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Akko MOD 007 V3 HE Year of the Dragon review

This is a review of Akko's gorgeous MOD 007 V3 HE Year of the Dragon board, a "limited series" Hall-effect work of art.

KBD.news
Published May 10, 2024
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The MOD 007 has been around for some time, and it's available in various versions. In addition, Akko offers even more keyboards in the same or very similar form factor. However, the MOD 007 V3 HE "Year of the Dragon" stands out as a special "limited series" Hall-effect model – with magnetic switches and stunning appearance, and the first one by Akko offering 8KHz polling rate.

TLDR; This is a real piece of art, however, it's more for gamers than serious keymap wizards (no VIA support and no layers in the proprietary software either). But if the design language and form factor is your cup of tea, the MOD 007 YoD won't disappoint you: excellent build quality, decent typing feel out of the box, and lots of ways of fine-tuning via all the magnetic switch related features. If you prefer VIA support, there are other MOD 007 variants for you out there though.

Disclaimer

The kind folks at Akko EU sent me this "Year of the Dragon" version of the MOD 007. (Thanks a lot guys!)

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When referencing products in this article, I point to the Akko EU, but feel free to look up the same products in Akko's other localized stores, most notably the Akko US site (partially shipping from Canada btw). The KBDNEWS coupon and what I write may or may not work or be valid for other sites though, just like prices will differ.

As always: I'm not being paid to write this review, but getting a free sample may result in all kinds of bias on its own, both positive and negative in my experience. Take everything I write with a grain of salt.

First impressions, design language

I'm pretty impressed by both the weight and the intricate design – which is not self-explanatory. For some reason, e.g. even the weirdest Japanese motifs and craziest color combos may seem to work for the Western market, but often not the Chinese ones.

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This teal-turquoise-gold palette (Akko calls it cyan) with all the intricate design elements, however, definitely works – at least for me –, much-much more universal than e.g. the previous Year of the Tiger PC75B variant in the Chinese zodiac line of Akko's keyboards.

Cyan is a lucky color in Chinese culture, which represents hope and honor. In Chinese mythology, Cyan Dragon is in charge of the east section of the heaven, the department of spring, nature and vital wood.

While testing the keyboard, I asked around a bit if people find the design too much, but I'd say it's like a real piece of art: your eyes keep moving from one pattern to the next, discovering all the small details. I like it for sure.

Specs

  • wired, Hall-effect (magnetic), prebuilt, 75% keyboard
  • case: CNC aluminum, three-tone anodization
  • keycaps: Dye-sub PBT Cherry, some of them 5-side printed
  • switches: 50gf Akko Cream Yellow magnetic (not MX!) switch
  • stabilizer: Blue & White TPU stabilizers
  • hotswap: well, yes
  • plate: FR4 (pre-installed) and copper (extra) - both with flex cuts
  • gasket mount
  • South-facing RGB
  • Magnetic features: Rapid Trigger (RT), Dynamic Keystrokes (DKS), etc.
  • 8000Hz polling rate
  • typing angle: 5 degrees
  • dimensions: 333x141x33mm
  • weight: 1.93kg

Limited series

This may need some explanation because, well, the YoD is of course mass produced. That said, it will be manufactured this year only, obviously, as you'd expect from a design paying tribute to a specific year of the Chinese zodiac. ;)

After this, there should be new products every year. For example, the design for the 8th-anniversary edition is already in progress – Akko EU.

Due to the relatively complex production process though (especially the three-tone anodization I guess), the production volume is not very high, and I was informed that it will likely be discontinued in a few months.

Main features

Hall-effect switches, three-tone anodizing, 8KHz polling, custom weight, roar mode?! :D

Related to the design language, what makes the "Year of the Dragon" version stand out not just from other MOD 007 releases but also from aluminum keyboards in general, is the three-tone anodization.

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The case undergoes a three tone anodization process, enabling the keyboard to have enhanced tactile sensation, be more durable, and scratch-resistant.

The Hall-effect sensors and switches suggest this board was designed with gamers in mind, just like the 8KHz polling rate and many related features.

Unboxing & Contents

In the cardboard box, guarded by a matching dragon on the front, you have the prebuilt Akko MOD 007 HE with switches and caps mounted, along with a black coiled (but not braided) cable, tools, extra caps, quickstart guide – and a transparent dust cover. (Well done!)

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Calibration

According to the product description, the Hall sensors of the board are suspectible to temperature fluctuations, which can lead to significant alterations in the magnetic field of the keyboard during transportation.

That's why, for an optimal typing experience, Akko suggests updating the keyboard firmware as soon as you receive it. In the software you can manually calibrate the keyboard by gently pressing every key ('About - Maximum Key Travel Calibration - Start Calibration').

I haven't experienced any issues with the factory settings so skipped this process out of sheer laziness.

Layout

The layout can be classified as 75%, 82 keys plus a rotary encoder (clickable). Not just full F-row but also a 13rd function key (Delete by default).

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What's more important: offset arrow cluster, which is useful when positioning your right hand, and four additional keys in an extra, slightly offset column on the right. Either for navigation keys as default, or depending on your workflow: macros.

