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Whitefox Eclipse review

The WhiteFox Eclipse by Project Eclipse is the latest take on this classic model: a prebuilt 68% board with magnetic assembly and a whole ecosystem of modular cases. (Now with 10% off!)

KBD.news
Published March 8, 2024
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Designed by Project Eclipse and sold by Apos, the Whitefox Eclipse, this latest take on the classic Whitefox, is a family of keyboards rather than a single model: you can have it with an impressive high-profile aluminum case, a low-pro one with posh feet, and there's also a budget plastic option.

The WhiteFox Eclipse is built for versatility, allowing for the effortless swapping out of cases, keycaps, and switches – Project Eclipse.

We are talking about an extremely well built screwless 68% wireless keyboard with magnets and gasket mounting – very handy if you open your case relatively often, e.g. to support hotswap sockets when replacing switches, or simply to clean your keyboard.

Pic:

But this handy mechanism is just the first sign that as a successor of the historic Brown/WhiteFox projects incepted back in 2013, the heroic age of the mechanical keyboard hobby, Alpaca's Eclipse couldn't be more refined compared to Matt3o's original DIY handwired board.

Disclaimer

The review unit was sent to me by Apos. You should be familiar with this store by now, but in case you've missed my recent editorials: despite their main focus being audio, Apos is expanding to mechanical keyboards and already offers an impressive selection of keyboards, keycaps and related accessories.

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

First impressions

I received the high-pro aluminum case, which looks gorgeous.

Whether you're into stormtroopers or Stanley Kubrick's cinematic world, Zen desktops or simply an all-white working environment, you'll love the Whitefox Eclipse.

Pic:

It's common that official materials are full of exaggerations, buzzwords and marketing mumbo-jumbo, and the Project Eclipse/Alpaca/Apos pages are no exception. (Sorry :D) BUT! There are facts I can't argue with: elegance of the case and overall design, great out-of-the-box typing experience, and the incredible ease of "disassembling" and putting the parts back together – the screwless magnetic structure.

That said, if I had to describe the Whitefox Eclipse in tree words, I would still go with: Heavy, massive, and fat – Did I mention it weighs a lot? :D

Honestly, you don't even have to open the box to admire the 2.4kg aluminum slab, experiencing the sheer mass is pretty astonishing right when the courier hands over the parcel.

But there's much more to the Whitefox than the impressive machined aluminum case.

Pic: Whitefox Eclipse side profile (6 degrees typing angle)

Whitefox Eclipse side profile (6 degrees typing angle)

Specs

  • pre-built, works out of the box
  • 68% layout, 71 keys
  • case options: CNC alu high/low, plastic
  • hotswap, pre-lubed Gateron Yellows
  • dye-sub PBT Cherry keycaps
  • magnetic assembly
  • per-key RGB (south-facing) & underglow
  • wired/Bluetooth connection
  • 4000mAh battery
  • QMK/VIA
  • weight: 2.4kg

Origin story

The Whitefox, starting out as Brownfox in 2013, is a piece of keyboard history.

In today's thriving and overcrowded keyboard scene it's pretty hard to imagine how difficult it was to source compatible keycaps for a unique layout in those early years of the mechanical keyboard renaissance, so Matteo Spinelli ended up designing the DSA Retro for his custom DIY board.

Pic: The original Brownfox from 2013. Photo by Matt3o.

The original Brownfox from 2013. Photo by Matt3o.

Yep, we are talking about Matt3o, who, beside being a kbd.news contributor, is known as the designer of your favorite keycap sets and profiles like MT3 and MTNU.

But back in 2013 his deskthority post describing the design process of the Brownfox, originally a handwired project, became an invaluable resource for newcomers to the scene for years.

Riding the wave of success, the board went into production as Whitefox in collaboration with Massdrop. Basically a 65% kit (although there were a handful of different layouts), and because of the DIY approach still with lots of visible screws.

Pic: Massdrop Whitefox

Massdrop Whitefox

Fast forward to 2023, when the project by Alpaca Keyboards (now Project Eclipse), led by ex-Massdrop manager Kunal Kumar, went through a successful Kickstarter phase, and now this fully fledged ecosystem of readily available, pre-built boards has arrived: the Whitefox Eclipse with the magnetic case without a single screw.

Unboxing & Contents

In the white cardboard box you have the prebuilt Eclipse with switches and caps mounted, along with a matching cable, spare caps, tools, and a quickstart guide.

Pic:

Don't let the innocent look deceive you. The pure white keyboard with its friendly curves is the kind of tool you can use as a weapon if needed. Maybe a license should be mandatory because of the sheer mass of this hefty slab of aluminum.

Pic:

Dropkicking it, what was a great way to demonstrate the durability of the Alphasmart, would land you in a hospital this time for sure.

Layout

While the original Whitefox came in a plethora of different options, all being variants of the 65% layout, Alpaca's Eclipse is the closest to the Aria arrangement – plus an extra column on the right, thus a 68%.

The origin of this layout name is that in Italian "Aria" means "Air", and there's "some air" (a gap) between the right control and the arrow cluster – Matt3o.

If you have difficulties with cramped layouts without any clue for your fingers while touch typing, you will agree that this small gap makes a lot of difference when reaching over to the arrow cluster.

