Author Topic: black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest  (Read 22628 times)

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Offline wellington1869

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« on: Mon, 22 December 2008, 18:12:27 »
Black alps from Dell at101w; Gray strongmans from DSI smk-85. Is there any difference between the two switches? Can the internal parts be mixed and matched? Enquiring minds want to know.

Q. Is there a difference between the two switches?
Similarities:
-both are clickless; both have tactile bump
-both are relatively light (and relatively quiet) switches compared with the white alps family of switches and its clones.
Differences:
-black alps' tactile bump is less pronounced, and its spring is slightly lighter tension, vs the gray strongman (The opposite of what I guessed, go figure).
-black alps appears to have a slightly shorter throw but this could be my overactive imagination. Not enough to make a real difference.
-black alps (when new anyway!) are smooth, but I'd argue the gray strongmans are a touch smoother. Not enough to make a real difference though.

Bottom line is that black alps feel slightly lighter to type on because both bump and resistance is a touch lighter. Of these, the bump difference is more noticeable than the spring difference. I'd say the blacks are like cherry brown except that browns are super light, even lighter than this.

Q. Can the parts be interchanged between them?
Short answer is: yes, but it doesnt make much difference if you swap parts.
The top part housing is different, the black alps uses a single slot to accomodate the bottom part's switch (see pics). However you can still swap click leaf and spring and plunger if you want. .  Click leafs are very similar (see pics). But it doesnt make much difference in feel to swap them. You could theoretically tho make the grays have less spring resistance and/or bump if you wanted, and vice versa (have the blacks with more spring resistance or bump if you wanted). The difference is slight and probably not worth the effort. You're better off just swapping keyboards if you want that.

Q. Can you add the click leaf from a "white alps" mk96 or an AEKII into either board?
I dont know about aekII yet since mine hasnt arrived in the mail yet. Should have it in a few days.
As for the click leaf from the mk96, you could put it (with the mk96 upper housing) into the smk85's gray strongmans but not into the dell at101w black alps. This is because the mk96 top part housing will only fit the gray strongman bottom part switch (and will not fit the black alps bottom part switch). See pics.



bottom part "switch" on the gray strongmans



bottom part "switch" on the black alps



springs: gray on left, black on right. Black is slightly lighter resistance. Yes, I need to dust.



tactile leaves: gray on left, black on right. Black is lighter. Notice the lower angle tension on the black leaf. Notice the less pronounced "bump" part on the blacks. Notice two-part brace on the blacks (vs. the single part brace on the grays.)



Top part housing: gray on left, black on right. Notice the "single slot" accomodation for the switch on the blacks (vs the "double slot" for the grays). (Yea, its hard to see it, sorry. The next pic below is better, really.)



"white alps" mk96 housing top part, for comparison. Note it has the double slot for the switch, like the gray strongmans.



plungers seem same size. Pretend the hair isnt there. I hope thats just an eyelash.

"Blah blah blah grade school blah blah blah IBM PS/2s blah blah blah I like Model Ms." -- Kishy

using: ms 7000/Das 3

Offline bigpook

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 22 December 2008, 19:10:56 »
You aren't giving up on this swapping idea, eh? : )
HHKB Pro 2 : Unicomp Spacesaver : IBM Model M : DasIII    

Offline wellington1869

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 22 December 2008, 20:49:24 »
Quote from: bigpook;15863
You aren't giving up on this swapping idea, eh? : )


lol, well it seems like certain swaps should be possible, just a question of whether they're worth doing or not I guess.

"Blah blah blah grade school blah blah blah IBM PS/2s blah blah blah I like Model Ms." -- Kishy

using: ms 7000/Das 3

Offline bigpook

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 22 December 2008, 21:02:29 »
Quote from: wellington1869;15876
lol, well it seems like certain swaps should be possible, just a question of whether they're worth doing or not I guess.


Well, keep us posted as to when/if you find the possible swaps. If the swap is doable and the key feel/behaviour is desirable then I would think it is worth it. As long as I don't need to break out the soldering iron : )
HHKB Pro 2 : Unicomp Spacesaver : IBM Model M : DasIII    

Offline wellington1869

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 22 December 2008, 21:23:17 »
Quote from: bigpook;15879
As long as I don't need to break out the soldering iron : )


lol, me too

"Blah blah blah grade school blah blah blah IBM PS/2s blah blah blah I like Model Ms." -- Kishy

using: ms 7000/Das 3

Offline Chloe

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #5 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 06:14:24 »
I need to try these black ALPS. I also want to try the simplified greys if they are lighter than white ALPS. I wonder if you could make a lighter clicky black ALPS using the click leaf from white ALPS.

