As nice as some of boards you can pick up on Amazon are, the only real way to get the perfect mechanical keyboard is to build it it yourself. Engineered by a small group of enthusiasts known as Input Club, the K-Type is a fully-customizable, completely open source keyboard that’s the next best thing to DIY.
The K-Type was designed from the ground up to be “the most advanced tenkeyless keyboard ever created,” and from the brief time I’ve spent playing around with a prototype unit, it’s on the right track. From top-down it might look like a particularly attractive keyboard with a soft silver finish, RGB lighting and some lovely shine-through keys, but the closer you look at the K-Type the cooler it gets.
Take those keycaps, for example. Most of the shine-through keycaps you find in the wild are made of ABS plastic, as the less expensive plastic handles the doubleshot process better. The caps included with the K-Type are made from PBT plastic, making them less prone to wear and shine.
Beneath the keycaps we’ve got the switches. While the unit I have been testing came with blue switches installed, the folks at Input Club worked with switch maker Kaihua to create a pair of custom switches specifically designed for use in the K-Type. There’s the Halo True, which I’m told feels a lot like a Topre switch, only fully mechanical versus the Topre’s rubber dome tech.
And there’s also the Halo Clear, said to feel like a more refined version of the tactile bump of Cherry’s popular MX Clear switches. As of my last contact with the Input Club’s Andrew Lekashman, both switches had recently passed 25 million strokes in testing, aiming for 75 million.
And should neither of those strike your fancy, you can always swap them out. The K-Type allows users to hot-swap MX-compatible switches as they see fit.
All it takes is a quick pull from an included tool, and the switch pops right out, ready for you to make the typing feel of the board your own, or to make horrible, horrible mistakes. I own a couple of other keyboards with this functionality, but this is the easiest it’s been.
The top and sides of the case are crafted from a single block of aircraft-grade aluminium, with cutouts in the top for mounting switches—there is no separate plate here. On the bottom there is a shine-through acrylic layer, increasing the stunning white RGB-ness of the whole affair, with an aluminium base. So not only does the keyboard look great, with the screws conveniently hidden on the underside, it’s also incredibly solid.
In my experience, the more solid and stable the base, the better the typing feel and sound. Even with these clicky blues, the K-Type is a joy to type on.
You’ll note in the pictures I’ve got the cable on the right side of the board. The K-Type comes with a USB-C cable connector on both sides. One’s for connecting the keyboard to your computer, and the other can charge a USB-C device or be used to chain together other Input Club creations for future functionality. Some may wonder, “Why USB-C?” Come on, all the cool kids are doing USB-C these days. It’s the future.
A nice as the exterior features are, it’s what’s under the hood that makes the K-Type stand out. If you just want a plain old tenkeyless keyboard with pretty lights, then fine. If you want to truly make the keyboard your own, you can do that too.
Built on the Keyboard Layout Language, a new system that governs the way inputs are handled, the K-Type is 100 percent fully-programmable. Any key can be any other key or perform multiple functions across a multi-leveled layout. The user is in complete control of everything.
This is the second best feature of the K-Type. It’s why I’ve recently started attempting to build my own keyboards from kits, only without me running out of my office every five minutes to tell my wife how good I am getting at soldering things.
The very best feature of the K-Type is the fact that all of this, from hardware to software to firmware, is completely open source. Once the keyboard goes wide later this year, anyone will be able to machine, program and assemble their own version of the K-Type. The folks at Input Club want people to fool around with all of this stuff and create their own things. It’s one of the joys of getting deep into the hobby.
The K-Type was designed with love by the folks at Input Club, and it’s being produced by Massdrop, one of the most dangerous websites on the internet. Basically they offer fans of various things a place to get in on massive group buys of items at a lower cost than the items would be if purchased individually. The K-Type is currently available for $199.99 on Massdrop (suggested retail is $299.99), with an expected ship date of November of this year. More than 1,700 people have already signed up. Massdrop has also launched a Kickstarter campaign, which is basically a second place to grab a K-Type on the cheap, with a fulfillment date of December.
I’m pretty excited about the K-Type, having missed out on some of Input Club’s earlier offerings—one day, WhiteFox . . . one day. I’m currently working on balancing my willingness to spend $200 with my hatred of waiting more than a month for anything, let alone six months. At least I’ve had some time to play with the prototype, so I know what I’ll be anxiously waiting for when the time comes.