Saturday, May 21, 2022

Glorious GMMK Pro Review: Easy Mode for DIY Keyboards

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Shreya Christinahttps://cafe-madrid.com
Shreya has been with cafe-madrid.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider cafe-madrid.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

When Glorious’ GMMK Pro was announced just over a year and a half ago, there was quite a bit of excitement among keyboard aficionados. Here was a custom and sleek looking 75 percent keyboard that made it easy for newbies to jump into the hobby by providing instant access to all the different parts needed to build it. Those parts could all be ordered from the same company, and mounting them required no specific skill (and no soldering). Plus, it came with an undeniably cool dial – a design feature that has since been widely copied.

Since then, the GMMK Pro has been followed by competitors like the Keychron Q1, which doesn’t quite have the same DIY vibe, but offers similar features and designs for a lower cost. Now that we’re just over a year past the hype cycle, we thought it would be a good time to check in on the GMMK Pro and see how it holds up.

The main appeal of the GMMK Pro – a DIY experience without the DIY headache – remains the same. While it’s possible to build a custom keyboard that mirrors the look and feel of the GMMK Pro, it can take a significant amount of research. You may also need to go through multiple suppliers to assemble all the necessary components. Glorious, on the other hand, allows you to order everything for the GMMK Pro from the same page, which is guaranteed to fit together nicely.

The amount of choice you have when putting together a custom keyboard can be intimidating, but Glorious and the GMMK Pro do a decent job of introducing the uninitiated to the DIY market, warts and all. Glorious makes the process of building your own keyboard much less frustrating by allowing you to order all your parts from one supplier. Obtaining all the necessary components—from the baseboard itself, which comes with the chassis, PCB, and aluminum sheet, to key switches, keycaps, alternative sheet materials, coiled cables, and more—is a streamlined process. You can also pay additional fees to disable grunt work such as grease switches. (This process also highlights how absurdly expensive this hobby can be.)

The particular model I have here is relatively standard, with Kailh Speed ​​​​Silver switches, a matte black chassis, black PBT translucent keycaps, and an extra USB-C kite cable that cost nearly $300 to ship. However, by using the configurator on the Glorious website, you can just as easily spend over $600 if you pull out all the stops. But it’s also worth noting that you can go as low as $240 for a complete keyboard, or all the way to $169.99 if you just want the board itself with no caps or switches.

That’s a good looking keyboard.

An important aspect to consider when looking at the GMMK Pro is that while you choose the individual components, the keyboard itself comes unassembled. Instead, the chassis, switches and keycaps are shipped separately and you put everything together yourself. While this could be seen as a drawback, if you have everything in front of you before putting it all together, you can install aftermarket mods like damping materials, shift pads or stabilizers without breaking anything. And thanks to the hot-swap PCB, which allows you to connect switches without soldering them, you can get everything up and running in about 20 minutes. This also gives a spectacular insight into the process for anyone who wants to get into the hobby.

The GMMK Pro comes with a switch and keycap puller, but the ones pictured here are sold separately.

Once you’ve put everything together, the first impression of this keyboard is that it looks good. Even with an all-black chassis and accessories, I have to admire its incredibly clean aesthetic. The body of the keyboard has no branding, except for the bottom, where “Glorious” is milled into the base. The GMMK Pro has RGB lighting but has been tastefully applied. In addition to the per-key lighting on the PCB, the chassis has a pair of light strips that run along the side. There’s a wide variety of preset lighting effects (including the ability to flash the city lights red if you’ve got Caps Lock on), but unfortunately it’s not possible to apply multiple themes to a single set of keys.

Who makes this keyboard again?

The overall look of the keyboard, with its sharp angular edges, is premium and uncomfortably beautiful, making everything around it look better – kind of like those impossibly beautiful workstation aesthetic photos that only exist on Instagram.

The body of the GMMK Pro is remarkably heavy for a keyboard, even without switches or keycaps. This is largely due to the metal frame and apparent lack of plastic components. It’s nice to have a keyboard that doesn’t slide across your desk and feels like it outlasts time itself. But at 3.3 pounds for just the chassis with nothing else in it, this is by far the heaviest keyboard I’ve ever used. This makes the chassis particularly resistant to any kind of bending or wobbling. An interesting omission of the chassis, however, is the feet to angle the keyboard. This is not a major problem as the chassis is angled upwards at a slight angle. But there’s no way to change that without using something to support the keyboard.

The 75 percent layout is also something I love, and as someone who uses full-size keyboards almost exclusively, that’s saying something. The layout retains the directional arrows, the function row, and five additional keys used by default for navigation. This overall layout is an excellent compromise between form and function.

