Obins Anne Pro Mechanical Keyboard Review

Preface

Truth be told, I’ve had an Obins Anne Pro for quite a while.  When the opportunity came to review one, I thought I’d branch out from my normal switches, and get a different colorway in for review. So I can say up front that I knew I’d like this board, and now I have two of them.

This review is of the black Anne Pro, with black keycaps and brown switches.

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Official Specs and Features

Obins does have an official site (and it looks like a good one) but it’s completely in Chinese.  (Yes, even the en.obins.net is largely in Chinese).  Still it’s a good site, and one worth taking a look at.

Versions

There are a number of versions of this board.  First of all there is a black version (black case, black caps) and four case colors all with white caps: white, blue, pink, and gold (or yellow, it’s hard to say).

Among those case/cap options, there are three switch options as well.  All Gateron:  Red, Blue, and Brown.

MSRP

The list price is around $80, but I have a coupon on my spreadsheet that brings this awesome board down to a better level.  Check out my spreadsheet!  ($60.99 is the price when I last checked!)  (The price is 60.99 for 15 purchases, then the other coupon will work, at $~67.


Short Review

I like this board so much that sometimes I take both of mine and use them as my version own version of a “split” board.

Long Review

What’s Included

  • Obins Anne Pro Keyboard
  • Keycap Puller
  • Box
  • Cable

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Pictures

Here’s an album of glamour shots of this board, and a charge test, and some youtube clackiness on my channel.

Package and Manual

The Anne Pro arrives in a black corrugated box just fit for 60% board.  There’s a fair bit of printing, but really not too much.  What there is though, is a large 60%, and an “Anne”.  Though this box says only “Anne,” this is in fact the Anne Pro.  I believe the Anne (not Pro) has been unavailable for some time (and doesn’t have bluetooth, which this one clearly does).

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GearBest does add their own inventory sticker to the box.  It’s among some other Obins stickers, and doesn’t cover any other text on the box.

The back of the box has a general user manual – very general – but it’s the only printed manual provided.  Don’t keep the box, just rely on the great online manual.

The board is nicely held in place, but with only cardboard (no foam).  The extras are in a little “box” off to the right.

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Size

This is a 60% board.  It doesn’t have arrows, a fact I mention because I really like arrows.  But it’s a very typical 60% board layout.

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The Anne Pro is 4″ deep, 11.5″ long, and about 1.75″ tall at the back (~1″ at the front).  The size is fixed, too.  There are no feet attachments to raise the height.

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Build Quality and Disassembly

“For a $70 board” doesn’t really cover the build quality of the Anne Pro.  This is a solid board for any price level.  That it’s around $70 makes is a great value because of how well it’s built.  Everything about this board feels very solid.

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Both the plate and the pcb are nice and thick, and of course these switches are plate mount for the extra sturdiness.

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The screws that hold the plate to the case are surprisingly great machine screws, not those cheap self-plastic-tapping screws that are ubiquitous on less expensive items.  That they’re machine screws also means they mate to metal housings on the case.  That’s another nice quality touch.

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Plate and Case

The case is plastic.  And again, per “Build Quality…” – the case is great quality.  And snug, which makes it feel even more solid.  Much like the white plate above, the plastic case isn’t a bad thing, since this is a bluetooth board.  Whether or not a metal case would affect the BT capability or range, we can say that plastic definitely does not, so plastic is a good choice.

The back doesn’t have any slots for weight additions, but has a nice Obins logo, which is just a bit of smooth plastic among the otherwise matte plastic.  The feet are thin rubber (probably) stickers, that provide a nice amount of grip, and keep the actual case off the table, and add only about 1.5mm height to the system.

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Here you can see the metal receptacle for the machine screws.  There are 5 screws total, and that’s all that must be removed to separate the plate/pcb and case.  Not all the keycaps must be removed to separate these items – just caps in the right places.

