TL;DR I love this profile for having the best of sculpt, typing surface, and profile curvature; I love this set because it has fantastic colors and ortho support. Pick this set up if you have an ortho board, for sure. Sorry in advance it has so many words and so few pictures.
Background Before this, my favorite profile for ortho or staggered was XDA but I loved retro spherical profile keycaps (C64, beamspring, IBM terminal, etc.), so it makes sense that I would love MDA’s mix of XDA and SA. After using this, I’m considering making a 5deg angled Preonic case (Why all ortho boards gotta be flat? Excluding the Niu Mini). The naming convention is weird since RUMINT says the person who created the profile then sold it to a friend (?) and each vendor called it something different at first then it was part of a new brand. MDA/MIX/EDRUG are used interchangeably in a lot of places with no clear common term emerging, but if you’re googling for them, MDA (the common name) or MIX (the profile’s original name) are the more common terms and EDRUG (a 0.01 brand) only is used on new sets as far as I have seen. The Big Bang set labels the rows counting down from ESC/FN like Cherry OEM’s terms, despite having more in common with SA than OEM. I posted this review on Reddit, but I like Keebtalk too so I thought I’d crosspost.
Design Big Bang MDA/MIX is a sculpted, subtly spherical ortholinear keycap set. I have 3D modeled the keycaps to get a feel for what is an accurate comparison, and I will 3D laser scan the set and other profiles once I get the time (I take bribes in the form of PCB collabs, and Godspeed XDA vanilla+ortho icons or Bastion Artisan keycaps). The radius on the spherical dish is pretty gradual for a sculpted profile which gives more surface area than XDA (≈0.2mm linear difference, just enough to rest an XDA cap in the dish of an MDA/MIX cap).
Caps These have to be felt to be really understood. The caps are beautiful PBT with 1.45mm wall thickness (graduates to 1.65mm resulting in a nicely subdued but pleasant thock), very clean cut, the legends are immaculate, the surface is a uniformly smooth matte (almost textureless) not glossy like Signature Plastic’s SA profile. The surface is smooth without being slick; if your average PBT has the texture of a sheet of paper, Big Bang has the texture of a MacBook’s aluminum.
As a side note, NKPC was the contract factory for a set with blue lettering on black keycaps, and I believe they were the manufacturer for Big Bang. Prior reviews from redditors mentioned a slightly irregular surface finish in other sets, but I believe that was from the heat from the laser engraving process, which these dye-sub caps don’t suffer from.
The walls are mostly a consistent width and very straight, but the inside wall/top radius varies a little according to the calipers (don’t have a micrometer handy and laser scanning is too much of a bother right now) – probably an artifact of the mold or the demolding process, but I’m not going to laser scan and compare the forensic footprint since they probably don’t have extensive tooling yet and there are only mold/lot markers on some of the caps.
Legends The dye sub is immaculate. I was blown away by the precision. They are so precise that I thought they were laser etched at first. The lettering appears more precise than the texture of the cap, I have no idea how they managed such clean lines but it is crisp - to use a niche metaphor, it’s like when you polish the gesso on a canvas to before painting to change texture of the paint you eventually put on. NKPC did a phenomenal job, the dye sub is ePBT levels of quality. The font on the legends is very serviceable and the legends like Caps Lock do not feel crowded. I love the incorporation of the “CODE” key. I had enough mods with the set they have to use some with XDA keycaps (actually a good match for the bottom rows and makes it super easy to locate the mod keys).
Profile-fit with Boards & Cases I’m primarily using the on a few XD75 with a standard OLKB alpha cluster so the experience is true to Planck and Preonics (I have used them with the Preonic, but not my Planck). I may take the time to use the layout on a XD75 set up as a split board, split (5x6)x2 ortho, Preonic (5x12), and Plank (4x12) in future. It seems that splitting the board actually makes the profile line up with finger travel better than SA, and controversially makes it easy to stretch to reach keys not in that finger’s row. Board angle make a fair difference, with angled cases (5 deg) enhancing the profile, making it feel like a vastly superior SA, or IBM terminal board, more than XDA. It is still pleasant to type on a flat board, but I love the typing with a flat Row-3.
