Drop CTRL Barebones Mechanical Keyboard

Drop CTRL Barebones Mechanical Keyboard

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Product Description
To put it simply, the CTRL mechanical keyboard has it all. Constructed with a solid aluminum frame with a built-in switch plate, it’s stable and fortified Read More
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All of our reviews are from verified customers.
4.3
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would recommend to a friend
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TimothyU
8
Dec 9, 2020
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Amazing product! Highly highly recommend.
-BLUF: Amazing product! Highly highly recommend. Though the Drop Configurator GUI is a good start, it has limited RGB customization. QMK is not nearly as intuitive as I’d like, but definitely offers complete customization – I was able to find many prebuilt keymap and LED configurations simply needing compiling/flashing to your keyboard. Setting up your build environment (for the non-programmer like myself) is by far the hardest part here. Oh, and hold Fn + b for 2-3 seconds, not 0.5 seconds, to reset the keyboard when enabling the flash. EDIT: Updated Quality below with their response. EDIT 3: Updated "Quality" & "Switches" sections. -My build: Zealios V2 62g (and also T1 62g) tactile switches, Krytox 205g0 lubricant, neoprene (2 layers), Kingston HyperX pudding double-shot PBT black key caps, CTRL barebones “space gray” with stock Cherry-style stabilizers -Intro: I’m a first time builder, recently introduced to the keeb community by a good friend. As soon as I found the customization available, I immediately went to town on research. I decided to shoot for a product close to “endgame” right out of the door. I’m a pragmatic miser at heart, so I knew I couldn’t justify multiple hundreds of dollars on multiple keyboards anytime soon. Also, I have a wife and two kids. At $150 for the barebones, you’re spending a hefty chunk right out the door. Sure, there are less expensive options, but I can assure you you’re paying for the quality here. I read the reviews: lots of complaints on the stock stabilizers and pinging from the hollow areas in the aluminum case. I knew I’d be lubing/bandaid-ing the stabilizers, and adding neoprene to minimize acoustics. Switches? Buy a switch tester. $30 will really help you understand what your preferences are. Of course, I’m still interested in Halos and Holy Pandas, but that’s a future endeavor. ;) I also had trouble picking key caps. Bright and fun? Moderation in colors? Professional, but unique? $25 later I can have it all. No lights, black caps = professional. But pudding key caps = custom crazy colors any day of the week. For now, I’ll pass on custom USB cable or desk mat. -Shipping: The box(es) arrived well-packaged. It’s an effective, but simple, packaging so no parts could move in the keyboard box. The keyboard box itself was packaged into a much larger (medium size) box filled with bubble wrap. No shipping damage was apparent. -Quality: The anodized aluminum catches the light as soon as you open the box. It’s beautiful. I’m so glad I went with it over the black – no judgement, just personal preference. All of the lines look clean and you can tell the assembly shouts quality. It’s got nice heft – it’s a solid work of art. The magnetic feet are nice and strong, but easy to remove. The case comes apart easily with 8 screws removed. All of the pieces fit together like a perfect puzzle: the case back, the plastic diffuser, the 4 metal plates the magnetic feet lock into, the PCB, and the case top. Two minor issues:
  1. One cracked foot on a stabilizer housing – I requested a replacement part here. UPDATE 1: A prompt response came, the same response as all others have noted: the 3 options are partial refund ($20), replace entire keyboard, or return for full refund.
  2. The Caps Lock switch hole in top plate is not cleanly cut resulting in a slight tilt to my Caps Lock switch – I haven’t dug into this yet because the angle is very minimal; I could probably file/sand it straight. UPDATE 2&3: This is NOT a problem with DROP's QA, it's actually caused by the neoprene I added and needed to trim.