The plate feels like stainless steel (or more likely, aluminum?) painted white with thick paint.  The plate is at least 1mm thick, and the paint is probably around 0.5mm thick….  And it might not even be paint.  It has a very “powder coated” feel.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, maybe?) I believe all the plates for all the Anne Pros are white.  But this actually makes sense since this is an RGB board – you really want the white plate so your colors pop off the board.  IE the white plate is a lot like a polar bear’s fur – it’s just a medium for color reflection.

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I’ll add that I believe it’s possible to find a metal case for the Anne Pro.  There was a group buy a while back, but photos of those metal cases are rare and the TaoBao link is DOA.  So, I thin it’s possible to get those, but I have no idea how.  It’d be a nice upgrade, to be sure.

PCB / Controller

I don’t know much to say about PCBs and controllers, so I’ll mostly rely on the photos to convey that information.  I can say that this board is clean, and I didn’t notice any bad soldering.  The PCB is labeled with the switch position, so that’s a nice touch.  The pcb supports only this one layout, so I don’t think you’d really buy the Anne Pro to harvest the pcb for other uses.

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Here’s a blowup/detail of the pcb, in sections:

The battery connects with a two-wire tiny molex wire-board connector, and can be easily replaced.  This is often a consideration when dealing with the battery life of the Anne Pro.  I personally keep it connected enough to not really have to worry about the battery, but some users report changing the battery for something bigger.  That’ll work, but bear in mind there’s not much room for something too much bigger.

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Battery

I tested the charging of the cell from it’s state upon arrival.  The controller charges the battery at around 0.45A (which is fine) and the capacity is at least 1Ah (I believe I have an error in the chart – the right vertical axis should be “Ah” not “mAh”).  If the cell wasn’t completely dead (it probably wasn’t), then we can assume that the cell is <1000mAh, which is not too bad.  I wasn’t able to dig up specifics about the “Pucent” cell.

It’s been reported to check the cell to be sure it’s not getting damaged by the switch prongs on the bottom of the pcb.  During disassembly I checked, and I didn’t notice any issues.  In fact the pcb has some foam protectors over the legs of the switches to prevent cell damage.  I don’t know if this is a recent fix in the board production, or maybe some other users just got unlucky.  Either way, tear it down if you like, but my experience is that the cell would have been safe even if I hadn’t checked on it.

Here’s the chargetime:

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Unfortunately there’s no way to see what the ‘remaining battery life’ is on this board.  That’s a sad fact…. I’d love to have some way to keystroke and get a battery meter on the top row of switch LEDs, for example.  Or… anything.

The above is not entirely true.  If you’re connected to the app, at least on iOS, you may add the “Batteries” widget to your notifications area, and if you have it all set up properly and the Anne Pro is connected, you should be able to see the battery percentage there.  I 1) don’t know how accurate that is, and 2) have found it to be a cumbersome and unreliable way to keep track of the capacity.

Layout and Keycaps

This is a 60% board, with all the normal 60% features.

The keycaps are doubleshot PBT, and the led color shines through the legends very well.  It’s quite visible even in normal office lighting.  I haven’t used all that many keycaps, but I do actually like the Anne Pro stock caps – they have a good feel, and are of sufficient quality that I don’t feel the need to replace them.  That said, if I don’t have a Minivan by the time my Carbons from the latest Massdrop arrive sometime in late 2040, I’ll probably throw them on the Anne Pro and be a happy man.

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Life ain’t nothing but Switches and money

All Anne Pros are available with only Gateron Switches.  I’ve had a range of boards with a range of switches, and I have to say that I really like Gaterons.  These are browns, and the third set of Gateron Browns I’ve had on boards.  I have Cherry MX Speeds on my main user (work!) and Gaterons and Outemu, and even more generic switches on other boards in my house.  I really like Gaterons.  Would I take Cherry?  If the price didn’t increase, maybe, but I am really happy with the Gaterons.

