My experience with keyboards in 2020
I’ve been in the hobby of custom mechanical keyboards for over a year now and this was my first full year dedicated to trying new things in the hobby as well as participating in the community. I’ve had the pleasure of giving input on prototypes, doing commissions for clients and getting an early look at some products.
I am going to go over some thoughts and opinions I’ve come to over the year, as well as some of my personal favorites from my collection. Please note these are all my opinions and I encourage you to always try these things on your own and make your own opinions.
First off. I want to let everyone know that there is no end game keyboard. That sound and feel is completely up to ones preference and that so many things go into a custom build that it’s unfair for me to say one thing is always going to be better than another. With that being said, I wanted to talk about some keyboards I’ve really enjoyed through out the year.
First up is the the GEONWORKS F1-8X and it impressed me for a variety of reasons. To note this is a TKL board with plated weight system on the instead. It is also isolated using rubber cord in its mounting style. I opted to use the included aluminum plate in my build and paired it with Durock L7 switches.
The board feels amazing and has an amazing sound profile. I prefer a strong “clack” and I as of recently, I’ve preferred a softer typing experience. This board provided that. It also made me realize how much I really like TKL boards. Over all the experience building in this from start to finish was really fun, we saw nothing really out of the ordinary, with the exception of insert the cording into the board. That on it’s on right was really satisfying.
For reference this board retailed for approximately $330 USD when it was active.
Ahh the Keycult.
Do I really need to say anything about this board at all? Probably not, but I’ll share my thoughts anyways. For reference, I’ve built a few of these now and have loved every build. I’ve even built the newer 2/65. I wanted to talk about my experience with this one since it was my first experience with the brand.
At first I thought the hype around Keycults was just over blown, but I wanted to reserve actual judgement for when I finally got to try one. And I did! I built my first Keycult this year and instantly fell in love. From a gorgeous sound signature, a clever design and extremely fun build experience, I loved every moment of this board and continue to love it.
I’ve built all my builds so far with aluminum plates and used a variety of different switches. The 1/65 uses a gasket mounting system and leaf spring plate to provide a great typing experience that fits my typing preferences. It also utilizes a Wilba.tech PCB.
One thing you’ll notice about these boards is the great quality control, which speaks volumes to me.
For reference this board retailed for approximately $500+ USD depending on the configuration when it was active.
Next comes a board that I am pretty passionate about. The RAMA KARA. It is a visually impressive entry level board into the world of custom keyboard. One interesting thing about the KARA is that the product is made using injection moulding techniques. This process essentially allows for a lower cost during production of the product. The KARA came in a variety of colors and featured a hotswap PCB by Wilba.tech. The interesting thing about this build is the Mute mount and the PCB assembly. It makes for a solid yet dynamic typing experience. The board is also swappable with any of the other colors of the KARA, which can make for some cool color combos.
In my personal builds of the board I used both Durock switches and Velocifire X KK Light Wave Switches. The board sounded and felt great in both. It is definitely capable of a wide variety of fun sound signatures. I did find that the spacebar was very particular with sound. With certain switches / spacebars materials (PBT, ABS) and profiles, it did have a few combinations where wasn’t to keen on how sharp the spacebar sound was.
For reference this board retailed for approximately $160 USD when it was active.
It’s been an interesting year for keyboards. We’ve seen an amazing launch of many different entry level boards such as the NK65, RAMA KARA and the Portico along with many more. We’ve seen a large number of new people getting into the hobby, and even a large amount people creating content and entertainment around keyboards. It’s a wonderful thing!
On a personal note, I’ve gotten to try new layouts this year such as a variety of ergo layouts and ortho. I’ve also had the opportunity to try a wide selection of new boards, new materials (like titanium plates) and tons of interesting and fun ways to assemble keyboards. I’m looking forward to more keycaps and keyboards in 2021, but for now, I am extremely happy with my personal growth both in and out of the keyboard world for 2020. I’ve been more focused on taking quality photos and providing more and better streams on Twitch.
Keycaps have been another fun part of the hobby in 2020. We have seen more sets this year than ever before. I picked up a few new sets this year and I’m still on the search for more! It has been such a fun year for keycaps! I’ve also personally really fallen in love with the MT3 profile of keycaps, they really do just hug you fingers. I’ve also learned that different profile of caps, thicknesses, materials and more can affect the sound of your keyboard. It’s a beautiful thing!
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