The Experience: Typing Speed & Ergos I noticed it took a little bit for my fingers to get used to sculpted profiles again, but as soon as I got the difference, my wpm went up a little over uniform profile keys (XDA and DSA). Convention says that typing speed increases with cylindrical because it’s easier to move from cap to cap (due to finger pads placement with palm-wrest typing, I recently learned from another redditor) but the sculpt and dish on these are close enough to the width of a cylindrical keycap that people who only use cylindrical liked these as much. In theory you might get lazier/less-precise over time with a wider keycap surface, but I find that it helps me move back and from staggered to ortho more easily. Jack at OLKB has been spotted using these on his personal board and I have it on my XD75RE keebs. I like sculpted, finger-hugging profiles but my fingers love uniform XDA and DSA; MDA/MIX offers both.
Need for improvement If I could offer any suggestions, it would be these things:
- Include a few blanks on every row. Having some filler helps overcome a lot of challenges with sculpted profiles
- Printing changes: (1) Add an R3 Tab key (many users swap TAB and ESC), (2)Make the R2 colored enter R3, (3) Include a 1.75u key, (4) Include a few blanks on every row, (5) FN kits (F1-F12 & F14-F18 keys)
- More kits with more intentional coverage like a Colvorak and ISO/DE kit (covering a dozen some ortho layouts is a feat, but ironically, staggered keyboard users are, ironically, left out a bit here)
- More colors and sets: the black on blue wasn’t bad, the blue and brown were terrible (I understand it was just unengraved blanks, but even the base orange ochre was unattractive as a legend or keycap)
- Please settle on a name – it looks like an abbreviation, make it make sense or mean something
Since changes to the molds would be expensive, these are two separate points for eventual improvement.
- Round the edges slightly: they are not as rounded as XDA, which is actually pretty core to the experience – mimic XDA, not SP or DSS – it is a simple loft and top-edge filet – “breaking the edge” as it is known in the biz is important.
- Consider dishing the profile a little more so it is more obviously spherical – due to the ambiguous shape, people who prefer cylindrical caps didn’t know they were spherical
- Dish, don’t bar homing keys: comung from XDA, I’m just used to dished rather than barred homing keys, trivial, and mostly preference, but I understand how dishing an already wide and dished keycap might seem risky, but almost all other main spherical profiles have included dished homing keys.
- Keep a smidge less of a jump in height from the back edge of R3 to the front edge of R4 (better row to row consistency than SA R3 height to R5).
Where to Buy I hate it when someone posts a review, you throw money at the screen and nothing happens. You can get them on Ali Express from NKPC (disclaimer: this is where I got mine, and I only got it because their customer service rep was fantastic), Jack has a some on OLKB.com, Kono had a cheap GB that closed Nov. 19, and KBDFans has them but they have had confusion over purchase and preorder without a declared ship date - they did run a GB early in the year. If you’re in EU, NKPC is your best bet due to shipping costs, VAT and shipping from OLKB, and the wait from KBDFans.
Summary MDA is tied with XDA as my favorite profile depending on the layout, better than DSA/Cherry/OEM/DCS/etc. makes me think that MDA/MIX is better than SA. I really want to try MT3 (in dev/tty/ Elven) because it looks like it has the same improvements on sculpted spherical caps (like SA) that MDA has on SA without also being like XDA – plus, MT3 is basically like IBM beamspring and Commodore 64 profiles more than like SA, and I love those. If you like DSA over XDA then other keycap sets that might be promising are the KAM profile (R2, the CAPS, A,S,D row is slightly taller than DSA) that the 2018 Starry Night R2 will be using, KAT set that was set to ship in December 2018 and a potential rerelease of SP’s DSS.