Approximately 3 months ago (987 hours to be more specific), I made the switch to a 60% keyboard. To be more specific, I started using the popular Anne Pro 2 bluetooth, USB-C, RGB mechanical keyboard! If you’re not familiar with what this means, keyboards come in varying sizes with different layouts – I’ve given a brief overview of this a little further down. If you want to skip that though – the Anne Pro 2 is a pretty compact keyboard that has 61 keys on it, compared to the “typical” workplace 104 key keyboard!

Keyboard sizes

Before we get too far into this, lets start by looking at the differences between keyboard sizes. The internet is full of resources/articles that have already been written about keyboard size (it’s also not the purpose of this article!), so I’ll keep it relatively brief here and will link to a few more in-depth articles covering keyboard sizes. There are quite a few others that I won’t mention in detail here, such as 1800 compact, 70%, keypad and a whole array of interesting ergonomic keyboards! If you already know/understand different keyboard layouts and sizes, you can skip this section!

“Full Size”/”100%”/104-108 keys

This size keyboard has been the de facto size keyboard for many, many years now. Not much has changed since their original introduction to the market way back in the late 80’s. The full sized keyboard consists of 104, 105 or 108 keys depending on their respective layouts/regions, which are ANSI (USA), ISO (EU) or JIS (Japan).

You get the whole array of features – number pad, directional keys, function row, alphanumeric keys and sometimes even keys specifically for media control.

“Tenkeyless”/”87%”/”80%”/87-88 keys

The next most common size of keyboard is Tenkeyless (commonly referred to simply as “TKL”). This does almost exactly what it says on the tin – removes the number pad (the ten keys!). They’re usually a little cheaper (obviously because there is less for a manufacturer to build), but also they’re a good chunk lighter as well as a more “bag-friendly” size!

TKL keyboards are actually pretty popular – the overall layout is identical to that of a full sized keyboard, so there’s nothing new to learn. You still have the top number row and your directional arrows are in the same place, so you don’t actually lose any functionality either. There is also then the benefit of the more compact overall size. Not only is your keyboard taking up less desk space, but a TKL keyboard actually allows you to adopt a more ergonomic typing/mouse position, as you can have your mouse closer to your keyboard, minimising stretching distance!

60%

The next most common size is 60%. It is at this point that you start giving up the standard layout and some of the creature comforts.

For instance, a 60% keyboard will exclude the standard directional arrows cluster, the function row, still no number pad – and any of these features have to typically be accessed via a “function key”, which essentially changes one key, to another type. On some boards you might hold Fn and tap W, which would then act as the directional button Up. Fn + S would equate to Down, Fn + D = Right and Fn + A = Left – so on an so forth.

There is definitely a bit of a learning curve to 60% as it is a non-standard layout, as well as each manufacturer implementing function keys and mappings slightly differently – the Anne Pro handles directional arrows in a really intuitive way, something I’ll touch on a bit later.

40%

The final, “most common” keyboard size I’ll mention is the 40% keyboard. Now, I say “most common” in quotes because it’s not really a common keyboard size. In fact, it’s pretty a darn niche market for 40% boards! That being said, there’s a fairly loyal following out there for 40% boards.

With 40%, you for-go pretty much everything except your alphabetical keys and a couple other commonly used keys such as shift, enter, backspace and space. That’s pretty much all you get. Everything else is accessed via “layers” similar to the 60% keyboards and their function button! However, 40% boards will typically have at least two layers, to cover every type of key you might need (equivalent to full sized boards usually!)

Features

Right – moving back on to the Anne Pro 2! This keyboard is packed with features:

  • Bluetooth 4.0 or USB Type-C connectivity modes
    • Up to 4 devices can be paired
  • 1900mAh built-in Li-Ion battery
    • Capable of between 8 hours and 4 weeks of constant power depending on LED usage and brightness
  • Per-key RGB LED’s (16 million colours)
    • Multiple pre-programmed dynamic modes
    • Custom per-key lighting can be configured via the app
  • 1ms response time
  • Full 61 key NKRO/Anti-Ghosting (USB mode only)
  • PBT keycaps
  • Available case Colour(s): Black, White
  • Constantly developing firmware (via ObinsLab Starter app)
  • Available switches: Cherry MX, Gateron, Kailh Box
    • Wide array of switch colours available: Blue, Brown, Red & Black are most common
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 284mm x 97mm x 40mm 
  • Weight: 635g

Design & Build Quality

Design

The Anne Pro 2 is constructed, overall, out of a solid plastic. Looking at the board from the top down, the case bezels are really slim and have a slightly chamfered edge, leading to sides that are not “sharp” or harsh to hold.