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So I said above that I opted to get a second Anne Pro (after the one I purchased) with non-Browns (since I had browns on the Anne Pro I purchased).  But browns is what I received from GearBest…. I now have two Anne Pros with browns.  That’s actually perfect for me since (spec-sheet-wise) Browns seem perfect for me.  I’d still like to try others.  Note this wasn’t an issue with GearBest fulfillment, I just wasn’t clear with what I wanted:  it was my fault.

Sorry, I’m rambling about switches.

These are north-facing switches, which is basically required for the top-legend keycaps.  They’re of course, plate mount switches, too, providing that sturdy typing experience.

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Connectivity

Briefly, here are the connection options:  Wired (USB to micro-usb 2.0).  Bluetooth (4.0).  App connectivity (through bluetooth also, but this worth mentioning separately).  The Anne Pro includes a bluetooth dongle, so even if your computer doesn’t have bluetooth, the USB dongle will allow you to add that functionality.

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Any micro-USB cable will work.  Here’s the one provided with the board.  It’s flat, and generously long.

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The cap puller provided isn’t an extra special one, but it does get the job done.  Pictured with the bluetooth dongle.

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Now more in depth considerations of these connections.  My goal isn’t to rewrite the manual, but I will generally go through the steps I took to get the board usable.

Wired is very straightforward.  Plug everything in, and it’ll start working (OSX/Win).  No extra drivers or software required.

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Bluetooth is of course, a little more work.  Before getting started, I’d really recommend fully charging the Anne Pro.  The cell is 2000mAh, and the Anne Pro charges at approximately 450mAh, so this won’t take too long.  Once charged, tap Fn+B.  This opens the bluetooth connection.  Tap + and Anne Pro will start looking for devices to connect.  At this point I open the bluetooth menu on my macbook, and see the device, which has a “Pair” clickable beside it.  Click Pair.  You’ll get a popup “pairing request” and you’ll have to enter a 6 digit numerical code from the keyboard.  The keyboard knows this (remember it’s already looking for a device!), and the number keys will be slowly flashing green.  Enter the code and press enter (and click “pair” on your device if it seems to want you to.)

At this point you may save the device in one of 4 “bluetooth slots” on the Anne Pro.  Enter bluetooth mode on the Anne Pro if you’re not still there (Fn+B), and note the lit switches.  1-4 should be red.  Click Fn+1 to save the device in slot 1 (etc).  I highly recommend doing this, because this allows fast switching between devices.  And fast switching is probably something you’ll want, since you’ll want to use this on a laptop/desktop, and at the very least, use a mobile device for configuring the Anne Pro (and maybe even using the Anne Pro for typing on the device.

The bluetooth connection procedure is much the same for connecting to a mobile device.  Be sure to save this in slot 1-4, whichever you haven’t already used.  (There is no indication which slots are being used – you’ll just have to remember.)

While in bluetooth mode, Fn+B or ESC exits bluetooth mode.

Switching between devices is easy: Fn+B, [click device number], Esc.  And you’ve switched.

For a much more in depth look at the bluetooth setup and configuration, have a look at the actual manual, which is really, really good.

User Interface and Operation

The user interface, as I always say on keyboard reviews, is the switches.  Pretty obvious right?  Well the Anne Pro also has a fairly solid app, which can also enhance/affect the usefulness of the Anne Pro.  As a matter of fact, the app is basically required, because much of the extended features can only be accessed through the app.  In particular: switch programming, and led programming.

Please go to this page to get the latest apps for android and/or iOS.

http://en.obins.net/obins-app

I’m using the iOS app.  You will have to connect to the app with bluetooth, which does mean that programming and using the board can’t happen at the same time.  Switching between devices isn’t difficult though, as discussed above.

Once you’re connected, open the Obins Anne Pro app.  The app is fairly simple but also robust.  For example, it deals with multiple Anne Pro boards very well.

Within the app, a few things can be modified.  I use this app primarily for modifying the RGB.  And that’s the very first (top left) choice in the app, called “Light Effect.”  The app is also where one would add macros, in a section called “Macro Definition.”

