Keyboard Builders' Digest
Save 5% at Divinikey! Code: KBDNEWS
Keyboard Builders' Digest / Review

Ergohaven Velvet 2 review

My thoughts about the Velvet 2, a small 40% prebuilt split by Ergohaven - with hotswap switches and keywell.

KBD.news
Published February 14, 2024
Creators! Feel free to tip me off about your keyboard related projects to bring them to 100K readers.

Hey everyone, this is a quick review of the Velvet 2, a lovely little split by Ergohaven. We will walk through its strengths and weaknesses, figure out who is this for, and if it's worth the money ($175-215).

TLDR; The Ergohaven Velvet 2 is a prebuilt, compact split with keywell, designed for touch typers and keymap wizards. MX, hotswap, 44 keys. I personally prefer the small footprint and minimalistic layout, and don't mind the lack of number row either. However, only two thumb keys may cause you a headache. And the case is 3D printed, so adjust your expectations with regards to build quality accordingly.

Disclaimer

Three things:

  • I wasn't going to write a Velvet review at all, my plan was to cover the HPD. However, DaBobVilla posted a question about the Velvet the other day, so here it is.
  • This was a free sample offered by Evgeny of Ergohaven. I'm not paid to write a review, but as always, getting something for free can cause all kind of bias, both positive and negative.
  • Ergohaven is based in Russia. Before purchasing anything, consider if this clashes with your actual worldview.

Unboxing and first impressions

I'm not sure how generally applicable my first impressions are, because this Velvet came with a replacement HPD. Earlier in January, the first HPD arrived slightly damaged, so Evgeny was kind enough to resend it, and he dropped a Velvet in the box too. (Thanks!)

Pic: Sorry for the mess, I forgot to take a proper unboxing photo…

Sorry for the mess, I forgot to take a proper unboxing photo…

It took exactly two weeks for the parcel to arrive, international shipping is from Kazakhstan.

All my previous shipments from Ergohaven came in a simple white cardboard box, this time was no different. The halves come wrapped in a foil, secured between inflated bubble things. In the box there are two cables, a sticker, and 15 mm tenting legs (Universal tenting system) – I have a bunch of these on my desk from previous shipments, you can buy them separately.

Velvet history

The Velvet (v1) came out in December 2022 and was replaced by v2 in December 2023.

Pic: The original Velvet

The original Velvet

The v1 model was made in Dactyl Generator and used single-key PCBs. Building the kit was time consuming, so the v2 features a complete, flexible PCB. That's why the curve on the thumb cluster had to go.

It's a small compromise in favor of easier build. While working on a product there are always gonna be some compromises like this that can only make sense if you build a large amount of keyboards every month – Evgeny.

Velvet 2 features (compared to v1)

  • Pre-built keyboard (instead of DIY kit)
  • 44 keys (outer column added)
  • MX, hotswap
  • Case redesigned from scratch
  • Flexible PCB inside
  • RP2040 Zero microcontroller
  • Fully compatible with Universal Tenting System, 15 mm legs included

Appearance

I love the minimalist look with the white case, white blank uniform caps, and only two accented thumb keys breaking this purity.

Pic:

You couldn't achieve the same level of cleanness and simplicity with sculpted caps, legends, or a bunch of unnecessary keys for that matter. So appearance-wise, the overall design is very well put together.

Layout

This is a pretty minimalist 40% split layout: no function row, no number row, and of course no dedicated arrow and navigation cluster either. Definitely not for the beginner, and probably not for languages with lots of national accented characters. Future owners of the Velvet have to be confident about customizing keymaps for sure.

When you realize nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you… – Ergohaven.

44 keys altogether, but only two thumb keys per half, so get ready to revamp your keymap.

Pic:

Beside the pretty classic 6x3 split alpha part, you have two extra keys for your middle and ring fingers in the bottom row. I usually leave these alone, however, if you see any potential in those keys to replace the functions of the missing outer thumb key by e.g. putting modifiers there, then go for it.

Thumb cluster

What about the thumb cluster? Not great, not terrible. Three-key thumb clusters are pretty much the standard for many of us I guess. We have only two of them here, and while rearranging some keys in your keymap should be straightforward, retraining muscle memory is a different question.

Pic:

That said, the position of the two thumb keys is roughly the same as on various other splits, so I'd say the only major difference is the lack of the outer key.

Looking at the photos you should be able to check the position and compare it to other keyboards. Is the inner key tucked under your palm? No! Actually, the thumb keys are right below the columns of the index finger – many popular splits put them much more inwards. For that matter, the thumb keys of my Planeta are a little further inside, while e.g. the Glove80's thumb keys are way too far outside for my taste.

