The Chatterbox => Computing => Topic started by: Spectere on June 14, 2020, 06:23:29 PM

Title: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on June 14, 2020, 06:23:29 PM
Post your keyboard here!

Here's the board I'm currently using for my main PC (click to enlarge, as always):

(https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/gmmk_tty_t.jpg) (https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/gmmk_tty.jpg)

It's a GMMK TKL (https://www.pcgamingrace.com/products/gmmk-full-brown-switch) with 67g Purple Zealio V2 switches (https://zealpc.net/collections/switches/products/zealio) and Drop + Matt3o /dev/tty (https://drop.com/buy/drop-matt3o-mt3-dev-tty-keycap-set) keycaps.

I love almost everything about this thing. The keycaps have a spherical cut rather than a cylindrical one, so they almost cradle your fingertips while you type. F and J use a deeper groove instead of a nub or other marker, so it's just as easy to tell if your fingers are in the home position. Beyond that, they're thick PBT caps, so the texture is going to last a long time (my vintage 1989 Model M's keycaps still have their texture!) and they're noticeably quieter than the stock Pudding caps that the GMMK comes with.

The Zealios have a nice and heavy tactile bump, somewhat like a crisper MX Clear, with the actuation point immediately after the bump. This is a pretty big improvement over the Kailh Box Browns I ordered with the keyboard, which have an actuation point that's roughly 0.5mm below the bump.

I have a bunch of Holy Pandas on order as well, so we'll see how they compare. I often see the Zealio V2 compared with those switches, so I'm eager to compare them side by side.

As for the "almost" bit, the main points of criticism that I have is that everything about the way that the GMMK's company markets everything is beyond cringe. For one, the keyboard is called the "Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard," and the company's entire image is based on Yahtzee's "PC master race" joke. Yes. There's seriously a company whose entire schtick is based on r/pcmasterrace. I hate it.

The second downside is that the software is Windows only and is kinda crap. Their macro support is as basic as it gets, with you simply being able to just redefine keys, with no option of being able to use Fn+X chords to trigger macros (uhhh, why not just use AutoHotKey at that point?). I can't imagine their compact keyboards even being usable, seeing as they don't even offer customizable layers. Naturally, their controller doesn't support QMK or other open source firmware, so you're stuck with what you get.

That said, the build quality is nice, and the Kailh hotswap sockets have proven to be very nice indeed.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: vladgd on June 14, 2020, 08:14:31 PM

Memorex ps/2 keyboard, that I bought from SAM GOODY IN 2002 for $13usd.

I used that fucker up until July 2019...might not be pretty, but it got the job done. Every single key that I would have used for stepmania is worn off into blank keys, and still works great.


Excuse the ghetto "temporarily moved into my parents basement until I find a new place because 5 year relationship ended and she was staying in the house" setup. But after I built my pc last year, and I have converted to a lounge in a recliner pc setup to alleviate back pain, I wanted a mechanical tkl keyboard. I like the numpad, but it's a bit much for a lap setup.

Corsair K63 (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XC1WNPT/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1)

Looking into microswitches, cherry browns seemed the most attractive, but this thing was only $50...and I didn't want to spend a lot of money having just dumped on a new pc and 32 inch monitor. This thing has cherry reds, and they took a few months to adjust to (and after almost 20 years on that cheap memorex keyboard, I couldn't really type on anything else), but now that I have, I ain't so sure tactile feedback would be something I'd want anyway. Can't really know until I type on one for a few weeks, but this thing is doing me well for my basic needs anyway. Small note, my keyboard, psu, case, and ram is corsair...coincidence or am I secretly a corsair fanboy?

Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on June 15, 2020, 10:46:47 AM
The unfortunate part about microswitches is that you never really know which ones are meant for you until you've tried a whole bunch of them. Key testers can only do so much, as the backing plate makes a huge difference in tactile response, not to mention the key caps, as well as the fact that poking at a single key is a lot different than actually typing. A keyboard like mine, with swappable switches, is nice for stuff like that, but you still have to pull every. single. switch and replace them with the ones you want to try. A little time consuming, but it beats desoldering and resoldering. ;D

I haven't used them too much, but Corsair keyboards seem to be pretty solid. My dad was using a K70 with MX Blues for a while, so I got to play around with it a bit. I'm not sure how the plastic Corsairs feel, but the K70 felt a lot more solid than the Logitech mechs I've owned. They seem to be pretty reliable, too.

One thing I'd consider with your setup is picking up a lap desk (https://www.amazon.com/LapGear-Designer-Phone-Holder-Device/dp/B082J6KKKG/). I've been using that particular model for about a month and it's done a pretty great job keeping my keyboard from flopping all over the place. If I offset the keyboard to the right it also centers the alphanumeric keys, which makes typing super comfortable for long stretches of time. It's not large enough to hold a mouse (though my MX Ergo trackball will sort of fit on it if I shuffle things around), but my recliner has a little tray that I use for that.

As a little added bonus, here's a list of the mechanical switches I've used, in order of preference:
And one final entry that doesn't really fit into the list:
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: vladgd on June 16, 2020, 12:02:04 AM
I kinda use a small lap desk thing for my mouse, it's a good stable platform for a mousepad and I honestly don't miss being at a desk. Keyboard is fine on my lap 90% of the time, only 10% of the time when it's too hot and I'm in my bike shorts...and they're too slippery to keep the thing stable...besides that, I'm in a cool basement for the time being, so if it's 90degrees outside, it's still cool enough to prefer a blanket down here.

