Soon™

I’m wanting to start on my 2nd “end game” keyboard. I’m happy with the Tenkeyless keyboard that I’ve got now, but I still think it’s a little too big. Time to try a 60% keyboard.

At the moment I’ve not got a keyboard with linear switches that I’m happy with. I’ve got a Cooler Master QuickFire TK Stealth with Cherry MX Reds but the reds feel a bit scratchy and the size is a little to big for what I want. Because of this, I’m going to try out some of the Tealios from ZealPC.

From what I’ve experienced, they’re the smoothest switch out there with the next best thing being the Kailh BOX Heavy Dark Yellow or Gateron Yellows. Only down side that I can see is the massive price hike due to them being a “premium” switch…

The other parts are going to need to match the premium option that I’m using for the switches, so a 5 degree case, brass top plate and Zeal60 PCB seem fitting for my end game 60%. Hopefully I can get them soon!

My 5 Degree case sat on my bed.
My 5 Degree case sat on my bed.

End Game Part 1

So the term end game is tossed around when looking at almost anything. Headphones, mechanical Keyboards & Pens are a few examples that I’ve seen people post about before, and I fall under one of those weird people that loves the hell out of all things mechanical keyboard. As a result of having a small amounts of money and not much more common sense, I’ve almost finished one of the end game keyboards that I want.

Going back, the first mechanical keyboard that I owned was a Noppoo Spyder. This was a cheap mech board that I grabbed because it fit my budget, and for the time that I had used it it was perfect for what I needed. However after that I was wanting something a bit more interesting. It was something that I had cheaped out on and compared to the rest of my PC at the time, was the cheapest thing I was using.

From there I decided to get me a Cooler Master Masterkeys Pro S. A tenkeyless keyboard with all the features that I wanted. Macros, RGB, clean design and worked with the rest of my PC. From there, I never gave mechanical keyboards another thought. I had the board I wanted. I didn’t need anything else (considering the collection I have now I can look back and laugh at what I thought of mechanical keyboards at the time). But there is always something that will intervene.

Spooky picture of the Hako Trues
Spooky picture of the Hako Trues

After about a year I was stupid enough to spill a pint over my keyboard. While the keyboard still worked, the MX Browns that I swore by where gummed up and stiff. The keyboard was basically useless. I tried many a way to get it all working again, trying things like contact cleaner and 99% alcohol on the switches but to know avail.

From there my interest in mechanical keyboards peeked and the whole story of how I got to where I am is one that I’ll save for another day. But give it say, 6 months and you can get to where I was with this keyboard. I had gained some knowledge of building my own keyboard (you can see my Gherkin post for my first build) and decided to revive an old favourite.

All the Hako Trues!
All the Hako Trues!

First off was the switches that I needed to replace. The browns that where all gummed up needed to go, with a different switch replacing them. I wanted to try something a bit exotic, so decided to go with the Hako Trues. A switch designed to feel like Topre switches, and help make you a better typist by “punishing” you for bottoming out.

To see my first thoughts on the Hako Trues, you can see my youtube video here and my post on this site here. After using them for an even longer time period, I’ve grown to love them even more. The bump at the top of the actuation feels subtle but noticeable and the extra weight the switch has make it just what I need. But I’m getting off topic.

The best enter there is...
The best enter there is…

After replacing all the switches, I decide to grab some decent keycaps. The stock ones for the Masterkeys Pro S are OEM profile, ABS keycaps. Mine have developed quite the shine on them after quite a bit of use. Looking at some of the options that were in my budget (GMK would have been wonderful but I sadly couldn’t justify the £160 for the set), I went with the 9009 PBT set that was available on AliExpress (KPrepublic to be specific).

So far, I’m pleased with how it’s all turned out. This board is the first out the four that I want to have to get to my “end game” status. All left is the forty percent, sixty percent, and finally the ninety-six key keyboard.

Beauty Shot
Beauty Shot

All in good time though… All in good time…

Hako Trues.

Going back a few months (quite a few at this point) I managed to spill beer all over one of the nicer keyboard that I’ve got, a Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S. As a result of this, some of the switches gummed up and the board became horrible to use, ultimately this event can probably be blamed for the influx of keyboards ever since.

All lit up! You can see some of the damaged MX Browns that the Hako Trues replaced by the USB Cord.
All lit up! You can see some of the damaged MX Browns that the Hako Trues replaced by the USB Cord.

The Hako Trues are a box style, tactile switch manufactured by  Kaihua that have been designed to feel similar to 55g topre domes with the tactile bump being more subtle when compared to basically every other switch I’ve ever used. Personally, I can’t feel any tactility what so ever unless pressing the switch down very slowly. I’m hardly the lightest typist out there and, despite these switches discouraging you from bottoming out, I’ll almost always end up slamming down on the keys with almost every key stroke. Personally I feel that this is one of the reasons why I can’t feel the bump when pressing down so I’ve been trying to bottom out less while typing or gaming.

