Review: KBDfans’ KBD67

Introduction

When the KBD67 was first announced, I thought it was the one. The high-end custom killer. The game-changer. The man of the people, but like, for keyboards. Because of its complete feature set, simple-yet-great looks, and relatively low price point, I thought that the keyboard would eventually attain iconic status in the community purely on the back of how objectively good it is.

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Fast-forward to now, the KBD67 hasn’t proliferated the market as well as I’d hoped. Wondering what went wrong, I wanted to review the keyboard for myself. As such, when I was given the opportunity to review it as part of a build commission  for a friend of the blog, I jumped at the chance.

Specifications

Case Material: Anodized 6063 T6 Aluminum

Plate Material: Anodized Aluminum

Weight Material: PVD-finished Brass

Layout: 65% with Bottom Blocker

Elevation Angle: 5 degrees

Front Height: 20mm

Case Construction: 2-Part Case with Bottom-Mounted (!!!) Plate

PCB: Proprietary KBD67 PCB with QMK and USB-C support (Non-Hotswap)

Price: $189 (Case, Plate, PCB, Weight, Stabilizers) +$30 Brass Plate Upgrade

Link: https://kbdfans.cn/collections/diy-kit/products/coming-soon-kbd67-mechanical-keyboard-diy-kit

Unboxing

As per usual with KBDfans keyboards, the unboxing experience is very spare. The KBD67 came in a generic black cardboard box with a custom cut foam insert. It’s good enough to prevent any damage during shipping and transportation, but nothing to write home about.

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I’m okay with this, though. With higher end custom keyboards, I would expect a better unboxing experience as it is an additional platform for group buy runners to flex their design chops. For cheaper keyboards like the KBD67, on the other hand, I would prefer a more basic unboxing experience to bring down the price of the kit.

After a quick physical inspection of the board, I’m glad to say that the keyboard came dent-free, with only a small scratch on the top case right below the spacebar — nothing a blob of Sharpie can’t hide. The PCB also came preflashed with a good default layout, which is always good to see.

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One other cool thing that KBDfans has done here is that they’ve provided an extra plate screw and an extra case screw with the kit. As a serial screw loser (or screwed loser, depending on who you’re asking), this is a godsend. As far as I know, the only other manufacturer who does this routinely is LZ. I hope that this becomes the norm rather than the exception in our hobby. #innovation

Build Process

Building the KBD67 was a smooth process, even if it didn’t seem like it would be the case.

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Streaky finish and uneven switch cutouts on the brass plate

My first impressions of the brass plate was ‘well shit, the switch cutouts are fucked’. Just looking at them, they were wonky and not perfectly rectangular. The thought of needing to pull out a dremel made me anxious as this was a customer build. Luckily, the Zealios V2 switches used here clicked in assuringly. To my surprise, the switches were perfectly aligned, too. 5 of the cutouts were slightly too tight and a bit of twisting and pushing was needed for perfect insertion, but it’s not a big deal.

Even better, the plate has a fixed bottom row — a much-welcomed feature for 65% and 75% keyboards. The PCB has support for multiple bottom rows (insert joke about swiss cheese), but the relatively fixed plate layout meant that none of the switches needed aligning before soldering.

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Fixed layout bottom left keys

As an unabashed layoutist, I believe that certain layouts (Tsangan on 60% and TKLs, 6.25u on 65% and 75%) are objectively better than others and KBDfans chose my favorite 65% layout for the KBD67. As such, I’m glad to see the largest custom keyboard maker supporting fixed layouts, even if it was at the cost of a small amount of sales.

This point doesn’t need mentioning because the plate is so good, but for completion sake, the PCB mount leg holes were perfectly sized for both my go-to retooled Cherry MX Blacks and the customer’s Zealios V2s. This means that the PCB is good to go for future plateless 65% keyboards if KBDfans chooses to go down that route.

Programming the PCB is also a breeze as it supports QMK out of the box. It’s no VIA configurator, but it gets the job done.

Case Design and Quality

Aesthetic design-wise, the KBD67 almost has the simplest construction possible for a bottom-mounted keyboard. It has your standard 2-part case with a seam running around the sides that joins the top and bottom cases.

However, unlike many other 2-part cases, the KBD67 does nothing to hide that seam. While other popular 2-part cases like the TGR Alice, Noxary X60 and LZ CLS try to make the seams as flush as possible, the edges on the KBD67’s top and bottom cases are filleted, meaning that the seam is both visible and tactual.

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The one deviation from a simple case profile is the OTD Koala-esque bottom curve. It’s a feature that’s found on a few of 2018’s more popular keyboards like Quantrik’s QXP, but it doesn’t do much for me. I personally prefer a case recess that is more functional in terms of making the keyboard easier to pick up, and the Koala curve is not that.

