If you’re working on a computer for many hours on a daily basis you might want to have a higher quality keyboard. Affordable keyboards can easily be bought everywhere today – but built-quality and haptics heavily lack in the most cases (at least for ambitious users).

For this reason, mechanical keyboards became the standard for typists, enthusiasts and gamers. This keyboards come with high-quality switches and a higher built quality in general. Usually, these keyboards are also easier to maintain and spare parts are easy to get – which if good for long-term usage and excellent typing experience. For me mechanical keyboards are also a kind of childhood memories. As a 90s kid I love remembering those big and chunky AT/XT keyboards with DIN port and heavy actuation force.

My keyboard collection

Here’s a list of my previous keyboards:

Das Keyboard Model S Professional

Form factor 100%
Keycaps Stock (Laser)
Switches Cherry MX Brown
Other USB 2.0 hub

Back in 2013 this was my very first mechanical keyboard. At that time I was typing a lot of documentations and source code and broke a couple of 50 Euro keyboards. In accordance with my colleagues my hard key-stroke might be the reason for this. I dediced to go for the model with Cherry MX Brown switches – so the one optimized for typists. The difference was huge and after some time I was also able to enthuse my colleagues. 🙂

Das Keyboard 4 Professional

(no photo)

Form factor 100%
Keycaps Stock (Laser)
Switches Cherry MX Brown
Other USB 3.0 hub, volume control

I bought the next keyboard followed one year later when I broke the next keyboard at home. As I was satisfied with the Model S I bought the successor 4 Professional. This keyboard also features media keys and a volume knob. As a funny and useful gadget, the keyboard comes with a magnetic foot rail (“Rul3r“) that can also be used as ruler. In 2019 I sold the keyboard as I already collected some other keyboards and had no use for it, anymore.

Vortex Pok3r

Form factor 60%
Keycaps Stock (Double-Shot PBT)
Switches Cherry MX Blue
Other 765g weight

In 2015 I was working both with a desktop PC and an Apple MacBook Pro for which I already bought a Magic Keyboard. I was looking for a keyboard that matches the Apple keyboard’s size and color. With the Vortex Pok3r I found a very compacte and high-quality keyboard. Especially the high weight by using a metal case convinced me. This time, I decided to go for Cherry MX Blue switches. Those switches are tactile and also have a clicky feedback when activating the switching point.

Ducky One 2 TKL

Form factor TKL
Keycaps Stock
Switches Cherry MX Brown + O rings

In 2018 I changed my job and commuted pretty often between home office and office workplace. I was looking for a mobile keyboard because I had no personal workplace. You might call me picky – but I think it’s hygienically unsafe to share your keyboard with an unknown amount of co-workers. I decided to go for the Ducky One 2 TKL which is kinda mobile while still being conventional. Writing code on the Pok3r was often inconvenient for me so I wanted to have a bigger keyboard this time.

Once again, I had chosen Cherry MX Brown switches and silenced them with O rings.

Ducky One 2 Mini RGB

Form factor 60%
Keycaps Stock
Switches Cherry MX Brown + O rings

In 2020 I moved to a different city and began commuting by public transport and bicycle only – as a result the Ducky One 2 TKL didn’t fit in my bag depending on the appointment calendar. You know what followed – I had to find an even smaller keyboard. Luckily a Twitter contact sold the smaller Ducky One 2 Mini RGB with my favorited MX Browns switches – you could also call it fate? 🙂

Since then I’m using the keyboard on the road and also at home. To increase the WAF I had to add O rings as well. To be honest I was not a fan of RGB keyboards – but under some circumstances it can be quite useful having light – e.g. when writing code from dusk till dawn.

UT47.2 Custom Build

Form factor 40%
Keycaps Lasered DSA, DSA Purple Blanks, Smogon artisan
Switches OUTEMU Silent Forest 68g Tactile
Other Hotswap sockets, 8x WS2812B RGB, USB-C

When I turned 30 in 2020 a close friend suprised me with a UT47.2 kit – a keyboard in the very compact 40% form factor. At this time I always avoided custom builds with community PCBs because I looked way too time-consuming to me. On boards such as r/MechanicalKeyboards there is a huge community crafting PCBs, keycaps and cases. These parts are produced in small batches and financed like crowdfunding which requires patient interested buyers.

Well, now it was too late and I fell in the rabbit hole and had to find matching switches, keycaps and case for the UT47.2 I planned to use as travel keyboard. A huge benefit of community PCBs is that the firmware is usually open-source. A lot of those keyboards also support replacing the micro-controller – as a result you can easily upgrade Bluetooth functionality or special key shortcuts. This enables new possibilities – especially for fancy gimmicks.

The project isn’t finished, yet but I think the first results aren’t that bad.

BM16A Macropad Custom Build

Keycaps Lasered DSA, DSA Blanks
Switches OUTEMU Silent Forest 68g Tactile
Other 4x WS2812B RGB, USB-C

Because of permanent home office and regular lockdowns I had a lot of spare time in 2020 that was also wasted on Reddit. I discovered so called macropads – very small keyboards for numbers or special function keys. In combination with the free QMK firmware this offers a lot of functionality. Because I had a lot of remote trainings and other business appointments at that time I quickly found a lot of use cases:

  • Managing video requests
  • Controlling microphone level
  • Using favourite emojis

As I was already was a regular AliExpress visitor thanks to the UT47.2, I quickly found and bought the BM16A macropad.

2% Milk Macropad Custom Build

Keycaps DSA Blanks
Switches OUTEMU Silent Forest 68g Tactile
Other 1x WS2812B RGB, Arduino Pro Micro

Designed as a funny gadget a very small macropad that looks like a milk carton and only has 2 keys spreaded 2021 in the community. As I began having fun with building keyboards I know that I would have to get this one, too.

The macropad comes with a Arduino Pro Micro controller that can also be used with QMK – an RGB LED can be used for fun.

Gherkin Custom Build

Form factor 30%
Keycaps DSA Blanks
Switches OUTEMU Silent Forest 68g Tactile
Other Hotswap sockets via Mill-Max 0305 Holtite, QMK Proton-C Rev.2, Speaker

When browsing the internet I randomly stumbled upon an even smaller keyboard size: 30%. The Gherkin keyboard is pretty compact and only offers 30 keys – and it’s not only pretty small but also kinda cheap. It supports using multiple micro controllers and therefore can also be used with QMK. It is not very comfortable typing on it – but hey, it’s also about fun, isn’t it? 🙂

Keychron K8

Form factor TKL
Keycaps Stock (ABS)
Switches Durock Silent Linear Switches Daybreak 67g
Other Hotswap sockets, 4000mAh Akku, Bluetooth 5.1 and USB-C

After one year of constant and collective home office I was looking for a nearly silent keyboard in 2021. I had to realize that even MX Browns with O rings are annoyging for people that have no empathy for mechanical keyboards. I could have gone with the OUTEMUs I was already using on two other keyboards – but I didn’t want to wait that long and decided to make an experiment.

While I always have been using tactile or clicky switches until now I went for linear a pre-lubed switches. As the K8 supports hotswapping I was only a matter of minutes to replace switches.

I have to admit that I was wrong with my judgement about linear switches. The Durock Daybreaks offer a very smooth and silent typing experience, 67g of actuation force are a good value. After some hours you’ll get used to the missing pushback during actuation. At least I was unable to detect any typos during fast typing.

You can find more details in my test report.

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