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What keyboard do I want? I'm about a decade behind.

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Well hello there all...  It's been a few years.  Really probably close to 10.  Things have changed, a lot, but in a good way.

I fell into the trap of nerding out over keyboards back then because I just couldn't find what I wanted off the shelf.  I'm a heavy handed typist so I wanted something that would not thockily bottom out all the time, annoying my coworkers and also causing me at the time to start developing what felt like some repetitive motion issues in my hands.  I ended up with a full size Filco that I swapped Cherry Clear stems and springs into (back then you could find Cherry POS boards with clears relatively cheaply) and I threw on a set of Imsto dye subs (because I have very hard fingernails, I wiped out a set of Cherry doubleshots in about a year.)  I'm actually typing this message on that board now, and it's really just fine.

Because of events of the last year, I've been working a lot from home.  Now, the one thing that all my non-Filco good keyboards have in common is that they're vintage, take up more desk space, and also varying degrees of loud.  (think Model M, Model F, or SGI Granite)  I figured I'd check back in and see what was available these days, and wow, things have changed.  There's some cool stuff going on that just wasn't happening 10 years ago.  The whole idea of a "hotswap" keyboard is new, and definitely cool.

So, I bought myself a Keychron C2 to play with but I don't think that's exactly what I want.  I would like to use PBT keycaps and the replacement of "Scroll Lock" and "Pause/Break" with special keys kind of precludes using a lot of aftermarket sets.  I guess what I really wanted was a GMMK but the full size isn't available unless I order the fully loaded one from Amazon, or pay a premium to get the barebones from Amazon instead of ordering from Glorious.

What I want:  A bog standard layout, full size*, including F-keys.  PBT keycaps or something equally durable.  Heavy tactile switches, but quiet.

*after using my Model F for a while, I realized that I couldn't use it for "real work" because of the non-standard F-key layout.  However, the lack of the nav cluster wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be.  I did have to look at the keycaps to navigate around, but it wasn't as big a showstopper as the lack of the across-the-top F-key row (I use F-keys a LOT for AutoCAD, this is non negotiable.)  So I'd be open to using an 1800 style board, although it'd likely take a while to get used to using the nav layer on the numpad.  I have seen exactly one keyboard that addresses this, but it'd preclude using aftermarket keycaps, and was already discontinued by the time I discovered it existed - the Cooler Master Masterkeys Pro M.  Basically the nav layer on the numpad is the traditional nav cluster, not the traditional IBM Model M numpad nav layer.  A compact layout would be good though, as I have a standing desk at work with a keyboard tray, and the tray is just barely wide enough to hold my Filco and leave enough room to move a mouse around.

so again, it looks like what I really want is a GMMK full size barebones or equivalent hotswappable board, with switches and keycaps to taste.  Not really interested in a TKL or compact, I use the numpad enough that I really want either a full size or maybe a 1800.

Question 1: are there any other good board options out there?  Keychron K4, maybe, but it still has the "backlight" key and I would need to replace the keycaps because the nav layer isn't printed on the numpad.  I actually really don't care that much about the backlight; I've been using a Filco for 10 years and haven't felt like I'm missing anything, but it is kind of cool looking.

Question 2: what switches to consider, other than more clears?  Glorious Pandas look interesting as they are even stiffer.  How about Cherry MX Grey?  Are those available in whole keyboard quantities?  Kailh Box burnt orange?  The similar versions of the Speed or Pro?  Anything else to consider?  The Gateron Browns in the C2 feel nice, but I really do want something stiffer and more tactile, if both are possible.

Questions 3: Where to go for awesome vintage styled keycaps (but PBT)?  I guess shine through would be a bonus as it looks like I'll likely end up with a backlit board even though that's not on my "must have" list.

Thanks for reading and any opinions!

Hi there and welcome back my friend.

For switches: Holy panda is good with strong tactile feedback but pretty loud, I have a colleague using it (he's a heavy typist too), the sound is loud but in a good way, you may like it. I would recommend the Zilents from Zeal for a more muted tactile in case you need it. Also Boba U4 and U4T are worth a try.

For Kit: I would recommend the Melody 96 from YMDK for a layout somewhat full size but still compact, it can have all kind of light/led if you really want to set it up and always available for purchase. Last thing is it comes with a set hotswap layout options, so you can try several switch types before you settle in with a good reliable one.

For keycaps: there are several good PBT set on

Good luck and have fun.

Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk

You just proved I have a lot of research to do.  I haven't heard of ANY of those switches...  Last time I paid attention your options were various flavors of Cherry MX, Alps, and the occasional weirdo who liked Topres.  I think Gateron switches were around but MX was "the" switch.

As for the sound, it's not so much me but it's my coworkers.  Everyone's more or less OK with the clears, and I am too, just the availability (ish) of hotswappable boards means that experimenting with different key switches today is much easier than it was before and I haven't bought a new board in ages...

Edit: it appears that the heaviest Zilents and Boba U4s are sold out, much like the GMMK full size...  I'm striking out all over the place aren't I?

A lot more switches have come out in only the past few years... and it is not that easy to keep track of them.

The original Zealio ("V1") were "Ergo Clears", i.e. like clones of MX Clears but with lighter springs.
Then Zeal changed it, and the only new ones available have the bump earlier in the key travel.
There have been damped versions ("Zilents") of both the V1 and V2.

The "Holy Panda" too has the bump early in the key travel. Holy Pandas were originally hybrids that people made themselves using a stem from a Halo switch and there were a few different housings, but Drop's and GMMK's are new manufacture. (I'm not sure who makes them...)

The Durock/JWK T1 is another Ergo Clear, and has been available in multiple colours and brands, the most known being "Koala". There is a version of it with internal dampers called Tacit, available only from Keebwerk.


--- Quote from: N8N on Sun, 07 March 2021, 10:24:09 ---Edit: it appears that the heaviest Zilents and Boba U4s are sold out, much like the GMMK full size...  I'm striking out all over the place aren't I?

--- End quote ---
It's not just you, there are mass shortages all over and has been for a while now, it's both a great time and a terrible time in tech, more great choices than ever and at better prices than ever but you can't buy any of it because it's sold out.

Word of warning, when the next stimulus checks start hitting banks expect a run on anything that is still in stock, it's happened each time so far and inventory is already worse than ever. Those of you watching a waiting on a graphics card, be afraid, be very afraid.


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