Wednesday, May 15, 2024

First Look: CIDOO ABM066 Barebones Kit Alice-layout Review


Finally, I have my very first Alice-layout keyboard! Well it might just be the barebones kit without the full set of switches and keycaps, but it also cost much less on Lazada. I managed to get it on sale (as always) for under S$40! The last I checked it is still cheap and going for about S$65-120 currently. So if you are interested, you can find it here on Lazada. Alternatively you could also check out Shopee where the average pricing is around S$72-89+. Of course with sales, and the use of vouchers and coins you might be able to get it for slightly lesser at either shopping platforms.


With some left over Akko Jelly Blues (tactile), Orange (tactile), and Pinks (linear), I decided to go for mixed tactile and linear experience. I also happened to have a cute cat themed keycaps set that I thought would go well with it.



Delivery was not so fast, taking about a 7 days to arrive. Confirmation of the order took about 2 days and once confirmed it was on its way. One thing to note if you are buying from Lazada Choice is that is can be a sort of gamble, sometimes the order gets cancelled and you lose out on the best price at the time you ordered. Other times the seller takes almost forver to pack and send out the item. There’s also no way to contact the seller except through the Lazada help chat support (not the chat bot). The good thing is when the order goes through, the joys of receiving your items which you got at a deal is oh so sweet. 😁


Given the price point, I guess I cannot complain that it arrived in its box and nothing else. There was no protection, but thankfully it arrived intact (the box was a little beaten but it survived). It came with a manual guide, cable and keycap / switch puller. 



Adding the ‘Flesh’ to the BareBones Kit Experience

As mentioned earlier, the concept of affixing the switches into the board was quite novel and seemed simple, but the execution was another story. Some of the switches were not affixed securely resulting into the switch and keycap being loose. Not knowing how much strength to use and not wanting to break the board can be pretty nerve-wracking. That and the fact that you would expect the switches to fix nicely and easily. But I am not complaining since this was on sale and is working as it should. Alternatively if you are interested in an Alice-layout but want less of having to assemble your own, you could get it pre-assembled with switches and keycaps already on it. 

But if you  want to try and have some sort of sense of accomplishment putting on your own switches and keycaps, this could be a good option. 😎


Now this being my very first Alice-layout and a barebones kit no less, it did take me a while to figure out how to affix the switches. It could be me or the fit of the board, but it took some effort to get the switches to fit (the key is to find the right angle and push it in). It was initially a tad loose for the “right shift” and “? “ buttons but I took them out and out them in again and made sure they fit in tightly (usually there would be a click when you’ve gotten it right).



I have not yet customised the digital screen so it is stuck on 01 April, but I’ll get to it … eventually. Here’s a video I found which gives a pretty good overview about the aesthetics and an overview of the RGB light effects and hot keys.  



Typing Experience

I would say that having this split does make it ergonomically friendly for the left and right hands. The only thing is getting used to it. I found myself having to look at the keyboard or risk hitting the wrong key, also my left hand is really used to hitting the ‘y’ key and keeps on mistaking the left shift key for the ‘a’ key.πŸ˜‚ So that’s probably something to get used to (that and the interesting fact that there is a ‘b’ for both the left and right spilt of the board).


For the moment (for this post and just using the out of the box default settings), the experience typing on an Alice-layout is pretty refreshing. It’s supposed to nurture a healthier typing posture and reduces strain; let’s see how this goes.



Default Settings and Connecting to devices

The out of the box key mapping should be alright for a Windows system. I am using it currently on an iPad Pro and the copy / paste key, display home shortcuts are not as I would expect (or I just need to get used to the layout). Other than that it is alright.


Connection to an iPad or Android device is relatively simple, just set the keyboard to Bluetooth setting, and turn on Bluetooth for your device which you want to connect to, press the FN + Q / W / E to pair. The keyboard can be simultaneously connected to 3 devices at a time. 


If you want to connect to a computer (Windows / Mac), you also have the option to connect it via the USB cable it came with or simply use the USB for the 2.4GHZ. Of course you have to remember to adjust the keyboard setting for the 2.4GHZ connection.


What I love

πŸ’•The split layout (takes some time getting used to but so far so good).

πŸ’•The LCD screen with the battery indicator so it gives a good visual cue how much power is left.

πŸ’• The RBG effects, adds that something special when you are typing.

πŸ’•Being able to customize the key mapping and LCD screen.

πŸ’• The default setting for the ‘b’ key being on both the left and right side gives it more flexibility for the hands.

πŸ’• The ability to swap out the switches and keycaps for personalization or a different keep experience is tthe reason why I got it.

πŸ’• The ease to use right out of the box, to connect and start typing  away.

πŸ’• The quality of the build which made my tactile switches and cat theme keycaps produce a nice mellow thocky sound.


Not so much

πŸ’” It is not as easy to affix the switches, resulting in loose switches and keycaps (till you find the right angle to get them in).

πŸ’” Customization for the LCD screen has to be done via a driver (on a Windows system).


So, there you go my first look at and review of my experienc with the CIDOO AM066 Barebones Kit Alice-layout. Given that the loves are more than the not so much, I’ll say give it is with a try. For those of us located in Singapore, you can get it here for about S$65 or cheaper when it is one sales from Lazada. Alternatively you could also check out Shopee where the average pricing  is around S$72-89+.


For those you who are not really into mechanical keyboards (yet), I would still recommended you try the Alice-layout. If you think that the typing noise is too loud you could always swap them out for silent linear switches that would sound not more noisy than the normal laptop membrane keys. And at this price, it really is worth a try so that your hands are not strained when you are working for long periods of time at the computer.


Have you tried the an Alice layout keyboard before? If the answer is yes, let me know in the comments below how your experience was! 



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