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Steal This Keyboard: Input Club’s K-Type Is On Massdrop (Update: Drop Is Live)

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Update, 5/16/17, 9:45am PT: The drop is now live and will remain open for 14 more days. You can find it here (you may need to log in).

Update, 5/8/17, 7pm PT: Massdrop announced that the K-Type drop will go live on Tuesday, May 16 at 6am PT. 

Original article, 5/5/17, 2pm PT:

Disclaimer: Members of the Input Club have written for Tom’s Hardware.

The Input Club is on a quest to make the most perfect keyboard ever, and the latest result of the group’s efforts is the K-Type. Presently, it’s listed on Massdrop as a preview (it’s being produced by Massdrop), and the drop should be live, we’re told, in the middle of this month.

“Full Sovereignty”

Any of the handful of Input Club members will tell you all about how each and every facet of the K-Type was carefully thought out, researched, troubleshot, and revised until they felt it was perfect (or as perfect as possible, anyway). But on the surface, what’s perhaps most intriguing about the whole project is that the Input Club developed the K-Type so you can make and program your own.

Indeed, the K-Type consists of open software, firmware, and hardware. The Input Club describes this as giving you “full sovereignty” over your keyboard.

You can, actually, make this thing at home. After the K-Type starts shipping, the Input Club will publish and open source everything. With the right specifications in hand, you can CNC your own chassis. The switches are hot-swappable, which means no soldering. And using the Keyboard Layout Language (KLL) developed by the Input Club’s Jacob Alexander, you can program any layout and as many layers as you want, so you can easily switch between them. And you can, of course, choose your own aftermarket keycap sets. You should be able to acquire everything in kit form if you like.

New Switches

You’ll note in the K-Type’s specifications that it uses “Kaihua mechanical switches with light pipe casings,” and you may scratch your head, wondering what switches they’re talking about. That’s because these are new switches, or at least a tweaked version, designed by the Input Club and manufactured by Kaihua (maker of Kailh switches).

Full details on these new switches are not yet available, but we expect to learn more within a couple of weeks. You can see in one of the images above that the cases are transparent.

Build Quality

Generally speaking, the Input Club sought to go high-end with the K-Type’s build quality. The chassis’ frame is a single piece of aluminum, and it’s designed to be both low-profile and heavy. Further, as the Massdrop listing stated, “Instead of a steel plate mounted on a plastic case, the K-Type uses a single block of aluminum to house the switches,” which provides strength even as it gives you a bit of flex. The keycaps are PBT--specifically, shine-through doubleshot--and they have a “Helvetica inspired” font.

The RGB lighting is also programmable. The listing didn’t go into detail about exactly what you can do with the lighting, but it is fully programmable. The listing did say that “...each key can be customized exactly how you like. Program the lighting to cycle through the entire spectrum, set your keyboard to a single color, or program the underlighting to match your setup.”

That’s right, underlighting--there’s a band across the bottom edge of the chassis that also has RGB lighting, and it’s of course also programmable. Input Club also noted that the backlighting should be essentially flicker-free because it runs at 100fps.

Specs, Etc.

You can request to join the drop now; at press time, the K-Type has already gathered over 1,000 requests. The official launch is forthcoming.

The K-Type, as a complete keyboard, will cost you $200, and it’s available only on Massdrop. There’s no word on pricing for a kit version.

Input Club K-Type
TypeANSI TKL, 87 keys
Switch-“Kaihua mechanical switches with light pipe casings,” hot-swappable-Cherry stabilizers
Onboard StorageYes
Lighting-RGB-backlit switches-RGB-lit band around chassis-Full configurable
Cable/Additional PortsDual USB Type-C connectors (for daisy-chaining other KLL devices)
Key CapsPBT doubleshot backlit (OEM profile)
Dimensions36.8 x 14 x 3.6cm
Weight964g
Software-Keyboard Layout Language (KLL)
ConstructionAluminum
Misc.-Open source hardware and software-Detachable magnetic foot
Price$200 (available only on Massdrop)
  • cryoburner
    19652663 said:
    Any of the handful of Input Club members will tell you all about how each and every facet of the K-Type was carefully thought out, researched, troubleshot, and revised until they felt it was perfect (or as perfect as possible, anyway).

    I would think the "perfect" keyboard would be a color other than white, to avoid discoloration. I would also want a numpad, and maybe some additional controls, like a volume dial. And a wrist-rest. This keyboard's design seems a bit bare-bones, and its $200 price makes it one of the most expensive tenkeyless mechanical keyboards around.

