News: Black Friday Deals are LIVE @ Amazon!
HAVIT HV-KB390L Review

HAVIT HV-KB390L Review: Best Low Profile Mechanical Keyboard?

Well made mechanical keyboards are usually on the thick and heavy side. “Built like a tank” is a term often thrown around when describing them. It’s this perceived build quality that’s one of the major reasons many users are initially drawn to mechanical keyboards.

Metal backplates. Sculpted keycaps. Full travel mechanical switches. A rigid case and high quality PCB. All these components require extra space and the weight quickly starts adding up. Thin & light isn’t normally present in the marketing of mechanical keyboards. The HAVIT HV-KB390L low profile mechanical keyboard I’m reviewing today is attempting to buck that trend.

Disclosure: My review sample of the HAVIT HV-KB390L was provided by Prohavit.com. This is not a sponsored post. I was not given monetary compensation to write this review, though I do participate in affiliate programs which pay percentage based commissions if you follow my affiliate link and make a purchase. The thoughts and opinions expressed about this keyboard are my own.

What’s In The Box

The HAVIT HV-KB390L was delivered in a plain black box with white outer sleeve that displays a picture of keyboard along with a list of features and product specifications.

HAVIT HV-KB390L retail box

And here’s the back:

Specs and features on back of box

The padding material is decent, but I would like to see a little more protection (soft foam or thicker cardboard) for a mechanical keyboard this lightweight. A thick molded tray holds the contents in place and protects the keyboard from potential damage from drops and dings during shipping.

Packaging and padding material

Inside we find only the bare essentials. The keyboard, USB to Micro USB cable and some documentation. No keycap puller or extra accessories are included.

Box contents

HAVIT HV-KB390L Layout, Features & Aesthetics

The HV-KB390L is a compact form factor TKL (Tenkeyless, 87 keys) keyboard in standard ANSI layout. Most of the keys are of a standard unit size (left Ctrl being the lone exception), though they’re also much shorter in height. Also, the stems aren’t compatible with the majority of aftermarket keysets.

TKL form factor (87-key)

The main selling point of the HAVIT HV-KB390L is its slim size and light weight. It measures 14 inches wide, 5 inches deep, sits under 1 inch high even at its tallest point (about 0.7″ at shortest) and ways a mere 17.3 ounces.

Compare that to the Max Keyboard Blackbird, another TKL mechanical keyboard I reviewed. Despite being the same form factor the Blackbird weighed in at a chunky 2 pounds 7.4 ounces, was 1.5 inches deeper and almost an inch wider than the HAVIT HV-KB390L. The HV-KB390L has a truly thin, minimalist design.

Keyboard weighed on scale

No self-respecting mechanical keyboard would label itself as “gaming” without NKRO. The specs claim it has full N-key rollover and a quick test with the Switch Hitter program proves this to be true.

The keys are backlit with blue SMD-LEDs. Pure blue backligthing can be quite harsh, but the HV-KB390L’s backlighting is more of a pale blue color with a tinge of green. It’s comfortable on the eyes.

Ice Blue backlit keys

One the back we see four feet used to hold the keyboard in place. Rounded rubber feet on the front and rubber tipped flip-out feet on the back for angle adjustment. With the rear feet extended the keyboard sits securely on a smooth, flat surface and isn’t prone to sliding.

Rubber feet on bottom of plastic case

Unfortunately that isn’t the case when sitting flat. Only the two front feet provide traction in this position. When sitting flat the right side of the board would easily slide forward with little force, indicating the rubber foot on that side isn’t making solid contact with the desk. I normally use an oversized desk pad that has space for my keyboard and mouse so it wasn’t a problem for my setup, but something to consider nonetheless.

Rubber tipped flip-out feet

Connectivity is provided through the included USB to Micro USB cable. It’s a standard cable (not braided) measuring approximately 5 feet in length with gold plated connectors. It connects slightly to the right of center at the back edge of the keyboard. There are no gutters for routing the cable.

Small Micro USB port enclosure

The cable is detachable, though the Micro USB port on the keyboard is recessed into the case. It requires a slim connector with very small housing. None of my other Micro USB cables would fit. Having the port flush with the case would have been a better choice for cable compatibility.

To really have complete control of the keyboard I recommend installing the associated software available for download on the HAVIT website. This program allows you to easily customize the keyboard baklighting, setup and manage macros, enable Game/Win Lock mode and make adjustments to the response time or USB polling rate.