I was looking into blues, I think they might be the most popular besides reds? But the noise pollution alone from those fuckers would drive me mad. I think I'd like a tactile bump, but more noise would be annoying for anyone I live with. Browns seemed like a great middle ground, but again, pay double money for browns, or half money for reds? I chose save money.

That said, when I first got the keyboard, I didn't really like it since I was so used to the other one I used for 18 years. It probably took a few hundred hours of use (even durring my initial 1-60 in classic WoW I wasn't totally comfortable with it) to finally get used to the thing. NOW THAT I AM USED TO IT, I really enjoy the feel of the keys and smoothness the reds have going for them. Especially when say moving a character in a game, not having any click or bump or actuation feels kinda good, very smooth.

Problem comes with now that I'm well and used to this thing, and I know reds are treating me well...I don't think it would be worth money, or more importantly time to trial and error all the other options available. Mech keyboards are expensive enough for one, let alone like 9. I could understand if you're in an environment with access to said tools, but I'm more or less a casual pc user and this thing works fine enough for me...I mean I used a cheap ps/2 keyboard for near 2 decades, it doesn't take that much to impress me far as keyboards are concerned.

. I'm not sure how the plastic Corsairs feel, but the K70 felt a lot more solid than the Logitech mechs I've owned.

Take my opinion with a grain of salt because of the other keyboard I used (still works to this day, so can't knock it for reliability), but build wise it feels solid. Doesn't have any flex when I grab it and twist it, good weight, overall "feels" quality to me, having this singular keyboard being my only experience with a mech.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on June 18, 2020, 11:11:17 AM
I think I'd actually say that browns are more popular than blues. They were being put into so many keyboards for a while that they were perpetually out of stock (hence the price hikes). I don't mind a noisy keyboard (at home, that is—I wouldn't subject my coworkers to that) but I just wasn't too crazy about how blues sound. I prefer a clack rather than a click, which is why I love the sound of buckling spring keyboards.

There's quite a bit of nuance between switches when you look beyond genuine Cherry switches (in addition to the Zealios switches I have installed, and the Holy Pandas I have on order, I joined a group buy for some Everglide Dark Jade switches…I need help) but that's also when things tend to get really, really complicated. Cherry switches are fairly easy to identify, have a fairly simple lineup, are ubiquitous, and are cheap. I find non-Cherry switches to be superior, sure, but you're never going to be able to find a keyboard that uses Zealios V2 switches for under $100. You're going to be lucky to get just the switches for that much.

That said, when I first got the keyboard, I didn't really like it since I was so used to the other one I used for 18 years. It probably took a few hundred hours of use (even durring my initial 1-60 in classic WoW I wasn't totally comfortable with it) to finally get used to the thing. NOW THAT I AM USED TO IT, I really enjoy the feel of the keys and smoothness the reds have going for them. Especially when say moving a character in a game, not having any click or bump or actuation feels kinda good, very smooth.

If it works, it works. :) My main reason for preferring a tactile bump is because when I anticipate a future movement I tend to put some pressure on the key, so having a switch with a 50-55gf actuation force feels just about perfect for preventing accidental movements. I used MX Blacks for almost a year and even after all that I couldn't get used to the linear travel.

As far as making the initial switch, I found that the toughest part about getting used to a mechanical keyboard is adapting to the high actuation point. You have to almost completely bottom out rubber dome keyboards in order for them to register, and they're rarely smooth. Many of the rubber domes that I've used have a hard break near the top of the travel, a gritty descent, and feel mushy as they bottom out, which leads to them requiring a lot of actuation force at the beginning of travel, then having to deal with the actuation point being significantly below that. I've grown to loathe the way they feel, though I admit that Dell made (rebadged?) some good ones around 2005-2006ish. Honorable mentions include the Apple Pro Keyboards from around 2003-2004 (those tend to be very smooth), and this one random Compaq PS/2 low-profile rubber done that I ended up acquiring at some point (feels surprisingly crisp and responsive).

I don't mind scissor switch keyboards since they tend to be crisper and have less travel. Some of the Apple low-travel keyboards (Magic Keyboard 2 and the newer MacBook Pro keyboards) are downright pleasant to use for what they are. It helps that they have an aluminum backing plate, which helps them feel reasonably snappy.

Problem comes with now that I'm well and used to this thing, and I know reds are treating me well...I don't think it would be worth money, or more importantly time to trial and error all the other options available. Mech keyboards are expensive enough for one, let alone like 9.

I managed to sell the ones that didn't self destruct, at least (the 6Gv2 and the G910). :P Right now I'm using the GMMK TKL for my gaming PC and WFH setup, my IBM Model M for my DOS/Win98 retro PC, and my G710+ is sitting on my currently-abandoned desk at work. As far as non-mechanical keebs, my iMac is using a wireless Magic Keyboard 2, and, when it's hooked up, my Bemani PC is using some old Microsoft keyboard that someone gave me.

Take my opinion with a grain of salt because of the other keyboard I used (still works to this day, so can't knock it for reliability), but build wise it feels solid. Doesn't have any flex when I grab it and twist it, good weight, overall "feels" quality to me, having this singular keyboard being my only experience with a mech.