Close up with one of the Hako Trues. Sorry for the dirt under the keycaps...
Close up with one of the Hako Trues. Sorry for the dirt under the keycaps…

I have noticed a slight improvement when being careful to not bottom out but being the heavy handed brute that I am does mean that I’ve got to really focus on typing and as a result, my typing speed drops by quite a bit. I know that over time I’d be able to build this speed back up and I am working on doing so, but the change is rather weird at first. All in all I’m happy with the end result as it’s given me back one of my personal favourite keyboards in my small collection. At some point in the future I’ll post an update to this with my thought after a substantial amount of time has passed. As I’ve not had the change to compare the Hako Trues directly to a 55g Topre keyboard I’ll never know how well these switches work as imitation Topre until I do get something with 55g domes.

In the future I do plan on getting a Happy Hacking Keyboard 2 and once I have one, I’ll definitely be comparing the Topre Domes to the Hako Trues.

Magicforce 49

Recently I’ve had my interest into smaller sized keyboards peak. This first started when I got my hands on a Gherkin kit and used it for a while before changing back to a TKL keyboard. The reason I changed back was due to the 30% being too small to be practical. I found trying to remember the different layers a bit to awkward to get used to and not having all the modifiers easily accessible made typing anything longer than about 3 sentences a pain in the backside.

Because of this, the newest addition to my collection has 19 more keys but still takes up less room than a large chocolate bar on my desk. The Magicforce 49. A 40% keyboard by Qisan.

Instead of beating round the bush I’m going to just point out the one issue that I’ve got with this keyboard. I hate that it’s non reprogram-able and because of that, I hate the layout this keyboard has. It uses a combination of a function layer and the shift key to access all the needed keys that a 40% board would normally have. However, other 40% boards that are out there (the Planck is the main one I’m thinking of) use multiple layers rather than having to hold 2 keys at once to access something.

Mine came with Gateron Green Switches. A Clicky, heavy switch.
Mine came with Gateron Green Switches. A Clicky, heavy switch.

Because of this, using the Magicforce 49 to do more than play games gets rather awkward rather fast. While this could be me not being used to using the keyboard it does seem like a bit of a blunder to have something that small and not add the option to reprogram the layout. Getting past the layout issues however, the Magicforce 49 works well enough as a little travel keyboard. Recently I’ve been going around helping people with their PCs and having something that feels damn good to type on help with the job at hand. The build of the board itself is solid. The LED lighting helps to navigate the weird layout with a few nice looking effects to boot, and generally if it had a simpler layout I’d probably have made it something I use rather regularly.

I just can’t get over the fact that something of this size and layout has no option to be reprogrammed. While I understand it is possible to do via software I can’t take that with me to someone else’s place and have it ready to go from the moment I plug it in. All in all a nice keyboard, just with one hell of an Achilles heel.

I got mine from Massdrop. Here’s a link to the drop if you’re interested.

The Black 30

So after about an hour and a half I finished building my Gherkin kit. For those of you who don’t know, a Gherkin kit is a 30/35% Ortholinear kit that you can use to build your own keyboard.

When I first posted about getting hold of a kit I also mentioned that I’d make a guide for building said kit as I was unable to find a perfect guide on building a Gherkin, however while I was building said keyboard I didn’t take as many pictures as I’d have liked and don’t have the resources to make a tutorial that flows well. The video I used as a rough guide was an archived live stream from the channel The Board Podcast. On the same channel I used a guide for flashing the Pro-Micro that is installed with the Gherkin to actually turn it into a usable keyboard.

If anyone gets there hands on one of these kits and would like some help feel free to get in touch and I’ll do my best to help out. Below I’ll add the rest of the pictures from while I was building.

PCB with the diodes soldered on.
Pro Micro posts added to the back of the board, ready to add the pro micro later on.
Added the 4 corner switches to mount the top plate.
All the switches added to the board and soldered in. Once the switches are attached you can then solder the Pro Micro on the bottom.
The finished build on my desk next to Hello Kitty.

 

Black Gherkin

So there is a mechanical keyboard kit out there called a Gherkin. This is a 30/35% keyboard that is nothing but the standard QWERTY layout with 4 keys extra. I’m going to be building one (once my kit arrives) and as I can’t find a really decent guide, I plan on making one and posting my progress here. Hopefully I don’t completely ruin everything and make myself look like a smeghead in the process…

Credit to u/llucifer for the header image.