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Back after a 4 year break... What did I miss?

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Hello to all nice Geekhack folks :-)

I used to be a "reasonably" active user here and after buying/trying way too much boards/keys. I kind of went meh then switched to something else. Pun intended.

So what did I miss?
Any new interesting/promising keyboard tech out there?
Did Matias finally release it's 60% board? (Rhetorical cheap shot. I couldn't resist peaking at the Vendor forum)

Happy 2022 all!

Nothing much happened in the past few years. It's been a pretty quiet time.

Most of the old regulars are fading away, I'm not sure we'll be seeing many new boards or components in the next while.

Oh wait, that was the parallel universe.


--- Quote ---Nothing much happened in the past few years. It's been a pretty quiet time.
--- End quote ---

Hmmm. Any love for the Niz Plum/Abko electro-capacitive switches?

Ok... seriously, keyboard customization exploded in the past 4 years.

The pandemic didn't even slow it down.

There's been a Precambrian Explosion of new switches. Most of them linear. MX tactiles still suck, but less. Kailh hasn't innovated much on BOX clickies since 2018.

But thanks to Durock and friends, the situation with linears has become very competitive, with different levels of quality available at all price tiers. Silent heavy tactiles are good now, with Zealio V2 and U4 Boba presenting valid choices. More variety in normal heavy tactiles.

Light tactiles are still starved of designs, but there have been improvements: Everglide Jade V2, Durock Light Tactile and variants, SP Star Meteor Orange, and the upcoming KTT Mallow, for instance. TTC has a whole bunch of Brown and Ergo-Clear-inspired switches. Medium tactiles are fairly abundant, now.

Cherry f$%#ed up its housings. Reports of the new Hyperglides say that there may be interference with Cherry(!) profile, and other issues. Although the early batches were at least good in feel.

Still no Cherry Ergo Clears, and their Clear tooling continues to deteriorate. But there are many factory Ergo Clears now.

Zeal is coming out with an ALPS-inspired 3-in-1 clicky design based off some hybrid MX / ALPS switch.

There are many new keycap manufacturers who finally, as of 2020 or 2021 or so have been able to provide what you might call 'decent' or 'basic' sets at affordable prices. Many of them are straight-up clones of GMK and other popular designs.

GMK tooling fell off a cliff by the end of 2019. Reports of bent spacebars, the kind you would find in a cheap 2017 AliExpress PBT set. Lettering consistency being critiqued. But good vendors have provided replacement spacebars and other keys for certain sets. Others don't. GMK also switched to the worst trays ever. Cheap keycaps typically offer significantly better packaging than GMK now.

EnjoyPBT had some bad runs [spacebars in particular] but fixed their tooling for a while and sets like Grayscale and Spectrum were great. Starting to outmatch GMK on spacebars at times. CRP still only produces cream+beige sets, but their spacebars are king now.

JTK still hasn't caught up to GMK 'quality' as far as I know, but that's a moving target and we'll see how it goes when Royal Alpha comes out.

We stopped getting good, cheap Cherry stabilizers for some reason. But other manufacturers are picking up the slack. The current standard seems to be Durock V2. Zeal stabilizers are good, but may not be price-competitive in the U.S. market. Something called "C3" makes decent stabilizers in the latest revisions. Avoid V1 of anything, and go for a V3 if it exists.

More new boards than anyone can count. Still, no-one produces full-size kits and very few 1800-inspired ones. Lots of exclusive $500+ GBs to get in on, if that's your thing. COVID delayed a number of boards. If you ordered an HMKB [SKB sequel] 2 years ago, it should be arriving soon.

Entry-level boards are becoming very competitive, and offer much more than in the past. TADA68 is gone, replaced by the much-superior KBD67 Lite, which offers a religiously-transformative level of quality for $110. IKKI68 Aurora is also providing low mid-level quality at entry-level pricing. [Don't go to the aftermarket]. You can get a really decent south-facing LED hotswap keyboard sent to your door for $60 now.

Hotswap is now 5-pin. Kailh is allegedly working on new hotswap sockets that will last for many more swaps.

Factory politics and drama continue, largely behind the scenes.

Cherry released "Viola" low-budget switches, and nobody cared.

The experience of using a factory, store-bought keyboard is not something that is discussed here much, anymore.

You'll notice that this is all happening in the MX world. There's so much being GBed and manufactured now, but 99% of it is MX-compatible. GB model may decline in significance, at least for keycaps, since GMK is backlogged by 2+ years. And there was an ABS shortage that affected general keycap production.

I purchased and reviewed somewhat an ABKO Niz Plum 45 G K395P back in 2019 or so. It's a good keyboard, but I hear Niz is backsliding in quality since the pandemic. The "New 2021 Niz Switches" are apparently less smooth and more scratchy-sounding than the "New 2019 Niz Switches." I'm grateful I bought my ABKO when I did.

It feels as if, while MX continues to grow, Niz is just barely holding on. There was a period of silence during the pandemic, as if they were significantly disrupted by it. Then, they came out with the new 2021 stuff, but some aspects are questionable if you ask me. I like that they have doubleshot PBT keycaps now, but the design and manufacture resembles a $15 AliExpress set I once bought. Glad I didn't buy that 2021 full-size, even though I wanted to at the time.

Topre availability also seems to be declining somewhat, but they are switching to a new generation, so that might be it. New generation is okay, not that divisive, if you liked R2 you could probably live with R3. Some people like R3 better. Still highly-priced, and difficult to sample.

Varmilo and some others have tried to get into the EC game, but Varmilo's switches at least seem to be even more linear than Niz. I haven't heard of much innovation or components in the EC world, although the BKE domes offer tremendous customization potential and their 30-35 G ultralight domes are very interesting to me. [Good luck sampling them, though.]

So EC seems to be just hanging-on, with not much innovation. Matias shifts between usable quality and chhhhaaattttteeerrrr. A few ALPS-compatible keycap sets were produced, largely by SP (who is getting a second-wind because of market niches and GMK backlog.)

Some promising non-MX designs are on the drawing board or sample production, things like contactless designs and Hall Effect and other old-style linears. I don't follow buckling spring, but UNICOMP released a TKL, so there's that.

Chryos has personally caused the prices of all your favourite non-MX antiques to go up 800% in price.

As far as truly "new,"  I would say optical switch technology is the biggest new thing.  It still hasn't been widely adopted, and is available on fullsize boards by a few companies.  However, Input Club's analog project "Keystone" will probably ship within a year, with hopes of the technology being opened to the rest of the keyboard community. 

The biggest change is hotswap, affordable custom keyboards, and millions of new people joining the community.  I think these all probably go hand in hand.

The greatest influx of hobbyists can be seen on reddit in r/mechanicalkeyboards and r/mechmarket

A close second would probably be the myriad of discord servers devoted to this and that niche mech group, specific makers, specific vendors.  I think I'm in at least 80 discord servers.  It's quite the mess.

Also, Geekhack is now owned by Drop (Formerly Massdrop).  There are a few other active enthusiast communities. One of which I frequent as often if not more than Geekhack is Keebtalk.

Geekhack plays a big part in serving as a central repository for Interest Checks and Group Buys that people run from various outlets.  With the influx of hundreds of new vendor sites, millions of Reddit usuers, thousands of Discord servers, and sometimes even Instagram, Geekhack has played a good role of tethering all the swirling data.

Welcome back  :thumb:


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