Anne Pro 2 - Switch

The case has a fairly “high profile” design, meaning that if you’re looking at the sides you’re not going to see any keys/stems.

Anne Pro 2 - Dimensions

Talking of looking at the sides, if you look at either the right or the left side, you’ll notice a slight incline in terms of the overall angle – this is due to the fact that there are no flip-out feet on the bottom-side of the case, so no adjustable angling. However, the angle that the Anne Pro 2 is “stuck” with is actually a really nice typing angle. I find it incredibly comfortable and have not once wished for flip-out feet!

While we’re on the underside, there’s very little to note. The only features down there are logos, 4 x slim rubber feet and the on/off switch for the Bluetooth capabilities.

Moving around to the rear-side of the case, you’ll find the USB-C port here, where you (obviously) plug in your USB-C cable (which is included in the box). The use of USB-C is greatly appreciated, as now I can use the same cable to charge my phone and my keyboard when travelling!

A lot of people say that it is very similar in terms of design, to the old Anne Pro. To that, I would say “if it ain’t broke!” as the overall design is really clean, compact and just nice to look at! I don’t know that much more could be done to “change things up”?

Build Quality

Moving on to product weight, the Anne Pro 2 isn’t by any means a light keyboard. Tipping the scales at around 635g, the Anne Pro 2 is also not the heaviest of keyboards. I haven’t opened this thing up, but as most other people have guessed, I can only assume that there’s a steel backplate in there (rather than the typical aluminium) to keep things nice and weighty. I have no problem with this whatsoever – the keyboard doesn’t move around my desk and when it’s in my bag it’s not a “noticeable” weight.

In terms of the overall build quality, I’m really happy. I’ve lugged this thing to-and-from work, thrown it in my bag and shipped it around with me. It has also stood up to my cat waddling all over it, my dogs jumping on it and the plethora of cat hair that managed to entwine itself around the keys. It’s easy to pull the keycaps off and wipe down, there are no scuffs on any of the casing and the USB cable has stood up to multiple recharges, tugs, knocks and accidental yankings!

Day-to-day Usage

My day job (“IT Manager”/”IT jack-of-all-trades”) results in a varied workload. One minute I can be typing emails, partaking in Skype chats, logging tickets etc. then the next minute I could be reviewing SQL, then on to checking PHP, JS, HTML and CSS and finally writing up extensive documentation around systems, process, feature scopes, business cases and more. At no point, does any of this include my “spare time” stuff, such as this blog, Open Source contributions, technical article write-ups, personal emails etc.

To cut an already long story short – I type… a lot! A good keyboard is absolutely critical to me. I’ve never suffered from significant RSI, but if I’m using a low quality keyboard, heavy switches or poorly aligned keyboard – I notice it at the end of the day!

Making the switch (no pun intended 😉)

First, let’s talk about the layout. My main keyboard at work has been the Logitech G610 Orion Brown for as long as I can remember. It’s a full sized keyboard, it’s incredibly comfortable to use and I’ve just never really strayed away from it! That being said, when I got the Anne Pro 2 (I have the Cherry MX Brown variant) I really wanted to dive in and see if I could use it as my primary keyboard.

Now, I’m going to start this by saying – I’ve used TKL keyboards before. In fact I use one in my spare time every now and then. However, the jump between full size and TKL and the jump between full size and 60% is significantly different. Full size to TKL all you really have to care about it is the lack of number pad. However 60% really does change up the layout slightly. Most keys are hidden behind a function key combo!

Learning to use the Anne Pro 2 definitely took me a good few days, if not a week to get 99% comfortable. Even now, there are keys that I either sometimes miss, or forget the combination for – which I’ve made even worse by swapping out the keycaps to blank keycaps 😂!

However, once I had gotten used to the compact layout, key combinations and overall workflow with the Anne Pro 2 – I actually found myself struggling a little to revert back to a full sized keyboard! I’ve been using the Anne Pro 2 as my main keyboard for around 3 months now and my hands, wrists, arms and brain have all definitely adjusted to the smaller keyboard layout. It’s also nice to have my mouse closer to the center of my keyboard, rather than way off to the right (past the numpad that I don’t know how I ever used!). That’s not to say I can’t go back, but it definitely takes me a couple of seconds to get re-used to the layout and overall plethora of spare space!