Ah yeah. If there isn't any flexing/creaking then you're in good shape. Sounds like they probably used solid internals and just surrounded it with a plastic case in order to bring the price down a few pegs.

The main reason it's important is because if a keyboard can freely flex, so can the PCB. If it goes through too much of that, bye-bye solder traces.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Bobbias on June 18, 2020, 03:12:58 PM
I've got a ducky shine 4 red edition with MX Reds.
(image stolen from some dude's imgur)

(https://i.imgur.com/eMvxYr0.jpg) (https://i.imgur.com/eMvxYr0.jpg)

So, I actually really like the feel of typing on these keys. Accidentally brushing up against another key is likely to cause a typo, but on the other hand, once you're used to how easy the actuation is you really don't need to type hard at all, which is quite nice. As for rhythm games, I will say the switches have held up quite nicely so far in terms of durability. My accuracy has been consistently worse, but I've found jacks and chordstreams easier compared to when I played on laptops. I've even managed to play super light on certain patterns.

Build quality is quite solid. While there is some flex if you twist it (and the plastic creaks like a motherfucker the moment you begin putting any force on it that way) it feels super solid. It's also not exactly the lightest keyboard I've ever used.

Admin Edit: Resized picture.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on June 30, 2020, 08:38:07 AM
I ended up ordering a bunch of parts to build my own 60% mech. I'll document the process and post it here when I do that.

The keycaps (GMK Yoda 2) have already arrived, and I'm currently waiting for the PCB, case, plate, and switches. I have a set of Invyr Holy Pandas on their way—going to swap them into my GMMK for a few days to see if I like them before I pull the trigger, since I'm going to have to solder the switches onto the new PCB. If I don't care for them I'll probably just fetch another set of switches from ZealPC (maybe 67g Blue Zilents, since I'm planning to use this keyboard for work when I end up having to go back to the office) and call it a day.

After I finish that, the next logical step is going to be designing a custom keyboard PCB and building something based on that. I was initially planning to do that with this build (along with a handmade wooden case and a custom plate from Ponoko, etc) but then the 60% PCB/case combo popped up on Drop and I snapped that up. Whelp.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Bobbias on June 30, 2020, 09:28:44 AM
Hell, if you're going that far, why not grab an FPGA and write your own controller for it too :P Bonus points if you write the USB controller yourself.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on June 30, 2020, 09:30:23 AM
Before Drop listed the PCB/case that I picked up I ended up grabbing a Teensy 2.0 for the custom keyboard project, so I'm one step ahead of you. :P
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Bobbias on July 01, 2020, 07:49:59 PM
Haha, sounds like a fun project though.

I really wish I had a chance to just try out every type of switch and find out exactly what ones I like best. After typing on this KB for a while I'm starting to get used to the reds quite a bit. I used to really struggle to avoid typos. I still do end up slightly off center of the keys once in a while (and just barely touching a different key is likely to cause a typo), mostly because I don't have anything even resembling proper typing technique, but overall I've gotten used to the feel of reds. But I'd love to get a chance to try a ton of switches because I'm sure there's something I'd prefer over reds out there. I mostly got it because I figured I should be able to make use of the advantages reds afford you for hitting the actuation quickly in rhythm games.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on July 01, 2020, 09:10:57 PM
If you still have issues with typos but like the linear switches you might like MX Black switches. Those have a similar feel to reds but aren't quite so touchy.

You can also rapidly actuate silent tactile keys with a little bit of practice. You just have to ride the bump. Clicky tactile keys generally have a noticeably higher reset point due to how the key works (essentially two pieces, with the bottom part snapping down to make the "click" sound, with the upstroke bringing it back into place for another actuation) but tactile switches are pretty much just solid bodied switches with a little bump on them.

It is worth looking into the non-Cherry switches as well. Kailh Box Browns are basically snappier MX Browns, for instance.

If you have some cash to burn and want to try 72 different switches, KBDFan has a nice looking tester here: https://kbdfans.com/collections/switches-tester/products/kbdfans-72-switches-tester-all-in-one (https://kbdfans.com/collections/switches-tester/products/kbdfans-72-switches-tester-all-in-one). I'm kind of on the fence about picking it up, considering I already have a set of Holy Pandas and Everglide Dark Jades on order.

I'll definitely review the Holy Pandas on here after I get them. Spec-wise, they look to be somewhat similar to the Zealios, but we'll see.

Edit: I'm also desperately trying to stop myself from jumping on these: https://drop.com/buy/drop-matt3o-mt3-susuwatari-custom-keycap-set (https://drop.com/buy/drop-matt3o-mt3-susuwatari-custom-keycap-set). The /dev/tty caps I'm using on my main keyboard made me fall in love with scooped keys and hi-profile sculpting, and those ones look awesome.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: vladgd on July 02, 2020, 11:41:46 AM
It would be nice for some big box stores to jump more into the mechanical keyboard bandwagon and iunno have one of those nifty difty switch testers just out for customers to try, which would probably encourage them to spend money. Im just not that much of an enthusiast to drop some $60 just to see what kind of switches I want in my next over $100 keyboard, but if had free access to one would totally use it. Kinda curious if smaller shops would have those things hands, but with covid going around, I don't even know whats open anymore.

