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Review: HiGround Opal Base 65 Keyboard

HiGround’s entry-level keyboard costs more and delivers less than most mid-tier mechanical keyboards.
Left to right white computer keyboard with rainbow illuminated keys overhead view of black keyboard and closeup view of...
Photograph: Henri Robbins; Getty Images

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Fun design. Well-made switches. Incredibly bright RGB.
Subpar materials and build quality, unenjoyable typing experience, clunky software, and high price.

My entire awareness of HiGround stems from content creators on social media promoting the company's keyboards—showing them off, touting how great they sound and feel to type on, and talking about the “premium unboxing experience.”

HiGround, owned by eSports and lifestyle brand 100Thieves, has largely relied on viral marketing campaigns to get its name out. But the claims you see in these promotional videos are hard to quantify—what may seem good to someone who has only typed on a gaming keyboard may be disappointing to someone used to custom keyboards.

The HiGround Opal Base 65 is a fairly traditional gaming keyboard. It serves its purpose, and I really can’t complain about that. It’s a bit of a brute-force solution though. HiGround has taken the simplest keyboard design and pushed it as far as possible without reworking its core principles. What the company got out of it is impressive, but putting more research and development into a refined system would have netted much better results. It feels like other heavily social-media-advertised products: It's acceptable on its own, but compared to other products in this price bracket it's clear the Base 65 is nowhere near as good a value proposition.

Interesting Switches

Overall, the Opal Base 65 feels good to type on. Not great, but good. The switches—HiGround’s custom White Flame switches—are simple, smooth, linear switches with a medium-weight spring. They’re basic and inoffensive, and they can easily be swapped out for another switch thanks to the keyboard’s Gateron hot-swap sockets.

These switches have box-style stems, which means they’re more resistant to dust and grime than most switches. This is nice to see on an entry-level keyboard, since it eliminates a potential point of failure, but I often find dustproof stems unnecessary unless you’re working in an environment with a lot of dirt and dust in the air (or if you regularly eat over your keyboard).

Photograph: Henri Robbins

Opening up the switches, they have a longer-than-usual spring installed. While these initially appear to be a two-stage spring with two separate weights, they feel more like a single-weight long spring, having a consistent keypress through the entire travel distance and an incredibly quick upstroke. As a result, typing feels faster, and keys return to their default position quickly, but the total keypress distance is also slightly shortened compared to your typical mechanical switch. (A shorter travel distance can be good or bad, depending on preference. I often find it makes gaming more responsive but typing less enjoyable when compared to a full-length switch.)

These switches have hardly any wobble left-to-right but have a slight amount of forward-and-back movement. This is likely due to the box-style construction, which limits the lateral movement of the stem. There appears to be factory-applied lube on the stem rails and on the spring, which helps to make typing smoother and eliminate any pinging and crunching sounds from the longer springs.

The largest issue with this keyboard is the inconsistency of the longer keys: While some feel good to type on, others feel a bit spongy, resulting in an inconsistent typing feel.

Disappointing Mounting Method

The switches are held in place by an aluminum plate that both stiffens the typing experience and enhances the RGB lighting effect thanks to its reflective silver finish. The plate, switches, and PCB are then screwed directly onto the bottom of the case to create a tray mount reminiscent of basic 60 percent keyboards like the Pok3r, the original Tofu60, or the Wooting 60HE.

The mounting screws are screwed directly into the plastic case. Most plastic keyboards today have figured this out, pressing small metal fittings into any of the screw holes to keep the plastic from splitting, breaking down, or becoming stripped over time. Opting out of this, and instead choosing to screw directly into the plastic case, is something I’d expect to see on a keyboard at half the price.

Photograph: Henri Robbins

Tray-mounted keyboards have been around for a while but have slowly been phased out in exchange for mounting methods that present a more consistent typing feel. The main downside of a tray-mounted keyboard is that it makes the typing experience inconsistent: Keys closer to the screws feel a lot stiffer than keys far from the screws, and this typically affects the sound. Newer mounting methods, such as top-mounting or gasket-mounting, will suspend the main keyboard assembly around the outer edges, eliminating the dead zones where some areas are directly connected to the case.

However, I did find a simple solution—removing the screws entirely. The silicone in the case is fitted incredibly well to the case, which means removing the six screws doesn’t make the inner assembly sit loosely or rattle around. Instead, it’s held in place through friction, similar to the Gummy O-Ring mount that a keyboard like the Bakeneko or Unikorn uses. Typing on it without the screws feels and sounds slightly better than the stock layout, since it prevents typing sounds from resonating through the case as much. However, the posts for the screws still result in some stiffness when typing.

Simple Yet Effective Layout

For the most part, the Basecamp 65 is a bog-standard 65 percent keyboard (it doesn't have all the keys you'd find in a traditional full-size keyboard, saving space on your desk). I don’t have any issue with this; it’s a solid layout that serves a need for people who don't use all those extra keys.

It's a small detail, but having a Tilde (~) key on the default layout is nice. Most gaming keyboards without a Function row require you to press Fn + Esc to access it, but HiGround mapped it to the top-right key instead, making it much more convenient for accessing console commands in-game.

Photograph: Henri Robbins

However, such a standard layout means that I have all the issues with this keyboard that I do with any 65 percent board—for me, the layout is a bit too small for office or creative work and instead relegates the user almost entirely to gaming applications unless they have a mastery of function layers and reprogramming—something that’s made rather difficult by HiGround’s clunky proprietary software.

While it does work for most things, HiGround's software feels unrefined. The interface and design are dated, the programmability relies on clunky and inconvenient drop-down and pop-up menus, and none of the menus match the specific keyboard being used (or, as far as I could tell, any of the keyboards HiGround offers).

What impressed me, though, is the Base 65’s RGB lighting—between the clear case, white silicone dampening, transparent switches and keycaps, and the reflective aluminum plate, the RGB absolutely shines, making this keyboard a bright centerpiece on any desk. Sadly, programming the RGB is a bit of a chore, and most of the factory presets have incredibly limited customization.

Paying for Looks

The saving grace is HiGround's pop culture collaborations. You can get a keyboard made in collaboration with Minecraft, and previously there have been tie-ins with game and anime series, including Naruto, Pokémon, Attack on Titan, Gundam, and Yu-Gi-Oh. However, this usually comes with a tradeoff: Would you rather have a high-quality keyboard or one designed after your favorite media franchise? This keyboard is flashy, colorful, and a statement piece. But besides visuals, the Base 65 keyboard doesn’t do anything new, or anything that justifies the price.

Photograph: Henri Robbins

I also want to note the “all sales are final” line in most of the company's product descriptions. Combine this with massive brand tie-ins and an emphasis on “limited” drops, and I’m reminded of the collab-based hypebeast sneaker culture of the 2010s; a marketing strategy that emphasizes exclusivity and makes people jump at “rare” (i.e., artificially scarce) products and assume they’re more valuable/higher-quality than they are. I know this is a lot of advertising rhetoric that sits outside the quality of the end product, but I think it’s important to consider why the keyboards are the way they are, and why they sell well despite some of the issues they may have. (As a side note, multiple keyboard collaborations from HiGround are currently being scalped on StockX.)

I also found some frustration when trying to review this keyboard because, when HiGround had a release coming up, every single page on its website would redirect to a password-protected countdown. This meant that the keyboard’s documentation, drivers, and even basic product information were unavailable for the entire time while waiting on a limited release (in this case, the Minecraft keyboard collection).

Ultimately, it's hard for me to recommend HiGround’s keyboards unless you really want a branded keyboard for a certain media franchise and are OK with the sacrifices to the build quality and typing experience.