Review: Matt3o’s /dev/tty MT3 R1 Keycap Set

DSCF2543.jpg

Introduction

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.

Specifications

Designer: Matt3o

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

Thickness: 1.8mm

Pricing: ~$100 for TKL Compatibility

Where to Buy: Massdrop

:dev:tty Base and Triumph.001.jpeg

Colorway

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.

DSCF2542.jpg

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

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.

Cap Thickness.001

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.

:dev:tty Space Height Warp.001.jpeg:dev:tty Space Length Warp.001.jpeg

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:

DSCF2558.jpg

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.

Legend Quality

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:

:dev:tty Legend Tilt.001.jpeg

:dev:tty Right Shift.001.jpeg

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.

DSCF2467.jpg

This feathering issue hits the keys with loads of curves the hardest as seen in the following close-up of the ‘G’ key:

Version 2

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.

DSCF2545 2.jpg

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.

DSCF2606.jpg

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.

:dev:tty Row Comparison.001.jpeg

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.

DSCF2563.jpg

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.

Sound Profile

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.

Conclusion

/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.

Long Term Review: Nomos Tangente 35

Long Term Review is a series through which I take a closer look at a product that I’ve used for an extended period of time. Because of my experience using these products, I believe I have a unique and more detailed perspective on it. This allows me to provide insight on the product that would not be illuminated if only given a week or less with it.

DSCF2576.jpg

Introduction

The Nomos Tangente 35 is a watch that I fell in love with ever since my first encounter with it. As a shameless wannabe minimalist, I’ve been drawn to its bauhaus-inspired aesthtic and ‘form follows function’ marketing mantra. I mean, look at all those kids with their fancy pourover coffee setups and I-just-got-out-of-bed hairdo. It’s not wrong wanting to be them, right? I thought, y’know, if I had one of these here hipster watches I could be cool!

Anywhos, I’ve worn this watch for an extended time and I’ve developed a lot of thoughts about it. Like 3000 words a lot. So here’s my take on this wonderful little watch!

Specifications

Model Number: Nomos Tangente 35 Reference 139

Movement: Nomos Alpha (modified ETA/Pesaux 7001)

Case Material: 316L Stainless Steel

Glass Material: Sapphire Crystal

Caseback Material: Sapphire Crystal

Lug Width: 18mm

Diameter/Height: 35 mm/6.6 mm

Water Resistance: 30 meters

Price: $2180 including free 5-day shipping

Where to Buy: Nomos Store

Case

The Tangente 35’s case is 35mm in diameter, slighly less then 7mm in height and made from 316L stainless steel. The case itself is very svelte and sits very low to the wrist, an aesthetic I’ve come to enjoy among the sea of giant watches. The case is light on the wrist and very comfortable to wear for an extended period of time.

Nomos Case Construction.001.jpeg

As seen in the picture above, the case is a three-part construction (tripartite) that consists of the top case (bezel and crystal), middle case (case flank and lugs) and the sapphire caseback. This construction style means that there are two seams on the case between each of the parts. The seam that goes around the case plays the role of breaking up the visual mass of the case and and adding a detail on the case, but the tolerance on the seam is not great. Running my fingers along the seam from bottom to top, I found that there was an obvious bump. This means that the top case is ever so slightly larger than the middle case. I’ve never actually seen a tolerance problem on a watch I’ve handled ever so this is quite worrying.

The case is finished in high polish all over. This makes the watch stand out on the wrist despite its size as it reflects light very easily from the case flanks. However, because the whole thing is polished, the watch attracts micro-scratches very easily that tarnishes the polishing. The relative softness of 316L steel does not help this either.

DSCF2597.jpg

The lugs are a twice-angled affair with the first part sticking straight out from the case and the second bending downwards to better fit the curvature of the wrist. Because the lugs extend far out from the case and are finished in high polish, the Tangente looks much bigger on the wrist than its 35mm diameter would indicate. The two separate angles of each lug also means that they reflect light in different ways from different angles, making the watch stand out despite its small stature. However, the long and slim lug design means that the lugs may bend easily when a force is applied on them. That has not been my experience, but it’s something to be wary about.

