I think it’s well known here that I’m a pretty big Lord of the Rings fan. My favorite MMO has, and will always be, The Lord of the Rings Online, I take a few months out of the year to re-read the books from cover to cover, and when I was in high school I was pretty adamant I was going to be a scholar on Tolkien’s created languages.
So when Drop announced they were making Lord of the Rings-inspired keycaps, I was already interested. But $130 for a set of keycaps that might not work on my keyboard seemed like a stretch at the time. However, Drop has recently taken those keycaps and combined them with one of their best keyboards, the ENTR, to create two, pretty compelling packages if you’re a Lord of the Rings fanatic like myself.
- 87 Keys
- Layout: TKL
- Case: Dark Grey (Dwarvish) or Green (Elvish) ENTR Anodized aluminum case
- Pad Printed case artwork (by OSHETART)
- Switches: Holy Panda X Switches
- Keycap design by Matt3o
- Drop Phantom Stabilizers
- White Backlighting
- USB-C to USB-A Cable
- Comes with Keycap Puller
- Price: $199 on Drop (on sale as of writing for $169 through August 31st)
Drop + The Lord of the Rings ENTR Keyboard Impressions
When the boxes arrived, I was immediately stoked. The outside of the packaging is very much a tease into the world of Middle-earth, with a grayscale map of the continent splayed across the front. The back confirms that this is an officially licensed product with Middle-earth Enterprises (which was just sold to Embracer Group by The Saul Zaentz Company).
Each box was hefty, the metal case of the keyboard adding some much needed and welcome weight to the whole package. However, it’s the front of the keyboards themselves that deserve attention.
The Dwarvish light and dark greys are a striking contrast, each of the CirithRunes clearly displayed atop each MT3 keycap. Being that this is the training set, each key also lists its English/Latin alphabet counterpart, meaning that users aren’t forced to use simply muscle memory for everything. Function keys, CTRL, ALT, and keys like it are also marked on the front-facing side, indicating what each key does as well. They are nice touches, even if each key feels a bit busy at times.
With the Elvish keyboard, the same holds true, except the color scheme is set to evoke the nature-themes we associate with the Firstborn. The Tengwar characters are easily recognizable on each key, and it’s made easier that this too is the training set, though it doesn’t feel nearly as busy as its Dwarvish counterpart.
Around each of the arrow keys are pieces of art representing the culture of the board, with the Dwarvish set seeing the top of the Doors of Moria, while the Elvish keyboard sees the sigil of the Silmarils flanked by two trees (likely Laurelin and Telperion of Valinor). A few of the keys also include artwork, such as the One Ring Windows Key, The crown of Durin on the Function key, while the Elvish keyboard sees the Shards of Narsil printed on the enter key.
Confusingly, for all its nice touches that evoke the sense that the creators really were trying to appeal to Tolkien die-hards, I can’t get around the fact that the Elvish keycaps set come with the Eye of Sauron as the Escape Key. For some, this is a minor detail and won’t matter. But as a die hard myself, it just feels completely out of place with the rest of the aesthetic. The Dwarvish set comes with an escape key with Smaug the Dragon who terrorized the descendants of Durin out of Erebor, so the creators might be going for a theme of the antagonists of the two races. But just a weird touch.
The keys flanking the alphabet, such as the Shift, Tab, Caps Lock and more all have Cirith or Tengwar script on them as well, reading Sindarin or Kuzdul words that can be associated with the meaning of each key. For example, the Elvish keyboard’s “Tab” key reads, according to Drop, reads “sarf” which means “table” (tab is short for tabular, after all). The Cirith runes on Scroll read “magmkads” which means “scrolls.” These are such nice touches that really ground the keyboards in the world, though they aren’t perfect.
Seriously, they missed the boat on the Dwarvish enter key: It’s emblazoned with the words Gandalf read in the Chamber of Mazarbul: “Balin son of Fundin, Lord of Moria.” How it does not say “Speak Friend and Enter” is beyond me (though the argument could be made that on the Doors of Durin that’s written in Elvish, not Dwarvish, but still).
Each keyboard also came with select keycaps from their Autumn or Durin’s Forge set, seeing alternate orange colors of the arrow keys, space bar, enter and escape keys. While I didn’t like the look of them on the Elvish keyboard, I felt the orange clashed too much with the verdant layout, I love them on the Dwarvish kit. Plus, having my space bar scream “Baruk Khazad!” makes me want to play my LotRO Dwarf Guardian more now.