-Assembling: Everything went together without a hitch…for the most part. I’m a seasoned DIYer at home, on the car, and building PCs. I’m a meticulous person. I still managed to bend/roll pins on 2 of my switches when inserting them into the hot-swappable sockets. Buy extra switches, check the straightness of the pins before inserting, and take your time lining them up straight into the sockets. Really…take the time to do this right, it’s easy to speed along when you get the hang of it so keep your head in the game. I did use the included switch remover and did not have issues scratching the case. That being said, you have to be careful using them. Just take your time lining up the end of the prongs vertically on the top and bottom. You only need to get the prongs down just far enough against the aluminum case to depress the bottom housing of the switches. You can hear it click. Alternatively, you can try sliding your fingernail on the top and bottom of the switch. That worked 30% of the time. -Modding: Lubricating switches is beyond tedious, but the payoff is pretty amazing. Just be aware of the viscosity of the lubricant you pick (Krytox 205g0, etc.) and how light vs. heavy lubing can affect the feel of the switch. For tactile switches, don’t lubricate the legs that cause the bump unless you want to reduce tactility (I did not). I found a light lube on my Zealios V2 62g was preferable to keep tactility and snappiness. Oh, and I did have to clip my switches from 5-pin to 3-pin. That part was easy with a pair of small wire cutters and a nail clipper file. Reduction in acoustics is very easy to do with neoprene (or sorbothane, but that’s too expensive for my blood). Again, parts of it are tedious, but easy. I found the cutting super easy for the back side of the keyboard case – 3 sizable squares fill the void between the diffuser up against the PCB. The neoprene above the PCB on the switch side was obviously far more involved. Marking for 90+ switch sockets and cutting squares with your X-ACTO isn’t the most entertaining task, but it’s satisfying to see complete. I ended up needing to cut the full length into 3 pieces where the veins along the case stretch. Trying to leave the neoprene in a single piece and ignore the veins resulted in a need to apply lots of compression pressure to close the case back together. After cutting it into 3 pieces to keep the neoprene off the veins, zero pressure was needed to close it up as all of the puzzle pieces fit perfectly. Without prior build experience, I can’t really say how “bad” the stock stabilizers are. Nonetheless, even with the stock lubing, there was a noticeable difference after I completed the modification. One fabric bandaid, a little quick clipping, and a little Krytox later…all is well. -Switches: As I mentioned earlier in the Intro, I highly recommend getting a switch tester if you're new to the infinite landscape of keyboard switches. I was, so I started with the $30 Gateron/Zealios/Tealios switch tester from Amazon. My first mechanical switch was the Cherry MX Blues and I used this as my basis of comparison going into the switch tester. I love the feel of clicky, but dear jebus are they obnoxious. As a result, tactile is my happy place. Linear feels lovely and cushy, but doesn't feel like I'm typing...it's more like I'm floating. Silent variants: The bottom out on all of these bothered me because it imparted a mushy feeling. Not my cup of tea. Linear: Gateron Red & Clear are too light; Gateron Black & Yellow are too heavy and light, respectively, but helped me dial in my preference of force. The Tealios 67g was noticeably smoother than all other linears. Tactile: Gateron Brown are too light, the bump is after pre-travel, and feels mushy; the tactile bump is not pronounced enough. The Zealios 67g was lovely: it had a front bump, pronounced crisp tacile event, smooth operation, and lower pitched sound at bottom out. The only negative? 67g was a bit too heavy for me. I went to ZealPC and bought the Zealios V2 62g tactile switches. It was a perfect fit for me! However, do note the premium you pay for these at $1/switch. As an added note, I have since started exploring an office keyboard build. Specifically, I'm searching for switches comparable to Zealios without the price premium. After much research, and considering innumerable potentials, including building my own Holy Panda clones (Panda housing, Halo stem), Glorious Panda, Invyr Holy Panda, Halo Trues, and Halo Clears, I landed on the Durock T1s. I bought 20 of the Koala 62g (cream housing) switches from Amazon for testing and they're amazingly close. At stock (light oil lube), noted differences include slightly more scratchiness (not as smooth), a slightly higher pitch sound, and a slightly quicker bottom out. I think it's ever-so-slightly lighter spring force. After lubing and filming, I can confirm it is very close to the Zealios V2 62g in so many ways, but at only $0.75/switch. Due to a desire for decent LED shine-through, I decided to pick up the Durock T1s off primeKB with smokey grey housings at $0.55/switch. Like the Koalas, they came with a light oil lube that I had to remove with a Q-tip prior to light lubing with Krytox. They couldn't be any closer to the Zealios without being Zealios. I'm ecstatic with my choice. One last side note: I decided to pick up the Skylight (Horizon colors) PBT key caps - lordy, what a difference the key caps made! It must be something with this pudding material because the Skylights are incredible. The sound has deepened, the keys feel much more solid to depress, and even the slightly coarser texture is a dream. And, believe it or not, the shine-through legends are even better than the pudding key caps. There is something about how too much of the light coming through muddles itself. I won't post a picture here because an exact official version is already posted by DROP (Horizon on Space Gray). Good luck on your build(s)!
