Keys to Success
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A Drop ENTR Review This review is dedicated to anyone, like me, who was wondering “Why would I consider a $90 Mechanical Keyboard?” The last keyboard I "bought" was a $12 Rosewill keyboard for my gaming PC, and the bluetooth Apple Keyboard that came with my iMac is pretty nice… both functional after years of use, but I saw a giveaway contest for the Drop ENTR, and I had to enter and find out what mechanical keyboards have to offer. Short answer, these heavy, springy keyboards have a premium feel, and considering you have to feel keyboards to use them, I would recommend them as nice work from home upgrades that you can personalize. First of all, thanks to Drop for sending me the ENTR after their Twitter giveaway, and allowing me to check out BOTH versions of the mechanical switches. I used the Gateron Yellow switches (in the two tone gray/green keyboard) for two weeks, then the Halo True switches on a black ENTR for two more exclusive weeks, before coming together to share a review – typed on the Halo True switches, I’ll come back to that.
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I am used to Membrane keyboards, and so are most computer users of the past two decades. Cheap keyboards, laptops, bluetooth accessory keyboards for tablets… membrane keyboards are everywhere, the default option these days. They’re quiet, sometimes water/spill resistant, and the “chicklet keys” design was popularized by the first Apple Macbook while I was in college. Over time, they accumulate finger grease like a second coat of paint, and if you lose a keycap past warranty, you probably won’t find off the shelf replacement caps. I do like how quiet they are while streaming a game or taking a video conference call. So, what’s the Mechanical Keyboard experience like? Let’s cut to the chase: one of the cool things different about you don’t have to press a key down fully for your keystroke to “count.” The ENTR’s high profile mechanical keys feel like they have 2-3x as much key travel as my Apple “Magic” keyboard. Once you get used to just how much force is required, your fingers can just bounce off the springs from key to key in a manner that feels very energetic… going back to a membrane keyboard feels like I’m just tapping on a table. That feeling is the main draw of mechanical keyboards, offering a similar tactile satisfaction as plugging into a 1/4” headphone jack on a high end piece of equipment, flicking closed an Axis Lock knife, or popping bubble wrap. The sound is also important to the mechanical experience. Some people hate the machine-gun RATTATA of mechanical keyboards, and honestly the Apple “Magic keyboard” is much quieter than either of these switch options, but others love the energetic and industrious sound of clicking keys. Subjectively, it feels like I’m working much faster when I’m whacking away at this keyboard! The more traditional, standardized shape of High Profile keys rise up to cradle your fingers in a sort of “stadium seating” arrangement and help touch-typists center on the home row without looking, and attachment mechanism of mechanical keys also allow for ready replacement keycaps to be used, either for maintenance or customization. First, I got the ENTR in gray/green, with Gateron Yellow switches. These are the “linear” switches, with a smooth, springy action. According to my research, these are an improved, smoother switch compared to Cherry Reds, counting the keystroke at 1.9mm, with a heavier spring tension near the bottom of the stroke (4mm) to make it easier not to completely bottom out (or cushion the strike if you do). It feels like I can press much lighter on the keys than on my membrane keys, and even a bit lighter than the Halo True keys. Maybe it’s faster, but I’m more limited by my touch-typing skills and I don’t really feel like that’s a factor. I also like the sound: I wouldn’t really call it quiet, especially not compared to the Magic keyboard, but it does seem more dampened than the Halo True keys. I would recommend the Gateron Yellow keys for gentle typists and gamers - for gamers, the smooth feeling of pressing the keys is nicer when using WASD or rolling over onto another key. However, when typing, it wasn’t immediately clear by TOUCH when I had reached the distance required for the keystroke to be registered without touching the bottom, so personally if I tried typing gently I would miss keys and misspell things (which is why I was curious about the Halo True). As time went on, I was slowly getting used to that. I also like the sculpted shape of the keycaps: I remember having difficulty from drifting off my home key position when I was learning how to touch type in middle school, but the concave tops of the keys naturally encourage your fingertips to find the center of each key. The matte texture of the key surface is nice/premium, and makes the caps seem thicker and more solid as well. The weight gives an impressive feeling of quality (it’s a couple of pounds! Very dense!). Finally… while it does have plastic flip-out “feet” for two tilt positions, the flat block of aluminum and rubber feet on