The overall typing experience of my Kailh Speed ​​Silver and PBT keycaps was pretty good. I was surprised at how well everything fits together, resulting in a light and rattle-free touch typing experience that’s all the more impressive since the GMMK Pro isn’t pre-assembled. While I wouldn’t say it’s the best-feeling keyboard I’ve used out of the box, the GMMK Pro is definitely up there.

The chassis of the GMMK Pro is fitted with sound dampening foam and the stabilizers are pre-lubricated with some heavy duty grease. This improves the acoustics of the keyboard. But whatever they use on the space bar stabilizers gives them a surprising amount of resistance, and the key can sometimes be slow to return to its normal state after being pressed. The acoustics without further adjustments were solid, although the sound tends more to the unquestioning side. (With that much damping, I was expecting something a little more muffled.) The sound when bottoming out my keystrokes wasn’t annoying or unsatisfying, but was also a bit more hollow than expected.

The screw-in stabilizers that come with the PCB are fine, but not the absolute best. Anyone looking for aftermarket options can run into some challenges as the plate has very tight tolerances and some stabilizers may not fit. Glorious also advertises the GMMK Pro with a gasket-mounted design, which is intended to give the keys some flex for a softer typing experience. But once everything is assembled, everything fits together so tightly that there is virtually no flex.

When the GMMK Pro was first announced, it was one of the first boards to feature a dial in the design, which has since become one of the hottest trends in mechanical keyboards. By default this is used to control the volume on your PC and play/pause media when pressed, but it can be reprogrammed for almost any function. The side of the button is grippy but not rough, and the top is smooth but with a matte finish. The button rotates in steps and has a satisfying click when pressed. Unsurprisingly, Glorious sells optional buttons in a variety of colors if the standard black isn’t your style.

Jokes aside, it’s a really good button.

The Glorious software (for Windows only, sorry Mac users) used for changing the lighting and programming macros is stable and intuitive, but you’re in the wrong place if you wanted a keyboard with more complex RGB patterns. . This is a little disappointing, but the GMMK Pro isn’t specifically aimed at the public that finds that aspect particularly important. In fact, Glorious offers only two sets of translucent keycaps, but nine sets of keycaps that are solid colors or gradients.

In addition to reprogramming keys and setting macros, the Glorious software uses a layering system that allows you to quickly switch between keyboard layouts by pressing or holding a specific key. This system is useful, but a far cry from the more intuitive layering systems in the software for the Dygma Raise or even Razer’s Hypershift functionality. Otherwise, the software is simple but functional and does not strain system resources when not in use. While I’ve only tested the GMMK Pro with the glorious first-party software, anyone who wants a more granular experience can use tools like QMK or VIA to create and flash their own custom firmware onto the board.

The Glorious Core Software is simple and functional.

So, is this keyboard worth the price Glorious puts on it? It depends on. A well-built keyboard with an impressive number of customization options, the GMMK Pro offers a unique service for anyone willing to pay a premium for a custom-made product.

But in the end, most of what you pay for is the convenience and the time and effort to put it all together. Unless you’re in love with the particular aesthetic of this keyboard, you might be better served by buying a cheaper keyboard with similar features, or just building your own keyboard from scratch.

If you’re interested in building your own keyboard from scratch, which I definitely recommend, you can do it without spending nearly that much. Since the launch of the GMMK Pro, hot-swap PCBs have become much more common, making it easier than ever to build your own keyboard. By shopping around on sites like KBDfans.com, Banggood, or AliExpress and waiting a few weeks for shipping, you can get all the parts you need for around $150 or less. The keyboard used by my colleague Antonio G. Di Benedetto on The edge set him back just $135. While doing it yourself isn’t as streamlined as ordering all your parts from the same place, it will save you a significant amount of money in the long run.

However, if you’re interested in a 75 percent keyboard that’s ready to use, but equally amenable to aftermarket upgrades, you might want to check out the Keychron Q1, which can be purchased fully assembled for just a few bucks. more than the GMMK Pro’s barebone kit.

The GMMK Pro is a good keyboard, maybe even great in some ways. But more than a year since its release, it’s been surpassed by the shockingly fast-moving mechanical keyboard market. Glorious takes credit for providing a system to make it easy to jump into a custom board, without the usual headaches and long waits. But in the end, it feels like the GMMK Pro is being marketed to an audience that loves the DIY aesthetic but would rather pay someone else to do it for them.

Photography by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge

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