Get the Tecware Phantom 87 on Amazon
So we are revisiting the Tecware Phantom 87 today. I reviewed this board a few months ago, and rated it as one of the top budget TKLs. I was very impressed with the typing experience, sound and build quality at under $50. I just wanted to do a quick follow-up of the original review and see if this is still the king of budget TKLs.
The Phantom 87 features Outemu switches, and you can choose from Reds, Browns and Blues. Tecware actually changed to the square stem instead of the cross-shape, and this is the most notable update. They have also made an effort to decrease the metal ping, which was prevalent on the original model. If you’re not a fan of Outemus, there is a Phantom Elite version that is available with Kailh or Gateron switches, however it is only sold in Southeast Asia. The Phantom 87 is hot swap, which means you can replace the switches. Unfortunately Outemu sockets aren’t compatible with other switches like Cherry MX and Gateron, unless you file the pins. So unless you’re willing to do that, it’s gonna have to be Outemus. But there are actually some interesting looking Outemu sets out there, so it’s not like you don’t have any options.
One thing I don’t like so much about Outemu hot swap boards is that the switches are quite hard to pull out. You’re gonna have to be extra careful of damaging the switch housing. The best way is to wiggle the switch back and forth while pulling gently. It was a bit of a mission removing these switches – some came out easily, but others required extra force. I won’t be lubing these switches, but it’s definitely worth lubing Outemu Reds to get rid of the scratchiness. The stabilisers are plate mounted, but for some reason I couldn’t remove them. I think you need to separate the mounting plate and PCB to remove these stabs, so desoldering will be necessary. This was actually a big letdown, not being able to remove the stabilisers without desoldering. I was hoping to rebalance the space bar wire, as it had some rattle on the right side.
The out of the box typing experience is still very good. Outemu Reds are a little scratchy, but more than adequate for a budget board. These linears have an actuation force of 50g. The stabilisers are pre-lubed, and I was quite happy with the sound and feel, however there was some rattle on the right side of space bar. One of my favourite things about the Phantom 87 is the sound. It has a gentle and soft typing sound, and bottoming out a key isn’t loud at all. After disassembling the board I noticed that the Phantom actually has two pieces of foam. One piece sits between the mounting plate and PCB, and then there is another piece in the case. So you get double sound dampening, and that explains the soft and muted bottom out sound. Even though Tecware have worked on the metal ping, it is still quite severe on a few Row 3 and Row 4 keys. It didn’t really bother me when typing, but was quite noticeable when gaming.
The RGB looks good, even though it doesn’t shine through perfectly. Some keycaps have little black strips on the inside that obstructs some of the backlighting. The lighting is also a little uneven on the edges of some legends. But it is not super noticeable when viewing the keyboard from a normal distance. The mounting plate is dark grey, so there isn’t really an underglow effect. 18 RGB modes that can be accessed via Fn and the Nav Cluster. The keycaps are ABS which is perfectly acceptable at $45. They have that slightly grainy finish, so feel nice to the touch.
Another standout feature of the Phantom 87 is the build. The keyboard is quite hefty and it features a thick metal mounting plate. It just feels really durable and there is no bend in the frame. I love the case design, with the super-thin bezel and dark-grey mounting plate. The bottom features four rubber feet and fold outs with rubber strips. There is also cable routing, which is very useful as you can route the cable to suit your desk setup.
The software is pretty basic, but has all the bare essentials. There is single key remapping with options like single key, macro and media assignments. You also have full control of the backlighting, but there is RGB controls on the keyboard’s Fn layer so you don’t really need this. It’s nice to see that there is at least software with some key remapping, as many budget keyboards just forego the software.
So summary, the Tecware Phantom 87 is still a very impressive budget board. There are few budget TKLs that can match this ASMR sounds and build quality. The biggest letdown here was that I couldn’t remove the stabs without separating the PCB and mounting plate. Fixing the space bar would’ve improved the typing experience a great deal. Nonetheless, this is a great sounding board with a tank-like build, and has some useful extra features like hot swap and cable routing. I’m hoping I can get my hands on the Phantom Elite in the future.