The simple, thin, and bezel-less design of the Tangente makes it adapt to different strap options very well. It’s near-Daniel Wellington (and I mean that in a good way) ability of matching with any strap you put on it makes it a very versatile watch to wear. Want a hipster aesthetic? Put a suede strap on. Need it for business? The black cordovan strap is perfect for that. Want to look like you’re wearing a Daniel Wellington? Put a nato on that. I kid, but this aspect of the Tangente is very useful, especially if this watch is your only watch. I’ve personally worn this watch in many occasions but I’ve never felt the watch was out of place.

DSCF2586.jpg

Speaking about straps, the Tangente’s lugs use a pin hole spring bar system that makes it easy to change straps on the fly. All you need is a toothpick (or similar tool) to compress the spring bar from the outside to get the spring bar out. No need to fuss with a spring bar tool that may scratch up your lugs. This feature helps a lot when cleaning the dust off the crevices between the case and the lugs (which you will be doing a lot of if you want to keep your watch clean). However, this spring bar system means that there is a small hole through each lug which ruins the visual coherence of the lugs. Not that big of a deal for me — I take strap changeability over that minor aesthetic gripe any day — but it could be for you.

DSCF2596.jpg

Because the lugs and the case has that sharply-angled aesthetic, their edges (of which there are many) are easy to ding and nick. I’m usually very careful with my watches, but my Tangente has already developed a few nicks on the top case bezel. Chamfers or rounded edges which would fix this issue would look out of place in a watch like this. It’s just something Tangente (and Nomos in general) owners will have to live with.

Overall, the case while plain, has just enough detail to make it attractive. Durability is an issue though, and you can only polish that thin of a watch so many times.

Dial

The Tangente’s dial base is made out of galvanized steel plated in silver, which gives it a sparkly texture when viewed from certain angles. Looking at the dial closely, I don’t see any flaws to the plating; the texture is consistent throughout the dial. This choice of dial is much welcomed compared to a plain white dial found on many dress watches as it creates a visual interest on the dial base. I find myself rotating my wrist to see how the Tangente reacts to light in different angles. I don’t get that same enjoyment from other white dials like the one on the Rolex Explorer II. It’s an excellent dial base that the rest of the dial builds upon.

DSCF2594.jpg

The silver dial base is printed with a nice and glossy black for the arabic numerals and stick markers. The typography on both the numerals and text is generally excellent, with all the printing well-spaced, well-sized and well-centered. You can tell that significant thought was put into designing every part of the dial to make it aesthetically pleasing, and aesthetically pleasing it sure is.

All three of the hours, minutes and seconds hands are also real heat-blued hands and not the chemically-dyed kind. The hands have a nice shade of blue that adds a dash of color to the otherwise monochrome dial. It’s also nice knowing that the Nomos watchmakers went through the effort to heat blue the hands as it adds value to the watch. A completely superficial reasoning, but I like knowing that a lot of time was spent on making my watch.

The hands also have just the right length, being just long enough to pass over their respective glossy black markers, but not too long as to obstruct them. This makes it easy to make out the time at a glance and shows that the minor details were not afterthoughts even on a budget-friendly watch like this one.

DSCF2593.jpg

The thin and flat crystal is low to the dial, making enjoying that wonderful dial from at angles distortion-free during the day. However, there is no lume on the dial and the hands do not reflect light so reading the dial in the dark is practically impossible. This is not a big deal for me because I have a phone for that, though it may be a feature that is sorely missed for some folks. Come to think of it, I have a phone for daytime time reading too. Why do I wear a watch again?

Existential crises aside, one thing I would say about the dial design is that it is a distinctly Nomos one, unmistakable for any other brand and instantly recognizable by watch geeks the world around. While not an original Nomos design, Nomos has done a good job designing then marketing this dial to make it their own. It’s an iconic dial design that is timeless and will stand the test of time. Bravo, Nomos.