Battery Life

So, one of the key benefits of purchasing and using the Anne Pro 2 is the fact that it is wireless capable thanks to the onboard Bluetooth! As long as your device is Bluetooth capable, you can even forget about dongles!

Anne Pro 2 - Battery
I’m not sure what “overshoot protection” is exactly, but I assume it’s “discharge protection”.

I’ve paired my keyboard up to my MacBook Air, Dell (work computer running Windows 10) and my iPhone XS Max. I can switch between all three of these machines (very very quickly) using the Fn2 key and either the 1, 2 or 3 number keys (depending on which I want to connect to, as each machine is bound to a key!). You can pair up to 4 devices simultaneously and switch between them all at will, which is really nice!

There’s one downside to Bluetooth though. Obviously, that downside is battery life – and this is where your mileage is going to differ in a pretty noticeable way! Let me throw some stats at you:

Usage TypeAverage Usage Time
No LEDs82h 12m
LEDs at 50% (static – all white)10h 50m
LEDs at 50% (dynamic effect)18h 48m
LEDs at 100% (static – all white)7h 36m
LEDs at 100% (dynamic effect)6h 27m

As you can see from the above table, using the LED’s absolutely kills the Anne Pro 2’s battery. If you want to use the LED’s, I’d suggest either using them sparingly, or sticking to USB mode whilst the LED’s are on! Without LED’s, the Anne Pro can legitimately last weeks! That being said, I’m going to do some more testing around the static 50% brightness, as I don’t understand why the battery life was almost half that of the dynamic effect!

There is also a battery mod that you can do, which allows you to upgrade the standard 1900mAh battery to atleast 3000mAh – allowing you to potentially squeeze out further 50% of power-on time!

Recharge times

It’s all well and good having a battery that can last you anywhere between a day and a couple of weeks, but how long does it take to fully recharge that battery? Well… let me tell you. Using a USB3.0 port (bear in mind the Anne Pro 2 only pulls 500mA @ 5V), I consistently saw between 7h 2m and 7h 5m charge times (from 0% to 100%) when using no LED backlighting at the same time. So you could quite easily just leave the keyboard on charge overnight and it’ll be ready for at least a full days work the next day.

Function keys

So you’ve adjusted to the alphabetical layer and the standard layout – that’s great! But now you want to be able to type “£100” or function() { var thing = true; } or (the one that’s always the most fun for me) you want to type ` or ~ (that’s right… the backtick and tilde characters). Now you’re going to embark on a whole new learning curve – the function layers!

There are two function layers as standard, for the Anne Pro 2. The first handles your standard function keys – F1-12, as well as keys such as Print Screen, PgUp, PgDn, Delete, Insert – amongst other things.

So far, I’ve only found one way to recall which key does what (in the event I forget) – refer to the ObinsLab Starter app! The app is great, because it provides you with a detailed visual of the per layer layout of what each key is programmed to do – which is insanely useful in the event you custom configure keys to do certain tasks!

The “Layout” view in the ObinsLab Starter app – currently on the “Top” layer (the main layer)

RGB Lighting Effects

It’s 2019, so of course the Anne Pro 2 includes some form of RGB. In my honest opinion, the guys at Obins have gone 75% of the way in on RGB. There are a few features missing, such as being able to control dynamic effect direction, speed and being able to “create” a dynamic effect yourself.

The Anne Pro 2 product tech spec sheet shows that the keyboard is capable of outputting 16 million colours, however the colour wheel provided within the ObinsLab Starter app gives you a much more limited set of options – I haven’t counted, but I’d hazard a guess that you have no more than 256 options there.

Fairly limited colour selection!

That being said, you can setup per-key lighting and colour. You can’t control individual key brightness, but that’s not too big a deal in my opinion (I don’t know I’ve ever seen a keyboard that does this!).

There are a bunch of presets pre-programmed, which can be switched through via the following key combinations:

FN2 + 9 = Switch Light Effect/Colour
FN2 + 0 = Toggle Backlight On/Off
FN2 + – = Reduce Backlight Brightness
FN2 + + = Increase Backlight Brightness

Obins have missed one trick here though – pressing either FN1 or FN2 does not light up the keys that are affected by this. A bit annoying, because if you’ve got blank keycaps (👋🏼), or even keycaps that don’t denote the function keys, it can be quite tricky to remember which one exactly does what. This is something I’d like to see added in the future, as I’ve seen this as standard on a few other compact keyboards (such as the Ducky Mini’s).