How Does The Drop + The Lord of the Rings Keyboard Type, Though?
In the end, all these cosmetic touches mean nothing other than window dressing if the keyboard doesn’t feel great to type on. The keycaps themselves, I’ll admit, take some getting used to. As MT3 keycaps, they have a very specific profile that slope, curve and indent to allow your finger pads to rest easy and comfortably on each key as you perform a keystroke. However, it takes some getting used to if you’re not used to this layout, as I wasn’t. My keyboards are typically your bog standard keycap layout: slightly slanted, but otherwise flat.
However, after using the MT3 keycaps, I find it hard to go back. I’ve got some great keyboards, such as the PC Gaming Race GMMK Pro or the Corsair K80, both incredible keyboards to use. However, I find myself missing the curvature of the MT3 keycaps when I swap back to them.
The keyboard’s weight also keeps it firmly in place, which I appreciate. One of my biggest issue with some keyboards is they sometimes just don’t sit still. I also appreciate the two tabs in the back that let me angle the keyboard itself to a more comfortable typing height – though I do wish the keyboard would come with a prepackaged wrist rest, even if it isn’t themed like the rest of the keyboard. For $199, it really feels like a miss there.
It’s also a shame that the lighting on the keyboard isn’t more pronounced. At its brightest, the white light seems to barely eke out around the MT3 caps. Some gamers looking for a customizable RGB light profile here will be disappointed, as each board only has white backlights. It would have been nice to have a bit stronger backlighting, coupled with at least lighting profiles that match the color scheme of the keyboards themselves. It’s not a deal breaker, but it was definitely disappointing.
Thankfully, the included set of switches are precise and responsive, making typing on the Drop + The Lord of the Rings ENTR keyboards a dream to use. I’ve never used Holy Panda X switches myself, instead sticking mostly with Cherry Red or Blues when using a mechanical keyboard, but these are incredibly tactile and have a satisfying smooth downstroke that makes each key effortless to use. There is next to no key wobble too, which was an issue I faced on the Corsair K80 at times, which made typing on it a tad annoying some days.
However, if there is one major complaint I have above all others is that the keyboard itself is ten-keyless. There doesn’t seem to be a full keyboard option here, which is a shame for those of us who actually use the number pad on a day to day basis. It’s not like I can’t grab a number pad either, but it’s not going to match the keyboard unless I also buy the corresponding number pad keycaps. I just wish a full layout was an option as well, even if it’s a tad bit more money in the end. I’ll pay for it if it means I’m getting everything at once.
A side note: the keyboard layout is standard, the actual layout of the Cirith and Tengwar characters isn’t haphazard. Fans of fantasy fonts might recognize the layouts immediately, as they sync up with the keystrokes needed to type using Dan Smith’s incredibly popular Tengwar and Cirith fonts. My mind was blown away when I realized this and I spent hours just retyping Elvish poems such as the “Namárië” from The Fellowship of the Ring, or “O Elbereth Gilthoniel!”
The Drop + The Lord of the Rings keyboards are a treasure. I love these things, and not just for the aesthetics. Those mean really nothing if the keyboard itself didn’t perform. Yet the ENTR keyboard here is a dream to type on, assuming I needn’t use any number keys.
As a massive Lord of the Rings fan, it’s such a treat to have keyboards that I always dreamt of when I was still fooling around with Tengwar fonts in college. Couple that with the fact that the fonts line up with the keycap placement and its a hardcore LotR nerd’s dream.
The Drop + The Lord of the Rings keyboards are a treat, and are sure to at least draw conversation when someone sees them at your house during your next LotR watch party (The Rings of Power, anyone?). While I do eventually wonder how long the printing on the keycaps themselves will hold up, I love the attention to detail that has gone into every aspect of this design.
While I do question a few elements, such as the Eye of Sauron on the Elvish and the clear miss on the Dwarvish enter key, these are small issues that, at the end of the day, don’t detract from the total package. And while $199 is a lot of money for a keyboard, especially one without a number pad, it feels about right for something as bespoke as this one. The keycaps alone run around $130, so it’s not too out of pocket for the whole package, especially with the discount going on at the moment.
The Drop + The Lord of the Rings keyboards are a nice item that appeals to the diehard Lord of the Rings fan in me. Despite my few complaints, this keyboard is a love letter to Tolkien and his world and should appeal to every LotR fan out there in some way.
Full Disclosure: The products described in this review were provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of this review.