Author Topic: Current Matias Mini Pro controller build quality/customization findings  (Read 2496 times)

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Offline Maledicted

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Yesterday I took the time to start taking apart some of my rapidly-growing Matias Mini keyboard collection and discovered some interesting things that I have not seen in previous posts, so I imagine that some of them are relatively new changes to the design. First off, I had read horror stories of the micro USB connectors being damaged. It looks as though, at some point, Matias reinforced this with a huge block of plastic which seems to be screwed directly to the PCB:



I'm sorry about the graininess, the lighting wasn't great. Take note of the resistor solder pads labeled R26, R17, and R15. It turns out they're very useful, as you'll see shortly.



Yeah, I don't think that's going to be breaking, as much as I hate micro USB.



Now, here's where it really gets interesting, and I haven't seen this anywhere else yet, although my searches on Matias controllers may not be exhaustive. Matias, or their suppliers, have been kind enough to mark exactly where to remove or add resistors on the previously-shown pads in order to set the board to a given layout. The possible layouts seem to include US_MAC, EU_MAC, JP_MAC, PC, and PC_JP. One of the nicest things about this is that the US_MAC layout, which is basically the only configuration in which to actually get clicky switches straight from the factory within the U.S., is that enabling it requires all of these pads to be unpopulated, meaning you could buy a US_MAC layout board and easily convert it to whichever layout you like (at least when it comes to mapping) by soldering a 100 ohm resistor (going off of the code 101-marked resistors on my PC "Quiet Pro" boards) between the designated pads. I had a recently-acquired used Mac layout "Tactile Pro" board and figured it was a good guinea pig with which to test this.



I had some through-hole resistors of various ratings lying around for such occasions, so I bent and snipped the legs to fit and soldered them down. To my surprise I actually managed to lift the pad on the bottom left (R15), so that's why I figured why not reinforce what remained of the dangling trace with some extra solder.

Abracadabra, my horrendous Mac layout is no more, and the controller acts just like the standard PC layout now.


But wait, there's more.

I had been wanting to change the color of the boring old green caps lock LED to something more unique/interesting/personal. Since Matias touted the transparent switch housing design to be able to allow SMD LEDs, I was fearing for the worst in that I may have to desolder the switch above it and/or even maybe desolder every single switch and remove the plate just to get at it. Matias did something curious instead, something I imagine some of you may appreciate as much as myself.



That's an SMD LED soldered to two pads on either side of a hole in the PCB. Interesting choice if you ask me. My guess is it was literally meant to be easily removable without tearing the whole assembly apart.



I desoldered the SMD LED, dug out an old LED sampler pack I had lying around, stuffed a 3mm through-hole LED into the hole in the PCB, bent the legs to generally match up with the solder pads, soldered and snipped. It isn't the prettiest thing I have ever done, but who cares? Nobody is ever going to see it in there, and it was fast and simple enough to do pretty quick on two boards I just so happened to feel like taking apart. I imagine I'll be doing it on more in the future.



funkmon had already requested a picture of the menacing black board with a red caps lock LED, so here's a few pictures of that. Yeah, my desk is a mess, and the lighting isn't great there. Oh well, it is representative enough.



Yeah, that's a Matias switch sampler pack on the left. This board's currently got clicky leaves swapped in in place of the tactile ones, with the dampened slider. I love the sound, but I'm still on the fence about the feel. I think I may linearize at least one of my boards as well to play with.



On an unrelated but maybe helpful note, this seems like a great place to add some rubber feet if you have one of these things and don't like how unstable they seem to be on desks. I'm not sure why Matias decided to leave out any rubber feet in this area of the board.

That's all for now. I hope somebody finds this helpful. I know I was overjoyed to discover the resistor thing, and I imagine somebody could easily rig up some switches and/or jumpers to make switching between layouts easier if they plan on using both Windows and OSX/MacOS pretty routinely, etc. It looks like the same board PCBs may also be used in their bluetooth variants, as there also seemed to be an unpopulated block of pins that made mention of a bluetooth module, and battery indicator lights, etc.
« Last Edit: Mon, 22 June 2020, 09:27:07 by Maledicted »

Offline Leslieann

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First off, I had read horror stories of the micro USB connectors being damaged. It looks as though, at some point, Matias reinforced this with a huge block of plastic which seems to be screwed directly to the PCB:

It's called a strap, I bielive it was actually added to the Micro-B USB spec after the newer reinforced Micro-B connectors proved to still be too failure prone. It was a stopgap before we got Type-C.

Straps proved to be effective but were only used for a year or two before most higher end cell phones went Type-C. The Galaxy S4 (and possibly the S3) had the reinforced Micro-B, the S5 and S6 had a strap and proved to be much better while the S7 was Type-C.
« Last Edit: Sun, 21 June 2020, 22:44:18 by Leslieann »
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/hand milled Vortex case, custom feet/paint/winkey blockoff plate, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, Type C, sound dampened,  Thick PBT caps (o-ringed), Cherry Jailhouse Blues w/lubed/clipped Cherry light springs | GMMK TKL | Magicforce 68 | YMDK75 | KBT Race S L.E. | Das Pro (Costar model) | GH60 | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline jamster

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Very cool that the PCB has an explanatory table on the back.