In my opinion, in determining the aesthetic qualities of a watch, the dial is the most important part. This is even more true in the case of the Tangente where the dial is 90% of what you see in the watch headon. Thankfully, while sterile, the dial is well thought out, iconic and detailed enough that it’s worth staring at from time to time. I’m a big fan of the dial design (if you can’t tell already from this strangely positive section of the review).

Crown

On a manual watch like the Tangente, the crown is a very important part of the watch as it is the part you will interact with the most. As such, the combination of good size and comfortable ribbing of the crown has to be just right to make it a fun daily experience.

DSCF2589.jpg

In the case of the Tangente, the crown is very small. It is just big enough for me to to grip the crown and wind it, but any smaller and that would be too difficult of a task. I would have preferred if the diameter were slightly larger, but too much that it ruins the minial aesthetic of the watch. This is a serious issue though. They claim to be a company that abides by the ‘form follows function’, bauhaus-esque philosophy, but the crown size is clearly not that.

DSCF2591.jpg

Another (albeit small) complaint I have with the crown is that the Nomos signature on the crown is laser engraved in a way that disappears in certain lights. At this price point, I would have preferred a stamped signature instead of the laser engraving we have on the Tangente. If other brands in this price range like Oris, Sinn, Tudor and Longines can do it, why can’t Nomos?

The ribbing on the side of the crown, on the other hand, is very nice. It’s sharp enough to create a grippy surface, but not too sharp that I hurt my fingers winding the watch. No complaints here.

Strap

The stock strap is a black Horween shell cordovan strap that tapers from 18mm at the lugs to 16mm at the buckle. The buckle is a tang-styled one with a laser engraved Nomos insignia. The strap is stitched together with a matching black thread that blends in with the strap’s black color. While nice, the stitching is a bit too tight as some points, but that’s not too big a deal.

DSCF2604.jpg

Shell cordovan is well-known (and overhyped) in the shoe collecting community for having superior toughness, nice aging and a high-shine look. The application of cordovan here is a welcomed one. The strap is soft, pliable and molds to the wrist very easily like a suede strap would, while still holding its structure unlike suede. The leather loops are also not too thick as to add pressure on the underside of the wrist. A watch’s strap plays a huge part in the watch’s wearability and comfort, and Nomos did it right with this one.

The glossy black shell also makes for a nice business/dress strap that would go well in more formal occasions. In more casual settings though, I found the strap to be out of place and incompatible with many kinds of outfits. Thankfully, the Tangente wears other straps well (as mentioned in the Case section of this review) and will fit other occasions besides the rough and tumble if need be.

DSCF2602.jpg

Once the stock strap is worn out, you can purchase a new one with the Nomos signed buckle for 80 Euros on Nomos’ web store, which is not expensive by any means relative to OEM straps from other brands. I would even go so far as to recommend this strap as a replacement strap for other slimmer profile watches as I love this strap a lot.

Movement

The movement under the hood of the Tangente 35 is the Nomos caliber Alpha, a glorified ETA/Pesaux 7001. I’m not knocking the movement though; it’s a solid movement that should be easy to service by any watchmaker worth the candle. What I am knocking is the terminology used by Nomos to describe the movement. While the movement is made in-house by Nomos, they’re not clear about the fact that the movement is not one of their own design. While some parts were redesigned by Nomos, it shares the same basic design as the ETA version. It’s one of those things that a lot of brands with ebauche movements do, but that does not make it right. A consumer may be misled into thinking that they’re getting additional ‘value’ over the competition by having an in-house designed and manufactured movement.

DSCF2598.jpg

That aside, Nomos has done some pretty good work on the movement, especially for the price. It is supposedly adjusted to 6 positions through the Trivois adjustment system, which to my calculations is a lot of positions. More accurately, it’s one more than 5 positions. More is better right?

Anecodotally, the watch was accurate enough that I didn’t notice much time shift day-to day. For me, because I don’t wear a single watch every day for an extended period, an accuracy better than +/- 20 – 30 seconds a week is good enough. This watch definitely surpasses that in my testing, running well within COSC specs throughout my ownership of it. Nomos’ claim of a 43 hours power reserve also holds true, which is nice.