Keywell

The curvature of the keywell is great. I love it. Part of this is the lack of the number and function rows. That's where most of the problems begin, at least on other boards with keywell: I really hate poking those keys up there instead of pressing them. I know this may depend on your typing style, but still. All in all: no number and F row, no poking problem.

Pic:

Pic:

The keywell of the Velvet in this limited range of only three rows is perfect for my taste.

Build quality

While the 3D model and the build quality is improving constantly, this is still the weakest point of the Velvet.

3D printing

The case is 3D printed, and this fact should speak for itself. You can't expect tolerances of e.g. a milled alu case.

Obviously, the possibilities are different compared to CNC'd metal slabs where you expect perfect finish, and any visible imperfection is intolerable. With a 3D printed case imperfections are often not just tolerable but generally accepted until functionality is not affected.

Pic:

That said, the inner thumb key on the right half of my Velvet touched the wall of the case when pressed. Nothing you couldn't fix with some filing, but it was surprising. The HPD has the same little wall, separating the thumb keys from the 4-key columns, and none of the other five halves laying on my desk had this issue, so hopefully this was a unique case.

Pic:

The good news is that filing a white 3D case is pretty straightforward and doesn't leave any visible marks. Imagine the same operation with an anodized alu case. :D

We are constantly updating the 3D model so this should happen less and less and as always, if any of our customers is bothered by this problem, we offer free replacement parts. Satisfaction of our keyboard users is very important for us – Ergohaven.

I'm not really into 3D printing myself, but the material is a relatively rigid one. The Velvet doesn't have any narrow parts where this would cause issues. And I'm a big fan of the white color. This is my fifth Ergohaven model I guess (K:02, Planeta, M4CR0Pad, HPD, Velvet), and the fourth one in white.

Pic:

The first one, a K:02 came in black, but I like the white versions much better. Layers of the 3D printing are less obvious, and they simply look better imo. No wonder that the official photos on the Ergohaven site are overwhelmingly about the white ones, this colorway works very well in photos.

Pic:

Soldering

I was starting to go crazy when after several attempts to set up mod-tap on thumb keys in Vial I still wasn't able to access the layer I wanted. Opening up the case revealed a poor soldering job at the key in question, and a loose cable too – I may have caused the demise of the cable when opening the case though.

Pic:

Ergohaven offers a 3-year guarantee, this is reassuring, but I would hate to send my keyboard back and wait for weeks. Of course you can easily fix similar issues if you have the tools, however, people buying a prebuilt model probably can't or don't want to bother with soldering.

Pic:

I made the mistake of not taking a photo before resoldering the hotswap socket, but the point is: QC has to be improved.

Caps

Despite XDA not being my favorite keycap profile, the optional blank white caps are surprisingly pleasant to type on, and they perfectly fit the puritan all-white appearance. The magenta and blue accents for the layer shift keys work extremely well too.

No legends, which means you have to be able to touch type. But the minimal layout, without function and number row, suggests that the Velvet was made for more serious typers anyway.

Pic:

At this point I have to confess that I genuinely hate XDA in general. At least that's what I thought. I tried them back in my early days in the hobby, along with DSA, SA, Cherry and MDA, just to get the feel of all options available at that time. And it was pretty obvious, at least for me, that XDA was the worst profile of all. That said, I don't have any problems with _these_ XDAs. Part of this is that earlier I tested them on a flat plate, and uniform caps excel on boards with a keywell, e.g. the Velvet. Other than that, the surface of these XDA caps used by Ergohaven is much nicer than my first XDA from Aliexpress. I have had these exact same caps on my daily driver at home, an Ergohaven Planeta, for months. Almost a year I think. Call me an idiot or just lazy, but I never felt the urge to replace them despite sitting on a heap of keycaps.

The sharp edges of the XDA are definitely not the best choice for the thumb keys, but I didn't even bother with replacing those.

However, if you want to be sure, choose the barebone kit and feel free to use your favorite keycaps.

With a lower keycap profile, e.g. the Tai Hao's new THT with MX stem, you can get a lower overall height:

Pic: XDA vs THT

XDA vs THT

Switches

The Velvet is hotswap. Yep, flexible, curved PCBs with MX hotswap sockets. I'd advice to be careful when removing or swapping switches, but I had no problem with this at all, not even when hours into testing I was treating them with much less care. The point is, you can use whatever switch you prefer.

Pic: Outemu Silent Lemons

Outemu Silent Lemons

But let me tell you a bit about the optional Outemu Silent Lemon switches this unit came with. I was pleasantly surprised by experiencing a tactile switch after a long time, but instead of my personal preferences here is a short anecdote:

I received this board after the Kinetic Labs switch testers, which were still on my desk, jumbled, with an Outemu Silent Lemon among all the community favorite switches. A muggle coworker stopped by and started pressing the testers.

