Drop’s new keyboards hold secrets for ‘Lord of the Rings’ fans to discover

Between the Amazon TV Series power rings coming out in less than a month, the animated film The Rohirrim War expected in 2024 and Hobbit-style houses are becoming more and more popular on AirBnB, it’s clear that Tolkien fans are having a good time. Joining the excitement is Drop, who today announced two new pre-built and custom Lord of the Rings themed keyboards shipping in time to live blog your thoughts on the new show. I’ve been using both keyboards for about a week now, and as CNET’s resident Tolkien nerd, I have a lot to say about them.

It’s been around nine months since Drop let Lord of the Rings fans around the world happily empty their bank accounts to a pair of amazing, officially licensed keycap sets on the subject of the Elvish or Dwarf languages ​​of books and films. These keys offer an incredible amount of detail and customization, but if you’re not already into custom keyboards, these sets can be quite intimidating. A lot of people just want to buy a keyboard and use it, so today Drop offers just that. Mechanically, these keyboards are a custom version of the Drop ENTR keyboard with Holy Panda X switches and Drop Phantom stabilizers. This means the keyboard has a nice audible click but isn’t so loud that other people in the office or home will have anything to say about it. The keys themselves have a soft finish and a nice cupped surface so you can type on them comfortably for hours without the fatigue associated with average keyboards.

Drop's dwarven keyboard, with a statue of Smaug and the Lord of the Rings Blu-ray

Russell Holly/CNET

Each of these USB-C keyboards are absolutely stunning to look at and offer a few simple in-box customizations for a variety of colors. The custom etched designs on the right side of the keyboard are only available with this set, not something that can be purchased separately if you already own last year’s Lord of the Rings keycaps. More impressive than the color tones and not-so-subtle nods to books is how much work has gone into the language on the keys to be more than standard English words transliterated into Elven Tengwar or Dwarvish Cirth symbols. . Many words on an English keyboard have no translation into a fantastic language designed before computers, so things like Caps Lock become Pedi Caun, which is Cirth for “speak loudly”. The entire keyboard has translations like this, designed for the user to discover on their own.

A few days after playing with these keyboards, I found myself confused by a lot of language choices on the keyboards. I know what the English character A looks like as a Cirth rune, and that was not what I was seeing on the keyboard. This is because the purpose of this keyboard translation was not to allow you to press a Cirth or Tengwar symbol on the keyboard and have the English transliteration appear on the screen, but to actually allow you to write in Cirth or Tengwar.

Like the previous keyset, the characters you see on the keyboard align with the Cirth and Tengwar computer fonts originally built by Daniel Steven Smith in 1998. Old-school Tolkien fans might recall that these fonts caused a dispute with Tolkien Estate, who asked Smith to remove these unofficial fonts from his site, but they remain the most comprehensive font sets for Cirth and Tengwar available today through a host of free font sites . If you install one of these fonts and type as if you are writing for these languages ​​instead of English, an example of which you can see hereyou’ll get some of the most accurate on-screen keyboard scripting possible.

Backlight on Drop's Lord of the Rings Dwarf Keyboard

The backlights on this keyboard don’t do much and unfortunately make the keys harder to read when the room is dark.

Russell Holly/CNET

As beautiful as these keyboards are, there are a few quirks. Drop’s ENTR keyboard is backlit, but the keys themselves aren’t dual-shot keys that let light through. According to Drop, this is because the dye sublimation process used to ensure the keys remain as pretty as they currently are for years of use does not work well with doubleshot keycaps and a choice had to be made. be done. The result is a nice accent light during the day, but a keyboard that’s not as fun to look at when the lights are off.

My other issue with this keyboard is really more of a minor design conflict. The Elven key set includes a broken sword on the Return key which, if you ask 10 people who have read The Lord of the Rings and seen the movies, would identify as Bilbo’s Sting and not Elendil’s Narsil. According to Drop, this design decision came from a desire to be true to the books and not the movies. I don’t agree that this visual is any more accurate than what was shown in the movies – they’re both incorrect in different ways – and for the most part that’s OK. Tolkien never offers a full description of the sword in the books, so both examples are artists’ interpretations. If I start talking about Oakeshott’s typology and what differentiates a longsword from a shortsword in design, that would end up being a completely different 2,000 word article that has nothing to do with these keyboards otherwise awesome.

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan and you’ve been looking for an excuse to add a wired mechanical keyboard to your computer, you’re unlikely to find anything better than these anytime soon. The keys feel great, the colors and designs are outstanding, and it’s one of the best-looking keyboards you’ll find without spending much more than the $170 asking for each one. And after the explosive popularity of the original keycap set last year, Drop assured me that they are ready to deliver a significant volume of them with plans to ship in late September or early October, depending on when you order. .

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