Hacking seconds is present which is nice. Better than Patek Phillipe confirmed? Winding action is also nice enough. It’s not the smoothest winding experience nor the nicest tactile response, but it’s about average for a manual watch at any price.

In terms of servicing, Nomos recommends the Tangente be serviced every 5 years. Nomos offers a complete overhaul of the watch for 220 Euros. It’s an above average price to pay for servicing such a simple manual winding watch, but when compared to the competition the price is very reasonable. I would still use my go-to watchmaker for this though to save some cash.

Caseback View

The caseback has a slight convex shape to it that goes against the curvature of the wrist. This is not my preferred caseback shape as the caseback adds pressure to the wrist when strapped down tightly, but a curved caseback is probably too much to ask at this price point.

The movement seen through the caseback is also very small relative to the case. This is another pet peeve of mind especially for movements that claim to be in-house. A movement that’s that much smaller than the case speaks ‘compromise’ to me. The newer movements that Nomos has been putting out do a much better job at that, which is nice. I hope to see those newer movements proliferate throughout their product line, even on the smaller watches like this one.

DSCF2598 2.jpg

In traditional Glashutte fashion, the movement has a 3-quarter plate construction that covers everything but the escapement and a bit of the going train. The finishing on the movement is nice for the price. Looking through the caseback, we see Glashutte ribbing on the plates, perlage on the base plate, swirled sunbursting on the power train wheels, heat-blued screws, chamfers on the edges of the bridges and countersunk screw/jewel holes.

The well-decorated movement is kind of a novelty feature, though. It’s something nice to show your non-watch friends to explain why mechanical movements are a cool thing, and you may get a kick out of it for the first few weeks of owning it. I would look at the caseback quite a bit at the start, but nowadays I find myself staring into the dial more instead. I would still recommend the $280 sapphire case back upgrade because I’m a normie, but I don’t think it’s a necessary feature if you’re strapped for cash.

Miscellaneous

Because of how thin the case is, the ticking sound coming from the pallet fork/escapement interaction can be heard from as far as 14 inches away if unobstructed. I would be working on something on my computer and I would hear the ticking sound eminating from the Nomos. I kinda like the sound when working so it’s not a big deal for me, but have this by your bedside table and it will be a problem.

Buying the Watch

Outside of Germany, Nomos has a relatively small retail presence which makes it difficult to just drive down to an authorized dealer to get a feel of their range. Nomos works around this issue by offering a 14-day no questions asked refund when ordering from their online. This means that potential buyers can try on Nomos watches and return if it doesn’t work for them. This is an awesome thing to see, so PLEASE DO NOT exploit Nomos’ graces as it would increase their cost of operation.

Screen Shot 2018-08-10 at 6.57.11 PM

Buying through the store is also a very simple process. After placing the order, it took the watch 5 days to reach my doorstep from Germany. Impressive.

Value

The inherent value contained in this watch is way higher than its price tag would indicate. The Tangente packs a super detailed and well-designed dial, true heat-blued components, a well-finished and well-regulated movement, all for under $2500.

Nomos has since moved up the value chain, releasing watches in the Omega/Tudor/Tag price bracket instead of the Longines/Oris/Baume price bracket it used to occupy with the Tangente/Ludwig/Tetra generation of watches. With Nomos releasing new watches at that higher price bracket, Nomos has placed itself in competition with those more premium brands in the eyes of the consumer. This continued association with higher end brands makes Nomos seem like a more premium brand, making the Tangente even more of a steal.

In the secondary market, though, the Tangente doesn’t fare as well. With prices for one with full box and papers hovering between $900 – $1200 (as of 2018), that means the Tangente takes a huge hit in its resale value when worn. But, that also means that getting one preowned is a ridiculous value play — in my opinion the best out there at or around the $1000 mark. Compared to other semi-dress/casual watches at the $2500 retail/$1000 aftermarket range, the Tangente 35 takes the top spot.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, the only thing that seperates a buy and a no-buy decision on teh Tangente is the look. It’s a polarizing design that may not sit well with some. There are some downsides to the watch like the crown design, case tolerances and durability, but I can look past those at this price. So, if you dig the aesthetic, and boy do I dig it, the watch is a no brainer at this price point.

