Best of Keyboards 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, I thought I highlight five of the best keyboard-related products released this year.

Quantrik’s QXP

Link: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=95026.0

The QXP is a 60% sandwich-mounted keyboard that made a splash this year with its value pricing, great anodizing quality, standard 60% PCB compatibility, OTD Koala-inspired curves and pleasing color choices. Many QXP owners have cited this board as their favorite board to come out this year, and I can see why.

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The QXP buy had a minor setback in the form of a FedEx guy dropping a box of brass weights on hard concrete, and Quantrik is notoriously uncommunicative outside of Discord, but the buy ran pretty smoothly — something many group buy runners cannot seem to get right.

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2018 was a breakout year for Quantrik, winning the Best New Designer/Artist/Whatever Award (yes, ‘whatever’ is in the official title of the award) as voted by users of the r/MechanicalKeyboards Discord. I’m hoping Quantrik builds upon this initial success with more great boards in 2019.

KBDfans’ Tofu 60%

Link: https://kbdfans.cn/products/kbdfans-tofu-60-aluminum-case

While tray-mounted keyboards get a bad rap most of the time, keyboards like LeandreN’s Fjell and the Duck Sidewinder/Raven have garnered critical acclaim from even the most discerning of collectors. Another such board, surprisingly, is the 88-dollar KBDfans Tofu 60%.

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With its premium anodization quality that puts most custom kits to shame, its simple design and its low, low price, the Tofu is a no-brainer. In addition to the chocolate-brown pictured above, it also comes in olive drab and blue grey, two of my favorite colors on a keyboard.

In addition, if you have a Dremel handy, you can remove that nasty center post and you’ll have a truly no-compromise tray mount that rivals kits at triple or quadruple the price. Like I’ve mentioned in my review of the Duck Raven, that one small change can make a huge difference in typing feel.

KBDfans is killing the game, doing what Xondat and new LZ are doing, but better. With this, I’m hoping keyboard designers are pushed into actually designing keyboards and not putting out that same old wedge we’ve been seeing since the first custom keyboards, pretty much.

Kin’s TX60

Link: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=94637.650

Released early this year, kin25’s TX60 is one hell of a board. With the TX60, you get kin25’s legendary quality control, a hard plate setup that’s ideal for linears and a HUGE brass weight that makes for the most stable typing experience on a 60%.

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It has not performed well in the aftermarket, probably because it has always been readily available up until a few weeks ago, but that also means it could be had for a steal on the secondary market.

I’ve said a lot this year about the TX60 (here and here), and as such it has been a conscious decision on my part to talk about it less, but it is way too good of a keyboard to not include here.

I guess I’m still a TX shill.

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EnjoyPBT and Gok

EnjoyPBT 9009: https://kbdfans.cn/products/pre-orderenjoypbt-9009-keycaps-set

EnjoyPBT Black on White: https://kbdfans.cn/products/gbenjoypbt-black-on-white-with-icon-mods-159keys

This year, EnjoyPBT has stepped up their game in both the dye-sub quality and legend files departments, with the latter change in large part due to community member Gok. Over the past few months, Gok worked with both KBDfans and EnjoyPBT to brush up the legend files in preparation for his EnjoyPBT Black on White keyset, bringing the files from ‘just acceptable’ to ‘best in class’. What was riddled with kerning and typography errors before are now, dare I say, perfect.

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Additionally, EnjoyPBT started producing custom colorway keycap sets for the first time this year with 9009 and Black on White. This is a huge change as it means that EnjoyPBT is no longer a beige/grey one-trick pony. With the Kuro/Shiro, Greyscale, Royal Alpha and Slate sets coming up, the future is looking bright (and colorful, I guess) for EnjoyPBT.

Massdrop x RedSuns GMK Red Samurai

Link: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-redsuns-gmk-red-samurai-keycap-set

GMK keycap sets have always been my favorite part of the hobby because I’m a stickler for perfection and only GMK comes close. Keyboards, switches and other keycap sets are cool and all, but there is much that still could be improved on, in my opinion.

If I had to pick just one set out of the many amazing sets this year, it would be Massdrop’s and RedSuns’ GMK Red Samurai set. The burgundy alpha, charcoal modifier, light taupe accented set really stood out for me with its great colorway and amazing novelty offering.

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One downside with the set is that it really only looks great on champagne or black boards, but when it is paired with either one of the two, the set really sings.

At $220 on r/mechmarket, I don’t think GMK Red Samurai is worth the price of admission. However, if you had the foresight to get in on the initial buy, you would have what is my favorite GMK set of 2018.

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