I’ve posted my article on my first impressions of Zealio Clickiez, and using them in a build for a couple of weeks:
Good to know that more MX switch designers are taking note from Alps switches, especially for clickies. Zeal really outdid himself with these.
I agree, these are definitely in a class of their own. I hope when he goes to work on a V2 he can find a way to not have the dramatic force drop that they current version has. That would make them more ideal IMO.
I appreciated the review, I will probably come back to this thread when I complete my current build with the clickiez and have thoughts of my own.
You’re one of the reviewers who is a bit more ambiguous in your current verdict, and that’s probably good for tempering my extremely high expectations, especially since it is likely that I will be sensitive to the high actuation force. I’m a tactile guy, so I’d like to see a lighter version of this switch in the future to make tactile mode more usable. For now, I anticipate that my fingers just won’t be able to handle tactile v1s.
Chyrosan22 recently posted a review of an i-Rocks keyboard that has updated V2 clicky switches. [not Zeal, obviously, but i-Rocks].
He mentioned that he felt as if these new switches on the V2 keyboard were seemingly-more reasonable in intensity as compared with the Clickiez. They were closer to the ALPS clicky switches that he prefers.
While Zeal is providing a switch that satisfies demand for an extremely sharp clicky, it seems as though there is at least as much demand for a more moderate one. Zeal is already moving towards a toned-down clicky or tactile, AFAIK, and this i-Rocks may be similar.
I think that would be a good direction. We don’t need MAX, we just need ALPS-like.
Does anyone know if the i-Rocks footprint is MX-compatible?
It’s my understanding from the video that the switch itself is not an MX switch. I’m not sure if it’s compatible with MX PCBs.
However, it does have an MX stem. So you should be able to use your MX keycaps on it.
Personally, I care more about PCB-compatibility. And unfortunately, from what I can tell, the closeup pics of the switch in the Deskthority wiki don’t look like it is PCB-compatible with MX.
I wish MX wasn’t the current standard as I tend to gravitate more toward alps/matias switches, but when you’re into building, that standard really helps. For that reason, the Clickiez tick the most boxes for me as of now.
Yeah, I was a bit deliberate with the ambiguity because I avoided trying to do an A/B comparison of Box Jade/Navy switches vs Clickiez. I really wanted the article to be an extended “first impression” (although it went on long than intended - I really only wanted to do a one week evaluation of them in a build, but things came up and I didn’t get to do as much typing as I normally do the first week…)
Although I could do something like that in the future. If anyone is interested in that let me know.
Thomas confirms in his video that the i-Rocks are not MX layout, only the stem in MX compatible. My assumption is they are really interested in selling the whole keyboard, and not just the switches. The stem compatibility just allows people to customize the keyboard somewhat (or possibly just replace a broken key cap easily).
The thing that Thomas didn’t talk about in his video is the stabilizers. If they are different from the stabs used for MX style key caps that could limit the possibility of replacing them.
Right. I’ll run into the same problem with the i-Rocks that I have with Alps over the years: it’s just really hard to make a switch work in a custom build it wasn’t made for. The Clickiez are attractive because they are aimed at enthusiasts like me [EDIT: as in with my specific interests].
Yes, I think the future is in switches that are compatible with the MX ecosystem, but are not MX in design themselves. Like BOX Jade, Clickiez… something with clickbar or ALPS-inspired leaf that can go into an MX PCB.
You can have MX compatibility without the MX tactility design.
Exactly… Although there’s always the possibility of someone being interested enough to produce PCB’s with i-Rocks layouts and a custom firmware (using QMK / VIA). Of course, that would be more likely if i-Rocks switches were more readily available…
That’s where things stand now, however there is an underlying issue: it will lead to stagnation in the market due to a lack of competition. We’re seeing it already. How many switches are (basically) re-packaged, recolored, etc versions of the same things being released again and again?
If there were different form-factors of switches it would lead to more competition, which is better for the consumer. We see it now in the computer market place where we have X86 vs RISC competing on CPU architecture. Intel vs AMD compete based on price and performance.
And many other examples where different approaches to doing the same thing creates competition, which is better for the consumer (another example: think about the many different automakers there are: they are all basically the same thing, but there’s enough variations in terms of how they do things that they can compete on price, performance, efficiency, etc.).
It’s fine to have competition, such a situation already exists to an extent.
But if a product isn’t compatible with MX PCBs and such, then it is not likely to succeed. People want to buy switches that will work with the kits that are out there.
That’s why I think the best road forward is for manufacturers to produce switches that are different from MX, but fit into MX. Think of it as software on MX hardware. You have different software options [switches] but they all run on the common hardware.
Trying to build outside of the MX infrastructure is going to be very painful. There’s a paved 8-lane superhighway called ‘MX world,’ and then there’s an overgrown dirt trail that you have to drag non-MX stuff through.