(https://i.imgur.com/YaTqmUz.jpg) (https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=3508)

Been eyeing that board before the k63, but being near $100 more, and my first mech, you can understand my decision. Still that sakura board is sexxxxxxxx, I may get one in the future if I have a reason to A spend the money and B switch off cherry reds.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on July 02, 2020, 05:04:15 PM
That would be nice! Unfortunately, it seems like many of the retail outlets are under the misapprehension that mechanical keyboard == gaming keyboard, so you either end up with a selection of rubber domes with a bunch of expensive mechs of rather dubious quality (funny how Corsair, one of the cheaper gaming brands, tend to be the best choice when it comes to mainstream mechs).

I think the main reason that stores like that avoid brands like Das Keyboard, Ducky, etc, is because they're kind of hard to market to the mainstream market. Gaming mechs are already enough of a hard sell to people who are used to rubber domes ("why would I ever pay $100 for a keyboard?"), and the higher quality typing keyboards tend to reach $150-200, easy. By the time I finished building it, my GMMK TKL cost around $250 ($60 for the base unit, $90 for the switches, and $100 for the caps). While I wouldn't trade this typing experience for anything (until I build a better keyboard, that is…) most people would pass out at the very thought of spending that much on "just a keyboard," even if it's something they use for 8-12 hours, 5-7 days a week.

Unfortunately, I think that's going to too big of a hurdle for most places to want to jump through. That said, it would be nice to see more tech-friendly stores like Micro-Center and Fry's offer a better selection. While they do seem to have a better selection than most places, they still tend to have the same gaming mechs that everyone else offers.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Bobbias on July 04, 2020, 11:04:03 AM
Let's just say I got fucked by customs and the CAD-USD conversion rate when I bought my kb... Fucker ended up costing around 380 CAD IIRC by the end of everything.

But yeah, I mean there's been a pretty sizable mechanical keyboard fanbase online for quite a while. It's a shame stores have that mech == gaming mentality. While gaming did factor into why I chose MX Red switches, I had already wanted a mech for quite a while before I pulled the trigger. And it was primarily because I was sick of using craptastic keyboards that cost like $5 to replace. I wanted something that would actually last, and also feel better than rubber dome keyboards. And yeah, as much as some people might dislike linear switches, or even MX Reds in particular (I know linear vs tactile is a big point of contention for some people) I still think they feel miles better than cheap rubber domes do.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on July 04, 2020, 12:50:18 PM
Good god, man. I think that goes a few steps beyond getting fucked.

One of the things I appreciate about the greater mechanical keyboard community is that they're fully aware that switch preference is 100% subjective and is dependent more on how you use the keyboard than what you're using it for. As I've mentioned previously, the way that I tend to even play games makes linear switches woefully unsuitable for me (worse than rubber domes, actually, since those usually have a notable break point or, at the very least, a lower actuation point. Hell, for some typing styles, linear vs. tactile would make literally no difference. If you tend to rest your hands lightly on the keys while idle and bottom out while typing, a linear switch wouldn't feel much different than a tactile one.

Switch weight makes a pretty profound difference as well. My former favorite switches were MX Browns (45g actuation force, 60g bottom out force), but those tended to be too light with a really weak bump. My current set of Purple Zealios V2 switches feature slightly heavier actuation force (50g), albeit with a more pronounced bump, but the 67g has helped with fatigue quite a bit, simply because I'm far less prone to hard bottoming out like I was with the Browns. Kinda wish that non-mainstream switches weren't so expensive, because I want them all (and I'd love to evaluate more of ZealPC's offerings).
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: vladgd on July 06, 2020, 01:15:05 AM
I 100% agree on the subjective statement, because, it is.

I found that I really liked the linear switches playing WoW classic. I don't know what brought it up, but when idling around and just moving my character through space, the linear action was just satisfying...for unknown reasons, but is just is.

I went into this thing wanting tactile feedback, and a year later...I kinda don't have that much motivation to try it (would totes try it if had access), which is good...for not throwing money away purposes...as..I tend to do with warhammer...junk food...alcohol...and hobbies I won't get into...

Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on July 06, 2020, 02:10:52 PM
Yeah, as you mentioned before, getting access is the problem. I ended up going through several keyboards (thankfully was able to resell or gift most of them, aside from the two that broke or wore out) before I found a setup that I've been very happy with, and unfortunately that's good money that could have gone to a new PC, GPU, adult furry games, or whatever. Unfortunately, learning that gaming keyboards are generally pretty poor mechs was a very expensive mistake.

That said, even my current keyboard build was a bit of a shot in the dark. The only thing indicating that my current switches were good were people singing their praises on r/mk. Thankfully, it ultimately ended up being a good choice, but you never really know until you've fondled them for a bit and have some time to break them in. Even Logitech's cruddy Romer-G switches feel okay (sort of like MX Browns) when you only poke them for a few minutes, but after a few days of use they start to feel mushy. Even my Zealios switches needed a week or two of use before they kind of settled into a good place. They've always felt great to type on, but there was a noticeable "ping" sound when I would hit a key, likely from the spring vibrating. That ended up dulling out as I used it, and now I don't hear it at all (switching to thicker PBT keycaps and putting the keyboard on a large mouse mat further dampened the sound).
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Bobbias on July 07, 2020, 01:34:29 PM
I never noticed any kind of wearing in effect on this keyboard, but that said I wasn't exactly looking for anything like that. Considering I played mania on laptops for years, I did develop a habit of bottoming out hard, but I've managed to mostly avoid hitting things too hard on this thing, with the exception of stuff like backspace, spacebar, and enter, which i tend to hit hard enough to really bottom out. I still bottom out most of the time, but not hard enough to really make too much noise when typing regularly.