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Would recommend to a friend.
(Edited)
korvics
4
Jan 21, 2021
For me the frustration came as I got this for my wife. Prompt responses from Drops customer service are appreciated, however a busted stabilizer, and a non functioning key - was a pretty big deal when you get this for someone else. I myself am a very happy user of a keychron k6. Keychron may not be as "sleek" looking, however the build quality is excellent and a hot swappable K8 (with switches and keycaps and stabilizers that do not rattle!) does cost 33% less than a barebones CTRL. My wife wanted CTRL because of aesthetics and I respect that, and had it been less than <$100, I would forgive crappy stabilizers and a busted key that you have to solder yourself. for $150 bucks though... it's a hard pill to swallow.
TimothyU
8
Jan 21, 2021
Ah, bummer. Yeah, that sucks! So now you're stuck sending it back and waiting on a return, or retaining and dealing with shoddy quality. Makes sense. Another good point with the Keychron. I admit not knowing much about them myself or from friends, though I've seen them in passing.
TerryW
6
Sep 5, 2020
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The keyboard you need to buy!
Buy a bare bones keyboard and buy your own switches! Totally recommend that, it's cheaper and you'll end up with backup switches just in case one or two get funny years later into use! This keyboard is absolutely stunning in its machined aluminum frame. Everything is sturdy, build quality is astounding. The finish everywhere is pleasing to the touch. The keyboard has QMK firmware which makes it more or less fully customizable! Switches can easily be hotswapped which is awesome if you want to buy different switches or replace them. FYI most switches can be bought for pretty cheap. I love the caliber of RGB brightness, diffusion, and customization on this board. Overall one of my favorite purchases I've made beside buying shares of TSLA!
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Would recommend to a friend.
tann87257
1
Jan 5, 2020
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Works great with a variety of switches because of hotswap sockets, those magnetic rubber feet could be a bit struggle to pull out. The smd led is also great, very bright & shinedthru top housing from my healios / zealios v2 switches. Very easy to assemble for beginners, the plate mounted stabilizers though itself was lubricated from the factory but still had a lot of rattling, so I had to re-lube with my 205g0, clip and band-aid mod for a better sound and feeling. In overall, this is still a very good kit for those who want to try something new from keyboards of big companies like razer logitech corsair, etc. but 150$ not including 90 switches and keycaps are still higher than my expectation, it would be a barriers for beginners.
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Quibbly
2
Jul 31, 2020
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Very clean
First thing I noticed were the amount of extras such as the Keycap puller + Screwdriver, keyswitch puller and updated cherry style stabs. I personally went with the Kailh Box Whites & HyperX White Pudding keycaps. Could see myself using this for a couple years! (that is if I don’t get into the keyboard hype) Overall for the price you get the convenience of the hot swap pcb and a very solid base with some good qmk firmware options
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Would recommend to a friend.