Software program for HAVIT mechanical keyboard

Aesthetically the HV-KB390L is reminiscent of the Magicforce 68 if it went on a diet. It has the same style of plastic/aluminum case with floating key design and beveled edge around its circumference that’s polished to a mirror shine. A small graphical logo is located on the right side of the board above the arrow keys. I would prefer this area be blank, but the logo is pretty subdued. Not too distracting compared to some of the more gaudy graphics of other brands.

HAVIT branding

The corners of the case are rounded and it sits at a slight incline with the back being a little taller than the front. I’m a fan of floating key designs and the HV-KB390L’s short height keycaps accentuate this style even further. Not much imagination with this borrowed design, but still a nice looking mech.

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the HAVIT HV-KB390L and Vortex CORE. The CORE itself is a very short mechanical keyboard, so this gives an idea of just how svelte the HV-KB390L really is.

Height comparison with the Vortex CORE

If not for the tapered design it could be even thinner. There’s some room for improvement.

Backlighting Modes & Customization Options

It may only have single color LEDs, but the HV-KB390L’s backlighting still offers loads of animated patterns by default and five custom backlight profiles (saved to on-board memory) where every key can be toggled on or off for custom layouts. I have included scans of the manual below that details the various default backlight profiles and how to switch between then. Click the images to enlarge.

Pages 1-2 of manualPage 3 of manual

The backlight pattern can be controlled by either the Fn layer of the F-keys (Fn + F6-F11 for default profiles) or using the previously mentioned optional software. The five custom backlight profiles can be selected by pressing Fn + F1-F5. To customize a particular profile you must first switch to it then press Fn + F12. This allows you to toggle the backlight for each individual key. Press Fn + F12 again to save your changes.

Backlit keys in a dark room

Switches

Now we get to my favorite aspect of this keyboard. I test lots of keyboards so it’s always nice to try something different, rather than predictable Cherry MX and their many clones.

Kailh low profile mechanical switches (clicky)

The switches found in the HAVIT HV-KB390L are Kailh Blue PG1350 low profile clicky switches standing only 8mm high (measured from mount plate) with transparent top housings that support PCB mounted LEDs for backlit keys. The total travel distance for this switch is just 3mm. For comparison, standard MX switches have 4mm of travel.

The actuation point is about halfway at 1.4mm, a little after the click bar initiates. This helps to reduce accidental key press. The actuation force is listed at a relatively light 45gf. I thought they felt slightly heavier in practice.

Transparent switch housing topsThe switch features a click bar that produces a satisfying high-pitched click on both the down and upstroke. In my opinion it’s a better sounding click than Cherry MX Blues create, but fans of clicky switches would say that’s setting a fairly low bar. The click bar also provides light tactility.

The keycap mounting system is similar to Cherry ML (switch housing includes openings for two delicate prongs located under the keycap), but the placement is different. This means Cherry ML keycaps are not compatible. Finding aftermarket keysets that are compatible with this switch type will not be an easy task.

The HV-KB390L is the only keyboard I could find with these specific Blue low profile switches. I suspect that aside from being slightly lighter (45gf vs 50gf) they are exactly the same as the White Kailh low profile switches, which are also clicky. Most consumers associate Blue switches with the clicky type, so it would be a reasonable color choice.

I’ve personally always had a bias against low profile keyboards, whether they’re mechanical or membrane based. The only other experience I have with a low profile mechanical switch is Cherry ML and I was not a fan of its scratchiness. Fortunately that’s not the case here.

Ignoring my own personal bias, Kailh has managed to engineer a shorter mechanical switch with lower key travel that maintains a solid feel for typing while easily fitting into more compact and lightweight cases. I wouldn’t be surprised if these types of switches start showing up more often inside gaming notebooks in the future.

Keycaps

This low profile keyboard comes with short height keycaps to match. The construction material is ABS, which means the keycaps will be prone to shine after extended use. ABS is more economical and easier to work with than PBT, but less durable.

Short height ABS keycaps with laser etched legends

They’re lightly sculpted with a similar size and shape to non-chiclet style keycaps found on older notebook PCs. They’re also very thin, with the key walls measuring between .9 to 1 mm thick depending on which side you measure.

Think keycaps, measured with caliper

The keycap surface is on the smoother side, but doesn’t feel slick. The black paint/coating gives the keys some grip. I like having a bit of texture on my keycaps, but this will depend on personal preference. Large homing bumps are placed on the F and J key making it simple to align your fingers over the home row by touch alone.

