Author Topic: ALPS to MX adapters review  (Read 2919 times)

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Offline mounds

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ALPS to MX adapters review
« on: Sat, 04 August 2018, 14:49:27 »
Hey all, picked up some of these on /r/mechmarket and figured I'd provide a review.

Some images have been excluded here, but the gallery should be available shortly.

Some background

Got into ALPS not too long ago, after watching a few of Chyros' videos, involving the SKCM series of switches. After buying, restoring, and TMK-converting two m0116 and a Non-ADB NeXT keyboard, I decided to look into getting a more modern layout. Previously on my MX builds, I've tended towards 65% and the near-45% MiniVan as my main boards. The MiniVan had ALPS support, and found 65% compatibility over at LFKeyboards.




Not all caps are created equal

After doing some research, it seemed like AEKII donors for the SMK65 would suffice; however, finding 40% coverage started to become an issue. The Van Keyboards had sometime back ran the LightCycle kit, though those kits are somewhat hard to find, let alone at a decent price. Luckily there were a few extra international compatibility kits leftover for sale, so I figured "What the heck, what's $25 if it works out?" That turned out to be a 'just ok' purchase, and I'll explain why.



The 'vomit' kit ended up covering the MiniVan actually really well, so if you're interested in 40% coverage for ALPS, pick up a kit now, but caveat emptor - Signature Plastics didn't make these like ALPS used to... After some cap removal, messing around with the layout, two broke in the switch, and not like 'oh you were being two rough with the caps' kind of thing... These caps appear to only be connected minimally where stem meets cap, and have long inserts, making the force needed to pull them that much greater.



Luckily ALPS in their foresight put two bottom-accessible slits to push the messed up stem out the top, so yay for that!


Adapter review

After the LightCycle pain, as fate would have it, some ALPS to MX adapters came up on mechmarket for a decent price...

Suffice it to say, after some testing, they're really not the best of adapters, though they may be 'good enough' for now. The community is in uproar over the Kailh controversy? These adapters wouldn't survive, truly. Variances range from both ends being too tight, to both being way too loose... So to gauge this, I sorted each adapter into groups which is sorted left to right:



  • Both too tight
  • MX way too tight, ALPS ok
  • MX a bit tight, ALPS ok
  • 'Just right'
  • ALPS too right, MX ok
  • ALPS loose, MX ok
  • ALPS way too loose, mx tight
  • Both loose


Measuring the adapters semi-objectively

For these tests, 'way too tight' constituted me needing excess force + a tool (like ribbed tweezers or pliers) to remove either side, while 'too tight' meant that excessive force (and strong fingers) were needed to remove either side. 'ok' and 'just right' valuations were given if there was enough friction or tightness to keep each side stably in their respective ends with removal not being a total pain, while 'too loose' meant that caps would most likely fall off if the keyboard were flipped over and smacked a few times.


Review comments

There's definitely a long ways to go for this kind of adapter. Though these were sturdy enough to grip with metal tools without serious damage, if tolerances were decent, it would have been a non-issue. Some other reviews of these kinds of adapters claim these to be flimsy or prone to breaking in caps, but really I could only see that with some of the more messed-up (in the positive range) tolerances. It's quite possible that some injection molding process would alleviate some of this deviation but it's hard to say as the original means of manufacturing is not known.

Overall pleased with the keycap experiment, though still looking to vintage ALPS manufacturing processes or possibly ALPS Throwback to really 'get it right' since I imagine once mounted, there is likely to be some crookedness with orientation of the caps, using these adapters.
Tada68 (Jailhouse Aristotles) / MiniVan (Jailhouse Aristotles) / Planck (Aristotles) / Teensy m0116 (Matias QC) / ALPS64 ('Pine' SKCM White) / Teensy NeXT Non-ADB (SKCM Cream) / ALPS HHKB (SKCM Orange)

Offline BlindAssassin111

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Re: ALPS to MX adapters review
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 04 August 2018, 14:59:08 »
The other downside to adapters like this is the fact it raises the keycaps up by ~3.6mm, which doesn't work for most people.

As for the production method, I suspect resin 3D printing(SLA) because of the price and tolerance issues.

Btw, if you want a better solution check out my Nexus sliders, fixes all of the issues these type of adapters have.

Offline mounds

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Re: ALPS to MX adapters review
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 04 August 2018, 20:28:33 »
The other downside to adapters like this is the fact it raises the keycaps up by ~3.6mm, which doesn't work for most people.

As for the production method, I suspect resin 3D printing(SLA) because of the price and tolerance issues.

Btw, if you want a better solution check out my Nexus sliders, fixes all of the issues these type of adapters have.

Definitely following the project and looking forward to the surplus! I hadn't really considered the effect on keycap height when purchasing these, and likely won't use them for very long once the better solution is released.. It was a good effort at least to approach the problem in a straightforward way  :)
Tada68 (Jailhouse Aristotles) / MiniVan (Jailhouse Aristotles) / Planck (Aristotles) / Teensy m0116 (Matias QC) / ALPS64 ('Pine' SKCM White) / Teensy NeXT Non-ADB (SKCM Cream) / ALPS HHKB (SKCM Orange)