term insight on my two days with this Nuphy Halo96. I’ve only had it for a couple days and I’m truly still getting a feel for it.
My first impressions are pretty great, though. The weight of the keyboard provides true typing confidence, as does the full-sized capabilities in an otherwise small footprint.
The Nuphy Ghost Bar is sublime — this might be my favourite feature of the entire keyboard, to be honest.
Like every other Nuphy keyboard, the Halo96 has the best design taste in the business, ensuring your colleagues will always look fondly over at your desk as you clack away.
The Baby Kangaroo switches felt great in my limited time with them. I do prefer the heavier Boba U4 Silent switches, mind you, especially in the context of working in a firm around other folks. The more silent, the more better.
Finally, all the fun mechanical keyboard features are here, like hot swap-ability, multiple connection methods, dampened internals to provide a better typing experience, backlighting that should meet the needs of most average backlight users, and a Mac and Windows interoperability that ensures everyone can use the Halo96 on any desk they please.
I may report back in the future with a longer term review. But where I thought this would be only my home keyboard, used almost exclusively for shooting photos, I do find myself thinking this is going to go back to the office with me on Monday morning.