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A stream of consciousness.

Boardsource Unicorne

Keyboards Split-keyboards

The Boardsource Unicorne is a fancier version of the Corne keyboard, a small 3x6 column staggered split keyboard.

Here are the quick details:

  • Boardsource Unicorne MX Keyboard;
  • Matcha Latte linear switches (60g, with long pole POM stems, PC top housing and Nylon bottom housing);
  • KAM SuperUser keycaps with the 40s ortho terminal kit;
  • No stabs, because it doesn’t have any keys big enough.

Boardsource Unicorne
Boardsource Unicorne, complete with KAM SuperUser keycaps

As with the Lulu (Boardsource’s fancier version of the Lily 58, which I’ll get around to posting here eventually), Boardsource’s thing is to take one of the keyboards that are popular in the community and make a really nice version of it. They do fancy aluminium cases, solderless (almost) PCBs, nice packaging, that sort of thing. The community boards are lots of fun and come in a wide variety of layouts, but you’re mostly on your own when it comes to building them (you may have to source your own PCB manufacturing, for example). Boardsource seems to have carved itself out a nice niche of taking some of the pain out of building these more obscure boards.

My Unicorne is the MX variety, which refers to the types of switches it uses. MX switches are the most common switches you find in mechanical keyboards, but the Unicorne (and a lot of non-Unicorne Cornes) also come built for low-profile Choc switches.

Split boards with Choc switches look great, but there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to either switches or keycaps in the Choc world. And, aesthetics aside, I think I personally just type better on MX switches/keycaps.

This particular one is my first board with linear switches – I’m usually more of a tactile switch sort of guy. My thinking was that I wanted some pretty light switches to go with the small split board. So far, I’m enjoying them. And they still sound good too.

At the ready
Let's do this.

Getting there
Getting there.

One thing you have to be aware of with split keyboards, particularly with MX keycaps, is that most standard keycap kits will not fit a split keyboard. It definitely helps if you can find keycaps you like in a uniform profile like KAM, but you might have to also add some additional kits to get things like 1U modifier keys. Tragically I got into split keyboards some years after I ordered this particular keycap set through a group buy, so getting the 9 missing keys I needed as extras set me back something like $80.

Missing keys
This is what $80 of missing keycaps looks like.

The Unicorne is a wired split keyboard. It connects to your computer using USB-C and both halves connect to each other using USB-C. Wireless Cornes do exist, but this isn’t one of them (you can see a Bluetooth, low-profile Corne in my old desk setup post).

Typing on a split keyboard, particularly a small one, takes a bit of getting used to. I basically had to re-teach myself how to type, and I’m still occasionally looking up what key goes where.

My keymap setup uses three layers, the third one accessed through holding down both the Raise and Lower keys at the same time. It doesn’t have anything particulary weird or tricky at this point, but as I use it more I’ll probably add more to it. You can see my keymap on GitHub.

One slight issue with this board is the joystick on the left-hand side. Due to either a faulty part or my general incompetence at soldering, it doesn’t work so has been disabled in the firmware. I’ll either see if I can get someone to re-solder it for me or I’ll get rid of it and replace it with another OLED at some point. I’ll also fancy-up the OLED eventually – I’m not a big fan of the default.

I do really love this keyboard – the look, the feel, the sound. It’s great to type on and weird enough that no one is going to mistake it for anything else. But I wouldn’t recommend something as small as a Corne for a first split – the learning curve will be painful. But as a step up from something like a Lulu, it’s a solid choice.