The Tempest Kirin enters the mechanical keyboard market at a time when there’s probably more choice than ever. Founded by three local keyboard enthusiasts, the company’s goal is to offer an affordable keyboard with features usually reserved for higher-end boards. One of the first things you’ll notice about it is its brightly coloured keycaps, which stand out from the sea of stock black caps found on most off-the-shelf keyboards today.
The Kirin is available in two different colours – the black Kirin Monarch and white Crayon. If you follow the custom keyboard community, you’ll probably notice that they’re unabashedly modelled after T0mb3ry’s Carbon set and WinMix’s SA Chalk respectively. You can get SA Chalk off KBDfans right now, but Carbon is considerably harder to find and is only available secondhand through online marketplaces like the r/mechmarket subreddit.
I’d have loved to see Tempest come up with their own keycap designs and colour schemes, but I think mainstream consumers will nevertheless appreciate the extra pop of colour. It’s not hard to see what Tempest is trying to do here. By offering stock keycaps that closely resemble expensive custom sets, it’s arguably helping you save money.
The keycaps are constructed of PbT plastic instead of ABS, which means they offer a rougher texture and lower-pitched sound that I personally prefer. PbT is also more resistant to shine than ABS, so you shouldn’t see them take on that unsightly gloss that many ABS keycaps inevitably suffer from. However, the PbT caps used on the Kirin seem rather thin, and there’s a massive amount of backlight bleeding that’s especially obvious on the Crayon model.
The Kirin uses OEM stabilisers, which can feel a bit mushy.
The keyboard offers only white backlighting though, but you can pick from up to seven different presets bound to the number row. This includes animations like respiration, ripple, and Sonar, all of which are really smooth and responsive. They look alright in white, but I have no doubt they’d look even better if there was RGB support.
The legends have been printed using a process of dye sublimation. Heat has been used to sink the dye into the plastic, so there’s no surface layer that can wear off over time. That’s great, but some of the legends are also slightly inconsistent, and you’ll notice differences in alignment or legends that are simply not printed straight. I’m nitpicking here though, and these issues probably won’t bug you unless you look really closely.
The Kirin’s other main selling point is its support for wireless operation. It connects to your PC (or iOS or android phone) over bluetooth 3.0, which makes it more portable and versatile than your average tenkeyless keyboard. While there are many mechanical keyboards available today, there are considerably fewer options that can work wirelessly. You mostly hear the same few names being thrown around, like the anne Pro 2, filco Majestouch Convertible 2 and iKBC CD87 BT.
It ships with a detachable, colour matching UsB-c cable.
The Kirin hopes to plug this gap, and it can remember up to three different devices in its onboard memory. That’s pretty useful if you move around a lot and need a keyboard that will work with different systems.
Tempest says the 1,850mah battery is good for up to 60 hours of use, but the keyboard is sorely lacking any battery indicator either in the form of hardware or software to let you know when you should think about plugging it back in. Nevertheless, it still seems to be chugging on after a few days of use, but I probably have to charge it soon.
The plastic chassis and steel mounting plate come together to make a reasonably solid board. There’s no creaking or flexing when exerting pressure on the case, which is good enough for me at this price.
The switches on the Kirin are the ubiquitous Cherry MX models, and you get to pick between blue, red, and brown switches. I’d suggest going for either the reds or browns, since the clicky feedback of blues is sure to earn you dirty looks from co-workers. Furthermore, blue switches are less-than ideal for gaming because they have their reset point located above their actuation point, so you can’t trigger multiple key presses as quickly.
Unfortunately, Tempest hasn’t added a hot-swappable PCb here, which means you’re stuck with whatever Cherry MX switch you pick.
The Kirin doesn’t ship with any software that lets you reprogram the keys, but there are a bunch of hardware shortcuts to tweak the layout of the keyboard. For example, Fn+Left Ctrl swaps the left Ctrl and Caps Lock for a HHKB-style layout, while Fn+Left Alt swaps the left alt and Windows key. Finally, Fn+Win triggers a gaming mode of sorts by disabling the Windows key.
AT A GLANCE
Keycaps PBT dye-sublimated
Switches Cherry MX Blue/Red/Brown
Dimensions 364 x 137 x 39mm
A decent entry-level wireless mechanical keyboard with a fun pop of colour.