There are several switches that I feel aren’t far from introducing great competition and innovation to the MX-scene, but that also aren’t quite there in terms of compatibility. Perhaps i-Rocks are one of those, another one I have my eye on is Input Club’s SILO switches, especially the beam switch. It will have an MX-mount and of course will be available to buy (hopefully soon), but as an optical switch it won’t work with popular PCB’s. As a result, 99% of the people of r/mk will ignore it, and unfortunately, I’ll probably have to reluctantly pass them up as well, despite how intrigued I am with the vintage-inspired design.
For now, I suppose BOX switches and clickiez will have to do. Too bad I’m not into linears.
Of course it wouldn’t just be the switches, there would have to be PCB’s and the supporting materials too (ie, dampening foam, plates, etc.)
Think about it this way: what if an alternative switch offered a feature that can’t be handled in MX format? For an example, currently de-bouncing is handled in firmware. What if adding a third pin provided an easier and more accurate method of handling de-bouncing? Or, how about handling optical or hall effect styles of switches better?
We do have a few alternatives on the market now, like Topre switches, and some of the optical switches, but trying to force those into an MX style switch housing is really not that good. In order for a lot of these switches to become more viable for the enthusiast market there really needs to be a competing format.
Interesting - I wasn’t aware of those before. That does have potential, but needing a contact-less PCB is going to be difficult.
That’s why I am convinced there needs to be some companies that start producing alternatives. We are losing both the vintage designs, and the possibility of finding new designs that will move things forward.
It would be nice to have an alternative ecosystem. I’m not sure how we get there.
I like that some manufacturers took risks, bringing us clickbar and ALPS-style clicky within MX. I wish more would do the same.
How we get to an alternative ecosystem, I don’t know. Factories barely want to produce anything outside of MX-linear derivations [including tactiles]. They’d have to band together somewhat to produce different PCB and switch formats. I guess if Clickiez and such were really successful, they’d start looking in that direction?
I don’t know if the switch-producing industry in China is organized in a way to produce a different ecosystem. They seem to be a bunch of factories producing MX-derivations. I don’t know what would ever compel them to invest in what would be required for an alternative infrastructure. That’s why most are just hoping for new, non-MX switch types from the existing manufacturers.
A thought: maybe Niz would be the type of business to push forward there.
They already have an EC infrastructure, and one that is compatible with MX keycaps and stabilizers. So they sort of know that terrain.
Maybe they could provide a basis for alternative types of switches to be produced.
Another to look at is Varmilo. They are mainly MX, but also produce their own EC. But is Varmilo, on its own, revolutionizing the keyboard space?
If companies like Niz or Varmilo could co-operate with some of the switch mass-producers, they might have the know-how to produce a different ecosystem. But I don’t know what the incentive is, it’s seems too speculative. Egg won’t be produced, because there is no chicken. So we don’t know what is market demand for the egg.
Nicely put. I like it. Conservative companies will say that means there simply is no demand. A progressive and more risk taking company might say it’s a great opportunity!
Instantly thought of one of my favorite TED talks that I used to play in my Music Appreciation course every year. Watch the opening statement:
Linked the YouTube version for convenience, but you can get a bit better quality off the TED site.
I’d disagree with that thought (and think you have a better thought below): many of these companies are producing membrane and butterfly spring switches / keyboards. So there isn’t so much resistance to doing non-MX style keyboards.
That’s the crux of the issue… Two things need to happen, there need to be enough companies that would be interested in doing something different, and cooperating on the R&D to bring it to market. It’s not unheard of in other market segments. Over the last 40 years we’ve seen Compact Discs, DVD’s and BlueRay all emerge by the electronics and media companies working together to define new standards.
But, you hit on the tricky (or maybe not so tricky) part of the issue: a need has to be identified in the market, and it needs to be large enough for there to be an incentive to address it. Unfortunately that is what we aren’t seeing… The current largest segment of the mechanical keyboard market is for gaming, and companies like Logitech, Steel Series, HyperX, etc. are large enough that they are happy to develop their own products, or just piggy back on the MX train for now.
That’s the issue - I don’t think there is a large enough demand that even companies like i-Rock, Varmilo, Niz, etc. would be interested in putting in the R&D for a new product. It’s really a shame.
I’ve had some tactile mode Clickiez in my Portico for a while and decided to try them with a different keyboard - I hadn’t recorded them in this one yet, so I went ahead and made one before swapping the switches:
@Den-Fi - This is one of maybe two or three switches with a tactile event strong enough to slow my typing down, and this one more-so than any other by a wide margin. These are so much more tactile than any other switch I’ve used it’s ridiculous. Switches I’d considered novelties or memes for how absurdly over the top they are seem soft and gentle compared to these.
I’ve not yet had the pleasure of using Alps - but I have a feeling they weren’t quite this… extra. If for whatever reason you don’t enjoy harsh impacts with your typing, well - these aren’t for you. Once you clear the leaf, you’ve bottomed-out, and hard. I imagine little BAM! POW! Batman comic bubbles floating up from my keyboard…