I can really say I don’t know how good the macro definition is.  This is not something I’ve ever used, nor have I ever had a need for it.  I think the idea is that you can send a keystroke that will enact a bigger, more difficult keystroke, to save you the time.  I tested around on this a little and after 1) not really understanding it and 2) not really getting it to work well, I searched the manual for further documentation.  There is none.  Further to that point, some users report that macro definition didn’t work so well.  Or didn’t work so well across devices (mobile/laptop/desktop).  And was slow (laggy) and didn’t work well for long keypresses…..   So I’ll call “programmability” on the Anne Pro a loss.  Buy this board for other reasons, but not programmability.  It’s certainly not TMK/QMK.

One more important thing that can be done with the app is changing the layout between Win and Mac layouts.  This can be done on the board itself too, by pressing both CTRL keys and selecting 1-3 layouts. Each layout has one fn layer.

It’s right about here where you’ll hit a bunch of buttons and end up somewhere you don’t want to be on this board.  Fortunately there’s a reset button, but it’ll require a paperclip to press.  Flip the board over, and look for the little hole.  Stick the paperclip in there and you’ll certainly hit the little clicky button.  This is the best (only?) way to just make the Anne Pro stop…. there is no “off” key combination.  Pressing the reset button will not clear your bluetooth settings or macros or the like, it’s essentially just turning the board off and back on.

The Anne Pro is reported to have n-key rollover.  I don’t know how to test this, but other reports indicate this is true.

RGB

The LEDs on this board are fantastic.  What I really should say is that the controller for these LEDs is fantastic.  It addresses one of my main issues with many (every board I’ve tested except the K70) – the color mixing is fast enough that someone very PWM-sensitive like myself, doesn’t see the individual colors mixing.  I went into more detail about color mixing in a previous post so I won’t [ramble] about it here.  Short story is that all the colors that these RGB boards make are produce by primary colors (RGB) being mixed (cy cycled) at different percentages.  Good boards cycle these colors quickly – so quickly that you’d never notice it.  Bad boards cycle the individual RGBs that make up the color you’ve chosen very slowly, which is able to be perceived (and very annoying.)  The Anne Pro mixes colors VERY well.  On par with my Corsair K70.  Much better than Motospeeds.  I am 100% happy with the Anne Pro in this regard.

It’s also possible to use the Anne Pro app to mix colors in basically any way you chose, with individual keys having any color from the spectrum.  It’s possible to make patterns, and responsive cycles, and … basically most things you’d want to do.

Maybe videos are your thing?  Here are some videos with general lighting cycles and what not, on the Anne Pro.

And here’s a typing test, for typing sound and also to see one of the built in typing colorways:

Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….

There are a ton of boards that compare as 60%’s to the Anne Pro.  But….. there’s just nothing else like the Anne Pro.  I can’t put that into less words than the 3000 I’ve already said.  The Anne Pro is in a special class!

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Conclusion

There are more things that could probably be covered about this board.  I hope this is at the very least a good primer, and maybe the teardowns will help you in your decision!!

What I like

  • Gateron switches are great
  • Build quality is ridiculously good for a sub $70 board.
  • Case color options, switch options
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • RGB is done really well

What I don’t like

  • Maintaining connection can be a touch fickle.
  • App can be difficult to use if not actually connected to the board.
  • No way to see the battery capacity.

Parting Shot

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Up Next

I’ll have another board soon.  In fact I’ve had it longer than the Anne, but I was pretty excited to get the Anne Pro done….  A few knives, flashlights, and


Notes:

  • This keyboard was provided by GearBest.com for review. I was not paid to write this review.
  • This content originally appeared at zeroair.wordpress.com.  Please visit there for the best experience!
  • Whether or not I have a coupon for this keyboard, I do have a bunch of coupons!!  Have a look at my spreadsheet for those coupons.  (Note, there is a coupon for this board on that sheet!)
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