tetris
6
Jan 3, 2020
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Good looking keyboard but that's about it
Basically, this keyboard is great, but there are some annoying aspects to it. First, don't even bother trying out the stabs for this keyboard. They are complete trash. They are incredibly rattley. Purchase some other cherry mx stabs before hand. Also, you don't need to disassemble the whole keyboard to replace the stabs. There are youtube videos that show you how to remove them by using a flathead screw driver to push the clip holding them in. The keybaord has plate mounted stabs, so you cant use screw in or pcb mounted stabs. Another thing i think is worth mentioning is that the keyboard is very pingy. It's not a silent ping but a noticeable ping. I put unlubed kailh speed bronze switches in my keyboard, and there is a definite ping noise. so if you cant stand even the slightest ping, you should look at some other keyboards. But if you think you can deal with it and/or fix the pinging enough to be tolerable then bite the bullet and order this. The pinging could be just the usual amount of ping that comes along with the material of this keyboard but for $160 or more the ping shouldn’t be there. In conclusion, this is a really goodlooking keyboard, but the pinging and the horrible stabilizers are a real downside to this product. Maybe if (Mass)Drop would lower the price for the barebones kit, the pinging and poor stabilizers could be less of a reason not to purchase it.
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tetris
6
Mar 9, 2020
did you end up finding a better keyboard with good stabs?
Epicskylegend
1
Mar 23, 2020
You can buy cherry mx stabs for around 10 bucks. If you clip and lube them as well, they are MUCH better.
YellowTacos
5
Nov 7, 2020
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Spend your money on a real hot swap
the stabilizers are horrible. I had to cut off the extra 2 pins on my switches to make it work... which takes some time. I ended up using my keychron because of the horrible stablizers. yes I know I can change them, but I am at a point where I think if I spend 160 dollars on a keyboard that it should have quality parts. Do not recommend.
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Would not recommend to a friend.
mikmara
2
Oct 20, 2020
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Bad quality control for keyboards and Drop is terrible.
Only for the ultra patient. I'm sure you know that your preorder may ship later than expected. However, what you don't know are the other factors that may make it much longer before you enjoy what you had paid for. They use the cheapest shipping option for FedEx. It took 10 days for my keyboard to arrive from New Jersey to California (only to find out it had some shoddy soldering job on the PCB), it took about 7 days to resolve it with customer support and get a replacement shipped out, and it is going to take at least 12 days for my replacement keyboard arrive. Total time ~29 days (assuming my replacement keyboard isn't also defective). I've ordered other keyboard kits from overseas that took less than a week to get to me. I was given 3 options when I found out my keyboard was defective.
  1. Keep the keyboard and get a $20 drop credit
  2. Keep the keyboard and get a $20 refund
  3. Get a replacement keyboard only after my defective keyboard is received. (I chose this option and was able to convince them to ship it before waiting another 7-10 days for it to get to their warehouse).
Also, I've read that the 'free returns' for US customers isn't as easy at it seems. Don't waste your time and money. Other vendors have keyboard kits that are better quality, cheaper, and can get to you much faster. UPDATE: I received my second keyboard and while every key works, there is now a strange high-pitched noise being emitted from the PCB when the LEDs are on. It isn't audible when the LEDs are white and I can dim them all the way down and the noise becomes pretty faint (yet still there). It's not a result of PWM. When I let Drop know they said I can, again, mail the keyboard back and get my replacement one. This is getting ridiculous. I just want this to end. Thanks, Drop.
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Would not recommend to a friend.
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anshelsag
14
Oct 20, 2020
Holy shit, I wish I had read your review before buying. This was my experience to a T.
Jefftea
7
May 5, 2020
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My version had faulty switches
But at least drop allowed me to return it.
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Would not recommend to a friend.
JustDotSushi
7
Jun 18, 2020
faulty switches, can you specify.
anshelsag
14
Oct 21, 2020
He means sockets, I had a faulty socket on D20
incizzle
1
Dec 26, 2019
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Overall very good
Very good but space bar stabilizer is very rattaly. Otherwise it is perfect
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stuckpx
7
Mar 1, 2021
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Super cool barebones keyboard!
I got back to building a mechanical keyboard and this one is awesome! +QMK Support +Great RGB +Got the Space gray and it looks great +/- Space key holder needs work
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Would recommend to a friend.
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