the leading edge of the keyboard help prevent the keyboard from rocking back and forth with any mostly flat desk. My black ENTR with Halo True switches shares many traits as the Gateron Yellow switch ENTR, only differing in typing feel and sound. Drop describes the Halo True switches as “Tactile” rather than “Linear” (like the Gateron Yellow) or “Clicky” (what I imagine an MX Cherry Blue to be like), and I feel this is an accurate description. There isn’t a crisp “break” sound when you pass the point of registration at the top of the keystroke, but you can feel your press overcoming a slight detent or “bump.” This has greatly improved my typing accuracy, because whether I am typing heavily enough to hit the bottom of travel or not, the feeling of “I pressed the key enough” matches up with the onscreen results, so I would recommend this one for frequent writers. According to research, these Kaihl switches are comparable to MX Cherry Brown, but the “bump” of the tactile detent is right at the top of stroke travel, and they also feature a heavier spring resistance at the bottom of the stroke to make it easier to not strike the base and spring to the next key. For gamers though, the extra deliberate press required makes finely-timed controls feel slightly less responsive. Sonically, I notice the Halo True are a tiny bit louder, and if I listen closely this one has a bit more of a resonance as I hit the bottom of travel and especially when I release a key… weirdly, that metallic “ting!” sound isn’t present in the Gateron Yellow switch keyboard. The keyboards look slick and premium. Aesthetically, I prefer the slightly more bespoke and unique look with the quiet color of two-tone gray and charcoal keys, on the subtly olive green aluminum board, white backlit keys. The backlight is slightly brighter in-between the keys than through the keycaps, unless you’re looking at the keys from directly over top. It’s not a clinical blue-tinted light or incandescent warm light, or nasty like a fluorescent, but the daylight white is filtered through the plastic of the switches. Even though I am fully trained in blind touch-typing, the backlight is nice when I want to keep my home office lights at a twilight dim brightness. These looks were also true for the all-black ENTR I got with Halo True switches, but a black base or silver base is more ideal than the olive if you’re thinking of getting custom with aftermarket keycaps in fun colors… which I did with the Valiant red and black two tone Skylight PBT keycaps. Both keyboards include a cap popper tool, encouraging experimentation.
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"... love the energetic and industrious sound of clicking keys."

Living with the ENTR keyboards has been nice, but there are some caveats since I’m primarily an Apple Mac user. Windows and Mac users will notice that there is no USB hub functionality… even with the four USB ports on my iMac, I have to juggle anything I want to connect or recharge. The PBT plastic keys should be very durable in the long run, and their “doubleshot” mold means the light can shine through a clear part of the plastic and won’t wear off (but they basically disappear with the backlighting off). For cleaning dust or grime, I recommend checking out this goop. According to research, I could reduce the metallic resonance of the Halo True by adding a bit of lubrication inside the switch, or quiet either switch by adding rubber O-rings around the stem (this would also make them have a shorter travel). You cannot hotswap the switches on these keyboards, or reprogram the keys with macros an other functions — though maybe you can exert some control over your computer’s system Hot Keys. Hot keys for controlling the system or media are not labeled on the keys. Drop includes a post card listing the default Fn + Key combos that will do Windows things, but for Mac I had to explore and memorize. You can change the key input in Mac System Preferences and pull up/swap the alt (option) keycap with the Windows (command) cap if you want to make the keys match your muscle memory. The Media controls are the same for Mac as on the Post card for windows but there’s some odd ones as well. I like that you can control four levels of the keyboard brightness, or turn it off. Here’s the default ones I’ve found so far: Fn + F4: Print (either a document you have open, or highlighted in Finder) Fn + F8: Duplicate (in finder) F11: Show Desktop F12: Show Dashboard (old Widgets feature) ScrLk: F14 (lowers screen brightness) Pause: F15 (raises screen brightness) Fn + Up Arrow: Raise keyboard backlight brightness Fn + Down Arrow: Lower keyboard backlight brightness How are the Drop ENTR keyboards compared to others I have in my house? Well, going back to the Rosewill keyboard really does feel awful after getting used to a Drop board. The Rosewill keys only register a keypress when you bottom them out, which is a short travel that leads to a hard stop, like I said earlier it feels like I’m firmly tapping on a table and the flat chiclet keys all feel the same and it’s easy to drift off center and press different keys. Drop describes the Gateron Yellow