The PVD-coated brass plate found here is a welcomed addition. That brighter-than-my-future, gold-hued plate seen through the keycap layer adds a low-key-baller feel to the keyboard. It does attract fingerprints, but it could be easily brought back to full sparkle with alcohol wipes.

Quality-wise, the case is hit-or-miss.

First of, the top case-bottom case color matching is excellent. On all 4 sides, I see virtually no difference in its black shade or tone between the cases. While black anodization tends to hide flaws a lot better than other anodization colors, it is still very impressive. I would even put the matching on the KBD67 up there with the TX and Ducks of the world — two makers with the best reputation for color matching in the hobby.

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This is one of the benefits of joining a large-scale group buy; it’s easier to color match when there are multiple top and bottom cases to choose from. Smaller-scale, more expensive keyboards don’t always mean better quality.

The anodization itself is also top-notch. The grains are smooth to the touch and consistent to the eye. There is minor streaking on the sides that is very difficult to spot in perfect lighting, much less in photos. Not a deal breaker by any means.

The keycap-to-bezel distance is questionable, to say the least. While the bottom distance is pretty much perfect, the top and side distances are way too small. The reverse Tokyo60, one could say. While a cropped distance does look better, it makes it difficult to fit a keycap puller through the crevices.

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The bottom screw holes also aren’t dimensioned long enough, causing the screw head to protrude out slightly from the bottom case even when fully screwed in.

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Screw head protruding slightly

The brass weight on the KBD67 is a thin, grill-shaped insert that screws on to the back of the bottom case. Because of how thin (and thus light) it is, it’s more of an aesthetic accent than a vibration reduction element.

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The light brass weight means the keyboard itself is light, too. In combination with the generic round bump ons found underneath, the KBD67’s low weight means that it slides around my desk pretty easily.

Typing Feel and Sound

A keyboard’s plate material and plate-mounting system are the most important factors in determining the typing feel and sound. The KBD67’s bottom-mounted brass plate setup combines my favorite plate material with my favorite plate-mounting system, and it performs as well as I thought it would.

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Bottom mount in action

As I’ve mentioned in my guide on keyboard construction, if the plate were mounted to the heavier bottom case instead of the lighter top case (as found in top mounts), the typing feel would theoretically be more stable. This is because the case vibrations from bottoming out would have to pass through more material and thus would be more dampened.

While I can’t say for certain that a bottom-mounted case feels much better than a top-mounted case because the KBD67 only supports the former, I will say that the keyboard types like a dream. The bottom out feel is firm with very little give or shake — just how I like it. Sound production is also singular and deep with little reverb.

Do take this with a grain of salt, though. The Typing Feel and Sound section of my keyboard reviews is something I find difficult to write with any authority because of how subjective it is. Because of how important it is as a performance marker, I feel the need to write about it as part of a comprehensive review. However, the difference in ‘feeling’ between keyboards of similar setups is almost negligible in most cases. As such, I can only be sure of an opinion when a keyboard is egregiously bad. Quantifying how good a keyboard is, on the other hand, is a far more difficult task.

Quick note on the Zealios V2: They’re amazing. Without going into too much detail on the switch (if you want detail, check out Krelbit’s excellent review), the Zealios V2’s tactile bump occurs right at the top of the depress motion and is the most tactile switch I’ve ever tried. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who prefers a more subtle tactile bump (think MX Browns and Topre), but I’ve since changed my mind. Typing on Zealios V2 is flat-out fun. I have concerns about the switch’s durability, especially when desoldering, but performance-wise it’s my favorite tactile switch out right now.

Conclusion

I think that the KBD67 could be the point of diminishing returns for most people, and is definitely so for the rational keyboard enthusiast. Its complete feature set meets all the basic requirements that I have for a keyboard, plus some. It’s an easy board to build and has a relatively special plate mounting system in the bottom mount. The case quality is also one of the best out there irrespective of price. While KBDfans keyboards have previously carried the ‘great, but for the price’ caveat, they’ve now shown that they’re ‘great at any price’.

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If you’re looking for a great performing board and don’t mind too much about reddit/Discord clout, the KBD67 is the board to get.

2 thoughts on “Review: KBDfans’ KBD67

  1. Good stuff! I’m surprised to see that wei chose to use bottom mount in this board, as the current market is definitely inflated with top mount boards. Makes me want to try it though

    1. Thanks Donut! Yeah I think the bottom mount is on people’s minds now, and I’m hoping that translates to more testing with it from independent designers.

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