Was it tricky to solder those resistors in? Looks like it would have been quite difficult (or I just suck at soldering).

Offline Maledicted

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First off, I had read horror stories of the micro USB connectors being damaged. It looks as though, at some point, Matias reinforced this with a huge block of plastic which seems to be screwed directly to the PCB:

It's called a strap, I bielive it was actually added to the Micro-B USB spec after the newer reinforced Micro-B connectors proved to still be too failure prone. It was a stopgap before we got Type-C.

Straps proved to be effective but were only used for a year or two before most higher end cell phones went Type-C. The Galaxy S4 (and possibly the S3) had the reinforced Micro-B, the S5 and S6 had a strap and proved to be much better while the S7 was Type-C.

We've talked about that before. A giant hunk of plastic would also be called a strap as well? I thought they were usually pretty thin metal. I have seen metal ones even on USB type A connectors in some newer Chromebooks, type C too.

Very cool that the PCB has an explanatory table on the back.

Was it tricky to solder those resistors in? Looks like it would have been quite difficult (or I just suck at soldering).

I thought so as well. I don't see something like that often. I was really hoping for something like that since the controller is just connected via dupont connectors and no solder at all. My original plan was to swap a controller I got in a parts board Matias kindly sent me, but this is obviously even better.

The resistors actually played pretty nicely for me once I had the legs bent just about right. The annoying thing was lining them up initially. My trick to solder them relatively easily was I didn't touch the legs at all with the final welds. I tinned the legs, tinned the pads, positioned the resistor, then flowed the solder on the pad until it also melted the solder on the leg. At that point, I could flow the solder on the other pad and leg without much risk of moving anything. The pad that lifted actually just pulled right up while initially tinning. That was a strange one.

I also have a relatively nice (Chinese) temperature-controlled soldering station with a very fine tip, and have soldered quite a bit off and on for maybe a bit over a decade now.

Offline Leslieann

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We've talked about that before. A giant hunk of plastic would also be called a strap as well? I thought they were usually pretty thin metal. I have seen metal ones even on USB type A connectors in some newer Chromebooks, type C too.
Typically they are but maybe this was cheaper for them. I've never seen a plastic one either but if I could make my own in plastic for far less, I would.

In manufacturing everything "becomes a hammer".
Got a 3d printer, everything is a 3d printing job.
Got a woodshop, every problem can be solved in wood.
Got a metal shop, every problem is a metal working problem.

In this case they had access to injection molding and so they solved it using that. It's not always the best way to deal with problems but it's usually the first thing you reach for.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/hand milled Vortex case, custom feet/paint/winkey blockoff plate, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, Type C, sound dampened,  Thick PBT caps (o-ringed), Cherry Jailhouse Blues w/lubed/clipped Cherry light springs | GMMK TKL | Magicforce 68 | YMDK75 | KBT Race S L.E. | Das Pro (Costar model) | GH60 | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline Maledicted

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We've talked about that before. A giant hunk of plastic would also be called a strap as well? I thought they were usually pretty thin metal. I have seen metal ones even on USB type A connectors in some newer Chromebooks, type C too.
Typically they are but maybe this was cheaper for them. I've never seen a plastic one either but if I could make my own in plastic for far less, I would.

In manufacturing everything "becomes a hammer".
Got a 3d printer, everything is a 3d printing job.
Got a woodshop, every problem can be solved in wood.
Got a metal shop, every problem is a metal working problem.

In this case they had access to injection molding and so they solved it using that. It's not always the best way to deal with problems but it's usually the first thing you reach for.

I figured they've got that gigantic bulbous tumor in the back/top of the board where the controller and USB hub connectors sit, and there's a big gap between the controller and the keyboard's PCB anyway as well because it is mounted by dupont connectors, so why not use a thick hunk of plastic where there's otherwise empty space? Really no need for metal if you don't have to worry about space.

Offline suicidal_orange

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Interesting info, the Erge Pro has dipswitches under the spacebar to tweak the layout but this is nearly as good.  Great to see the preciously maligned socket reinforced too and if the worst does happen it's easier to remove to replace the port than soldered metal.

Thanks for documenting this :thumb:
120/100g linear Zealio R1  
GMK Hyperfuse
'Split everything' perfection  
MX Clear
SA Hack'd by Geeks     
EasyAVR mod
MX Brown 30g, HHKBish
Vortex OEM PBT
for See how the other half lives challenge!

Offline Maledicted

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  • Location: Wisconsin, United States
Interesting info, the Erge Pro has dipswitches under the spacebar to tweak the layout but this is nearly as good.  Great to see the preciously maligned socket reinforced too and if the worst does happen it's easier to remove to replace the port than soldered metal.