Offline bigpook

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 07:13:45 »
Quote from: Chloe;15905
I need to try these black ALPS. I also want to try the simplified greys if they are lighter than white ALPS. I wonder if you could make a lighter clicky black ALPS using the click leaf from white ALPS.


I wasn't able to do that, the click leaf goes with the switch body. The switch body is slotted to the click leaf.
HHKB Pro 2 : Unicomp Spacesaver : IBM Model M : DasIII    

Offline itlnstln

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 08:55:54 »
That should work, too.  Just swap out the entire top of the switch.  They should be the same size and form factor, right?


Offline bigpook

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 09:08:16 »
Quote from: itlnstln;15931
That should work, too.  Just swap out the entire top of the switch.  They should be the same size and form factor, right?


Right but that will only work if the switch is the same on both models. Thats the problem I ran into with the Filco mini and the Dell.
HHKB Pro 2 : Unicomp Spacesaver : IBM Model M : DasIII    

Offline wellington1869

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 12:58:41 »
In my case, my mk96 "white alps" would  fit into my gray strongmans but not into my black alps. Again because of the different click leaf combined with different bottom "switch". The housing is different to accomodate that bottom switch, so have to swap the housing. (This is the "double slot" problem, the double slot to accomodate the bottom switch VERSUS the single slot to accomodate the other style of bottom switch). BUT when you swap the top part housing like that, then you commit to ITS click leaf slot. And those are different too (narrow click leaf versus broad click leaf) and wont fit into each others slots in the top part housing.

perhaps we could say this: click leaf swapping is only possible so long as both bottom switches (on the swap candidates) are a similar style.. Because that is what determines whether the top part (which houses the click leaf) is going to fit over the bottom part.

(is that right? I think thats about right).

"Blah blah blah grade school blah blah blah IBM PS/2s blah blah blah I like Model Ms." -- Kishy

using: ms 7000/Das 3

Offline itlnstln

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 14:03:00 »
Another monkey wrench in the Northgate mod.  I am very close on giving up on finding the "one" keyboard.  If I can't get the Northgate much quieter, I think I am going to sell it.  I am probably going to give my Dells to family and friends and keep my Ms and ML4100.  I need a split layout design for RSI (the Dell was killing my wrists the last couple of weeks), and the MS Natural 4000 has the perfect layout for me (even though the domes aren't great, they are better than most).  The Northgate's layout (other than the letters) sucks for the most part, but the quality keys and build construction keeps me coming back.


Offline bhtooefr

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #11 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 14:23:16 »
What about modifying the Natural 4000 with a custom PCB to mount Cherry or Alps switches on?

Offline itlnstln

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #12 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 14:34:11 »
That would be the ultimate win, but I don't have the time (mainly), the knowledge or the patience to do something of that depth.  I would love to have the Natural 4000 with Cherry browns, though.


Offline Chloe

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #13 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 14:54:18 »
One compromise would be to swap the switches in the Northgate for ones from an Apple Extended II. That way you'd at least have a dampened mechanical switch.

Offline itlnstln

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #14 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 15:15:56 »
That's the plan; I have an AEKII on the way.  If it works out, it will be great, but the layout with the page navigation cluster and the arrow keys in the center, still sucks.  As long as I have had the Evolution, I still can't get used to the layout mainly because all my other 'boards are standard.  I have a bad feeling that, even after the mod, I still won't be 100% happy.  Stupid RSI.  would love a Filco with brown Cherries and the wrist rest optional casing, but they don't make a split layout.


Offline bhtooefr

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #15 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 15:46:57 »
What about a Cherry ErgoPlus?

Offline itlnstln

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black alps vs gray strongman: mix 'n match fest
« Reply #16 on: Tue, 23 December 2008, 16:10:32 »
I would love to find one at a reasonable price.  I know there are some decent 'boards out there, but price does become a factor.  Also, I am looking for a 'board that can be replaced/fixed easily.  ErgoPluses are difficult to find in US layouts, and they are quite expensive when they do show up ($500).  At least with my Evoution, I can get one for <$100 if I need to replace it.