    It does look nice though, I suppose.
    Reply
  • JamesSneed
    19653158 said:
    19652663 said:
    Any of the handful of Input Club members will tell you all about how each and every facet of the K-Type was carefully thought out, researched, troubleshot, and revised until they felt it was perfect (or as perfect as possible, anyway).

    I would think the "perfect" keyboard would be a color other than white, to avoid discoloration. I would also want a numpad, and maybe some additional controls, like a volume dial. And a wrist-rest. This keyboard's design seems a bit bare-bones, and its $200 price makes it one of the most expensive tenkeyless mechanical keyboards around.

    It does look nice though, I suppose.


    Other than your issue with white I disagree. I have a TKL WASD v2 on purpose for all those reasons you don't like this and I just love my WASD v2. The second usb port for Ergodox may be interesting to add 10-key, volume etc as an add-on will have to see on that part. Just to say some people will like this keyboard and if they make a black version I may think about it.

    Reply
  • dstarr3
    Yeah, I'm not paying $200 for a tenkeyless. And at the very least there should be a mute button.
    Reply
  • JoeMomma
    Couldn't you get better photography? At least try to enhance it in Photoshop?
    I can barely see what this device looks like.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    19655137 said:
    Couldn't you get better photography? At least try to enhance it in Photoshop?
    I can barely see what this device looks like.
    I first thought it was intended to be like one of those Das Keyboards with the blank keycaps. : D I suppose it might be difficult to photograph a white, backlit keyboard on a white background though. The backlit characters are probably more visible in-person, where you don't have bright fill-lighting shining on everything. For the record, giving it blank, semi-translucent keycaps would be kind of cool though.

    19653286 said:
    Other than your issue with white I disagree.
    You don't think it looks nice? : D

    My point was more that the design is far from what I would consider "the most perfect keyboard ever". I know there's a market for tenkeyless keyboards, but I can't help but think that their recent upswing in popularity mostly came about as a way for keyboard manufacturers to offer keyboards with mechanical switches at a reduced cost, rather than as a "feature". Certainly, many people don't have much "need" for a numpad, and some might be used to working with smaller laptops that lack the feature, but I can't say I see much benefit to lopping it off on a desktop keyboard, unless you're on a really small desk. Not only is a numpad useful for entering numbers, but the keys can also be assigned as shortcuts to common tasks in many programs.

    I would expect a $200 keyboard to have some additional functionality, let alone the same level of functionality as a standard PC keyboard from the early 90s. I like seeing peripherals evolve with additional features, not stripping away everything but the most basic functions. Now, this keyboard does have a few extras. There's the extra USB port, though that's limited to a type-C connector, so you won't be able to connect most devices without an adapter. The switches are also removable, although that's actually a feature also found on some off-brand mechanical keyboards that sell for under $50. It is something that might be nice to see on more keyboards though. And the open software might also be nice to have. I can't say that I see these small features justifying the price premium though. I suppose you're paying mostly for how the keyboard looks, more than anything.
    Reply
  • therealduckofdeath
    "Single block chassis"...
    Shows a split diagram where the top and bottom is separated by an LED thing... :D
    Anyhoo. This design would have looked great on a PC from a few years ago. Not so sure it's going to sell well in today's market. I haven't seen any "industrial" plain aluminium PC's in a long while.
    Reply
  • mattcrow
    How is this better than let's say Logitech G910?
    I don't understand people buying this kind of stuff.
    Every now and again I get an email from Massdrop, and there are always keyboards available to buy, of the same design, just different colours.
    They are not ergonomic, have to extra features, look just plain and awful, and come on! 200$?! WTF.
    Reply
  • bloodroses
    This is a very 'Mac-like' keyboard: 10 keyless, no extra frills, white. This keyboard is designed more for that mindset of beauty over functionality. I know quite a few that'd eat this up. It's the same people that prefer Bose or Monster over Sennheiser or Grado.

    Personally I'd rather spend money like that on a Ducky or DAS keyboard where functionality is more important.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    Maybe in the dark the white would be OK but in the light it is not. Those images make it hard to even see the key letters. The one from an angle I originally though had no letters.
    Reply
  • tachi1247
    Most of the people commenting thus far have likely never built a custom keyboard. $200 actually is pretty cheap for a full aluminum case and custom PCB that allows for full programability. Custom keyboards like this typically go for $300+. Not to mention that there will be a forthcoming API so that eventually this may function like a Das 5Q.

    Also, the keyboard isn't white. It's silver anodized aluminum with white keycaps. Those caps are likely to be discarded immediately by most buyers. People who are interested in things like this will almost certainly have their own set of custom caps to put on this thing.
    Reply