Hello World 75

Hello World 75 - Potential or Gimmicks? 

Review disclosure - this keyboard was sent to me for review, however, this review is solely my thoughts. 

When I had originally seen this keyboard advertised, I was a bit skeptical of the board as a whole. The idea of modularity is fun, but practical use decides whether the modularity is simply a gimmick or a positive way to interact with a keyboard. Speaking of the keyboard, let’s start there. At its core, the Hello World 75 is a very standard 75% keyboard. It’s my favorite bottom-row style for 75% boards as well. 3 1.25u keys to the left of the 7u spacebar with 3 1u keys to the right. The keyboard unit itself is fairly thin. There isn’t a lot of room for resonant sound, so the keyboard is layered with foam which gives it the classic foam sound, marbly in nature. The stabilizers included leave me perplexed. In all the images online, the PCB supports PCB mount stabilizers, however, my pre-assembled, pre-release model shipped with plate mount stabilizers. I will admit, I was impressed that they sounded so well for plate mount stabilizers, but at this price point, I expect PCB mount stabilizers.  Across the bottom of the keyboard, you find a nice angled lip that ends just before the arrow keys on the right. Initially, I was worried that the transition would be uncomfortable in typing, but I didn’t notice the transition in regular use. To be honest, the keyboard section of the board isn’t anything to write home about. The typing experience isn’t revolutionary, it relies heavily on foams to achieve its sound, which to me is pleasant, but not my favorite. I don’t mind the sound of foam boards, but I tend to favor deeper-sounding boards. 

What separates the Hello World from other keyboards is the modules. Honestly, it’s probably the main consideration for purchasing the board. The first module is one of my favorites. It serves as the base for the entire keyboard and module unit. In the bottom module, you’ll find a lithium-ion battery pack to drive the brushless motor as well as two type A USB ports. My first keyboard was a Happy Hacking Keyboard Pro 2 back in 2009. I loved the integrated USB ports in the keyboard and used them frequently for flash drives. I still use that keyboard frequently in my server environment with one of the ports permanently occupied by a 256 GB drive filled with tools. I could see using the Hello World’s ports similarly, maybe even to include a mouse dongle as well. When integrated nicely into the design of a keyboard, I enjoy seeing integrated hubs. Additionally, there is a gesture zone below the space bar, unfortunately, I could not get any gestures to work.

The start of Hello World’s design is undoubtedly the knob and e-ink screen module. Upon arrival, I noticed that in my unit, this module was slightly wobbly. As if it wasn’t screwed in all the way. Unfortunately, the screws were bottomed out in the module. I replaced the stock screws with ones about half a millimeter shorter, and it removed any of the wobble. Hopefully, that adjustment can translate to final production. Out of all the integrated knob designs, this is my favorite knob to use. It’s a large knob, turned on its side, and incredibly comfortable to use. Technically this knob is a brushless motor. When it isn’t receiving power, the knob spins freely and smoothly, however, when plugged in, the motor gives the knob the feeling of having very articulated steps. Additionally, this module has a small OLED screen that depicts which of the three modes the knob is in. By default, there is volume, brightness, and scrolling up and down. You switch through the modes by using the two very haptic buttons below the knob. Below that is a good-sized e-ink display. I was initially really excited about the e-ink screen. 

Hello World 75 with GMK Modern Dolch Light with Aesthetic Kit. I tired to use the e-ink screen to display a photo of my daughter, it's a bit creepy.

What makes me hesitate about a full recommendation of this keyboard is the software. It felt unpolished and lacked features I’d expect for a board with a starting price of around $500. While this is a pre-release unit, I still expect some of the software to be fleshed out. All configuration is done through web applications. The keymapping web software would not recognize the Hello World 75, so I couldn’t make any changes to the keymapping or RGB. I also would assume this is where the settings for the gestures would be since the other website I was directed to was specifically for programming the module. The module web app recognized the module, but my options here were severely limited. I could test that the knob was working, but there weren't any adjustments that I could make. I could adjust the indicator LED’s brightness, but couldn’t adjust its color. Of this entire keyboard, I was most excited about the e-ink display, and I felt like it let me down a bit. Its current functionality makes it more of a gimmick than a feature. Right now you can only update the e-ink screen with images you upload to the website. I was excited to use the e-ink screen more productively. I imagined being able to use the e-ink screen as more of a sticky note, being able to put a few notes on it to keep me on track. I honestly was excited to use it while I played Destiny 2, I could put some weapon rolls I was looking out for on it, and reference it as I was playing. For now, the screen holds an e-ink picture of my daughter - that I couldn’t resize or adjust in the software either. 