I have to wonder what difference proper typing technique makes in all this. I do not have proper technique, and tend mostly to use 2 fingers on each hand, although I do occasionally use the others, especially if they're already on the right key. I can hit about 60wpm on typing tests, although to be honest I feel like the whole "copy this text" type test is flawed. Most of my typing is writing out my own thoughts, not copying someone else's text. Needing to pay attention to things like where a comma is, capitalization, and such while reading what I need to copy slows me the fuck down. When I'm writing something from my own mind I can type way faster than when I've gotta pay attention to details like that to copy something. That said, typos do really slow me down, especially if I make the same mistake like 3 times in a row before finally fixing the damn thing.

But yeah I do wonder if having proper typing technique and higher speeds affects how people perceive different switches as well.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on July 07, 2020, 04:53:48 PM
I think that does make some sort of difference. My typing technique is fairly close to "proper" (though I tend not to alternate between shift keys and space thumbs, though that doesn't slow me down thanks to my big Italian hands :P) and many of my habits seem to stem from me resting my fingers on the home row when I'm ready to type. I mean, I had a keyboard with linear switches (fairly stiff ones, too) for just under a year and even after all that time I never really got used to it.

I feel as though the "copy this text" test is about as useful as benchmarking a PC. It gives you a theoretical maximum, which can be useful in some occupations (mainly stuff like transcription). The main thing that I find flawed is the way many of those tests handle errors lead to a lot of confusing visual noise that you wouldn't get if you were to just copy a document straight from paper to Word. Some of them don't even let you use backspace to correct errors, so trying to correct your mistakes leads to even more errors and general uncertainty/anxiety/angst/tears. I haven't done a typing test in a while, but when I was in seventh grade I was top of my typing class by a wide margin (120+ wpm with 99% accuracy, since I more or less stumbled upon a semi-proper technique by accident and used computers a ton growing up). It feels like I've improved since then, but I don't really care enough about it to really find out. Like you said, I generally don't end up typing at full speed anyway unless I'm already damn sure about what I'm going to type.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on July 17, 2020, 02:45:42 PM
My Invyr Holy Pandas arrived today and I just got them installed in my GMMK TKL. I'm not going to attempt to give my first impressions just yet, seeing as I've only been using these for about 20-30 minutes, so instead I'll try to detail how they're different than my Zealios.

The Pandas have a smooth tactile bump, compared to the crisp, harder bump that the Zealios have. It's kind of tough for me to pinpoint exactly how they feel, but I'd say it's somewhere between MX Browns and MX Clears, leaning towards the latter. Zealios loosened up immediately after the bump, with the post-bump travel being initially light and gradually increasing. The Pandas are similar, though they feel firmer immediately after the bump.

One thing that's interesting about these switches is that if you push down on them slowly, the smooth bump almost makes them feel like a linear switch, while the crisp bump on the Zealios give you no illusions of what they are. When you're actually typing, however, the bump is noticeable but not overwhelming.

I'll give these things about a week before I attempt to offer my final opinions on them. That should give me enough time to try them out for the three most important things in life: typing, coding, and gaming.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on July 22, 2020, 01:09:18 PM
Eh, it's been close enough to a week. :)

So I'd have to say that the Pandas are probably all-rounders than the Zealios. The Zealios are amazing for typing, but the bump is less than ideal for gaming, while the Pandas still have a heavy feel but are a lot smoother in practice. They're interesting and unique, that much is for certain.

I did run into a couple of QC issues with the batch that I received. No chatter or anything like that, but the case seemed to be deformed enough on two of the switches that I simply couldn't mount them no matter how hard I tried. That's two switches out of 110 (I put in the order for this before I switched to TKL) so it wasn't a complete dealbreaker, and it further underlines why you should always order extras.

One reason I'm probably going to relegate the Pandas to home use is because they are definitely louder switches than the Zealios. They aren't clicky like a fresh set of MX Blues, but they make a pretty generous clack even when you bottom out fairly lightly. Kinda guessing it has a to do with the materials that the stems and switch bodies are made from, especially since I'm using the same board and caps. I will say that the sound is very satisfying without being obnoxious. When I used a keyboard with MX Blues as a daily driver, the high-pitched click would sometimes get on my nerves, but this setup produces a nice, well-rounded clack. Very lovely.

In other news, the rest of the parts for my custom keeb arrived yesterday, so I plan to start that build Soon™.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on August 05, 2020, 05:37:21 PM
I snagged my first artisan keycap, the Galaxy Chimera by Craftkey, and I think I'm in love:

(https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/GalaxyChimera_t.jpg) (https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/GalaxyChimera.jpg)

I was kind of turned off to the idea of artisan caps because a lot of them aren't shaped like a keyboard key, so they tend to be rough and uncomfortable to press. This one is encased in resin, so while it's much smoother than my textured PBT caps, it at least has the same shape as the key that I'm replacing. I'm also very pleased that SA row 1 keys have the same basic profile as MT3 profile keys, so it doesn't feel out of place at all with the rest of my setup.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Bobbias on August 06, 2020, 07:01:13 PM
That looks cool as hell.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Zephlar on August 12, 2020, 09:32:20 AM
That's super cool. My wife has been watching a Youtube Channel lately where this Korean gal custom designs keys (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGlWt5a7fR4) using resin/UV. Looks like it could be a lot of fun albeit a bit of a pain in the ass.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on September 17, 2020, 01:31:25 PM
I did run into a couple of QC issues with the [Holy Pandas] that I received. No chatter or anything like that, but the case seemed to be deformed enough on two of the switches that I simply couldn't mount them no matter how hard I tried. That's two switches out of 110 (I put in the order for this before I switched to TKL) so it wasn't a complete dealbreaker, and it further underlines why you should always order extras.