The keycap material is translucent with a black coating. The legends are laser etched by removing the layer of paint to produce a shine-through character for backlighting. I would  have preferred doubleshot over laser etching. At least the legends make use of a nice looking, normal font that doesn’t cater to the showy gaming style typefaces often found on budget keyboards.

Two prongs used for attaching keycap to switch

The HV-KB390L, being a low profile mechanical keyboard, isn’t compatible with standard keycaps due to stem type and short switch height. This greatly limits your ability to replace the keyset. You’ll pretty much be stuck with the stock keycaps and that’s this boards only major weakness.

Keycap height comparison (standard vs low profile) Standard height keycap (left) compared with HAVIT’s short height keycap (right)

Stabilizers

Wire key stabilizersWire type stabilizers are used to balance the larger sized keycaps. Here the stabilizer bar actually attaches to the surface of the switch. I personally favor Costar or wire type stabilizers over Cherry style as they provide a smooth, crisp key action that closely resembles non-stabilized keys. If not properly clipped and lubed Cherry stabs can feel mushy and very unpleasant to type on, so I’m pleased HAVIT went with this type of stabilizer.

Also, the way the stabs are mounted to the switch practically eliminates rattle. The result is an extremely quiet clicky keyboard. That may sound like a contradiction, but the click is mostly all you hear. Even when bottoming out there’s hardly any “clack” due to the short height of the keycaps and how they mount to the switch.

Case & Overall Build Quality

This keyboard has a simple yet effective case construction of aluminum and plastic. The black aluminum top plate is sandwiched between the switches and PCB. That layer makes up the top section of the keyboard with the mount plate integrated as part of the case.

The ribbed plastic case houses the layered top section, which is securely held in place with ten small phillips screws located under the keycaps. I really like this basic design as it’s very quick/easy to tear down and reassemble if needed.

Ribbed case for additional rigidity

The PCB is relatively clean and uniform. All the solder joints look strong, consistent and properly formed. Surface mount LEDs are also attached to the PCB, which helps keep whole package slimmer while the diodes provide full NKRO.

Clean PCB with uniform solder joints

Using a caliper the aluminum mount plate measures in with a thickness of 1.5mm, which I would consider reasonable for a low profile keyboard. This plate provides most of the structural rigidity for the HV-KB390L.

It’s definitely not the sturdiest board I’ve tested, but I wouldn’t expect that from a thinly designed low profile keyboard. There is some minor flexing when applying moderate force, but nothing I worry about. It should have enough strength to hold up well for many years of typical use, but this isn’t a keyboard I’d rely on to endure much abuse if you’re a gamer with anger management issues.

Conclusion & Final Thoughts On The HAVIT HV-KB390L

The HAVIT HV-KB390L is a good keyboard made even more interesting with the inclusion of Kailh’s new low profile mechanical switches. They allow for a much thinner profile, reduced weight and a unique typing experience that no other switch on the market I know of currently offers.

It’s otherwise a fairly competent TKL mechanical keyboard with solid build quality, backlit keys with tons of default patterns/customization, full NKRO, a detachable cable and fetching aesthetics at a very fair price. As long as you aren’t too bothered by the stock ABS keycaps (which you will likely be stuck with) the HAVIT HV-KB390L is, in my opinion, the best low profile mechanical keyboard currently available.

Best low profile mechanical keyboard

+ Pros

  • Detachable cable
  • New Kailh switches are consistent, excellent for responsive gaming performance
  • Compact TKL form factor ideal for gaming
  • Thinnest mechanical keyboard I’ve ever used
  • Full NKRO for reliable gaming input
  • Pleasing aesthetics overall with a non-gaming inspired legend typeface.
  • Competitively priced, extremely good value for the money
  • Large variety of backlight modes and patterns with 5 custom profiles
  • Flip out feet for angle adjustment
  • Nice to finally have a low profile mechanical switch that doesn’t suck

– Cons

  • Painted translucent keycaps with laser etched legends instead of doubleshots
  • Thin ABS keycaps that are quick to shine
  • Practically no aftermarket keycap selection for this switch/stem type
  • Micro USB connection requires a very small connector to fit, limits custom cable choices

Buy the HAVIT Low Profile Mechanical Keyboard

This concludes my review of the HAVIT HV-KB390L low profile mechanical gaming keyboard. If you own this mech please feel free to leave a reply below and share your opinions or additional information about the HAVIT HV-KB390L.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *