my thoughts

NuPhy Gem80
Review

keyboard by: NuPhy
Photos taken in House by alex

Intro

The Gem80 is the latest keyboard from NuPhy and they are setting their sights on something more custom than their previous releases. In fact, they claim this is much more than a custom keyboard, so what is it exactly? Well, it’s a TKL with multiple mounting options that is competing with some other amazing boards in its price range. And that price range is $149.95 for the wired variant and $169.95 for the wireless version. I did take a rather in depth look at this board on stream as well as some other addons from that they sent over so let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored article, but as per the usual this will not affect how I think about the product or sway my opinion in any way. NuPhy did not get to see this review prior to its release and so did not have any say over the content of this review.

Corner shot of the Gem80 // Leica M11 w/ 75mm Lens

Gem80 Box

Initial Impressions

Let’s break the ice with a new approach – the unboxing experience. Refreshingly straightforward! A sleek box unveiling the keyboard and its accessories arranged underneath. Manuals and a build guide sweetened the deal. However, a small note of contention – no hardshell case. While it might not make or break the deal for everyone, I do appreciate a sturdy case over recyclable packaging. Especially for the folk who tend to travel with their keyboards.

Moving on to the Gem80 itself – it looks great. The aluminum top frame paired with a polycarbonate (PC) bottom exudes elegance. NuPhy sent the Cosmic Mocha colorway my way, and let me tell you, it’s a beauty. Let’s look at the bottom first, the board’s design showcases softer aesthetics with rounded corners on the PC bottom frame, sleek grooves, and visible hardware. Flip it over, and you’ll find a simple TKL frame with thinner side bezels and a magnetic badge on the top side.

Gem80 in natural light // Fuji GFX100s

Wireless Wonder

The Gem80’s wireless model also has a battery life of 40 hours with lights on and up to 70 with just the homing keys on. I’ve had the board unplugged and on all week paired with my Macbook and so far so good! I don’t have a definitive number on how long it’s lasted me, but I am more than happy. It also sports a polling rate of 1000hz. Which is a big deal for gamers.

Polling rate is like the heartbeat of your keyboard, measured in Hertz. It’s all about how often your keyboard chats with your computer, telling it what’s going on with your key mashes. So, here’s the deal – a higher polling rate means your keyboard is spitting out info to your PC more frequently. Translation? You get a snappier feel when you’re typing or gaming, cutting down on that annoying input lag.

For gamers, this might be a stand out feature for you. A higher polling rate means your keyboard catches your moves quicker, making your gameplay more accurate. Think precise headshots and buttery-smooth movements – that’s the kind of magic we’re talking about.

Typical polling rates dance between 125Hz and 1000Hz, but if you’re rolling with a gaming keyboard, you’re likely in the 500Hz or 1000Hz club. It’s like the VIP section for responsiveness and the Gem80 is the tippity top of this.

Gem80 Keyboard

Internals, Let’s Dive Deep

The first thing you will notice is the stabilizers. They are only plate mounted for this board, which is a bit of a shame. Fear not – NuPhy has hinted at an upgrade in future iterations but you will have to mod those plate mounted stabilizers for now. Which is pretty easy to do, in fact you don’t even need to take them apart you can watch more stabilizer lubing guides here and apply it to this.

Enter the PCB. Which is by far the weakest point of the whole board. But only sort of? It has some great features, like a dedicated toggle for different modes on the back of the board. Normally with customs you find these toggles under keycaps, which I hate. But there is also an abundance of daughterboard cables, which can be a bit annoying. Especially now that we see customs move to magnetic connectors. There is also a grounding foam bit on the top of the PCB, which has proved to be problematic on older customs like the Sat75. As awesome as the features are for this board, I really feel like this could have thought out more. 

Flex cuts. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here.  I know I give flex cut PCB’s a lot of slack in recent times but it’s all preference. I prefer options with my purchases and I know it can be a difficult thing to offer in more entry level keyboards. Flex cuts typically make a keyboard sound thinner with the trade off usually being some added flex / softness to the typing experience. The problem is if you use foam, the additional movement you get from the flex cuts wither away.. But (yes there is a but here), this board oddly enough didn’t sound as thin and it may be due to the fact it utilizes a giant slab of silicone on the bottom.

Yes, there is a piece of silicone on the bottom here! It also is the housing for the battery here so taking it out would also mean the battery would have no place to sit on the board. For the sake of testing, I did take this out along with the battery and the sound was definitely more hollow than I’d like. You may think the silicone would make this sound dull or flat, but it doesn’t! You can check out some of the sound demos here on my live stream hyperlapse.

Now for the fun part of the internals, the mounting options of the Gem80. We have a top mount option and various styles of gasket mounts. I have got to give it to NuPhy, they really did make all the mourning options sound great here and they made the board just really fun to customize. My personal favourite out of the mounting options was the silicone strip gaskets, they felt the best for the gaskets. Again though, this is all preference and I encourage you to try them all if you get the board.

Oh and you can also between the default Fr4 plate, PC, POM, and aluminum but those are addons of $12 each. Not bad.

Gaskets on the Gem80.

Grounding foam and FR4 plate.

Internals of the Gem80 // Fuji GFX100s

Build Experience

Building the Gem80, especially with its hotswap feature, is a breeze. Remove the PCB assembly to install switches, put everything together – standard protocol. The gaskets use no adhesives, so no fuss there!

One hiccup – the switch nearest to the JST connection on the PCB can be a bit tricky during the connector plug-in. You might need to remove the switch for easier access.

Bottom Line

Gem80 ticks the boxes for a stellar performance with standout features. Despite minor quirks, I’m genuinely liking this board. It does lean towards a softer sound profile, so consider pairing it with long-pole switches like Obscuras or Moon V2 switches to get the most out of it (PS. These are affiliate links). At the time of this review, it slots nicely between recent hits like the Luminkey80 and Neo80. If you crave a premium feel, Neo80 might steal the show; for brighter vibes, go Luminkey80.

So, where does Gem80 stand? Somewhere in between, perhaps? It’s all about personal preference. While Gem80 might not outshine its competitors in every aspect, it holds its ground. NuPhy sweetens the deal with enticing add-ons – switches bundled at $15 USD and keycap options starting at $15 for the mSA profile, their take on SA keycaps.

I do want to see NuPhy address the point brought up in this deep dive into their board. This board may be a pass for people who just don’t care for plate mounted stabilizers.

Gem80 mode toggles.