Price: $ 140- $ 200
There are many good reasons to create a custom keyboard layout, switch selection, quality components. However, there is one important reason for not doing so: soldering is shit. What if you had the best of both worlds?
What we like
- Fantastic build quality
- Easy replacement of cap and switch
- Double USB C ports
- Magnetic feet
And what we do not do it.
- Flashing software is annoying.
- The lighting modes are limited. The minimal layout, full RGB lighting, aluminum body, and multiple USB-C ports are things you normally only find when you build a keyboard yourself. But with a modular switch design, you do not have to! You can charge the keyboard with the mechanical switches of your choice and replace them at any time.
At $ 180, the ALT is one of the most expensive keyboards on the retail market – a price that could make some people wince. (However, the CTRL, which has a more conventional, tenkey-less layout, costs $ 200.) Given the high quality of the hardware and flexible design, the ALT is worth the price of mechanical keyboard fanatics who do not want to build their own from scratch ,
As shiny as it is clicking.
When I joined the ALT for the first time, I was shocked at how damn brilliant this thing is. As a lover of mechanical keyboards, LEDs are not alien to me, but thanks to the quick query, they are incredibly bright and fluid. Oh, and there's more than usual – a stripe runs around the edge of the board and illuminates my desktop (when it's not in full sunlight).
The lighting modes are a bit basic – there is no access to a special lighting program, as you might see in a Razer or Corsair board. Once you have determined the function commands (the function key replaces the right-hand Windows key) to adjust the lighting modes, you can find a pattern and a brightness that you like. Or you can turn it off. It would have been nice if an assignment of the standard function controls had been included.
The body is made of aluminum, with the aforementioned light strip between two rather heavy plates and rubber feet on the ground. If you are not a fan of the flat profile, you can attach the supplied magnetic feet. With a rare range of ergonomic options, you can position your feet either in a forward or backward angle. This tends the keyboard up or down by about five degrees. These parts are difficult and satisfactory to bring into position.
The keyboard is wired by default for mechanical boards and contains two USB-C ports, which is not the case. They are located to the left and right of the front of the board, so you can use the page that works best for your desk. If you use the right port, the left port can be a pass for USB C data and charging – another option that you no longer often see today. (Thanks, Massdrop – We're glad to see USB-C versus cheaper alternatives.)
You also get two tools: one to remove the keycaps and one for the switches underneath.
Fascination of Adaptation
You could leave the keyboard as it is, and be completely satisfied. Our review sample came with Cherry MX Brown switches. They are standard "typist" switches with a tactile touch but no audible clicks. You can also choose between Kalh BOX White (stiff and clicking), Speed Silver (linear, no clicking or bumping with a light feather), Halo True (super smooth) or Halo Clear (slightly stiffer). If you have your own, you can not select any counters and save $ 40.
All keys are equipped with really great PBT keycaps that show the underlying LEDs. They are fantastic caps, beautiful and grainy, with a sharpness that cheaper, more common ABS plastic just can not reach. Keycaps are usually not a big selling point for a board that's meant to be "custom". However, they should be mentioned here because the right-shift key is a non-standard size and you may not find a full size set to replace.
But enough about the bush: What about these hot-swap switches? I am pleased to announce that they work the way they have announced. With the included grabber tool you can remove the keycap and then pull the full switch directly out of the case – even if the keyboard is connected and working. You can replace them with any Cherry MX profile compliant switch, and they work just fine. However, you will want to get some with a clear plastic case to take advantage of the chic lighting. You can buy just about any switch from a major vendor, but they must be mounted on a board rather than a circuit board (there are no small plastic pins on the bottom of the switch housing).
This feature is a great blessing if you intend to get acquainted with the intricacies of the world of mechanical keyboards. You can exchange some (or all) switches for something better to play or tap, something quieter or more clickable, and so on. You can even use a combination of switches – tactile MX Browns on the alphanumeric side with clicking BOX whites on the modifiers or Speed Silver switch on the left just for gaming. It's a wonderful piece of freedom, but you should invest in a cheap switch tester before you buy a few dozen switches.
Be careful when installing and removing switches as the electrical contacts are slightly bent.
If you want something with almost infinite adjustability, the ALT delivers in sight without a soldering iron.
Onions have layers, keyboards have layers
It would have been nice if Drop had lasered the secondary functions of this small layout to the corresponding buttons, like FN-Delete for mute. However, it is easy to see why this was not the case: this and all other controls can be fully customized by the user. This has its advantages and disadvantages.
The ALT and CTRL keyboards use the popular open-source QMK keyboard software platform. Creating a custom layout and LED lighting pattern on Drop's dedicated website is pretty easy, but using QMK is not for the beginner. The QMK program only works on Windows (you need to work elsewhere in the command line because there is no local help file should you prepare for Google). And unlike some other options, you need to turn the keyboard over and put a pin in the "Reset" hole to prepare it for programming.
It's not an impossible task, but unnecessarily awkward – even some of my cheapest keyboards had simpler programming. A keyboard that is designed to give the layman some features of complex custom builds is a big blot in an otherwise excellent package. Old hands at QMK will undoubtedly be thrilled, but not the target audience.
The Best You Can Do Without Do-It-Yourself
Apart from the frustrating software, the ALT is a fantastic keyboard – especially for those who seek it Examine the deep and wide mechanical niche. It has excellent workmanship and lighting. And it comes with all the bells and whistles one could wish for – and that's better, considering the price.
The ALT and larger CTRL areas. & # 39; They are the only keyboards on the market that have hot-swappable keycaps, and you could build one yourself. You can find one from suppliers like GMMK at a substantial discount. However, the wonderful aluminum body, the magnetic feet, the RGB lighting, the programming via QMK, the transfer of USB-C data, etc. are not included.
If you want the "ultimate" mechanical keyboard in a standard layout – and you do not want to build it yourself – the ALT is worth the price. And best of all, it will be compatible with hundreds of old and new switch variants in the coming years .
If you want to invest in a flexible premium board, the ALT is an excellent choice.
Price: 140-200 $
Here is what we like
- Fantastic workmanship  Double USB C connectors
- Magnetic feet
And what we do not
- Flashing software is clunky
- Lighting modes are limited