Hotswap boards


#1

I’m considering buying a hotswap pcb. What are the pros/cons of buying a hotswap other than being able to change out switches more easily? I mean yes, your’e paying a few bucks more, but money isn’t an issue at the moment.

I was going to purchase the KBD67 kit, but am considering TOFU65 if I decide to not go hotswap. Also, as an add on, are there any other board/case combos you would recommend for a 65% layout?


#2

The only con I know is that Hotswap is definitively less durable. By that I mean that if you tend to change your switches pretty often, at a point it will stop working and your kailh socket will break.

That’s pretty much all.

edit: and if a socket breaks while pushing a switch on the pcb, you have to solder it back… So yeah, some people just don’t get it and prefer to solder directly.


#3

The big con with hotswaps is, again, durability. Kailh sockets are great, but the soldering on them is often poor, and there’s been reports of KBDfans’ hotswap boards having the sockets fall out and take the pads with them, making them unrepairable. Granted, my KBD6x R2 doesn’t have this issue, but I’ve heard that while they’re more durable now, there is always the danger with a hotswap board. You can mitigate this by securing the hotswap sockets by supporting them with a layer of foam or something, though. If you know you like a particular switch and just want to keep it accessible to relube/springswap it, the best option is to get a switchtop openable plate and have that option ready, but if you want to use multiple types of switches, get a hotswap board.


#4

@Lesbian makes a good point on this. KBDFans does have some good hotswap PCBs now that they’ve had some trial and error, but you do always run the risk of pulling them out. I’ve spoken to Wei at a pretty extensive length about it and he said it should be about 100 pulls for each socket and that they shouldn’t take the pad with them. They do have excellent customer service and are usually very happy to help replace it, so if something like that happens, just reach out to them on Facebook or by e-mail.

I have a few hotswap boards coming in this year and I’m looking forward to them as I have a large variety of switches I’d like to use, but having a plate that supports switch top removal is also fantastic.


#5

Yeah, the Kailh sockets are officially rated for 100 insertion cycles. I personally have the brass 60% plate in my KBD6x board, so it provides a stable, tight fit, along with having switchtop opening! Again, you’ll likely not run into problems so long as you support the sockets properly.


#6

One pro which I haven’t seen mentioned up to this point - hotswap is much more convenient if you want to break in switches before lubing. I’m still on the fence about breaking in switches, but it’s nice to have a couple of beater boards with hotswap PCBs while I figure that out.

As far as cons, everyone has added good information. I might add that it’s generally useful to remember that solder does not create a mechanical joint, only an electrical one - if you keep that in mind, then it should be easy to remember to “backstop” the hotswap socket with a solid surface or your thumb when inserting switches to avoid any issues. There isn’t a great way to prevent a hotswap socket from separating from the PCB during switch removal, but in my experience so far, the amount of force required to remove a switch has been substantially less than the amount required to insert a switch, and I haven’t yet felt like I was going to pop a hotswap socket by removing the switch with a switch puller. YMMV, of course.


#7

Yeah I’ve heard that it’s basically like a really light pull should get it to come out. I’m going to be very gentle with my first hotswap board as it won’t be a beater one.


#8

A question that’s been rolling around in my head since I got the assuredly-terrible notion in my head of designing my own case/PCB, which I think is appropriate to ask in this thread, is:

Do hotswap PCBs introduce additional constraints in regards to designing mounting systems for builds?

I sort-of intellectually understand (and this may be off-base, so correct me if this is totally wrong) that, for instance, a PCB in a case with a gasket-mount plate can be supported by the soldered-in switches and therefore stabilizer cutouts in the plate can support a wide variety of stabilizers. Do hotswap builds therefore require plate-mounted stabilizers to secure the PCB to the plate (and are plate-mounted stabilizers enough to actually do that) or does the PCB need its own mounting system in that kind of build (like, say, screw posts coming up from the bottom of the case as I see in numerous kits/builds)?


#9

Kbdfans (for the tofu and kbd67 at least) has a system where the PCB screws into the plate (with nuts in between) to make it one secure, firm unit, and so you can take all the switches out and have the PCB still floating in plate. This allows easy removal of all switches, and insertion of new ones, without disassembling the whole board.

The downside to this is it increases rigidity to the typing feel, nullifying an advantage of the bottom mount design of the kbd67.


#10

In my experience the GMMK sockets are either somehow less damage-prone in their design than the kailh sockets in other boards, or just better manufactured. (I’ve heard that the sockets are very similar to Kailh but not identical.) I’ve replaced the switches in my GMMK full-size probably a dozen times or more with no issue, whereas on my kailh hot swappable 60% I had a socket separate on first build (or it arrived like that). Curious if anyone else agrees, and/or knows what’s different about GMMK’s design, e.g. it possible they’re bracing the sockets inside the case?


#11

I was thinking a plate underneath the PCB might fix this, it seems when you press the switch in place, it puts pressure on the socket, pushing it away from the PCB each time. If the back of the socket were sandwiched against a plate - would it last longer from repeated switch swaps?


#12

Oh, actually that may not be a bad idea!
Well at least it’s worth trying out.
If the backplate is tight against them it should prevent them from breaking.


#13

Major turn-down for me with hotswap : less layout supported.


#14

No comparisons, but my GMMK so far is holding fine.