Author Topic: Getting Started - Help with parts?  (Read 491 times)

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Offline The_MisFitz

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Getting Started - Help with parts?
« on: Thu, 08 November 2018, 22:25:21 »
Hello! I'm trying to get started on building my first mechanical keyboard and I need some help with parts selection. I'm quite green so keep that in mind.  ;D

I'm mostly interested in a 60% keyboard at the moment. After reading as much as I could of the mostly outdated wiki on Reddit, I received advice that I should pretty much only consider a keyboard PCB that is compatible with QMK, specifically the DZ60. Not really sure why that is exactly, but that's what I was told. Is this true?

Are there any PCBs that have wired/wireless functionality that would be suitable for a beginner to build and maintain?

Thanks!

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Getting Started - Help with parts?
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 09 November 2018, 06:13:19 »
There are not too many wireless kits.
You can lookup 60% kits on Aliexpress, I'd recommend KBDfans or YMD, even if you go a different route, it will give you a list of what you need.
If you want to pick and choose parts from other sources you can, but you run the risk of incompatible parts, not as common in 60%, but it can still happen.The kits are still a good reference for what all you need.

One thing I will recommend, get the SMD parts soldered if you can,also, if they offer thick PBT caps at a discount, get them. If they offer cheap switches, even if you do not want them, you may want to consider them as you can get them really cheap this way and they are handy to have. Lastly, be prepared to buy better stabs.

That said, honestly, if you think a custom kit is going to be better, they really are not. You can get kits and prebuilts with QMK or other programmable firmware and most of the feel is in the switch, which you can always pick and choose. Don't be fooled into thinking there is something special about them compared to something easier to obtain. You can even retrofit off the shelf keyboards sometimes, for example there are aftermarket controllers and even aftermarket pcbs. You can do almost anything to a Filco or Poker. You could probably spend $600 on a 60%, $150 on a 60%, or mod a Poker and not really tell the difference in use or looks.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/Vortex case, hand milled case, custom feet, custom paint, Klaxxon key caps, lubed and o-ringed Jailhouse Blues made from vintage Cherry MX Blues, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, removable cord, sound dampened. Winkey blockoff plate | Magicforce 68 w/Outemu Blues |KBT Race S L.E. w/Ergo-Clears, custom WASD keyset | Das Pro w/browns (Costar model) | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline Nixon

  • Posts: 18
Re: Getting Started - Help with parts?
« Reply #2 on: Fri, 09 November 2018, 08:51:21 »
The other option for a wireless build would be find a kit that uses a Pro Micro as the controller and swap it out for the Adafruit Feather 32U4 which is basically a Pro Micro with bluetooth that can be used for bluetooth keyboards.

https://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-feather-32u4-bluefruit-le/overview

Offline The_MisFitz

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  • Posts: 2
  • Location: Cary, NC
Re: Getting Started - Help with parts?
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 09 November 2018, 10:42:22 »
There are not too many wireless kits.
You can lookup 60% kits on Aliexpress, I'd recommend KBDfans or YMD, even if you go a different route, it will give you a list of what you need.
If you want to pick and choose parts from other sources you can, but you run the risk of incompatible parts, not as common in 60%, but it can still happen.The kits are still a good reference for what all you need.

One thing I will recommend, get the SMD parts soldered if you can,also, if they offer thick PBT caps at a discount, get them. If they offer cheap switches, even if you do not want them, you may want to consider them as you can get them really cheap this way and they are handy to have. Lastly, be prepared to buy better stabs.

That said, honestly, if you think a custom kit is going to be better, they really are not. You can get kits and prebuilts with QMK or other programmable firmware and most of the feel is in the switch, which you can always pick and choose. Don't be fooled into thinking there is something special about them compared to something easier to obtain. You can even retrofit off the shelf keyboards sometimes, for example there are aftermarket controllers and even aftermarket pcbs. You can do almost anything to a Filco or Poker. You could probably spend $600 on a 60%, $150 on a 60%, or mod a Poker and not really tell the difference in use or looks.

1) What are SMD parts?
2) I mostly want to build one for the experience. With that being said, I wanted to source parts from various places.
3) Giving up on the wireless aspect, it seems the most popular platform for 60% boards is either the GH60 or DZ60. Is that true? And is one better than the other?


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Offline Leslieann

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Re: Getting Started - Help with parts?
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 09 November 2018, 18:39:53 »
SMD is surface mounted electronics  instead of through hole, the processors are usually SMD. SMD means it's soldered flat onto a pcb and can be more tricky than soldering a switch or old LED that poked through a hole in the pcb. Some kids come with SMD parts installed, some it's an option, others do not even come with the parts at all and you have to source and then install them yourselves onto a bare pcb. SMD soldering is not super tricky if you've got some experience and a good iron, but if you haven't done much soldering it will give you lots of headaches.

Sourcing parts, you can still get an idea of what you need from looking at the kits, but again, the kits are not bad deals in themselves.

Some will say the GH60 is outdated, people still use Model M keyboards from the 80's. It's a keyboard, it inputs keystrokes, so long as it inputs keystroked it's not really outdated. Keyboards haven't changed much over the years, some switches have stopped being made, they added backlighting, some are programmable, and now some have underglow (which is really the only thing better about the DZ over a GH60), but ultimately, it's a keyboard. If you get a case that has a solid bottom, you won't see the underglow, so there would be no difference compared to a GH60.

This is why I said to not get caught up into the whole "custom is better", 90% of the feel of a keyboard is the switches, and you can change those. Some may have lighting, some have a heavier case, some may let you program the keys, but they all do the same basic function. Is a $900 custom keyboard really any better than a $40 Magicforce? It may feel nicer, it may type a little better if it has tuned switches, but you can put the same switches into the Magicforce for hundreds of dollars less, put some weight in the bottom and get the same typing experience.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/Vortex case, hand milled case, custom feet, custom paint, Klaxxon key caps, lubed and o-ringed Jailhouse Blues made from vintage Cherry MX Blues, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, removable cord, sound dampened. Winkey blockoff plate | Magicforce 68 w/Outemu Blues |KBT Race S L.E. w/Ergo-Clears, custom WASD keyset | Das Pro w/browns (Costar model) | IBM Model M (x2)