Okay. /dev/tty MT3 is one confusing ass name. After doing some reading on Matt3o’s blog, /dev/tty (apparently pronounced Device Terminal) is the colorway of the keyset, whereas MT3 is the name of that fully-sculpted and spherical profile that the keycaps have.
Now that we got that out of the way, the keyset. I was super interested in /dev/tty when it was first announced because I too bought into the Topre Hi-Pro/spherical top hype that this keycap set offered (I have since seen the light — all hail Cherry profile). I did not end up joining the Massdrop buy for these, but I did pick up a set on /r/mechmarket in the Triumph colorway to see if I liked it.
So here we are. After about 3 months of typing on /dev/tty, I’m prepared to share my thoughts about the keyset in this review.
Keycap Profile: MT3 (high profile, spherical top, fully sculpted R0-R1-R2-R3-R4-R4/R5)
Colorway: Triumph (White Alphas and Blue-Green Modifiers)
Material: Dye-Sublimated PBT
Pricing: ~$100 for TKL Compatibility
Where to Buy: Massdrop
The /dev/tty set I have here for review is in the Triumph colorway, which has white-colored alphas and bluegreen-colored modifiers. Blue-green is a color I enjoy a lot; it’s the color that’s always inked in my EDC Lamy Dialog 3 fountain pen. While the Triumph color here is a nice shade of blue-green, it’s not a color that works well with other existing colors in custom keyboards.
I understand why Matt3o and Massdrop went for the granite grey (the other colorway offered) as it is a basic, unoffensive set that many people can buy into. But, if they HAD to release another color, why this green? I would have greatly preferred a fully custom colorway by established makers like the Zambumons or the Oblotkys of the world. Hell! Even Matt3o is an accomplished keyset designer himself!
Overall, not too big a fan of the blue-green because of how out-of-left-field it is and I feel it’s a missed opportunity to show off the full capabilities of the MT3 production line.
Keycap quality on the /dev/tty is top notch across all the major categories I personally look at. The keycaps come in a thick-with-two-Cs 1.8mm PBT — the GIRTHIEST keycaps I’ve seen in the flesh. This is thicker than all other PBT sets like ePBT/Gateron/IMSTO, BSP and PBT SA, and falling short only to the ABS Devlin K-series caps.
In terms of the PBT itself, the keycaps have very good quality control. Out of the 100-ish keys I got in the Base Kit and TKL kit, I have exactly 0 keys with significant burrs or defects. There are some here and there with small dangling bits (that’s what she said ha got ’em), but when compared to ePBT it’s practically a non-issue.
Warping is a serious issue that most PBT keysets face. If a key were warped enough (and it doesn’t take too much warping to be ‘enough’), it would cause an uneven depress and as such cause the stabilizer to rattle. Fortunately, warping is not a problem with the /dev/tty. On all 5 of the ‘Backspace’, ‘Return’, Left ‘Shift’, Right ‘Shift’ and spacebar keys, there is no visible warping.
What impressed me the most is the lack of warping on the 6.25u spacebar. Warping issues are usually amplified in the spacebars as they are the longest keys in a set, but as seen in the two photos above, the 6.25u spacebar in the /dev/tty is almost perfect. This could be a luck thing as I may have gotten a good batch of long keys, but this still deserves my commendation.
The texture of the keycaps leaves something to be desired, though. (EDIT: By texture in this section, I mean the appearance of the texture, and not the physical texture) Looking at the keycaps up close, I see that the caps have a skin-like texture to it. They look wrinkly and are covered in pores which, not gonna lie, creeps me out a little. You can see this to greater effect in the picture below:
The texture on the keycaps itself, on the other hand, are decent enough. They’re slightly rougher to the touch than ePBT and BSP keycaps, which could be a good thing for some folks. Personally, I like my keycaps slightly smoother like how the Gateron/ePBT keycaps are, but the texture on the MT3 caps are quite alright.
For this part of the review, I would usually judge the quality of the legends by comparing them to other keycaps. However, in this case, there is no point doing so as the /dev/tty legends are by far the worse of the ones I have with me. You can check out some of the side-by-side comparisons in my review of the EnjoyPBT 9009 here. As such, I’m going to keep this section short(er).
The biggest issue that bogs this set down is the horrendous centering and straightness of the keycaps. Just looking at the 87 keys on my TKL, there are 15 keys (if not more!) with either tilted or off-centered legends. The worst offenders of this would definitely be the tilted keys in the nav cluster and the right-shifted *ha* right shift as seen in these photos:
Feathering is a phenomenon in dye-subbing whereby the ink doesn’t transfer perfectly onto the keycaps, causing a halo effect around the keycap that reduces line sharpness. In the case of /dev/tty, the feathering is some of the worse I’ve seen on PBT keycaps. In this next photo, we see that the sharpness on the left key (ePBT) is significantly better than the one of the right (/dev/tty), and that’s not just because the /dev/tty is out of focus.