Pic:

However, the FN key is in a rather strange position. (Above the right arrow.) This is a legacy of the Brownfox, and you can reprogram it any time. No problem for me because I always set up Space as FN anyway (SpaceFN concept). That said, I wonder if there's anybody out there who can use FN in that default position.

Keycaps

The Whitefox comes with dye-sublimated PBT Cherry caps. Pretty thick, 1.5mm, and beside the default all-white set, the bundle contains some spare caps and blue accents too.

Pic:

That said, the neutral white case is a great background for many caps and keycap sets, be it industrial artisans…

Pic: Whitefox Eclipse with keebwerk artisan

Whitefox Eclipse with keebwerk artisan

… or sets with more busy pattern:

Pic: Whitefox Eclipse with some KDS Splatter caps

Whitefox Eclipse with some KDS Splatter caps

Sourcing compatible keycaps is much easier nowadays than it was back in 2013. The only minor incompatibility may be caused by the position of the keys in the rightmost columns – i.e. mismatched sculpt.

Switches

Pre-lubed 50g Gateron Yellow Pro 2.0s. Decent and affordable linears, no wonder they are still among the community favorites. That said, the PCB of the Eclipse comes with hotswap sockets, so you can easily replace the switches if you prefer something else.

Pic: Whitefox Eclipse with Gateron Yellows

Whitefox Eclipse with Gateron Yellows

Build quality, structure

The case is not simply hefty and seemingly indestructible, but I would call it the new gold standard of sturdiness. Except the sloppy Bluetooth switch. I got the impression that you have to be careful when putting the case back together to not to break it.

Easily open, customize, and clean your keyboard, no matter where you are. No tools, no trouble. Just lift up and get to work – Apos.

The screwless design only means there are no screws required for the case. Don't be surprised if you run into some screws here and there. E.g. there are the screw-in stabs of course, then two screws holding the PCB and plate together, and a bunch of magnetic poles too. This means modding is easy until you don't want to replace the plate.

Pic:

Magnets are everywhere. They hold the top and bottom parts of the case together, and keep the core (plate/PCB) in the bottom case. Sorry, no magnetic levitation, although it would be cool. :D But snapping of the magnets is still neat to hear and feel every time.

PCB

The PCB does have horizontal flex cuts, but I can't reproduce the extreme flex seen in official reels. Probably because of the stiff alu(?) switch plate. But the typing experience is pleasantly soft anyway. A little softer and it would be too much for my taste.

Pic:

The per-key RGB makes sense, but underglow? LEDs pointing downwards are the sign of the universal PCB I guess. It doesn't make much sense with the high-pro case and alu plate, perfectly sealing off any light. Probably more with the plastic case or other future options.

Pic:

There's only one bottom row layout, no stepped Caps Lock or ISO support, really just a single layout.

Gaskets

The magnets sitting in the bottom case are "vibration isolated", meaning there's a thin layer of poron between the top and bottom magnets (PCB and case).

Pic:

Sound dampening

3 mm poron switch foam, and a similarly thick layer in the bottom case too.

Portability

It's funny that the product pages stress wireless freedom. Sure, the Eclipse is wireless, but the chunky high-pro Whitefox is probably one of the last keyboards I'd consider for the job when brainstorming in bed or working in bustling cafes. The lighter low-pro alu and acrylic versions would be definitely better for these use cases.

But who am I to tell you what to do with your Eclipse? It all comes down to circumstances and dedication. :D My personal favorites, the 20-30kg luggable computers of the early '80s were marketed as portable too.

Software

QMK and VIA compatibility? Awesome. No more questions. But if you'd like to learn more, there's a whole blog post dedicated to this topic here.

Otherwise just head to usevia.app and start messing up your keymap. :D (I think the quickstart guide should mention this.)

Pic:

Reproducing my custom layout and setting up SpaceFN was easy-peasy. Whether you are the type who set it once and forget about it or keep tweaking your keymap on a daily basis, the Eclipse won't disappoint you.

Other features

The low-pro case comes with cool magnetic cone feet (6.5 degree tilt). I'm not sure why these feet disappeared, similar designs where everywhere a few years ago, and they look pretty awesome.

Pic: Magnetic feet

Magnetic feet

I'm not into RGB, but as already mentioned, you have per-key RGB and underglow too (don't expect any light escaping the high-pro case though).

Pic: Dressed in RGB

Dressed in RGB

Conclusion

The WhiteFox Eclipse is an incredibly well build wireless keyboard (save the Bluetooth switch). With the cool magnetic case and excellent out-of-the-box sound, feel and typing experience I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who likes the 68% layout. If portability matters, go with the lighter cases though.

Pros

  • Build quality: feels indestructible
  • Screw-less magnetic case
  • Modular design

Cons

  • Bluetooth switch looking vulnerable (comment by Project Eclipse: "we have made it better on the hardware side and the switch is more robust")
  • Portability is not its strength

Availability

Right now there's a 10% discount in effect (auto-applied at checkout), so the WhiteFox Eclipse is available from $126 (plastic case):

Other products in the photos above:

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Published on Fri 8th Mar 2024. Featured in KBD #158.


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