The dream becomes a reality, Hako Violet is here!

A sneak peak of Input Club’s newest beauty

Let’s be honest here, only half of the draw for the Hako line from Input Club is the way the switch actually feels. The other half is just how damn pretty these little box switches are! Kailh’s box architecture itself is a thing of beauty, but you put the gorgeous pearl sliders into the Hako Clear and you have something truly phenomenal to gaze upon. I adore the salmon sliders of the Trues as well, they offer a strangely comforting invocation when you gaze upon them. The Violet switches are no different. You probably shouldn’t get your loved one a bouquet of Hako switches for their birthday, but it’d looks just as good — if not better — if you ask me.

Beauty will only get you so far, so it’s a good thing the engineering behind these takes them the rest of the way home. If you read my previous review, you’ll know I’m a fan of the Hako Clear, but my pinky absolutely could not tolerate the force required to mash a Hako Clear on the shift key. I had hoped that the Violet switches would offer a the same drawn out tactile bump of the Clears, but without causing me that pain the high force curve was assaulting my pinky with. You can bet your favorite keycap set that the addition of Violet to the Hako line cements resolves that problem completely.

Stemming the pain with low force springs

Unfortunately, while trying to capture these in the full beauty while blasted with natural light and assaulted by a kitten this photo came out pretty badly. When these 3 little sample Violets arrived from Input Club yesterday I immediately snapped two quick pics and swapped one into my AMJ40’s shift key. While I planned to use my Fourier all day in preparation for my review of Keebio’s latest split keyboard, I opted to recap and beat on the AMJ40 all day. I loved it. With the Violet shift I got to experience what I can only describe as popping slightly crunchy bubble wrap with my fingers all day, with no stress on my pinky.

Are Hakos the new way to my feelios?

Right off the bat, there is no such thing a “Zealio killer”, and probably never will be. I know that, at this price point, a lot of us would love to see such a thing. Just like with the release of every non-Blizzard MMO that holds great promises, there is no such thing as the “WoW Killer”. If you’re familiar with MMO’s, and specifically with WoW, you could call MX Clear the equivalent of vanilla or Classic WoW. No expansions, just the original glory of the base game at release. It was fantastic, but a little rough for many people. While MX Clear don’t require “no lifing” to enjoy, I find that comparison to be quite apt. Especially considering the rougher feeling of Cherry’s switches. The Burning Crusade, WoW’s second expansion was great. I’m not familiar with pre-Round 8 Zealios, but I imagine them as the The Burning Crusade. A lot of things  got even better, some things got a bit more accessible. Then came Wrath of the Lich King. Now, we’re ignoring the “which wow is best” debate and basing this on my own tastes.

R8 Zealios are Wrath. They’re simply magnificent, and with lube they sound glorious, almost as magnificent as the expensive rubber domes called Topre! To be honest, I’ve never felt a Topre switch, but I’ve heard plenty of typing tests to tell you they sound fantastic. Almost like a drop of water into a pristine pool in a cave untouched by humanity. Maybe that’s a little too poetic, and they’re a bit deeper than that, but I think the point makes itself.

Where do Hakos fit into this analogy? Specifically speaking of Hako Clear and it’s softer sister, Hako Violet, they’d be Final Fantasy XIV. The only other paid subscription MMO still holding a subscription base. It didn’t kill WoW. It even had a rough start and a lot of bad PR, just like the Hako switches have seen a lot of negative “where’s the bump?” threads as they started arriving to  people from Novelkeys. Just like the screenshots above, although drawing a potentially biased choice of screen caps using the Blasted Lands from WoW as it’s not a pretty place to begin with, the Hakos really do look stunning. But when it comes to feeling, while similar to other tactiles, they still aren’t the same.

The Clear have a very smooth, drawn out bump. The bump definitely lacks the crispness of a Zealio. It’s more on par with a lubed Cherry MX Clear.  The Violets feel almost exactly the same, save for the lighter force, and would make them more or less a lubed Ergo Clear. This, of course, assuming you’re a fool who uses a thin Krytox GPL 204 blend and not a 206 blend, as the thicker lubricant really alters the overall feel of the switches. While the Novelkeys x Kailh Burnt Orange don’t have nearly as much tactility as any of the aforementioned switches, the Hako Clears almost feel like I imagine Burnt Orange would if the legs of the stems were designed like Cherry MX Clear. Which is, to me, a great thing, because I still love my Burnt Orange… despite having used Krytox 206 in them and feeling as though they’re a bit sluggish compared to unlubed switches. That might all be in my head, but I also have leaking windows in my office and it’s super cold in here. Maybe the switches I lubed with 206 will feel better in a warmer environment.

Compared to ErgoClears, the Hako Violet are much smoother. Yet, they manage to almost feel heavier somehow — despite the lower weight rating of the spring. I’m convinced that has to do with the box architecture and the overall reduced wobble over a standard MX switch. Unfortunately for the Violets, the ErgoClears seem to hold more tactility overall. It seems to me as though the wobble of the stem and the roughness of the legs on the scratchy cherry leaf spring in the ErgoClears actually boost their tactility.

On the other hand, the more stable and consistent feeling of the Hako Violet makes up for this fact. Just whacking my shift key mindlessly on my Fourier, in which I have ErgoClears on all of the modifiers I use with my pinky, the tactile event slightly different every time. Sometimes they feel almost identical, but then a slight tilt of the finger and the wobble creates a bigger bump. Considering I’m still kind of slamming the shift key on my keyboards, the experience might be more consistent with an ErgoClear there for someone else. But in this instant I prefer the Violet, if only by a tiny margin, despite the ErgoClears displaying a bigger bump the majority of the time.

