Hex.4B Dreamcore Edition review: Big flex
Hex.4B Dreamcore Edition: Big flex
Note: This review was first published on 7 December 2021.
One of the best sounding boards around
Local keyboard manufacturer Hex Keyboards has teamed up with Dreamcore and Mecha Store to create the Hex.4B Dreamcore Edition, a limited edition version of the Hex.4B mechanical keyboard. Only 100 units are available in a stunning shade of indigo, and it looks like the barebones kit is entirely sold out at the time of writing.
The Hex.4B was released earlier this year at S$295, and the Dreamcore Edition is more expensive at S$350. You get the same 6061 aluminium construction, now anodised purple, and an internal alloy 260 brass weight stamped with the Dreamcore logo. It is delightfully hefty, weighing a good 2.1kg when built. If you're more used to mainstream gaming keyboards with predominantly plastic construction, the Hex.4B will feel like a completely different beast altogether. The aluminium anodisation is smooth with no visible flaws, although you can see a very slight grain to it upon closer inspection.
The base is also narrower than the top, which provides helpful purchase when you're looking to pick the keyboard up. This is especially crucial for a keyboard that weighs this much, and I appreciate the functional nature of the design. However, the rather tall front height means that this keyboard is most comfortable when used with a wrist rest.
Dreamcore is also offering build services to Singapore customers, with the option for switch filming and lubing as well. You can pick between a range of linear and tactile switches, in addition to several different keycap options. Going for the assembly service increases the price as much as S$580+, including keycaps, so you'll have to shell out a fair amount (though this version is still available) if you don't have experience with keyboard assembly and soldering. Unfortunately, there is no option for a hot-swappable PCB because the plate-less design requires soldering to hold the switches firmly in place.
My review unit was shipped to me fully built with linear Gateron Lion switches, Everglide V2 stabilisers, and ABS laser keycaps. On top of that, the switches have been lubed with Krytox 205g0 and stabilisers with dielectric grease, which creates an incredibly smooth experience throughout. The laser keycaps are a gorgeous match for this particular shade of purple, but I expect it to be quite a polarising choice that won't be for everyone.
The team at Hex Keyboards has designed the Hex.4B with a very unique typing experience and sound profile in mind. Instead of going for a more common aluminium plate, or even any plate at all, the Hex.4B utilises a plate-less design with O-ring PCB mounting for a very flexible, almost bouncy, typing experience. You can even see the keys flex when you push down, and while this amount of flex takes some getting used to, it soon began to grow on me. However, if you're someone that prefers stiffer aluminium or brass plates, the Hex.4B may not be for you.
The Gateron Lion switches themselves also feel really smooth to use, and I really enjoy the sound profile they produce with the keyboard. Designed by Hex Keyboards, this switch features a red and white colour scheme inspired by the Singapore flag and a slow-curve spring. The resulting sound profile may also be one of my favourites on a keyboard so far, with a deep, satisfying "thock" with each keypress. This is the stuff of 'keyboard ASMR' dreams, and it's the kind of keyboard I want to bring to the office so everyone can hear how good it sounds.
I enjoy the compact 75% layout – you get to keep the function row, arrow keys, and navigation row, while still freeing up space for your mouse. The blocker to the left of the arrow keys is a nice aesthetic touch as well, although it'd have been nice to have a winkeyless option too.
The PCB is fully programmable using VIA, which has an incredibly simple to use visual interface. This means you can map the navigation row to do whatever you want, which could come in handy for games. Compared to the QMK configurator that used to characterise certain enthusiasts boards in the past, this is an absolute breeze to use.
The board features a centralised USB-C port with a rather large cutout. The size of the cutout is likely due to the need to accommodate the flexing of the PCB. The lack of a daughterboard means that the USB port flexes as you type or push down, so the cutout needs to be larger to allow for that movement. I personally prefer a left-aligned USB port, but I can see how a central one allows for greater versatility.
The Hex.4B Dreamcore Edition is a keyboard targeted at the enthusiast community, but the build services offered lower the barrier somewhat for anyone looking to dip their toes into the custom mechanical keyboard market, assuming they can stomach the additional cost. The plate-less design offers a unique typing experience that you'll find on few other boards, and the delectable "thock" sound produced with each keystroke makes this one of the best-sounding boards around.
I like that Dreamcore has teamed up with local builders to make the prospect of building your own custom keyboard less daunting, and I'm looking forward to more such collaborations in the future to bring custom keyboards to the mainstream market.
While the barebones edition is out of stock as of writing, you can still purchase the fully assembled edition (which would cost more) with a selection of switches and keycaps of your choosing.