Quick Review: Massdrop x Oblotzky GMK Space Cadet

Introduction

Link: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-oblotzky-gmk-space-cadet-keycap-set

Right from its inception on geekhack’s Interest Check¬†subforum, GMK Space Cadet was an insta buy for me. This keycap set appealed to me on a personal level because 7bit’s old SA run of this colorway was what really pushed me out of my Magicforce-Leopold-KUL phase into custom keyboards and keysets. I remember seeing the group buy post for Round 6 and getting sticker shocked, but intrigued.

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Badly kerned ‘SP ACE’ on the box graphic

Now that I’ve had a chance to really play with GMK’s remake of the fabled MIT Lisp computer keycaps, here are my thoughts.

Colorway

While I don’t have the original Space Cadet keycaps nor the SA 7bit caps to compare this to, in isolation, the blue modifier-grey alpha colorway of GMK Space Cadet is amazing. In natural light, the blue modifiers in particular really pop. The cool grey alphas paired with the (obviously) cool blue modifiers also give the set a coherent look. Oblotzky is one of the 4-5 keycap designers I trust with getting the colors right, and this set exemplifies that.

On a more personal note, grey and blue are two of the three colors (the other being brown) I gravitate towards in the clothes that I wear, and as such the keycap set fits my vibe too. I’m not sure about you all, but the only thing I ever think about is how my fit pairs with the colors on my keyboard. It is God-tier accessorizing at the highest level.

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GMK Space Cadet is also a relatively flexible colorway (with sets like GMK Laser on the other end of the flexibility spectrum, for example). It looks great on a wide range of keyboard colors like grey (pictured above), black, navy, and silver. The special dual-legend grey alphas could also be paired with existing sets like GMK Oblivion and GMK Serika.

All-in-all, it’s a great looking colorway and my favorite GMK set to date.

Keycap Quality

The 1.5mm-thick ABS found here is keycap quality par excellence. The keycaps are generally free of burrs and defects. The longer keys like the spacebar, ‘Return’ and ‘Shift’ are also straighter than men with monster trucks and AR-15s. This means that they will always sound and feel great on correctly lubed stabilizers.

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White alpha doubleshot inset the grey/blue base color

The surface texture is relatively smooth from the get go, sitting somewhere between EnjoyPBT (rougher) and BSP (smoother) in terms of roughness. While a rougher surface texture usually means a slight bump in typing accuracy for me, I personally prefer it smoother for that premium, lush feel.

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GMK’s ABS surface finish on the ‘Control’ key

Where GMK’s ABS really shines is in its long term use. Shine as in the keycaps lose their surface texture, and not the good shine. Like moonshine. The quirks of English, amirite?

I quite like the look of a fully-shined keycap set, and I’m keeping this set past it’s initial wear to hopefully get to that point, but it’s not for everyone.

Apart from issues with long-term durability, GMK keycaps set the bar for keycap quality.

Legend Quality

Legend quality on GMK keycaps are the best in-class for doubleshot ABS, and it’s not even close (I’m looking at you, JTK).

The legend files used here are pretty great. Typography and kerning issues are few and far between (Get it? Kerning… Far between… I’m on a roll here), with the minor spacing issue here and there. Check these photos out:

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Too large spacing between ‘P’ and ‘A’
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Relatively ok stepped ‘Control’, but bad kerning next to ‘O’ on the regular R3 ‘Control’
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Slightly too spaced ‘T’ key on the longer right ‘Shift’, yet perfect kerning on the left one

In the ‘Shift’ and R3 ‘Control’ photos above, we can see that there is a difference in typography between keys with the same legends. One could be perfect, but the other could be badly kerned. As such, I’m guessing that it’s not so much am inherent production flaw but a more fixable file flaw. New molds may be needed to support those changes (which is costly), but there’s no need to upend their entire production method.

Legend sharpness is also excellent. In the past, high contrast legends on GMK sets tended to feather at the edge between legend and base, but all my latest GMK sets (see: GMK Laser Review) do not have this problem. Look at the sharp-as-a-tack edges of the control key here:

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Nearly perfect edges on the white ‘Control’ legends, but with some ‘pooling’ on the bottom half of the ‘T’, ‘R’, and ‘L’ letters

However, some of the sharpness benefits that doubleshot ABS brings over dye-sublimated PBT are offset by what I call ‘pooling’ on the smaller letters. ‘Pooling’ is the blobbing/gathering of plastic at the end points of the smaller legends that is inherent in the doubleshot production method. Check these out:

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Some serious ‘pooling’ on the top line of ‘E’ and the curve on ‘S’ that makes it look warped relative to BSP (left). The legends are way sharper on GMK, though.

 

 

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The letters on the ‘Backspace’ key look like they’re dancing when put next to BSP (bottom)

The ‘Rub Out’ keys are also somehow much taller and larger than the other legends in the set, which is odd and annoying:

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Those few issues aside, the legends found here are still some of the best in the market. The ‘pooling’ issue and some small kerning issues mean that it’s not perfect yet, but we’re getting there.

Conclusion

In short, GMK Space Cadet is great. As someone who loves the colorway but far prefers Cherry profile over SA, this keycap set is the one. GMK and Oblotzky have done great work

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While there are some things that the best dye-sublimated keycap sets do better (typography, no pooling, deeper sound, dat sweet PBT feel), there will always be a place for GMK in any collection because properly color matched custom colorways are, in my opinion, the coolest thing about this hobby.

For me, GMK Space Cadet is a keeper. Considering the fact that I now I have a one-in-one-out system of collecting, I think this says a lot.

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