The 75% board, compared to the standard layout, is narrower by about 107mm, leaving you with considerably more desk space, e.g. for your mouse. Even smaller than a TKL. However, to prevent the encoder from interfering with the F-row, the knob and right column have been placed a bit further away, at least compared to the silimar IROK ND75 I had laying around:

Pic: 1800 vs TKL/80% vs 65% vs 75% - it seems I don't have a fullsize board :)

1800 vs TKL/80% vs 65% vs 75% - it seems I don't have a fullsize board :)

The smaller than usual right shift key may cause compatibility issues with smaller keysets.

Historical overview

Akko seems to do these limited series models each year: Year of Tiger, 7th Anniversary MOD 007, etc.

We launched the MOD 007 PC in February 2023 and released AKKO's first magnetic switch keyboard Akko 7th Anniversary MOD 007 HE PC in August. The Year of the Dragon is our first 8K polling rate magnetic switch keyboard – Akko EU.

That said, the MOD 007 is available in a lot of different variants: aluminum or PC case, ANSI or ISO, Hall effect or classic MX PCB, wired-only or tree-mode wireless, and, on top of that, some design variants of these with various keycap sets, or paying tribute to the actual year or anniversaries as we can see.

The point is: you should be able to find the best MOD 007 for your taste and budget.

Rotary encoder

The encoder adjusts volume and brightness by default, you can change between the two modes by pressing it.

The knob received a (surprise!) dragon motif too.

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In the software, you can select the knob to customize its behavior, but I couldn't really figure out how exactly. Without QMK support the options are probably quite limited if any.

Keycaps

Dye-sublimated PBT keycaps in Cherry profile. The legends of the the alpha caps mimic brushstrokes and Chinese calligraphy.

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The combination of blue/teal base colors and the light turquoise accents is mesmerizing.

Cyan color scheme featuring elements inspired by the 'Year of the Dragon'.

Some keycaps received 5-sided dye sub (Esc, Tab/Caps/Shift, Spacebar), which I personally find particularly cool.

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And the bundle comes with 13 extra keycaps: replacements/alternatives for the spacebar, right Shift and Enter, different accented F-keys, and a variation for the right navigation/macro cluster. I found these latter even more appealing.

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Given the relatively rare 75% form factor, the smaller than usual right shift key may cause compatibility issues with smaller keysets, and keys of the right column possible sculpt incompatibilities.

One more thing: I read a comment about lose and wobbly caps which I'm not able to confirm. Stem wobble? Yes. Lose caps? Not at all.

Switches

Attention! Being a Hall effect magnetic board, the Year of the Dragon keyboard does NOT support e.g. MX switches per se. However, if you'd like to use such mechanical switches, you can purchase this MOD 007 Flex-cut PCB, which btw can be added to your order for free (as of writing this, but I'm not sure if this is a glitch or intentional).

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Akko Cream Yellow magnetic switch specs

  • Type: Linear
  • Operating Force: 50gf ± 10gf
  • Total Travel: 4.0mm
  • Pre-Travel: 2.0 ± 0.5mm

Ultra-accurate typing experience adjustable in 0.1mm.

Stabilizers

The stabs are Akko's TPU stabilizers: clip-in, plate-mounted ones. The PCB does have the holes for screw-in stabs, but I haven't tried if they would fit the plate. (The PCB is apparently repurposed from another models.)

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Magnetic features

The AKKO MOD 007 V3 HE combines 8000Hz ultra-high polling rate (near-zero latency 0.125ms) with the Rapid Trigger (RT) of the magnetic switches. We've seen similar solutions, e.g. the IROK ND75, and I'm pretty sure that it's only a matter of time for these features to become widespread in the gaming scene – regardless of the practical significance.

Theoretically, compared to 1KHz sampling's 1ms, 8KHz polling rate results in a "near-zero" 0.125ms sampling. Probably useful for competitive gamers, definitely not essential for the casual typer or even a fairly decent one (100 WPM means 100ms between keystrokes if I'm right).

Effectively reducing the input delay, this keyboard brings you faster trigger response performance, making it the best choice for gaming – Akko.

With magnetic switches, users can customize the actuation distance, finetuning and setting up rapid actions particularly in FPS games. There are a bunch of related features: Rapid Trigger, Dynamic Keystrokes, Toggle Key, and even Mod-Tap means something different in this context than many of you may be used to.

Build quality, structure

The MOD 007 is a massive chunk of aluminum, beautifully crafted. Unique caps with crisp legends, the three-tone anodized case is impressive, and Akko didn't skimp on foams either.

Case

Typing angle: fixed 5 degrees (no adjustable feet).

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The hallmark three-tone anodization is closer to green than cyan/teal in my optinion, which is clearly visible when mounting green caps like these Harry Potter themed set by Aihey Studio:

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The custom aluminum weight features Chinese characters allegedly meaning: "Year of the Dragon Limited Edition". There's no way I can confirm this but probably not "chicken noodle soup" or something similar from the failed tattoo cookbook. :D

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PCB

The default PCB is of course for magnetic switches, so not MX compatible. However, as already mentioned, you can add an extra PCB to your YoD order for free (at least as of writing this) if you'd like to try it with MX switches.

