A couple months ago, the folks at VicTsing reached out and offered to provide their keyboard and mouse for a review. I’m a sucker for input devices so I took them up on it.
Through their contact, Haven, I tried to learn more about the company’s origins and story. Haven was friendly but ultimately couldn’t share much with me. Who started this company? What are their goals?
The answers are a mystery.
Which is a shame. In a sea of commodity junk, VicTsing’s products stood out to me as both thoughtful and well-built. I’d love to understand their philosophy better. What I can tell you is what you can read yourself on their about page: they were founded in 2012 and they sell everything from computer and car accessories to humidifiers.
Checking out these two products can tell us a lot about how electronics commerce works in 2019. Faced with competition from better-known brands and contending with ever-dropping prices, the savvy move for new players is to differentiate through features. What we see here are a keyboard and mouse that do the basics well, but add a little something extra.
I cut my teeth as a spreadsheet jockey, so I grew attached to having a numeric keypad. The problem is, extended keyboards with keypads are huge, and these days I don’t need a numeric keypad that often. As a result I’ve trimmed down to the ten-keyless or “TKL” style in recent years. The typical TKL shaves off the numeric keypad, but keeps the clusters of arrow keys and Insert/Home/Page Up, etc.
Most of the time this is fine. But occasionally, I still miss the numeric keypad.
And I thought I just had to live with it.
But VicTsing came up with a clever alternative1. Using a key to switch modes, it overlaps the numeric keypad with the button clusters you typically find on the right of a TKL. You can have both.
QMK enthusiasts will recognize this trick at once: it’s using layers to shift part of the keymap. But thoughtful design also makes these feature easy to understand: when the numeric keypad is disabled, the light pattern changes to create the silhouette of a typical right-hand cluster.
Indeed, the RGB color effects suggest QMK may be driving this under the hood. This would be smart—it lowers the cost of building interesting features like this variable-mode keypad.
More thoughtful touches: the keyboard comes with a blank key you can use to replace the “Win” key if you’re a Mac user, which I appreciated, and it’s stored on the case, which was nice. Alongside it was storage for an included keycap plucker, which is great for those who want to rearrange their keys.
Other than that, it’s an RGB mechanical keyboard. They’re blue switches, so the keyboard is loud and clicky. I think I prefer my Kaihua whites, but they’re perfectly fine switches.
My only gripe is with the shine-through, which has some weird stencil cutout effects. It’s a strictly aesthetic issue, but it makes this otherwise excellent keyboard feel a little cheap.
Still, it’s a pretty great buy, currently retailing at $43 on Amazon. Or, $40 if you don’t want the white frame. I actually liked the keyboard a lot better when I took the frame off, so save a few bucks if you want.
In the realm of budget mechanical keyboards, this one has some nice touches that separate it from the pack. Nice way to try out the mechanical life if you’re tired of rubber cup keyboard junk, too.
Meanwhile, I just love the Pioneer mouse. It’s the best rechargeable mouse you can buy for $30, simple as that. You charge it with a USB micro cable, so no batteries to manage. It has scroll wheels for vertical and horizontal, along with some nice side buttons for forward/back in your web browser.
But the best part is: you can use it with three computers at once.
It includes a dongle for a wireless USB connection, but can also pair with up to two more devices via Bluetooth. This is very handy if you have, say, a Mac and a gaming PC, like I do.
But even if you don’t, the fact that you have the option of using a dongle but still have a perfectly useful mouse even if you (inevitably) lose that dongle is a fantastic touch.
The only issue I have with this mouse is its plastic pads, which feel a little rough against my work surface. Compared to my Logitech mice, which glide smoothly, the Pioneer feels like it’s gently scraping.
Still, it’s not a dealbreaker.
Mac users will want to use something like SensibleSideButtons to enable the back and forth buttons.
It’s a pretty good buy at $30. For similar prices, you can get a Logitech G602, which has adjustable DPI settings like the Pioneer, but requires AA batteries. Or you can get the Logitech Triathlon, which allows similar multi-device connectivity, but lacks DPI control and also requires AA’s.
The Pioneer gives you adjustable DPI, multiple devices and a rechargeable battery in one package at a competitive price. It is a right-handed mouse, though as a lefty I don’t find that a dealbreaker. As a hedge against RSI, I try to switch mousing hands every couple years2.
They’re good input devices, Bront
Despite so many competing options in both categories, I think both of these entries are pretty solid. VicTsing clearly has some product vision to help it stand out from the crowd. It’s worth checking these out if you need a keyboard or mouse soon.