Mode Tempo Review

my thoughts

keyboard by: Mode Designs
Photos taken in House by alex

Intro

I don’t envy the work Mode has to do to improve upon their previous work, but as the recipient of their work, I surely appreciate it. With these last three boards (Sixty-Five, Sonnet, and Envoy), we can clearly see how their newest board, the Tempo, came to be. 

The Tempo is Mode’s take on the popular HHKB layout. And, as I wrote above, you can see Mode’s iteration and refinement process in the Tempo.

Sure, it would be easy to say the Tempo is just an Envoy in the HHKB layout, but that would be selling it (and Mode) short. Let’s see what it is, what I loved, and what I didn’t love.

Also there are a few affiliate links on this page, they give me a small kick back when you use them which helps fund reviews like these! 
 

Bottom Shot of the Mode Tempo // Fuji X-HS2

Is This An Envoy With Some Keys Lopped Off?

Yes, the Tempo uses all the bits that made the Envoy so good, but each idea is rethought and reimplemented. There’s a new weight design, accent piece, tweaked lattice block mounting system, and even a bit of rethinking of the feet. Let’s take a look at each part.

The Weight

Compared to the Envoy, the Tempo’s weight is far more substantial. It looks like Mode is still iterating on weights because the first test of the Envoy resulted in a bigger weight for the shipping product, and yet the Tempo still ends up being bigger. In the case of the non-aluminum weights, this ends up offering a slightly deeper or more full downstroke on your typing. This gives it a good balance of sound for those not wanting a higher pitched board.

To see the difference in the size of the weights between the two boards, see the photo below.

Mode Tempo // Fuji X-HS2

Envoy weight (left) vs Tempo weight (right) // Fuji X-HS2

Example of feet!

The Feet

As with the Envoy, the Tempo also has its top feet inside the weight. I love this alternative to adhesive feet so much that I might even say it’s amazing. Thankfully, Mode didn’t stop there. The Tempo now also has silicone feet on the bottom that push in instead of the traditional adhesive, which is a win. These feet were easy to put on and stayed put.

The Accent

Before I get into the accent, I want to say one word: Pistachio.

I loved the accent on the Sixty-Five and the Sonnet, but the Envoy’s accent left me (and Mode, apparently) a little wanting. Here, the Tempo borrows from its older brothers.

Instead of living very hidden on the back where it’s simply too hard to see, the Tempo borrows the Sixty-Five’s style and mounting system of the Sonnet and Envoy (screws).

This design choice is more visible from the top down and looks more substantial than previous Mode offerings. I really like it. And one of the accent colors is a Pistachio color.  I am in L O V E.

 

Press fit feet of the Tempo

Accent shot of the Tempo

Mounting Up

The mounting system is taken directly from the Envoy with one minor, yet iterative, change. The Lattice blocks are now slightly taller. In my testing, this really didn’t add anything to the typing experience or the sound. However, Mode is offering several different blocks now.

To quote Xris from Mode, “…4 different types of lattice block mounts available at launch that are included with the board (green lattice, black lattice, green half-lattice, and green solid) – black solid blocks will not be an option.” This is awesome and opens up the board from some fun modding, but I haven’t tried the alternate lattice blocks.

Envoy lattice block left, Tempo lattice block on the right.

Building and Typing

I would call the Tempo, like the Envoy, an easy build. It’s a single-piece case with a weight and an accent. It’s a straightforward build process that I think everyone will enjoy.

This build is adhesive-free, and the lattice blocks pop in and out, so making changes is easy and about as hassle-free as I can imagine.

The lattice block mounts can also be left off on certain parts of the keyboard for added customizability. Because the board is only mounted with two screws and it’s a single piece, it makes disassembly frustration-free. This means you can easily try mounting styles, change assemblies, and quickly rebuild your board. This approach to modding really does wonders to eliminate the barriers to modding.

Tempo in Crema

Screws for the Tempo

Let’s Talk About the Screws

One minor flaw with the Tempo mounting (and the Envoy’s) is the fastening screws. When cranking down the screws to their stopping point, there’s a metallic ping while typing.

This was also present in the Envoy and while I thought the Tempo having larger weight would rid itself of this issue, it is still present.

My solution is to adjust the plastic washer and screw them halfway. I suggest Mode reimagine how the fastening screws are implemented to avoid this. Admittedly, this is a grievance that doesn’t affect the board much when installed correctly, but it’s there and I want to make sure potential customers are aware of this.

Tipping

The design and style of this board has it extend over the part that rests on the desk. So you could imagine it might lift up some when typing. In my testing, it simply doesn’t happen. I put this “problem” in the same camp as “anything bends if you try hard enough.” This board will not lift up unless you aim to make it lift up.
 
Moral of the story? Don’t smash type your keyboards.

Things I Loved.

I’m tempted just to write pistachio again. What a great color. But, for me, the Tempo is right up my alley sound-wise. It has a nice full “clack” or higher-pitched sound without sounding empty or too sharp. The lattice mounts, in my book, are a big winner for feel while giving you (well, me anyway) that dreamy typing feeling without much mush.

This board is easy to get into, so changing anything about it is easy. A couple of screws and you are instantly able to change the lattice blocks for sound and feel. And the styling? It’s really up there among Mode’s offerings. 

I am also so happy they removed the adhesive feet from the Envoy and redesigned them to make them press-fit feet. It’s a small thing but a meaningful change.

Things I Didn't Love.

Them darn screws. The issue isn’t always present, but because of the ping, I find it to be the one Achilles heel of this board. Tighten them too much, and the board will have a metallic undertone that is rather harsh. Tighten them too little, and you can hear them rattle. Ugh.

My solution is not to use them. Now, I don’t flip my board upside down at all, so I won’t run the risk of the PCB falling out. I’m not suggesting that would be your solution, but it works for me. It’s easy to find that middle point with the screws, but a new approach to this would be very much welcomed.

I don’t want to ignore the one aspect I find myself regularly reminding folks about: price. The Tempo can easily end up quite a bit more than the Envoy, and I don’t love that. It’s easy to see where all the price increases went, but it does create a new barrier for folks on a more modest budget. I’m not mad about it, but I don’t like it.

 

Bottom Line

The Tempo takes a little bit from each of its siblings and creates a new board (and a new layout for Mode) that is fun and very easy to mod. If you enjoy the HHKB layout and can afford the price, the Tempo is a solid board you won’t regret buying.

If you want to pick up Tempo, please consider using my Mode affiliate link when purchasing. It helps me to up my content game, continue to create video reviews, and post articles like this one. 

While Mode Designs is one of my sponsors, this review was not paid for, and Mode Designs had no input into the review.

 

GMK Dandy on the Tempo