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Well, I guess we can call this hotswap since/despite the switches being magnetic, there's no electric contact between the switch and PCB.

By the way, the PCB is apparently repurposed and has remnants of wireless: pads for the battery and antenna too. Which means more tech-savvy users may attempt to turn this into a wireless board – not encouraged by Akko though. :)

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Plate(s)

There are some flex cuts in the default FR4 plate so it's pleasantly flexible. However, if you prefer a more stiffer feel, the bundle comes with an extra copper plate. It has the same flex cuts but is still much stiffer.

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Gaskets

Yep, gasket mounting. As you probably know, this design allows for even more flex and cushioning, which can result in a softer typing experience.

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Sound dampening

Plenty of foam: 3mm poron plate foam, 0.5mm IXPE switch pad, 1mm poron bottom/case foam according to the specs on the product page (the latter looks thicker), but I found another thin layer directly under the PCB too, and there's also a piece of foam in the battery tray of the case – nope, the keyboard is still not wireless but the case is obviously an universal one for all MOD 007 variants.

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RGB

The MOD 007 V3 HE comes with per-key RGB backlighting of course, and over 20 preset animation modes. In addition, you can create and tailor your own lighting effects with the Akko Cloud Driver.

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I'm still not the target audience for this so skipped playing with these features in the software, but I understand that this is a major selling point for many.

The default caps don't really allow any light through, you can see it only between the caps. Nevertheless, the switches/LEDs being south-facing, lights are best visible from the normal typing perspective.

Software

While some MOD 007s are VIA compatible, e.g. this MOD 007 V3 VIA DIY kit, the MOD 007 HE YoD IS NOT (yet?)! For advanced features there is the Akko Cloud Driver, however, it lacks layer support. That said, there are signs of layers in the app so implementation of this may be only a matter of time.

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By the way, the keyboard works out of the box, and some useful magnetic presets are available as hotkeys too (FN layer), so you don't even have to install the Akko software if you are content with the factory settings and keymap.

That said, because of the Hall effect sensors and the many additional functions related to the magnetic switches, you'd need the additional software anyway, even if the board supported QMK/VIA/Vial. The Akko Cloud Diver software provided is moderately intuitive but particularly feature-rich – pretty much the most we can expect from a proprietary software. It could be a bit more streamlined with regards to workflow: simply swapping two alpha characters takes 4 clicks in VIA/Vial but 8 clicks here. In addition, some features are a bit hidden in the menu structure: e.g. mod-tap under the DKS settings. All in all, it's usable but could be improved.

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Reproducing my custom layout worked only on the base layer, setting up SpaceFN is impossible at this time, so I have to revert to third-party software.

To sum up: the target audience being probably gamers and casual keyboard smashers, the average user will find the software sufficient. Serious typers with elaborated custom keymaps who fall in love with the MOD 007 will have to choose the VIA-compatible version with the plain case – or wait for a firmware update.

Portability

Weighing 1.93kg, the MOD 007 feels a bit heavier than e.g. the 2kg MoeeTech Glitter65 I reviewed recently, and this is clearly the result of the overall shape. As I wrote earlier, the depressions in the Glitter case made it easier to grab and toss around by just one hand. The MOD 007 is pretty much two-handed when it comes to repositioning it (but still much easier to grab than e.g. the Whitefox Eclipse).

Dropping it in your bag is not impossible of course, that's exactly what I did, but I personally consider it a less portable model compared to lighter alternatives. In my opinion it excels as a stationary device (and also as an ornament) on your desk.

Conclusion

Akko's MOD 007 V3 HE "Year of the Dragon" is a beautiful and very well built 75% keyboard with magnetic switches and features, coming in a nice milled aluminum case with intricate design. Wired, prebuilt, more for the gamer and casual typer than keymap wizards – due to the lack of VIA support. In any case, if the switches, design or price is not for you, there are plenty of other MOD 007s to choose from, coming in the same form factor.

Pros

  • Build quality: feels very solid
  • Overall design
  • Lots of magnetic switch related features gamers will appreciate

Cons

  • Software (no VIA support and no layers either)
  • Price

Availability

There's a 10% discount in effect with the KBDNEWS coupon code (EU/DE), so this particular limited MOD007 can be yours for 193 EUR at Akko EU or $180 (US, coupon in progress!):

However, there are a LOT of MOD 007 variants and other 75% models in the Akko stores (PC frame, wireless, VIA-compatible DIY kit, etc.), starting at below 100 EUR/USD (or even 57 because of the current Europe Day sales at Akko EU):

Yep. One last thing for those who'd like the extra MX PCB. It seems you can use only one coupon at a time, and the free extra MX PCB is handled by an auto-apply coupon, so… Well, I'd still use the KBDNEWS coupon because the 10% discount means it's the better option when adding the extra PCB for about 13 eur. However, this is because of the (temporarily?) reduced price of the PCB. Once it's back at 35 eur, the free PCB will be the better choice.

Other products in the photos

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Published on Fri 10th May 2024. Featured in KBD #165.


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