Seeking help choosing a TKL

Looking for a new TKL and there are waaay too many options. Off the top of my head I can think of:

Keychron q3 pro

Monsgeek M3

Drop CSTM80

Leo80

Monokei Standard

Zoom TKL

Anyone have experience with any of these boards or know of any good review sites to help me compare and narrow things down?

Thanks

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I don’t have experience with those particular boards, but others here do.

If you perform a search for Keychron keyboards of the model you are looking for, you will find information.

Generally, people here seem satisfied with the Keychron Q-series, or alternatively the V-series as a budget option.

The Keychrons come pretty much ready-to-use. You can adjust dampening, choose the plate material, lube the stabilizers, and so on, but you don’t necessarily need to. The Q series feels a little more ‘luxury’ because of the metal case and the basic gasket system. The V-series is built more like a solid pre-built, it is a tray-mount so there will be a slight auditory difference from the Q-series. [Plus the case material will make a difference.]

The Monsgeek needs some final-assembly, that’s my understanding. At least the stabilizers. They have ample dampening options, so it’s up to you whether it will be a quiet or resonant keyboard. I would get a Keychron if planning to do no work on it, or a Monsgeek if planning to do some customization.

If going for a custom, there are some mid-tier options that are pretty decent. I think KBD8X MKIII is coming into stock. Nice top-mount. I have the MK II. It doesn’t have many special features, but the mounting and sometimes the sound characteristics are pretty solid. As is the PCB. But it doesn’t have adjustable feet, so the typing angle is fixed.

The Frog TKL is good if you can get one, especially with a PCB included. The “tadpole” mounting system allows for flexibility on the part of the builder, and is good for different types of switches. I would definitely get one if it were convenient.

The Zoom TKL is said to be a good budget custom. That one comes in many colours, doesn’t it?

It’s too bad that you recently missed a BF-week sale on the HMKB, a steel TKL. It was significantly discounted. But you’d have to produce a custom plate for that one, unless you like steel / brass.

The Monsgeek M3 is out of my budget at the moment, and I’ve got to live with that, even though it is $150 CAD shipped right now. It would be exactly what I need for Gateron G Pro Brown 3.0, I expect.

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If you don’t mind soldering, CannonKeys Devastating TKL is only $130 until maybe the 27th. They are nice keyboards. Chunky sounding since it’s a thick aluminum pedestal. Only some colors are available since they just had a doorbuster sale on them, but it’s still a great deal.

If you don’t mind giving up the f-row, you can order a Neo70.

Frog TKL (from Geon) comes to mind, but it will run you a good deal more, and I’m unsure if there are further in-stock drops coming. (EDIT: Whoops, already mentioned.)

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A couple more for ya:

The Luminkey 80 seems nice for the money. The preorder is done, but I imagine some will be in-stock during Q1.

The JRIS 80 group buy is 11/28-12/10. Not sure if they’ve made any changes since their first layout, but they seem like a good value.

You can get a good sense for all these boards I’ve mentioned by searching for reviews, sound tests and build videos on YouTube. You may need to look at the previous layout of the same brand.

Some will be more like product features…but you should be able to sift out the hype and get some sense what it will be like. It’s not that easy but they are all decent, as far as I can tell.

Keep in mind whether you think you’d like the sound, whether it seems to need foam to sound good and how you feel about that, how the feel may differ, etc.

Of my list, I’d point you to the Neo, though it’s f-rowless.

Of yours, I’d probably go for the Zoom. That’s going to be in the same bucket with the JRIS and the Luminkey.

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I haven’t used any of them so can’t speak to things like build quality or acoustics, but there’s a few features (or lack thereof) that you might find important:

  • Bluetooth/2.4 GHz Wireless: The Keychron Q3 Pro and Leo80 support both, while the Monokei Standard and Zoom TKL only support Bluetooth. The others are wired-only.

  • QMK/VIA: Monokei Standard doesn’t support it, all the others do.

  • LED lighting: The Monokei Standard has no LEDs, while the Zoom TKL only has ambient underglow. The Monokei and Zoom do have their keyswitches oriented south-facing, so Cherry keycaps shouldn’t be a problem. The other boards have per-key RGB lighting, though I have no idea if they’re programmable/addressible or limited to just a few different lighting effects.

  • Macro Column & Knob: The Keychron Q3 Pro Special Edition has a macro column on the left hand side, while the other keyboards (and the non-special Q3 Pro) don’t. The macro keys use Gateron low-profile switches and custom narrow keycaps. Those switches have a different arrangement of pins, so you won’t be able to swap them out for typical MX-compatible switches, or even for low-profile switches from other manufacturers.
    The low-profile switches and keycaps do have MX-compatible stems, but the Q3 Pro SE’s case has raised edges around each macro key. There’s a good chance those edges will collide with the skirt of any alternative keycaps. So if you are interested in the SE, make sure you pick one with a keycap colour you like :smiley:

  • Alternative Switch Layouts: The Zoom TKL supports split-Shift, split-spacebar, and split-Backspace layouts.
    The Keychron Q3 (regular, not Pro) has an ISO layout option. Note that board is wired-only and doesn’t have the macro column on the left, but is still gasket-mounted and supports QMK/VIA.

  • Case Materials The Monokei Standard has an ABS case, the Drop CSTM80 is polycarbonate. The rest are aluminium. Some plastic cases are fine (I have no complaints about my Ducky One 2 and Keychron V3). But others are pretty awful, either sounding hollow (my Keychron K2) or flexing easily (most budget membrane keyboards)

  • Included Keycaps: The Monokei comes with Cherry-profile PBT caps, so it’s a bit wasteful/expensive if you plan on swapping out the caps. The Keychron and Zoom are available barebone or with PBT caps included, while the Drop CSTM80 comes barebone or with ABS caps. The Monsgeek and Leo80 are barebone-only.

I hope that helps.

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I’m curious to understand how many people are using a metal case TKL as a mobile board. I can’t imagine adding an extra 2kg to my bag when a GMK67 is about 600g. I guess I’m not dedicated enough…

Thanks for all the replies.

I’m actually leaning towards one of the plastic boards because I’m planning on using clicky switches (chosfox arctic fox) and I’m afraid the metal boards will ping too much. Is this a valid concern or will the foam and a force break mod take care of any ping?

You might ok with an aluminum case; I’ve found that the Arctic Fox switches aren’t very loud compared to other clicky switches. And if you lube the springs and rails, they will be more quiet.

Foam is also a valid option for further dampening.

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