The verdict? If you like browns but want more bump, or can’t stand modding ErgoClears, Violets are your best bet outside of Zealios. If you want something smooth, yet almost crunchy, like a an improved MX Clear, Hako Clear is a great choice, especially on a budget. If you want the crispiest, juiciest apple off the tree and the pricing doesn’t offend you, Zealios are still the way to your feelios. The strong force curve and a strangely lacking length of a bump make the Hako True and glorious idea on paper, but they just don’t seem to pull through with enough tactility for me. I put the few I ordered on arrows keys specifically to try to squeeze all the tactility I can out of them by not bottoming out, but they just pluck at a heart string, they don’t strum them all the way the Hako Clear do.

Height Difference

One thing I noticed when building my Fourier, which I’ll be reviewing later today if not tomorrow, was that keycaps sit lower on Hakos than on traditional MX switches. I really wish I’d bought some of the Novelkeys x Kailh Box Burnt Orange so I had some box springs to compare to, although I think my coworker may have some, but I assume this is going to be true to the box architecture overall and not just Hakos.

I happened to run out of MX Clears, ending 3 shy of a full build. Thus, I popped a Hako Clear in each of the split space bars and the right function key, as these are all thumb presses and I figured any differences would be minimally noticed, if at all. That said, the height different bothers me endlessly, even if I might not actually feel it. I’ve got 3 MX Clear stems coming to me so I can round this board out with a full set of matching caps, but just a heads up if you plan to mix these with traditional MX stem switches.

The disclaimer

I realize I should make it clear that these were sent to me, from their pre-production batch, for the purpose of writing about them. At the time I was offered the switches my Hako Clear and Hako True review had yet been published, nor had it been shared with Input Club. Despite the fact that they sent me these, they really didn’t know what I was going to say about them. That said, there was no payment or any requirement of a positive endorsement. I do have a 3D printed plate for a Maxipad, so if they could have sent me 10x more free switches I’d have loved to try a full macropad of them. I don’t think I’ll be building a board with just Violets any time soon, but Violet mods with Clear alphas is definitely where my sights are set for whatever I build next.

Digging Deeper into the Hako Line

I realized that in my previous review I shared a lot of opinion, but almost no data. So, let’s risk some overkill and go over some data points on the Hako switch line. Although first, while tactility is always going to be subjective, the Clear and Violet are definitely more tactile than the True. Heavier switches are inherently less tactile, as the increase in force offsets the feedback. I’m no physicist or mathematician, but I can try to explain the phenomenon using a really poor layperson example.

When you blow a party noise maker, those kazoo like things with the paper coil on the end, you can blow through them softly, or really hard. When you blow softly, you can audible hear the uncrinkling of the paper and probably feel the vibration of the paper unfolding. When you exert as much force during exhalation as possible, the noise maker prevents you from hearing that paper crinkle, but you also tighten your lips to offset the force, and the feedback of the paper jerking doesn’t even register anymore. It’s totally reasonable to shake your head and think, “Wow, this clown explained it so horribly it was reasonable,” at this point.

When it comes to the Hako True, the bump is also less drawn out due to a shorter spring, in addition to the increased force. In the picture above, you can see a Hako True, Clear, and Violet spring in that order. The true spring is noticeably shorter, which is as far as I know, how they managed to get such a sharp force curve. You can see the graphs of the force curves on the Input Club switch pages for True, Clear, and Violet if you’re interested. Below is a nice little table with the actuation and bottom out force of each switch.

Switch Actuation Force Tactile Peak Force Bottom Out Force Tactile Event Actuation
True ~60 gf ~58 gf ~94 gf ~0.54 mm  ~1.95 mm
Clear ~55 gf ~63 gf ~79 gf ~0.66 mm  ~1.95 mm
Violet ~28 gf ~39 gf ~50 gf ~0.58 mm  ~1.88 mm

Despite the shorter sprint in the Hako True, they all have an overall travel of approximately 3.6mm. Interestingly, though, the violets actuate slightly higher up. I have no clue if that’s indicative of a slight design change, or if it’s just a force curve thing. I don’t have a digital caliper, I’d totally be measuring the stem lengths for you all (read: to sate my own curiosity). I can, however, verify that the slider design appears unchanged to the naked eye.

You can compare the design here to that of the box brown, courtesy of Flashquark. The bump on the Hakos is much more pronounced, although after looking at a regular brown stem and a Zealio stem one might think the box brown would be more tactile. I can’t tell you if it is or not, as I’ve never come across any other box switches up close and personal. If you’ve got some lying around, or any other switches you’d like to see compared, and want to send them my way shoot me an email info@valgrahf.com and we’ll sort something out. I think the only thing left to cover would be the factory lubing, which a lot of people noticed was excessive on the Hako Clear they had. In all honesty, it was really inconsistent in the batch I received, most were not overly lubricated, but a very small handful were just blasted with lubricant. The three Violets I received were consistent, with none of them being saturated.

Hako Violet are available for preorder now at Kono.store in a pack of 120 switches at $54.99. They will be available some time after April 10th for regular orders at their normal price of $59.99 for 120 switches.

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