DSCF2581.jpg

So, if you’re looking for a watch with ridiculous value under $2500, an iconic dial that will stand the test of time, a modern look yet with vintage proportions and a versatile wearability, the Nomos Tangente is the watch for you.

You can pick one up from Nomos’ web store here.

 

Release Notes: GMK Space Cadet

Release Notes is a series of articles through which I share my thoughts on new Interest Checks, Group Buys and general releases in the keyboard space. Keep in mind that I do not own these pieces of hardware and that information in this article may not be completely accurate. I will try my best to make sure that all information presented here is as accurate as possble.

K7Py8Cz1SI6gCVUVx1Rh_2.jpg

Introduction

Originating from a LISP machine keyboard, the Space Cadet’s blue modifier/grey alpha colorway is one of the most sought-after colorways in the keyboard space. Back in the good ol’ days (ah the good old mid-2010s LOL) of custom keycap sets, 7bit, an early community member, initially ran the Space Cadet colorway in the spherical SA with just the regular SA legends. Then in their round 6 buy, 7bit reran the Space Cadet colorway with the full Space Cadet legends, giving rise to the most expensive SA set in the aftermarket.

Some people love the keyset so much that this monstrosity was made.

After an extensive IC phase, Oblotsky and Massdrop have finally launched the rerun of the Space Cadet colorway and legends in the much more typing-friendly GMK/Cherry profile. Rejoice!

Specifications

rlJSWF2FSJehujNP5ST5_01_base_kit.jpg

Designer: Oblotsky

Maker: GMK

Vendor: Massdrop

Material: ABS plastic with doubleshot primary legends and sublegends

Profile: Cherry profile R1-R1-R2-R3-R4-R4

Price: Base Kit starts at $149.99 (drops to $119.99 at 1000 MOQ)

Group Buy Link: Here

Thoughts

The Space Cadet colorway has always stood out to me as the colorway that didn’t need to do too much to be special. Blue and grey with white legends are nothing special when compared to the multi-colored GMK sets we’re used to seeing, but it still pulls on my heart strings every damn time. This combined with the typically better color matching afforded by GMK is a home run on the color front.

A nice inclusion in the base set are the special keys in the original group buy like ‘Rub Out’ ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°), ‘Hyper’ and ‘Meta’. The set also comes with text modifiers and arrow keys to complete the look, though I prefer the look of icon modifiers if given the choice.

The fully doubleshot legends and sublegends on these are also a welcomed addition over a doubleshot primary legend/pad printed sublegend combo. This is slightly more expensive than a 1000MOQ GMK set would usually be ($10 extra over Nautilus and Yuri), but is in line with other dual-legend sets like Serika (and $10 cheaper than Laser). At the 1000MOQ’s 120 dollar price, this set is a good value for the amount of keys you’re getting and the potentially higher than retail aftermarket price when delivered.

One notable exclusion from this set is the R0/R5 support that the next GMK set, GMK Carbon R2 is getting. I would have loved to see R5 support on this set as it feels more comfortable to type on and looks nicer with that more sculpted aesthetic. This set is just one set too early to get that sweet, sweet sculpting though. While unfortunate, with the number of sets GMK Space Cadet is expected to sell, it shouldn’t be too difficult reaching MOQ for an R0/R5 group buy after the fact.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for the next hottest GMK set to pick up and enjoy the Space Cadet colorway, this is the set for you. I will be picking a set up myself and you should too!

You can pick this set up here!

Release Notes: Keycult No.1 – 2018’s Board of the Year?

