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Matias controller and switch testing results


This might be a long one so, if you have any interest in Matias boards and switches and/or their checkered history you might want to get something to drink and strap in.

TLDR:It appears that swapping a new Matias controller into an original (Forward switch) board with massive chatter issues can totally resolve them. i, 5, 0, tab, backspace, right alt, f1, f3, f6, f10 and scroll lock were initially the only keys that didn't chatter almost constantly with the very board I'm using to type this. The old controller also works 100% with newer Matias-branded switches, meaning there have been vast improvements in both hardware and software on these boards.

Backstory: Opinions of Matias have a rocky history. Chattering issues were reportedly rampant in both their own boards and in KBParadise's TKL boards that used their switches. Possible explanations for these issues include QC issues in the manufacture of the switches, QC in installation of the switches into the boards and plates or their design (contact pin alignment), excess lube in the tactile and linear variants of the switch and poorly-written firmwares (such as debounce parameters).

Matias has released multiple revisions of their keyboards, and their switches have long been manufactured to their own specifications by manufacturers such as Gaote (Outemu), with clear housings instead of opaque ones. As time has passed, their reputation seems to have remained relatively unchanged in spite of this.

Reading reports of people with newer boards not having any problems, I started buying Matias boards and running the gauntlet with them. I have over a half dozen of mini pro variants and one of each of the switch types in recently-produced V80s and have put many hours of typing on most of them to see if all of the kinks are actually worked out. Even though I have shined the caps on quite a few of these boards, I haven't experienced any persistent chatter issues with them.

Knowing that Matias' reputation should really be restored, a while back, I bought an original Matias Tactile Pro with these much-maligned (at least in Matias boards) Forward SKBM switches:

I thought some testing with old and new boards and switches might shed some more definitive light on what has actually changed. I finally got around to doing some testing with the board, knowing that it was bound to have chatter issues. I found that literally every single key except for i, 5, 0, tab, backspace, right alt, f1, f3, f6, f10 and scroll lock would chatter almost every single time they were pressed.

Now, right off of the bat, we can eliminate excess lube as a (primary) cause for chatter. I opened one of the switches to verify that it was bone dry inside, just in case the board had been modified. What of the other popular myths?

I took the board apart and found that the controllers in even the oldest Tactile Pros are easily replaceable like the mini variants, although these ones do not have a helpful table printed on them to show you pads to solder resistors to to change the mapping based on location and/or operating system:

I also picked up, at some point, a used Tactile Pro 4. I have no idea how much use the board has, but the caps look pretty much new. These boards have controllers with small daughter boards for their micro USB connectors, but the pin layout for the controller matches:

Note that, at least in this example, there's no strap (in Matias' case a big hunk of plastic) to reinforce the connector. I have no idea if this has been amended since whenever this Tactile Pro 4 was made, but if not this is another point in favor of the newer mini variants of these boards, besides being able to easily change the mapping with resistors.

Now, are these controllers 100% electrically compatible? I have no idea. I swapped them in the name of science anyway, as that means I could potentially test and see if the newer firmware helped with chatter on the otherwise totally original board:

What I found was interesting. With the newer controller, chatter was instantly greatly reduced and as I repeatedly pressed each key, it was slowly eliminated entirely for that key. The letter n, in particular, would not register at all for the first 10 or so presses. Then it began to chatter, gradually the chatter was eliminated entirely as I continued to press it. Now, it is at the point where I am typing this entire post with that same keyboard that was totally unusable with the original controller.

Before anyone with a relic like this gets the idea that they can just swap a newer controller into their board and all of their problems are solved, the matrix in this board isn't exactly the same as the very latest boards. A few of the modifiers in the lower right, the media control keys and I believe a few in the num pad and nav cluster are not as they should be.

This is enough to demonstrate that the firmware has vastly improved since these boards first came out, probably adjusting debounce on the fly, but what about the newer switches? Will they perform well even with the original controller?

As it turns out, at least with the Tactile Pro 4 I have, yes. I tested every switch on the new board again, with the old controller installed. I could not get a single key to chatter. I swapped that same controller back to the original board and the endless chatter returned like a cascade.

What does that tell us? That either QC/tolerances in design of the plates and pcbs and/or Matias' hands-on alterations culminating in modern Matias switches are most likely a factor and that firmware improvements most definitely are another.

I think this further proves how bulletproof Matias boards and switches have actually become. Even if your switches become prone to chatter (which now seems very unlikely), the newer controllers should be able to compensate for that automatically anyway.

How much further does the rabbit hole lead? I could replace all of the switches in the original board with modern Matias switches and use it for an extended period of time to see if the inferior controller eventually becomes its Achilles' heel. It may also be equivalent to just heavily use the Tactile Pro 4 and swap controllers to test with worn switches, unless someone else already has well-worn boards to do their own testing with.

If you've made it this far, what do you think?

That's good to hear. I really wish we had more Alps alternatives. The Matias clear housing would make for a fantastic backlit keyboard. Datacomp showed a backlit Alps/Matias switch demo keyboard a few years ago but it never went into production. I was always hesitant to buy their keyboards because of the complaints I saw. There were even a few YouTube videos showing the problems and Matias refused to fix anything if it was out of the warranty period. Other times they would send instructions telling people how to clean the keyboard. ???  Most of the time that didn't work. Not very good customer service. I probably still won't buy a keyboard from them, but I'm glad they are addressing the issues. Hopefully this will lead to more Alps style keyboard choices down the road.

Matias could definitely be a lot more transparent and could have handled earlier problems with their boards better. If we want more exposure and mainstream support for Alps, companies like Matias need positive exposure as well.

That ancient chattery board I have since swapped brand new Matias switches into and have been putting it through its paces with the OG controller, and it has been working 100% since in spite of its old firmware.

With the help of a DT user's pictures (they keep changing their display name on the Discord or I would drop a username) of their discontinued PC version of a Tactile Pro I also determined that the Tactile Pro 4 boards can be converted to other mappings similarly to the mini variants, which I documented in another post on here some time ago. The controllers on the full size boards don't give you a nice table saying exactly how like the mini boards, unfortunately, so I have no idea what combinations are needed for anything other than US PC. For that, all that's necessary is bridging the pads marked R26 (I should really make one thread that covers all of this stuff at some point, maybe if I learn more).

I like Clickiez more than any other modern switch at this point, even Matias, but hopefully cheaper and less extremely tactile options are on the horizon without having to deal with Zeal's patent, since the convertible nature of those switches is the only new thing about them.


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