First time poster, but a mechanical keyboard fanatic starting with the ancient IBM Model M keyboards. My favorite keyboard was an Anne Pro 2, but I got tired of the lack of firmware support after Hexcore acquired it. The Anne Pro 2 did spoil me with its shine-through PBT keycaps.
I recently purchased a broken OLKB Preonic Rev. 1 keyboard with 1U space key (in other words, all 60 keys are 1U) and fixed it up (poor soldering job; keyswitches needed to be reflowed). I also added per-key single-color LEDs for keycap backlighting.
It came with the “Avocado Milk” XDA profile PBT dye sublimated keycaps (137 key set) seen under various brand names. They are excellent keycaps but I find that I need shine-through legends because I game/work in complete darkness and occasionally get lost especially with the unusual layout around the edges. Getting lost definitely slows down my top WPM as I correct the mistakes made by hitting the wrong key (usually backspace or enter; 1U keys require high precision, not just flailing with my pinkies).
Anyway, I am looking for a keycap set that meets the following criteria. It seems that no one makes anything that matches all the requirements:
- shine through, which can mean translucent, double-shot, pudding, jelly, or even transparent, but the legends must be durable against long-term wear (which rules out Tai Hao’s rubber keycaps and most transparent keycaps that have silkscreened legends)
- uniform profile (can be XDA, DSA, even OEM-profile R1-for-every-key)
- has enough keys for the Preonic all-1U layout. Right now, with my current layout that is undergoing testing and acclimation, I need these unusual keys: 1U backslash, 1U tab, 1U space, two 1U shift keys, 1U raise, 1U lower, 1U backspace, 1U enter, 1U CTRL, 1U ALT, 1U Win/Mac/OS. I do plan on trying out other custom layouts until I dial one in that works for me, so it would be nice to have other 1U keys that are usually larger than 1U
- fits Cherry MX/Gateron stems
- strongly prefer PBT or something that doesn’t wear shiny (in other words, not ABS)
- Note: legends can be on the top or side; top is probably better since the keys are uniform profile
- nice to have but an impossible dream: convex 1U space key
I don’t care about thickness or sound or the legend’s font; just shine-through legibility and durability.
It is surprisingly difficult to find this combination of features. I can get pretty close with some keycap sets, but they almost always are missing the 1U keys for ortholinear layouts.
The closest match right now is the XDA profile pudding PBT shine-through set with black tops and white translucent bottoms sold under various brand names on Amazon and other sites; I just need a 1U ortholinear expansion set for it, but I can’t identify the true manufacturer, and I doubt they would fulfill my request without a high minimum order quantity.
I’ve attempted to laser-engrave my own blank keycaps, but that was a disaster. Dye sublimation requires true PBT translucent keycaps for the high melting point, but I get the sense that the ones being sold on AliExpress are actually ABS and not PBT.
Thanks in advance!
I tracked down the original make of the close-but-no-cigar keycap maker with the XDA profile, pudding PBT, shine-through keycaps on Amazon.
It is made by Hong Kong based LTC and is called their translucent LavaCap.
I emailed them to ask them to produce an add-on set for us ortholinear users; we could buy the main set and then the add-on set separately.
We’ll see if they are receptive to the idea.
Keysterine keycaps over on drop.com is not exactly what you want but might work for you. You can also get the Planck there so you don’t have to bother finding keys on the Preonic.
Thanks for the suggestions. I hadn’t known about the Keysterine before.
They definitely are shine-through and they definitely have lots of keys in the set.
The two downsides are that the legend could wear off (there’s an official product recall from about June 2022 for some users experiencing the legends wearing off within two weeks of use) and that the profile is ranked, but those might not be real problems for me.
As for the Planck–actually, I am considering switching to one of the Planck EZ backlit keyboards, since they come with exactly what I want in keycaps (apparently they are rank R1 keys custom made by Tai Hao for ZSA). That said, as a programmer, I definitely want the top row for the symbols+numbers. I practiced the Planck layout on my Preonic (the default layout is essentially the Planck), and it’s too much of a pain to type the symbols.
I’ll check out the Keysterines after I check out the translucent black LTC Lavacaps that I just ordered from Amazon.
Actually, I might try the Keysterines for a different keyboard, a Matt3o NightFox Nera with the True Fox layout. The NightFox can also have per-key single-color LEDs, and it’s been harder to find keycap sets for than the ortholinears because of the unusual backspace, right shift, and backslash keys. Keysterines might have them all–thanks again!
As for the Planck vs Preonic i started with the Planck and it was kinda love at first touch, but I wasn’t completely convinced so I got a Preonic a month or two later.
But when using the Preonic I already (mostly) adapted the Planck combinations making the numrow on the Preonic feel cluttered and working against the concept of ortholinear.
Tho when I want to play StarCraft II i do miss the num-row…
Thanks again for the advice on the Keysterine–I confirm that it definitely can do the True Fox layout perfectly and also has all the keys I need for Preonic with only one tiny issue: I use a 1U space. BUT, I could take one of the extra 1U keys and deliberately remove the legend to make a 1U space.
I definitely understand what you mean on the Preonic top number row. After getting used to the ortholinear layout and how ergonomic it is, I realized I hated reaching the extra distance to type on the number row. That made perfect sense why so many people seem to prefer the Planck; it is truly the most ergonomic setup. You are right though–I forgot about Starcraft needing the number row. Hmm. Maybe I’ll stick with the Preonic after all. I have a few other games in my backlog that also heavily depend on the num row.
UPDATE: the text description of the Keysterines says they have two 1U spaces included, but the diagram doesn’t show them. I’ll assume the description is correct.
I believe this is the right kitting, but don’t take my word for it.
You’re right. That’s the same diagram I saw on the Drop website. They left out the extra spacebars they offer (including two 1U space keys) from the diagram.
The Keysterine will definitely work for me on both my Preonic and NightFox Nera. Great suggestion!
And they have improved the legends for round 2, or so they won’t come off so easy, or so they say.
Worth a try if they have a decently long warranty. I’ll ask them about it before buying.