Release Notes is a series of articles through which I share my thoughts on new Interest Checks, Group Buys and general releases in the keyboard space. Keep in mind that I do not own these pieces of hardware and that information in this article may not be completely accurate. I will try my best to make sure that all information presented here is as accurate as possble.

zTpfBw7

Introduction

In recent times, keyboard design has devolved into just differences in aesthetic choices and layouts rather than improvements to the core features of a keyboard like typing feel and sound. Top/tray mount, brass plate and rectangular brass weight together is a combination of features that will make a good keyboard, but it’s not anything significantly different from any other custom keyboard. It’s not that appearances are not important to me — I love a nice looking keyboard and I was enamored by the Modern M0110 — but as a mechanical engineer I love the #keyboardscience part of things more.

Thus, when the Keycult No.1 was first teased on Geekhack in 2017, keyboard enthusiasts collectively nutted all at once. It was the first time I got excited over a new keyboard in a long time. A small group buy of 20 units was announced, built and delivered. Subsequently, the pictures that flooded the Internet made keyboard enthusiasts all over the world drool.

After months of delays, OCO posted this update a few days ago, saying that a soft launch of TypeMachina is imminent. As such, here is why I think this keyboard is special and deserves your attention. *but please let me checkout before you do when the day comes*

Keycult Exploded View.001

Specifications

Designer: riotonthebay

Case: Aluminum 3-Part Case

Plate: Brass, Aluminum (the private group buy had a partial polycarbonate plate option, but the TM release will only have Brass and Alu)

Plate Mounting System: Sandwich Mount with Gaskets

Weight: Aluminum or Brass Weight Integrated with Midlayer

Lift Angle: 9.5 degrees

Layout Support: Winkeyless and Winkey Tenkeyless

PCB Compatibility: TX87

Price: TBD (the private GB in 2017 costed ~$300, but release price should be more than that — insert joke about OCO tax)

Group Buy Date: SoonT(ype)M(achina)

Geekhack Teaser: Link

36533126490_67ae7b0a1b_o

My Thoughts

Plate Mounting System

Keycult Top Gasket.001

One of the coolest (but not necessarily new) features of the No.1 is its sandwich mount with gaskets (aka gasket mount) plate mounting system. Found only on two other keyboards ever, the OTD 356mini v1 (check out pr0ximity’s awesome guide, Anthony’s Unboxing and Let’s Build) and the Meme, legend has it that this mounting system produces the ‘best’ bottom out sound and typing feel on a keyboard. This is widely believed to be because the rubber gaskets serve as dampeners to remove any unwanted reverberations, creating a clean and singular bottom out sound that’s free of plate rattle within the case. The gaskets also add a compression on the plate to create a tighter sandwich construction within the case. However, it has also been argued that the effect the gasket has on typing feel and sound (if any) in the case of the 356mini may not have been an intentional design choice on the part of the OTD designers.

Regardless, the designer of the keyboard obviously took some inspiration from the gasket in the 356mini when designing the No.1 and took it to the next level. This can be seen in the different ways the gaskets are implemented between the two boards.  On the 356mini, the gasket is a large rubber o-ring wrapping around the outermost switches between the plate and PCB while resting on top of a ledge on the bottom plate. As the case is screwed tight, the gasket compresses and flattens on the ledge, pulling the plate towards the bottom case and creating a sandwich seal. On the No.1, the gasket tabs rest on the top part of the plate, with space between the top case and the plate. As the case is screwed in, the gasket compresses, causing the top case and bottom case to sandwich the plate between them. Here’s a crude diagram I drew up explaining the two:

Sandwich Mount Crude Drawing.001While different, the gasket mount is a feature that should be explored further in the custom keyboard world and I’m glad to see riotonthebay taking this on with the No.1. I’m excited to see how the keyboard sounds and feels when I get this keyboard in.