Thanks for documenting this :thumb:

Do all of the Ergo Pros have that, or was there a redesign in this regard? I thought I read somewhere that they were made programmable somewhat recently. I almost want to grab one of the linear ones, since you can't get their linears in a prebuilt anywhere else that I can find, and they sell for almost nothing somewhat routinely. I imagine I may be stuck with a Mac layout if I pick up an older beater though, unless I luck out with the controller again.

Yes, I quite like the way that the port was reinforced myself. I didn't take pictures, but I also noticed that the side USB port daughterboards are also cradled in slots in the polycarbonate casing, which seems to be to be extremely tough itself, and resting on some sort of foam padding. I'm not sure if this is a change in the design as well, or not. I know the daughterboards look pretty fragile otherwise.

No problem, I'm glad to be able to contribute in some small way.

Offline suicidal_orange

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Do all of the Ergo Pros have that, or was there a redesign in this regard? I thought I read somewhere that they were made programmable somewhat recently.

Well I borrowed one in 2015, going back through my posts I found this confirming I'm not remembering wrongly.  It doesn't have the JP option though:

Matias posted this image in one of the big threads. The switches are located under the right command key (mac)

Show Image


Who knows what they've added on the new version.

This reminds me of the biggest mystery in my keyboarding history - I really loved the Ergo Pro but never bought one.  Maybe I will when (if?) they ever finish the PBT caps
120/100g linear Zealio R1  
GMK Hyperfuse
'Split everything' perfection  
MX Clear
SA Hack'd by Geeks     
EasyAVR mod
MX Brown 30g, HHKBish
Vortex OEM PBT
for See how the other half lives challenge!

Offline Maledicted

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  • Location: Wisconsin, United States
Thanks for that link. You may have just convinced me to take somebody up on their offer for one of those bad boys, even though I don't really care about the whole ergo thing. Luckily for me, I have no need for a Japanese layout. lol. That's one of the more interesting things about these mini controllers though, if you ask me. There's got to be somebody out there that needs some exotic layout in a country in which it is uncommon, and could pick up one of these babies.

Offline funkmon

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Re: Current Matias Mini Pro controller build quality/customization findings
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 01 July 2020, 20:54:46 »
This really makes me appreciate the design of Matias boards. Basically nobody is ever going to look at those, and from what you've told me, they basically also don't service them, but they made sure to put in a ton of effort into this stuff.

I've also been subtley worried about the longevity of the board. Not that it feels bad or anything, I was just wondering how long it was going to last, and it seems like their investment into the switch design isn't just to bring the lifespan up to par with Cherry, but it was actually part of a larger plan to create an exceptionally well made keyboard. I love it.

Any places they cheaped out that you've seen?

Offline Maledicted

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  • Location: Wisconsin, United States
Re: Current Matias Mini Pro controller build quality/customization findings
« Reply #11 on: Mon, 06 July 2020, 10:05:29 »
This really makes me appreciate the design of Matias boards. Basically nobody is ever going to look at those, and from what you've told me, they basically also don't service them, but they made sure to put in a ton of effort into this stuff.

I've also been subtley worried about the longevity of the board. Not that it feels bad or anything, I was just wondering how long it was going to last, and it seems like their investment into the switch design isn't just to bring the lifespan up to par with Cherry, but it was actually part of a larger plan to create an exceptionally well made keyboard. I love it.

Any places they cheaped out that you've seen?

Yeah, I love those keyboards so much now myself that I have 4 of the wired ones and one of the bluetooth ones. All but 2 are used, and some quite heavily, by the looks of it. I haven't gotten around to testing the bluetooth one yet, or the parts one from Matias (partly because it was missing caps and stabilizers), but all of the others have worked flawlessly so far, and I've currently been using one at work and one at home for most of my typing needs for the past few weeks.

The solder joints all looked good to me, the PCBs themselves could maybe be better, since it was effortless for me to lift a pad on that one controller I soldered resistors to. I hadn't previously seen a pad lift on a keyboard I have messed with at all besides one of my old Uniteks ... and that was only one pad out of every single diode and switch contact on the board, since I upgraded it to Kailh box jade switches.

My only other quality concern is that the extra USB ports are basically just held to the rest of the board by bits of wire and solder. I didn't get any pictures of that, but the've already been documented in this very old post.





The only reassuring thing about this is that the case, at least, has slots that cradle the .... tenuous daughterboards when properly installed.



I also just noticed that even as far back as 2013, the wired mini pros had a 1.5 revision mainboard. I'm pretty sure my laptop pro has something like a 1.4 ... and production of those began in 2013, so maybe it is one of the earliest ones made? It makes me more curious to test the switches.

The cases themselves seem very, very durable to me. I have at least one that has many relatively wide/visible scuffs and scratches on it, but all are only just barely even perceptible by touch.

So far, the more I use them, the more I like them.