Turns out, the issues didn't end there. I'm about two months in and I've run into three chattering switches (as opposed to the zero chattering switches from my previous Kailh Box Browns set and both sets of Zealios switches I've used), with another potential bad one rearing its ugly head. Swapping the switches with fresh ones eliminated the chatter, but if this keeps up I'm going to be out of spares before I hit the one year mark. Looks like I might be swapping the Zealios switches back in in the near future.

Edit: Two more chattering switches! Yeech. Current list of keys I've replaced, in order (mostly for my own reference):

2020-09-17: I, <space>, R
2020-09-24: E, L
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on September 27, 2020, 03:38:57 AM
I built something!

(https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/CompactKeeb-20200927-sm.jpg) (https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/CompactKeeb-20200927.jpg)

This goes a bit beyond socketing switches into sockets. This whole thing consists of the following parts:

The board included an ATmega32u4 (with the QMK firmware preinstalled), so I didn't have to fiddle with fitting a microcontroller in the case, and it included surface-mounted diodes, which cut the amount of stuff I had to hand-solder in half. It wasn't too difficult to put together, and it wasn't as tedious as I thought it would be. I was pleasantly surprised when I plugged it in and everything Just Worked™.

The hardest part for me now is getting used to the condensed layout. Fn+WASD are the direction keys (and I also included Fn+Q/E/R/F for PgUp/PgDn/Home/End for when I use Windows). The Shrug key is just the Fn key, so I can switch layers with either hand.

I can't overstate just how chonky the aluminum case is, either. This thing is heavy (which is a good thing, don't get me wrong).

As far as the overall feeling, I'd say the Jades feel somewhere between smoother Zealios and heavier Pandas. They have a nice, solid break like my Zealios switches, but have the smoothness of my Pandas (and hopefully their reliability isn't as bad *currently glaring at the growing pile of chattering Pandas on my desk*).

Sounds? Hm, I should probably record some sort of video, but that takes effort. I'd say it has a clackier sound than the GMMK+Zealios, but it's quieter and lower-pitched compared to the GMMK+Pandas (both using my PBT /dev/tty caps).

We'll see how the 60% layout works out in the long run, but so far so good. Being able to freely reconfigure the keyboard layout is definitely going to help, methinks.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: vladgd on September 28, 2020, 02:22:57 PM
Besides travel, and collecting, what's the appeal of a 60% keyboard?

I don't have the largest hands for someone my size, but big for "average standards", and I don't see something like that being very comfortable as a daily driver.

I did notice 60% being quite popular while I was looking for a mech myself, but I just don't get the appeal, unless you're a tiny person in general. I could argue same goes for wallets, minimalist wallets seem to be way popular than a good quality leather bifold. (why a glorified paperclip is marketed as a "minimist wallet" is beyond me, but not for me I can't really comment)
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on September 28, 2020, 02:57:11 PM
I kinda wondered that, too, which is why I went ahead and built this. I already had keycaps and switches, so it was just a matter of getting the case, plate, and PCB, which didn't end up costing all that much, and it proved to be a pretty fun (and ultimately useful) project.

After fiddling around with it, the main advantage I can see is the fact that you don't have to move far from the home row. I'm still breaking my existing muscle memory, but using Fn+WASD as cursor keys and Fn+numbers as function keys is starting to feel fluid and far more intuitive. When you really think about it, with a sane layer setup, 60% really isn't much of a step back from TKL. Just merge the function keys and number row, then put the arrows and navigation keys in an area that makes sense to you. I mostly use macOS now, so print screen, scroll lock, and pause/break are basically useless to me (in macOS, you use Cmd+Shift+3/4 for screengrabs). As long as you don't put your Fn key in a weird spot, nothing is far from reach.

I couldn't imagine jumping into a 60% layout without a flexible firmware, though. One of the reasons I decided to go the DZ60 route instead of ordering yet another GMMK is because it truly gives me the freedom to set this thing up however I want, giving me some wiggle room in terms of button layout (most DZ60-based layouts I've seen use a full-width right shift, for example) and giving me a dizzying amount of control over the way the keyboard actually works. Like, if I wanted to set this thing up so that LShift+RSuper+U+ESC types out ö, I could do that. I don't think it's much of a stretch to consider a compact, fixed layout damn near useless when it comes to keyboards.

