Keyboard, Review

MWStudio MW65 Lite Review: The Best Sub-RM300 Custom Keyboard?

2022 is shaping up to be the year of (fantastic) budget custom keyboards, and one such keyboard that fits that description is the MWStudio MW65 Lite. Sporting a very affordable price tag with features typically found on more costly options, the MW65 Lite is a compelling custom keyboard, especially for beginners…to an extent.

Although its value proposition is one of its best selling points, the MW65 Lite also has a number of shortcomings that can potentially be a dealbreaker. That being said, there’s a good chance the final production unit will address these issues – keep on reading this review of the MW65 Lite to find out more!

What It Is

For this review, we received a prototype of the MW65 Lite from MWStudio. This being a prototype unit, there are a few differences worth pointing out. While this unit features a sandblasted acrylic case, the actual retail unit will come with a polycarbonate case instead with the same finishing.

On top of that, MWStudio is also looking into changing the position of the USB-C port and redesigning the bottom case of the MW65 Lite. These are two important changes to the budget keyboard, and I’ll explain why further down this review.

Anyway, the MW65 Lite itself is a 65% custom keyboard with an isolated gasket mounting system. It also features a polycarbonate plate and hotswap PCB with quite a number of flex cuts, which lend to a soft, flexible typing feel. Oh, there’s also an option to add on a knob on the top right corner of the keyboard.

With this prototype of the MW65 Lite, the knob has to be manually soldered, and it remains to be seen if the same applies to the production unit. If you don’t fancy using the knob, you can just install a switch in the same position: a hotswap socket is already installed there.

As for pricing, the MW65 Lite is offered at only 429 Chinese yuan (about RM285) for the groupbuy. If you want to wait for the in-stock sale instead – yes, it will be sold as an in-stock product in the future – the keyboard will be priced at 480 yuan (approximately RM315) instead.

Needless to say, these are competitive price tags for the MW65 Lite, especially with its feature set in mind – let’s get to them in the next section.

The Good Stuff

One of my absolute favourite features of the MW65 Lite has to be its sound signature. Thanks to the keyboard’s isolated gasket mounting system, polycarbonate plate, and acrylic case – not to mention a PE foam between the switch and PCB – this keyboard has a clean, “poppy” sound profile.

It’s worth noting that the final production unit may offer a lower-pitched, deeper sound signature with its polycarbonate case. After all, acrylic – which is the case material used for this prototype – tends to be higher-pitched than polycarbonate, though it may not be applicable to this particular keyboard.

And then we have the typing feel of the MW65 Lite. As mentioned, the flex cuts on both the polycarbonate plate and hotswap PCB make for a soft, comfortable typing experience. If you’re tired of the stiff typing feel of most pre-built keyboards, you’ll really appreciate the amount of flex the MW65 Lite offers.

As with all custom keyboards that feature a rotary encoder, the knob support of the MW65 Lite should be highlighted as a plus point. While we’re seeing more keyboards with such a feature in the custom scene, it’s still not quite as mainstream yet.

Last but not least is the sheer value for money the MW65 Lite offers. Again, for less than RM300, you’re getting excellent value for your money. Not only does it have a pleasant sound signature (in my opinion), the MW65 Lite also has a soft, flexible typing experience, and even the addition of a knob…for not a lot of money.

In my opinion, this makes the MW65 Lite the ideal custom keyboard for those who are new to the hobby. However, not everything about this keyboard is great, especially when it comes to build quality and…well, ease of assembly, which can be a dealbreaker to a beginner.

The Bad Stuff

Remember when I said MWStudio is looking into redesigning the bottom case of the MW65 Lite? Well, that’s because it’s quite complicated to assemble it. Not only do you need to arrange the acrylic pieces in a certain order, putting the difference pieces of the bottom case together is not an easy process either.

In fact, it took me a good one hour just to get the bottom case assembled. For a custom keyboard that’s meant to appeal to beginners, the difficult assembly process is not exactly compelling. Did I mention that the bottom case also has a tendency to creak with added pressure?

Another aspect of the MW65 Lite that I don’t quite like is the exposed USB-C port. Not only is it not aesthetically pleasing, it also gives the impression of…an unfinished product. Thankfully, the production unit will move the USB-C port to the centre of the keyboard in the bottom case, which looks much, much better.

In retrospect, my two biggest qualms with the MW65 Lite – the creaky, difficult to assemble bottom case design and exposed USB-C port – will (and should) be resolved in the final retail unit of the budget keyboard. But until MWStudio revealed more information on the production unit, keep these issues in mind.

Is It Worth It?

Given its low price of entry and attractive feature set, the MWStudio MW65 Lite is a very easy custom keyboard to recommend. This is especially the case for those who are looking for a budget-friendly option with excellent value proposition.

But it will also depend on whether or not MWStudio can solve the MW65 Lite issues mentioned above. If it can, and there are no changes to the pricing of the keyboard, the MW65 Lite is a no-brainer purchase below the RM300 price point – it’s that good.

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