Mechanical keyboards have gotten extremely in style in the previous few years. Now you can go purchase a mech on Amazon for an inexpensive amount of cash. The surge of curiosity in mechs additionally helps a small however thriving customized keyboard group. I make no secret of my obsession with customized mechanical keyboards, which supply quite a few nice options over the “mainstream” mechs you should purchase on Amazon. They’re extra configurable, come in numerous type components, and supply a greater diversity of switches.
It may possibly take plenty of legwork to get your fingers on the proper board — you may need to construct it your self and fumble with buggy firmware instruments to program it. That’s why I’ve been so excited concerning the Ok-Sort ($199.99) from Enter Membership. It makes customizing your keyboard a snap. This board has been in improvement for a very long time, and now it’s virtually right here. Massdrop will be running the first round group buy starting later this month. I’ve had an opportunity to make use of a prototype of the Ok-Sort just lately, and I believe it lives as much as the hype.
The Ok-Sort is a tenkeyless board, that means it has all the usual keys of a full-sized board besides the quantity pad. In my expertise, many individuals who assume the necessity a quantity pad really don’t. Smaller keyboards make plenty of sense as a result of you may have your mouse nearer, and also you don’t have to achieve as far throughout the keyboard to hit all of the keys. As a result of the structure is totally normal, you’ll don’t have any hassle discovering alternative keycap units for this board. On a barely technical word, it makes use of Cherry-style stabilizers below the longer keys. I choose these as they are usually quieter and make swapping keycaps simpler.
The Ok-type is clearly not the one tenkeyless board in existence, however it has plenty of different tips. This board has a strong aluminum body with an fascinating design. The highest and aspect is machined out of a single piece of aluminum, after which the underside panel screws on. Meaning the circuit board goes in from the underside, and the switches plug into the case. This provides it an extremely strong really feel as a result of there’s not a separate change plate. The case is the plate.
All of the screws are hidden on the underside of the case, giving it a clear look. The board additionally has a cool magnetic foot that clips on. Some may really feel the incline is simply too steep, however I believe it’s good (Enter Membership says it’s the identical angle because the WhiteFox).
Like plenty of keyboards as of late, the Ok-Sort has RGB LEDs, however it goes a step additional than different boards I’ve seen. The PCB for this board has SMD LEDs below every change, plus extra LEDs on the underside for the sting lighting. These are brighter than common LEDs that plug into the change tops, and so they enable for the Ok-Sort’s distinctive change options (which I’ll get into later).
On the highest of the Ok-Sort is one thing else you don’t usually see on keyboards — a USB Sort-C port. Truly, there are two of them at reverse ends of the board. You’ll be able to plug into whichever one is extra handy for you. The opposite port can be utilized to cost one thing that works with Sort-C (like a telephone), however the extra fascinating possibility is daisy-chaining different Enter Membership gadgets collectively. This solely works with gadgets that run the KLL firmware, together with the WhiteFox and Ergodox Infinity. Not terribly helpful proper now, however it may very well be cool sooner or later.
The Ok-Sort will include a number of totally different change choices (together with clicky and tactile varieties) from an organization referred to as Kailh. I don’t normally think about Kailh a top-tier change maker, however these are new and improved designs. In case you don’t just like the included switches, you don’t have to make use of them. One of many coolest issues about this board is that it has hot-swappable switches. There are a pair mechanical keyboards which have swappable switches, however that is one of the best implementation of the function I’ve seen. In accordance with Enter Membership, the swapping mechanism is sturdy, rated for up to 1000’s of swaps.
You don’t even have to show the keyboard off — simply take the keycaps off and use the included instrument to detach the change from the board. Plug in a distinct change, and also you’re all set. The switches keep put and don’t wobble in any respect. The Ok-type can settle for any Cherry-style change, so long as it’s “plate-mount.” Meaning it doesn’t have the mounting pegs on the underside of the housing. You will get switches like this no downside, or simply clip the pegs off.
I’ve examined the Ok-Sort with myriad change sorts, together with Cherry Greens, Gateron Browns, Zealios, and even some bizarre stuff just like the Fosen Aquamarine (see under for a gallery). All of them work completely, however the SMD LEDs will solely shine via with switches which have clear housings, for instance Zealios and a few Gateron variants. The switches that include the Ok-Sort aren’t clear on the underside, however they’ve customized housings that enable the lights to shine via, which additionally opens up a complete new degree of customization.