T8rRh58

One other thing that’s special about the plate is that there are through cuts surrounding the alpha cluster, presumably to introduce flex during bottom out. This is also a feature which has its roots in the early Korean custom keyboard scene and keyboard enthusiasts have speculated that this not only creates a cushioned typing feel but also improves the acoustics of the bottom out. I’m no audio engineer, but this sounds to me like we’re entering psuedo-science territory and I’m going to have to test it out myself to figure out if it’s true. Still, it’s interesting that the designer is trying out different methods to create a better typing experience.

xbzoibf

Weight Design

The weight design in the No.1 is another feature that stands out above the rest in my opinion. Too often have we seen the keyboard weight be an afterthought in the keyboard design process, with many manufacturers opting to go for a standard rectangular weight. While a weight like that does its job (adds heft and changes the acoustic properties), it’s boring.

Keycult Midlayer:Weight.001

In the No.1, the ‘weight’ is a solid weight & midlayer combination that shows through the bottom, the sides and the back of the keyboard. What an absolute madlad riotonthebay is for trying this, but boy is it interesting. This design feature not only functions as a weight but also a visual interest on the side to break up the mass of the side profile. It’s also an excellent way of dealing with the side seam problem that many two-part cases face. Genius. I’m sure that this weight design will add heft to the keyboard, but I’m not sure how this design will affect its sound.

Conclusion

Through this keyboard, riotonthebay drew upon the ideas put forth by the Korean keyboard Gods while putting their own spin on things. This synthesis of ideas has created a marvelous piece of gear that I believe is a strong contender for custom keyboard of the year. While I prefer keyboard layouts with centered alphas (60s, 65s and 75s), this keyboard is different (and interesting!) enough that I will get my first custom TKL.

For more Keycult goodness, here’s riot’s build log of the No.1 and here’s the teaser of the No.2.

Huge thanks to designer riotonthebay for providing the information I needed to complete the article.

EDIT 1: Section on fit and finish of the keyboard was removed due to potential inaccuracies in the reporting.

EDIT 2: Added the argument that the OTD 356mini’s gasket may not be as important as widely believed to be

Keyboard Assembly and Switch Lubing Services

Update: I’m currently NOT accepting builds. Sorry for the inconvenience!

On top of reviewing cool stuff, I’m also passionate about building keyboards. I have extensive experience doing these things, and I have some free time on my hands. As such, I’m currently offering a professional custom keyboard assembly and switch lubing service.

For my standard assembly service, I do PCB testing, stabilizer clipping and tuning, band-aid mod, switch alignment, soldering switches and a typing test after. Desoldering, soldering LEDs/SIP sockets and programming cost extra. I have genuine Cherry stabilizers in stock so you could use my stabilizers at cost to save on shipping.

For switch lubing, I brush lube the sliders, housing, nubs if linears, springs and stem with Superlube Oil. Spring swapping, housing swapping and stem swapping are included in the cost, while adding switch films cost extra. I have other lubes, switch films, and springs in stock so you could use my stuff at cost to save on shipping.

Do note that because I currently have a large backlog of things to review, I might be selective in choosing boards to builds as they would also have to be boards that I would like to take a look at.

Here are my costs:

  1. 60/65-key assembly: $50 + shipping
  2. 75-key/TKL assembly: $65 + shipping
  3. 96-key/Compact 1800/1800/Full-Size: $75 + shipping
  4. Switch Lube: 50c/switch + shipping

I’m local to San Diego (92092) so you could save on shipping by dropping it off to me!

If you’re interested, send me an email to brianlzf#gmail.com with the following template:

___________________

Name:

Physical Address:

Phone Number:

Reddit/Geekhack/Discord Username (if applicable):

___________________

Keyboard Assembly (repeat/delete this section where appropriate)

Keyboard Name:

Preferred Layout (standard/WKL/ISO/etc, be descriptive if needed!):

Desoldering Service (Y/N):

In-House Stabilizers (Y/N):

Band-Aid Mod (Y/N):

Programming Layout (Y/N):

LEDs (Y/N):

SIP Sockets (Y/N):

___________________

Switch Lubing (repeat/delete this section where appropriate)

Switch Name:

Lube (BLR’s/Otherwise) :

Switch Quantity: 

Modifications (spring swap/housing swap/stem swap):

Switch Films (Y/N): 

Other BLR Materials (springs/films/lube):

___________________

Thanks for viewing!