I'm not sure I'd want to go smaller than 60%, though if I could get my hands on a cheap 40% PCB I'd be willing to try it. It's easy enough to 3D print a case for one if I just want to derp around with it for a bit. I've also developed a growing interest in split layouts. Not sure how aggressively I'm going to pursue that one, though. I think I spent enough on keyboard stuff this year, considering I'm on my fourth keyboard (shitty Logitech G910, GMMK, GMMK TKL, custom compact), sixth set of switches (Romer-G, Kailh Box Browns, Zealios 67g, more Zealios 67g, Holy Pandas, Everglide Dark Jade), and own four full sets of keycaps. At least I was able to give my old GMMK/Zealios set to my dad, and if it wouldn't make such a mess I would loooooove to shoot the G910. Repeatedly. With .44 Magnum FMJs.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Bobbias on October 03, 2020, 06:00:50 PM


But I'm poor atm. Fuck.

That said, I'd be interested in finding a 122 key keyboard, or something with extra function keys. Know where I should look (and what's out there for keyboards with extra keys. Not macro keys, but keys that actually send different scancodes)?
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on October 03, 2020, 11:48:15 PM
Unicomp makes a 122-key keyboard in both USB and PS/2 varieties. I imagine the quality isn't as good as those Model F clones (I've heard that Unicomp tends to hover around Model M levels of quality) but it's a lot cheaper, and you still get buckling springs: https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/UB40B5A (https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/UB40B5A)

Aside from them, the only other keyboard I can think of off the top of my head that has extra keys are the full-sized Apple keyboards (scissor switch keyboards with F13-F19 and a sturdy aluminum base, but the modifier key layout isn't particularly Windows-friendly).
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Bobbias on October 04, 2020, 02:53:45 PM
:/ looking at some of the pictures on /r/mechanicalkeyboards I can see lots of unusual/custom form factors, but I don't exactly want to build my own. It's just that I'd love to have more actual keys. I'd love something like the space cadet, with all it's modifier keys. I could do without additional function keys if I could have more modifiers. I've been looking into remapping some keys like capslock, as well as adding additional combinations for modifier use (like mapping ctrl+shift a to say, a box drawing character, or greek alpha, or fraktur A etc.) but honestly I'm not super happy about how limited I feel with the standard 104 key factor. Note: apparently the database does not like unicode, I had to remove characters from this post...
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on October 05, 2020, 01:30:25 AM
Look into keyboards that support the QMK firmware, such as the ones that Drop sells (pretty sure there are some less expensive Chinese designs available on Amazon as well that would fit the bill). Those allow you to remap keys at the firmware level and utilize up to 16 layers.

The database is set up to use Unicode (if it weren't, the label for the old Snowman board wouldn't appear). I'll bet it's an SMF limitation. Kinda seems like so few fucks are given about SMF 2.0 that they don't even bother updating the copyright date at the bottom anymore (and yes, there have been patches released after 2017).

Here's hoping SMF 2.1 comes out one of these years. I'd like to be able to get it installed before I turn 40.

(To add some context, the first public alpha of 2.1 was released in 2012, the first beta was released in 2014, and the first release candidate was released in 2019. I turn 40 in November 2024, so we'll see what happens.)
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on October 08, 2020, 01:05:14 PM
So I ended up heading to the office today to work with someone directly on a project (basically doing a lot of last minute tweaks%u2026way easier to just go in rather than coordinate everything over Teams), which gave me the opportunity to use my trusty Logitech G710+ again.

Kinda feels weird to use MX Browns again after using other switches for so long. I'm not used to switches that have this much pre-actuation travel, that's for sure. These switches have at least 1mm of travel before the top of the tactile bump.

This keyboard uses a plastic plate and o-rings, so it's pretty damn quiet. Way quieter than my GMMK (aluminum plate, I believe) and custom board (carbon fiber). In terms of switch feel, the MX Brown is serviceable. Definitely far from my favorite at this point in time.

The thing that feels really odd is using a full-sized keyboard again. Like, this thing actually feels unreasonably large. I'm so used to using a center-aligned keyboard that I had to shift my desk around so that the alphanumeric keys are somewhat centered. Fortunately, I'm using a trackball, so I was able to just shove that over to the side without an issue. Good stuff.

But yeah, not too bad. I'll still take my weird lab experiments over it, but it's serviceable.

Edit: Back home now and yeah, night and day difference. Gaming mechs are definitely better than rubber domes (unless they're equipped with Romer-G's), but it's incredible how much of a difference using a non-Cherry switch with a solid plate makes. Honestly, I think I like the feeling of my Apple Magic Keyboard 2 more than the G710+, to be perfectly honest. It uses some very crisp scissor switches with a solid aluminum body, so it feels sturdier and has a nice, snappy response.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on December 17, 2020, 11:22:16 PM

(https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/preonic_t.jpg) (https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/preonic.jpg)

Yeah, I decided to try the whole ortho thing. I wasn't bold enough to grab a Planck and join the whole 40% movement, so I just went with a 50% layout (the Preonic) instead. I'm kinda glad I did, honestly, since it gives me a lot more room to tweak the layout without things getting too far away.

To input symbols, you would use the lower/raise buttons (the keys flanking the space bar) and tap home row keys. For example, lower-J gives you '-' and upper-J gives you '_'. A someone who primarily programs in C/C++/C#, being able to lower-L and lower-; for '{' and '}', respectively, is one hell of a killer feature.

Beyond that, I did some tweaking to the standard keyboard layout to bring over a few things from my 60% configuration, like Fn+WASD for arrow keys and the like, as well as adding in a few essentials like right-ALT (since I use that as a compose key in Windows/Linux).

