NovelKeys NK87 Olive Edition: Beautiful, Flawed.
* We are excited to welcome guest blogger and YouTube creator Michael Gutierrez (TheManicGeek) to Hardware Meta! ~Ed.
Have you ever seen a keyboard with switches that match the case and intended keycaps? If not, NovelKeys partnered with the designer of GMK Olive to create the Olive Edition of their in-stock NK87 TKL custom keyboard. The kit, which included Nolive switches, originally retailed for $300 plus shipping, but you can buy other colors for $225 plus shipping, and the Nolive switches for $23.40 per 36 pack.
Accessories include a hard shell storage case, an un-braided coiled cable, a switch puller, and a metal cap puller. Since they don’t supply them, to open the keyboard you’ll need your own T6 Torx bit, and a #1 Phillips bit.
Board design is minimal and wedge-like, using a tray-mount plate and a steep typing angle. This will result in a stiff, but even-sounding, typing experience. The remarkably broad feet along the bottom, combined with a hefty weight from its rugged aluminum construction, means the board stays planted in use. NovelKeys also did a great job on the finish, with no obvious unevenness or marring. The USB-C port is on the top right side of the case, and the board has an extra F13 key.
THOCK ABSORBERS AND MUFFLE MATS
In order to address undesired sounds, NovelKeys provides you with silicone “Muffle Mats” to give the board a deep, “thocky” sound. Further dampening resonance is provided by Thock Absorbers, thin silicone strips set in the top of the case. You are able to remove these, though doing so may negatively impact the way the board sounds.
Unfortunately, this board had two glaring issues. Firstly, the aluminum plate tolerances are extremely tight, resulting in excessively tight fitment of switches and stabilizer housings. Second, the PCB-mount stabilizers were poorly lubed, and occasionally got stuck to the PCB. On top of that, the stems have a raised “NK_” logo on the back face that sometimes catches on the stabilizer housing. As a result, I highly recommend replacing the stabilizers with something like a Durock V2 or TX Clip-In stabilizer to avoid issues with typing.
The included Nolive linear switches are color-matched to GMK Olive, have a gold-plated 63.5g spring, and a full POM construction. Since they’re dry, you will need to remove them from the board and lube them for best results. To that end, our recommended lube is Krytox 205g0 for the switch stem, and GPL-105 for the spring.
COMPLETED BOARD/FINAL THOUGHTS
As you can see, we didn’t have GMK Olive to complete the look, but Drop DCX White On Black still looks great! If you’re able to get past the issues with the plate and stabilizers, NK87 can be a solid keyboard. While it offers a deep sound signature, great colorways, and all the core features you’d want in an enthusiast keyboard, the prevailing issues with the plate and stabilizers make this tough to recommend over boards like the Tiger 80 by KBDFans. This is especially true if you’re new to custom keyboards.
As for the switches, Nolives are really good linears! While they are slightly heavier than a Gateron Yellow, they have a unique sound, and when properly lubed feel very smooth with each press. I’ve heard it mentioned that NK Creams are typically very scratchy and require break-in, but these Nolives seem to have improved over that experience.
If you want to hear what the finished keyboard sounds like and get more details on the board, check out the YouTube link below, and thank you for reading!