Pic:

In complete silence, without knowing anything about mechanical keyboard switches, without me saying a word, and at the end of a long and careful testing process he declared the winners. The best linears in his opinion were Morandis. Hm. Impressive result from a complete outsider, because this is pretty much what you think based on the current sales numbers. And the best tactile in his opinion? Exactly! These Outemus. :D I have to say that the stems are wobbly though, I personally wouldn't put them at the first place of an imaginary list. There's a small pre-travel before the tactile bump, I guess that's what made the difference and why it was chosen as the winner in a sea of popular tactiles with the bump at the very start of the keypress.

Tenting

The Velvet 2 is compatible with Ergohaven's High stakes universal tenting system, which is a fancy expression for 3D printed legs fitting holes in the bottom of the case. And universal in this case means it's universal in the realm of Ergohaven boards.

Pic:

Pic:

The Velvet comes with 15 mm legs, 3M bumpons at the end for good grip on the desk, and there are other sizes available too.

I personally don't feel I need tenting, but the legs, friction fit in these holes, are sturdy, so they should work reliably if you do. I tested them for a few days without any problem.

Firmware, software

The Velvet 2 is Vial compatible. If you are familiar with Vial, adapting the keymap to your workflow should work like a charm.

Pic:

Swapping some alphas to get my custom layout was easy, replicating my symbol and number layer less so, but it's entirely the fault of my layout and the languages I use.

And setting up home row mods may take some time too, but the point is that you can definitely implement it.

Travel

Relatively small, but a bit bulky, like pretty much all the keyboards with keywell. If you can wrap it into something, sure, you can drop it into your backpack just like I did.

FYI, the dimensions of one half are: 131x106x46 mm. 46 is the tallest point of the keycaps in the upper row, so the overall height. In the home row positions your resting fingers are about 35 mm above the desk surface. (Measured with 2 mm bumpons.)

(For comparison, the highest point of the Glove80 is 56 mm, but your fingers are positioned much lower.)

You can scrape some millimeters off by using lower profile caps, e.g. the new THT by Tai-Hao would leave you with an overall height of 44 mm.

Pic: XDA vs THT

XDA vs THT

Velvet vs Glove80 vs Charybdis

OK, this comparison makes no sense at all, but there were some suggestions regarding this.

Pic:

So the Glove80 has 80 keys, the Velvet 44. They are for completely different user groups. $399 vs $215. 6-key vs 2-key thumb cluster. Wireless vs wired. Choc vs MX. Soldered vs hotswap. Do they share any similarity at all?! :D Beyond the keywell and being keyboards ofc.

Comparing the Glove80 to anything Ergohaven, the HPD would be a more fitting choice, but still only dimension-wise. Sort of.

Maybe Quentin's prebuilt Charybdis Mini is the closest available option to the Velvet, but it comes with a trackball, and costs €494.

To consider before buying

  • Is the layout for you? (No F-row, no number row, no arrows!)
  • Can you live with only two thumb keys per half?
  • Barebone or fully built? XDA may be not your cup of tea.
  • Build quality. This is 3D printed, don't expect the tolerances and feel of a premium milled and anodized aluminum case.
  • Price? You have a lot of excellent keyboards in this price range, but not prebuilt splits with keywell!

Verdict

The Velvet 2 by Ergohaven is a promising little 40% split. Its strength is the keywell and being hotswap, its weakness maybe the build quality which has to be improved. Depending on your workflow, the lack of a third thumb key, coming from a 3-key thumb cluster, may require some creativity and dedication. However, the board being Vial-compatible and having two extra keys per half, you have many options to adapt the layout to your needs.

Availability

At the time of writing this, the Velvet 2 is available at the store from $175 (barebone kit) to $215 (full build with switches and caps).

Resources

And in case you are interested, here are the accessories in the photos, in order of appearance:

Do you like this post? Share, donate, subscribe, tip me off!

Published on Wed 14th Feb 2024. Featured in KBD #155.


Related

Opblack switch review

Opblack switch review (here) by ThereminGoat.

Bancouver40 (minipeg48, kowgary16)

This is my review of the Bancouver40, this cool little pre-built ortho keyboard in a premium CNC aluminum case – designed by Sporewoh and sold by Chosfox.

Everglide Aqua King v3 (another)

Everglide Aqua King v3 switch video review by JunKeebs.

Hyperglide Cherry MX Black

Hyperglide Cherry MX Black review (video) by _veelut.

Chicony KB-5160AT review

Chicony KB-5160AT review (Cherry MX White) by Chyrosran22 (video).

AEBoard's Naevy V1.5 Switch Review

AEBoard's Naevy V1.5 switch review by ThereminGoat (discussion).

×
top