For me, this keyboard needs some work before the final release. Physically, there isn’t anything I’d change other than the two screws holding the knob and screen module to the backbone. This is a situation where the software completely cripples the user experience. I think that if the runners want this project to be successful, some significant effort is going to be needed. Some things I’d look for in the software of this keyboard are proper remapping support, knob adjustments, and proper screen support. Being able to remap a keyboard is important. It’s also important that users can use all the features of the keyboard, like gestures. The knob feels great out of the box. The three presets are probably what I would use it for on a normal basis. I would like to be able to swap brightness out for something like zooming in and out since my main monitor doesn’t support Windows brightness adjustments. As I was writing this review, I was able to now adjust the number of ‘clicks’ within the encoder, as well as the intensity of these ‘clicks’ so it appears that they are still actively developing the software. There is also a physical indicator on the knob. Being able to create limits or bounds to the knob would also be incredibly helpful. As of right now, the indicator doesn’t mean anything, as you can infinitely scroll the knob. Lastly, we come to the e-ink screen. Only being able to upload a static photo is a bit of a deal breaker for me. I’d like to be able to do more. I’d like to be able to put small lists on the screen without creating a photo to do it. I’d like that when uploading a photo if there were settings to adjust the size of the photo that is displayed on the screen. Right now, it defaults to trying to fit the entire image on the screen, I’d like to be able to adjust what is displayed so that I can use the whole screen. I’d also like to see the bezel straightened on the display. In the prerelease model I received, the cutout for the screen isn’t set at perfect 90-degree angles. It’s a bit softer and rounder. It doesn’t match the aesthetic of the rest of the board. 

Speaking of aesthetics, the board gives off a neo-futuristic space design language. The model I received has an e-white coating and it appears to be quite consistent. I don’t see any blemishes or marks on this pre-production unit. The modules seem to fit together securely (now that the screws were replaced in my knob and screen module) however there is a slight height difference between the knob and screen module and the main keyboard. It is not noticeable in day-to-day typing, but at this price point, I would expect it to be addressed for the full product release. My only gripe with the aesthetic is the buttons that control the function of the screen. They are yellow, which could clash with a lot of themes that would be used on the board. If these were gray or black, I think that it would be a better choice. I chose to pair this keyboard with GMK Modern Dolch Light with its aesthetic kit to play off the e-ink display. I would have liked to set the backlight to a solid white or perhaps even yellow to incorporate the two buttons, but as I said earlier, the configuration software could not recognize my model. All documentation being solely in Chinese makes it difficult to address whether it’s the firmware of my board that’s unsupported or something else entirely. 

In closing, is this board going to revolutionize your workflow or how you interact with a keyboard? No. The Hello World 75 is a pleasant enough typing experience on its own, but that alone does not make it worth the $500 price tag. The additional modules have a lot of potential. As I stated earlier, the brushless motor knob has become my favorite knob of all time integrated into a keyboard. Yes, it’s big and bold, but it feels great to use, and at the end of the day, I’m in the hobby because I like the way that custom keyboards feel to use. In this stage of the project, I struggled a bit with the $500 price point. There are many components to this keyboard, so I understand the higher cost associated with more CNC time to make this all work together. Looking at other similarly priced boards such as the Cyberboard, this keyboard falls in line with feature sets. Yes, the Cyberboard is Bluetooth with wireless charging, but if we are being honest, it’s not designed to be a travel keyboard. It’s designed to live at a desk. I do feel, however, that the Hello World 75 has more potential for productivity than the Cyberboard, it’s just going to take some investment to ensure that the software meets the needs of the users. At this point, the software doesn’t justify its pricepoint. If at launch it can be confirmed that the software has increased usability and added some sorely needed features, the screw sizing issue is resolved, and PCB mount stabilizers are confirmed, I can see this board justifying its high price point, but at the time of writing, I don't believe this board is worth $500.  

This keyboard is bold and interesting, but the parts that make it unique just don't work as intended. 



Disclaimer: This board was provided to me by KeebMonkey for review. KeebMonkey had no say in this review before publishing, and I was not paid for this review.