This feathering issue hits the keys with loads of curves the hardest as seen in the following close-up of the ‘G’ key:
Personally, I’m used to feathering on my keycaps as my daily driver is an HHKB and the feathering on all Topre keycaps (your very expensive Hi-Pro included) is bad. However, in the MX world where more than 3/4 of the keycap sets are ABS (zero feathering every time) and where EnjoyPBT has stepped up their game so much, this is just unacceptable. Another case of decent absolute performance but very bad relative performance.
The one redeeming quality of /dev/tty’s dye-subbing is the good typography throughout the set. While severely tilted, the navigation cluster, which is usually a hotbed of kerning issues on other sets, are done very nicely here on the /dev/tty. The correct spacing between each of the letters show that Matt3o was dilligent with his work on the typography. Well done.
Overall, the legends are really bad. This was also an issue that many people on reddit brought up as seen here, here and here so it’s not just an isolated issue. It’s a damn shame as it really hamstrings the set from ever being great.
MT3 Profile and Typing Experience
Going into this keyset, the thing I thought I would hate the most would be the profile. I’ve been using cylindrical, medium-height, sculpted profiles like Cherry (GMK, ePBT, BSP) and OEM (Topre, other stock keyboards) for many years now. I was not too impressed by SA or Topre Hi-Pro (though I only typed on Hi-Pro for a short period of time) and I thought this would be the same.
Now that I’ve used the MT3 profile for 3 months, I found that it isn’t too bad. For one, the high-profile keycaps look absolutely amazing. The way the keycap sides and spherical tops catch the light make the keyset glisten.
The finger cupping effect of the spherical tops are VERY comfortable and inviting to the fingertips. The MT3 tops are slightly more sinked in than that of SA and Hi-Pro, which I find increases the comfort on the fingertips when just resting them on the home row. I constantly find myself resting on the keycaps when idling and the bottom lip of the keycaps catch my fingertips perfectly. Very nice.
However, it is that same spherical tops that cause clipping issues when moving my fingers between and within rows. Clipping happens when your finger catches on the edge of a keycap when moving your fingers around the keyboard to type non-homing row keys. Personally, clipping is something I dislike heavily because I only use linears when typing with MX style switches so any small force on the keycap will depress and actuate the switch. On tactiles and clickies, the high resistance needed to overcome the bump/click bar before actuation will prevent accidental actuations by clipping.
When moving up rows, say from homing to the Q/T/Y/P keys, if I don’t consciously type with an arched hand, I find myself clipping onto the keys around the ones I’m going for. I also sometimes clip onto the keys I was coming from when typing with the same fingerstwice in a row (an example would be the ‘j’ followed by ‘u’ in the word ‘juice’). There is also some clipping (albeit to a lesser extent) when moving within rows (for example from homing to Left Shift/’/Enter keys). These issues mean that I make slightly more errors when typing on the MT3 profile when compared to Cherry or OEM.
Because MT3 caps are tall in size, they also suffer from keycap wobble like SA does. I find that it doesn’t affect my typing experience too much, but it could be a big problem when using switches with siginificant stem tilt like Kailh BOX switches.
These problems aside, I find it fun typing on this profile for short bursts of time. The sculpt on the MT3 profile is comfortable and pleasant to type on. It’s also nice taking a break away from Cherry sometimes. To me, MT3 is that one person who’s out-of-this-world attractive, but has that lousy personality and other flaws that I won’t be able to live with. I feel like I understand what it means to be a married man cheating on his wife.
But when typing for longer durations (like I’m doing with this review, typing on MT3), the constant need to Backspace my errors is interruptive and fatiguing. Silly me thinking it’s romantic and shit to type on the keycap set I’m reviewing. Ultimately though, all roads lead back to Cherry, the wife I’m tired of but still love deep inside.
The sound on the MT3 is hands down the best on any set I’ve typed on. Period. Because MT3 is made of PBT, super thick, tall and heavy, it produces a bottom-out sound like no other. The bottom-out sound is deep, thocky and just oh so wonderful when paired with my lubed vintage black switches. That spacebar thock is straight up the best sound I’ve heard coming out of a keyboard.
I described it as sounding musical in my ePBT 9009 Review and I stand by it. It’s not the most consistent sounding thing in the world due to the difference in mass between rows, but goddamn does the variation in sound make it sing.
/dev/tty is a keyset with a high potential to be good. It has excellent keycap quality, a decent profile and amazing sound going for it over the competition, high-profile or otherwise. However, in its current R1 iteration, there are too many flaws in the legends that make it difficult to overlook its other issues. At this moment, other than for the people who want to give this profile a try, I cannot recommend this keyset.
Fortunately, Matt3o posted an article about a month back saying that the R2 drop of /dev/tty will have far improved legend quality in terms of the feathering (Matt3o used the term ‘color bleeding’) and centering. If these issues really do get fixed in R2, /dev/tty will shoot straight up to my list of recommended keysets. However, until that day comes, stay away.