switches as “mushy,” but I feel like the cheap membrane keyboard is mushy – the Gateron Yellow are more comparable to the springy analog triggers on an Xbox 360 controller. You really get what you pay for, and I only paid $15 for the rosewill. The Apple Magic Keyboard is the most interesting comparison. You might not think about it because it’s a pack-in with an iMac and comparable to a Macbook/Macbook Pro laptop keyboard, but purchased separately they cost $100, against the ENTR’s $90. Out of all the keyboards, the Magic Keyboard has the shortest key travel, the most crisp “pop” at the top of the keystroke travel, and also it’s the quietest. Apple advertises it as having a “scissor-switch mechanism,” but I believe it fundamentally is still a membrane keyboard because you have to press keys down fully to register a keypress. While there’s a lot to like about it, especially for compact wireless portability, it misses out on the springy feel of the ENTR and the uniform chiclet keys don’t center your fingers the same way as the stadium-seat, sculpted ENTR keycaps. All that Apple Magic, and it still feels like I’m typing on a laptop rather than a desktop work machine like the ENTR. I know at least two friends that will want a comparison to a classic Apple keyboard: the acrylic A1048 full-size numeric keyboard. Gosh, I don’t know what to tell you guys… I hate it. For those that don’t know, it’s a unique feeling membrane keyboard masquerading as a full-sized numerical keyboard. I like that it features the stadium seating “curve” to the key rows, the slightly concave keycaps (less concave than the ENTR), and it can function as a USB hub with two USB-A outlets. It also has a distinct resistance at the top of the key travel. However, this has the softest, mushiest key travel of all the keyboards, and you have to press each key fully to register a stroke. The smooth plastic keycaps (Probably ABS plastic) stick to my fingers and almost feel toothy. These negatives combine to create the impression of a keyboard that resists my usage and saps my energy while typing, compared to the light touch and springiness of the ENTR mechanical keyboards. Also, the spacebar on the Apple Acrylic keyboard is the single loudest key on any of my boards. Kuh-TICK! Last comparison, I swear! I remembered I had picked up a ReDragon Diti gamepad, which was actually my first experience with a mechanical keyboard. Though matte textured, I’m pretty sure the thin keys use ABS plastic. It uses “Outemu Brown Switches,” which are “tactile” switches. If I press slowly and lightly enough, the tactile detent point is firm enough to stop my finger. I find their “Tactile bump” to be more crisp and noticeable than the ENTR Halo True, but the ENTR is crisp enough and the sound created is of a bassier, deeper note that I think would be less intrusive while streaming or recording games, with the ENTR Gateron Yellow the quietest if you press just light enough to register keystrokes. So, do the Drop ENTR keyboards bring a good value? Well, they compete favorably against the similarly priced Apple Magic Keyboard, and let you explore the artisan keycaps and one of two mechanical switch options from the much more expensive CTRL line. You don’t get the chance to hot swap mechanical switches, and the backlight is just a practical white, but in return you save about $110 compared to the CTRL, and you gain the springy, energetic feeling of mechanical keyboards compared to the all or nothing membrane keyboards. Uber cheap keyboards are out there and will still “do the job,” but a $90 keyboard isn’t that dear of a price to pay for a little lockdown luxury. I think the Gateron Yellow linear switches are best suited for gamers and streamers due to the more subtle sound and light responsive feel, while the Halo True are a little bit better for essayists and copywriters due to their feedback.
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(Edited)
thumb_upJérôme Delafosse, johnxy888, and 12 others
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Dec 3, 2020
A scissor switch KB actually is indeed a membrane keyboard. The scissor isn’t technically part of the switch itself. The scissor is a stabilizer that allows the keystroke to be smooth whether you hit the key flush or you nick just the corner. The infamous “butterfly switches” of Apple are actually just a different kind of scissor stabilizer mechanism. They’re not switches either. The actual switch in those cases is still a normal membrane dome switch that didn’t seem too different to me from previous laptop keyboards before the butterflies.
(Edited)
Evshrug
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Dec 3, 2020
“Apple advertises it as having a “scissor-switch mechanism,” but I believe it fundamentally is still a membrane keyboard because you have to press keys down fully to register a keypress.” It’s worth mentioning again! You’re right, many people think Apple has made a mechanical keyboard within the last 20 years, but I don’t think so! Still, the Magic Keyboard (mine is circa 2017) is the nicest membrane keyboard I’ve ever used, I like it better than the laptop keyboards in my old machines.