ObinsLab Starter App/Firmware

The ObinsLab Starter desktop app allows you to control all aspects of your keyboard, from macro creation to individually lit/coloured keys. The below gallery should give you an idea of what you can do!

  • 1. Launch Screen
  • 2. General Info
  • 3. Firmware Status and History
  • 4. Layout Creator
  • 5. Color and Animation Creator
  • 6. Macro Creator
  • 7. Preferences

By default, the ObinsLab app starts up in Dark Mode (THANK YOU!), but there is a Light Mode out there for those of you that prefer to burn your retina 😉. You can compare the second image in the gallery above, to the image just below (until I can find a decent before & after comparison tool!).

8. Light Theme

Issues I’ve had

I’m not going to lie to you (I never would!) – it hasn’t all been fun and games. I’ve had a couple of issues that I want to mention here, some have been resolved and some haven’t.

First up, if you’re running low on battery on Bluetooth, unless you manually check (FN2 + 8), you don’t get notified. The keyboard will just run out with no warning. Considering I have software installed on my machine, I’d expect at least a notification of some form to say “battery getting low”. However, the ObinsLab Starter app only works with the keyboard in USB mode.

Next up, the ObinsLab Starter app only works in USB mode!

At one point, there were some issues with LED colour reproduction. Whites would show as light pink, or blue (search Reddit and you’ll find a lot of reports of this) and other colours would do weird things at certain brightness levels. Fortunately, this one has been resolved by the guys at Obins. It’s also worth me mentioning that I did email their support and got a fairly quick response confirming they were aware and already working on the issue!

I had some issues with the keyboard connecting via Bluetooth at one point. I don’t know whether it was Windows or the keyboard (both Windows and Obins had an update at the same time!!), but it took me about an hour of deleting drivers, reconnecting the keyboard and a whole array of troubleshooting in-between to get things working again. I haven’t had the issue since fortunately, so not sure what went on here!

Summary

There’s no denying, the Anne Pro 2 isn’t a cheap keyboard – it’s definitely an investment (at around £60 – 90 depending on where you shop and how long you’re willing to wait for shipping)! It has a lot of features, great portability and is (in my honest opinion) extremely comfortable to use.

Now, you may be asking yourself why you’d pay so much more, for less of a keyboard than say, a TKL or a full-sized keyboard – and I’ll be honest, it was my first thought too. However, after having used the keyboard as my daily driver I can confidently say that there’s absolutely no way I’d want to go back to anything bigger.

The Anne Pro 2 brings the perfect amount of customisability, programmability and personalisation to the masses. You don’t have to learn any code (such as with QMK for most other keyboards), or know how to solder. The build quality is more than satisfactory – I’m three months in and you’d think that I hadn’t used my keyboard!

There’s also a wide choice of mechanical switches, so you should be able to get something that suits your typing style/preferred typing feel! Slap on your favourite keycaps/a custom keycap set (because you can do that!) and you’ve got something infinitely customisable!

Furthermore, the software that goes with the Anne Pro 2 is ever changing and ever evolving, which is great because new features, functionality and fixes are always being applied!

If you’re someone who types a lot on a keyboard across an array of devices, or an on-the-go gamer who wants to be able to type on one machine, then plug in the USB-C cable for extremely low response times, or just someone that wants a highly portable, yet still “feature rich” keyboard – I think you’d be right at home with the Anne Pro 2.

Useful Links

ObinsLab website: http://en.obins.net/anne-pro2

ObinsLab Starter app: http://en.obins.net/obinslab-starter

AliExpress: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Anne-Pro2-mini-portable-60-mechanical-keyboard-wireless-bluetooth-Gateron-mx-Blue-Brown-switch-gaming-keyboard/32838679826.html

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-PRO-Mechanical-Keyboard-Programmable/dp/B07MDMRGSV

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Anne-Mechanical-Gaming-Keyboard-Backlit/dp/B07MR775BR

Will Stocks

As a career "IT person" and technology enthusiast, I've been around technology for over 8 years now. From enterprise-grade hardware to consumer equipment, IT Support to Systems Administrator - I'm passionate about all forms of tech, learning how it works, integrates and the scenarios in which different people would use them. I started willstocks.co.uk in 2017 and have also contributed to other websites around the Internet.

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