Boutique gaming mouse manufacturer Finalmouse has big plans for its first foray into the mechanical keyboard market. Its Finalmouse Centerpiece is an eye-catching $349 keyboard that has a screen embedded underneath its transparent keycaps and switches. The effect is that it looks like you’re typing on the screen directly, while (hopefully) maintaining the feel and tactility of traditional mechanical switches.
There’s been at least one similar attempt at this idea made in the past: the Optimus Popularis. But while the Popularis used its screen (which was only visible through its individual transparent keys) to display useful information like keyboard shortcuts, Finalmouse’s seems to be far more cosmetic.
In the trailer, we see the keyboard showing a number of different visualizations, including Matrix-style green scrolling text and nature videos. Sometimes they’re interactive — like a pool of water that dynamically splashes when you touch a corresponding key — and in one case, the keyboard is even shown running a simple interactive game. The company is calling the technology behind this combination display and mechanical switch its “DisplayCircuit Glass Stack.”
Finalmouse says the keyboard is capable of storing three skins at a time, which can be switched on the keyboard itself. Additional skins will be downloadable from an app it’s calling “The Freethinker Portal” (seriously), and it says creators will be able to upload and charge for skins they’ve created. Each skin runs on the keyboard’s built-in CPU and GPU, and Finalmouse says they’re powered by Unreal Engine 5.
My big question is what this keyboard actually feels like to type on because the Optimus Popularis was basically unusable as a regular keyboard. Reassuringly, the Finalmouse Centerpiece uses standard Cherry MX-style switches, which should guarantee a certain level of quality. It’s collaborated with switch manufacturer Gateron to develop what it’s calling a “custom autolubed linear mechanical switch” based on Gateron’s existing and generally well-liked Black Ink linear switch.
As well as the Gateron switch, Finalmouse is also advertising that the Centerpiece will be available with a Hall Effect switch option — like those used on the Wooting Two HE — a design that uses magnets for actuation rather than standard metal contacts. Hall Effect switches can register analog inputs or let the user customize their exact actuation point (ie., how far you have to press a switch before it registers a press). This version is advertised as having an 8kHz polling rate, which should minimize input latency.
The overall layout is compact and roughly 65 percent, which means you get an arrow key cluster but no function row. It’s a little hard to get a good view of the Centerpiece’s keycaps from Finalmouse’s trailer, but they appear to be low in profile and relatively flat in contrast to the scooped keycaps found on most mechanical keyboards.
In a move that’s presumably meant to allow as much screen as possible to shine through each keycap, their legends are printed on the front (rather than the top) of each key, which I can’t imagine is going to make them easy to read — especially not when the screen is in action.
There’s also no mention of more typical enthusiast mechanical keyboard features like support for remappable keys or hot-swappable switches — which let you replace a keyboard’s switches without desoldering. The trailer is also light on other technical specs, like the resolution of its built-in display or the specifics of its switches. Finalmouse does say it connects to a computer using a single USB-C cable.
It’s an ambitious design, and Finalmouse has its work cut out if it wants to make its display legible while keeping its switches usable. We won’t have a long wait to see if it’s succeeded, however, with Finalmouse promising that the Centerpiece is due to ship early next year.