It's been…interesting so far. I've used it for about ten hours and have found that the orthogonal key layout does sort of change the way you have to type, so it's hard to say whether or not I'm completely sold on it. The staggered key layout allows you a great deal of flexibility in how you type things. For example, if you type the word "certify," with a staggered layout you can very easily move your left index finger down (or your thumb up) and left to pick up 'c', tap 'e' with your ring finger, 'r' with your middle, then 't' with your index. The way I approach typing is full of little quirks and optimizations like that.

With an ortho layout, typing "certify" using the method I outlined above is a hell of a stretch since your fingers have to move a full step over instead of a partial-step. The number row is even more awkward, which is why I suspect that the Planck layout appears to be a bit more popular than the Preonic. If you shove your middle finger up two rows on a typical staggered keyboard layout you land on '2', while on a Preonic you land on '1'. The combination of these two factors definitely initially decreased my confidence to the point where my speeds fell to levels I haven't seen in around 30 years.

I've built back up to around 60-80% of my usual speed (I still fumble with symbols) and there are certainly things that I've grown to like. There are two keys on a standard keyboard layout that are a bit tricky to hit: 'B' and 'Y'. 'B' is a step and a half away for both fingers while 'Y' is slightly closer to the right hand, but from a home position they're both a bit awkward. On an ortho both keys are a single diagonal step away.

I plan to stick with it and try to steadily improve my performance. If things really don't work out I doubt I'll have a problem selling it.

As far as the specs, it's capable of accepting taking both Matias-style (requires soldering) and MX-style switches (with Kailh hot-swap sockets). I went with 67g Zealios V2 switches. They're currently unlubed (it took USPS a week to get a small parcel from New York to Ohio and I just wanted to assemble it) but I'm planning to pop the switches out and give lubing them a shot. I like how Zealios switches feel unlubed, so I'm curious to see how much of a difference it'll make. The included space key stabilizer is unlubed, so I plan to take care of that as well. It squeaked like crazy on day one but it seems to have quieted down quite a bit…somehow.

The keycaps are the fairly typical Drop x OLKB Acute set, which are dyesubbed PBT caps in the OEM profile. They feel pretty good, but it is a little strange going from my exaggerated MT3 profile boards to this one. The case is a nice lilac colored aluminum jobby. It's nowhere near as heavy as the chonky case my 60% is in, but it has a reasonable amount of heft.

I do swap between my three keebs occasionally (had to switch back to my 60% for work yesterday because the Preonic was slowing me down way too much for the amount of work I had to do, and occasionally I need the nav cluster from my TKL), so I also picked up a magnetic cable. Basically, you just pop the little adapter into the microUSB/USB-C/Lightning port and the magnetic thinger attaches to it. That'll be nice if I decide to haul a keyboard back and forth between work and home after the lockdown ends.

Oh, and just to give y'all an idea of how small this sucker is, here's a picture of my G502 casually resting on top of it:

(https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/preonic_size_t.jpg) (https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/preonic_size.jpg)

And, finally, a comparison shot/group photo/whatever you wanna call it:

(https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/tkl_60_preonic_t.jpg) (https://files.spectere.net/pictures/keyboard/tkl_60_preonic.jpg)
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Bobbias on December 23, 2020, 07:22:42 AM
See that level of control and extra buttons to do with is what I'd love... With a full keyboard layout. Or larger. Without breaking the bank. And I suspect that is not easily accomplished.
Title: Re: The Keeb Thread
Post by: Spectere on December 23, 2020, 03:52:37 PM
Yeah, that sort of thing just isn't mass produced. If you want something that's super flexible, there are 75% PCBs (TKL with a condensed navigation key layout) that have several spots for switches around the space bar. Thing is, the PCB and case usually run around $60-100 (depending on case materials), with the caps and switches running another $100+ easy, with stabilizers and lube running another $10-20, depending on what you get (all figures in Freedom Bucks. Not sure about the what the cost would be in Maple Leaf Moneys, especially since you'd probably have to import a bunch of stuff :(). That's assuming you're up to hand solder everything, too. PCBs with pre-installed Kailh sockets are usually a bit more.

Honestly, I would take a few moments to consider if you really need a full keyboard layout. After working with a 60% for several months, even going back to a TKL slows me down and forces me to shove my mouse further away from the keyboard. Being able to just Fn+WASD to navigate feels awesome, especially in macOS (since Cmd+Left/Right is home/end and Cmd+Up/Down is PgUp/PgDn). Being able to navigate quickly thought documents without having to move from the home row honestly feels incredible, and I can honestly say that I'm actually far more productive with this keyboard than any of the ones I've owned in the past. I occasionally miss having a numpad, so I built myself an external numpad that I can just plug in whenever I need it. On the Preonic I could even add a proper numpad to a separate layer, given that it's already an ortho layout.

As long as you're using a keyboard with the QMK firmware you can do basically anything with it. Head over to the QMK Configurator (https://config.qmk.fm/), select any keyboard from the list, and just check out the crazy shit you can do with it using the keycodes listing below. I think there are some cheaper QMK-compatible DZ60-based compacts and TKL boards on Amazon for fairly reasonably prices (roughly $70-80 IIRC) but I can't really speak for their quality.

The only real downside about all of this is that whenever I use my laptop undocked I always end up inadvertently turning on caps lock and typing "AAAAAAAAA" out of habit. Whoops.