Enter Membership explains the change selection was deliberate as a result of it allowed them to get these customized housings into everybody’s fingers. There’s a light-weight channel within the area different switches have LED pin holes, and that is what diffuses the sunshine so evenly below the change. There may even be some “normal” switches as an possibility when the drop begins, however I believe the customized ones are what you need.
The model I’ve got here with the customized Kailh Blue switches. These are clicky, versus tactile or linear. They’re a little bit heavier than Cherry Blues and have a deeper sounding click on. I like them greater than I anticipated — I’m writing all of this on the Ok-Sort, in fact.
In case you don’t look after the inventory switches, you may nonetheless make use of these neat housings. Cherry-style switches grew to become in style due to how easy and sturdy they’re. You’ll be able to fairly simply open the included switches and alter out the stem (coloured half) and spring. That’s what provides a change its character, so you may flip the clicky Kailh Blues right into a linear or tactile change. That method, you continue to get the LED diffuser with no matter really feel you need. See above for a comparability between the Ok-type change and a Zealio—word the sunshine diffuser on the Ok-Sort housing.
I make no secret of my standing as a keycap snob. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of cash on keycaps that always find yourself costing greater than the boards on which I’m utilizing them. The inventory keycaps on most boards aren’t spectacular. Nevertheless, the keycaps on the Ok-Sort have been particularly designed for this keyboard, so that they’re really price utilizing.
Keycaps are normally composed of both ABS or PBT plastic. ABS is softer and smoother, so it’ll put on down over time. The upshot is ABS is good for doubleshot molding with any colours you need. PBT is tougher and has a “gritty” texture that makes them grippy. Nevertheless, it’s arduous to do doubleshot molding. Consequently, most PBT caps are made with dye sublimation printing. The dye is embedded within the plastic, so that they received’t put on off, however this doesn’t work with as many coloration combos.
The Ok-Sort makes use of PBT caps in OEM profile which can be doubleshot — a uncommon mixture. The legends are clear, so you may see the gorgeous lights below them. The legend font can also be not obnoxious, as it’s on so many “shine-through” caps. I must also give Enter Membership credit score for correctly positioning the legends on the cap to be totally illuminated by the LED diffuser, which is towards the highest of the change.
These are good keycaps, and completely suited to the Ok-Sort. And bear in mind, this structure is totally normal, so discovering different keycaps you want received’t be a problem.
One of many issues that units the Ok-Sort and different customized boards aside from “mainstream” mechanical keyboards is the firmware. They don’t depend on a bloated desktop app to manage the lights, layouts, or options. After you program and flash a board, it really works the identical method it doesn’t matter what you plug it into. That is true of the Ok-Sort, however it goes a step additional with a strong visible configurator app.
A part of this technique much like the WhiteFox. Nevertheless, that board doesn’t have RGB LEDs to handle. Thus, there’s a complete separate system for modifying the lighting sample and animations. The animations are extremely easy, too. For the precise keys, you can also make the buttons do something you need. Don’t use caps lock? Change it to perform. Need fast entry to media controls? Create a brand new layer for it. You’ll be able to even change the complete keyboard structure to one thing like Colemak or Dvorak, if that’s what you’re into.
Flashing the Ok-Sort is much like the WhiteFox. After constructing the firmware with the configurator, you merely level it on the keyboard to flash. If you wish to get deeper into tweaking keyboard firmware, this may very well be the perfect machine. Enter Membership will open supply the complete board after the primary spherical sale is full. The firmware can be out there on-line, as will design information for the PCB and even the case.
How will you purchase it?
The Ok-Sort doesn’t technically exist in its ultimate type but. I’ve a prototype that can be used as a template to place the retail model into manufacturing. Massdrop will start taking orders for the Ok-type later this month. The value can be $199.99, which is completely cheap for a high-end keyboard with no meeting required. After the sale concludes in a couple of weeks, manufacturing will begin.
Enter Membership expects a faster achievement than some previous keyboard group buys, someplace on the order of three months. So, the Ok-Sort ought to ship late this summer time. I might be remiss if I didn’t level out that group buys do include some threat. You’re placing your cash as much as purchase a product, and it’ll take nonetheless lengthy it takes to get to you. In case you want a brand new keyboard subsequent week, this isn’t for you. For nearly anybody else who’s all in favour of mechanical keyboards, the Ok-Sort must be improbable.
The construct high quality is nice, the firmware is highly effective, and the swappable change mechanism is one of the best I’ve seen. Total, $200 for this keyboard is a discount. You may spend virtually that a lot on a “gamer” mech on Amazon. If you wish to learn extra about this keyboard please go to ExtremeTech.