Will we see more hot-swappable keyboards and are they good for the market?

Aside from the renowned hot-swappable keyboard, GMMK, we’ve also got 2 cheap Chinese keyboards, the K-Type by Input Club, and GK64. Ergodox is also hot-swappable I believe. The upcoming Kira and MiTo CTRL keyboards will be hot-swappable.

Would you want hot-swappable keyboards to be more popular in which it can be considered the norm and will they be good for the mechanical keyboard market? Does being hot-swappable mean that the build wouldn’t be as good and sturdy as one that isn’t?

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The build quality is then more reliant on the plate.
And i think provides more options, which is a good thing.

It think it is great for people starting out with the hobby, because before when they wanted a new experience they had to buy a new board instead of just a bunch of switches.

and i’ll be getting one as a better switch tester,
maybe even to try the switches on different plate materials.
And when i like the combination i’ll get a dedicated board with them soldered in.

Hot-swappable might not be that good for the market, making it to easy for folks to adjust their keyboard to their actual liking. The market might prefer to sell mks over and over with different switches.

I must have read a couple of hundred times over the last years in german communities only, that folks want mk xy with switchtype yx, but not being able to customize, (de)solder, on their own, willing to learn or use a (de)soldering service by others.
Having in mind not everyone is stuck deep into the rabbithole and we all had been beginners sometime, it’s very nice to make our hobby more easily accessable/enjoyable. Options are always nice to have.

What i don’t like that much from what i’ve seen so far, is some kind of specs/warning in descriptions: “The sockets/hot-swapping are guaranted to work for xxx amount of swapping, afterwards chances to fail may occur.”

Not everyone does even dare to search for that information

If they are really hot swappable I think that’s a good thing.

The first mechanical keyboard I bought was a cheap one that advertised hot-swappable, but it turned out it was only compatible with Outemu switches. Everything else MX style bent pins when I tried to put them in, so it wasn’t as useful to get into the hobby as I expected.

I’m hopeful that the next hot-swappable one I get will work better, but having learned to solder in the meantime, I don’t feel as concerned about it as I did originally.

Someone said it on another post, but a hot swappable 40% would be a good way for people to get into it and see what switches they like. Something staggered, IMO as most don’t want to start out with ortho.

I think it would also be nice to make a gamepad with hot swap sockets. That would get gamers into it and allow customization without paying for an entire board’s worth of switches.

I think we’ll see more and I think they are probably good for the market as they’ll lower the barrier for entry. Personally, I have no interest in it. Soldering is part of the joy for me and it’s kind of a zen-like experience once you get in the groove of it.

If a new Poker came out with hot swap, I would be all over it.

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Give me Bluetooth over any other feature currently out there.

If you’ve found your switch, you’re basically done. So while I like to try out switches at meets, I always stick with what I like for new builds, and that’s MX Clears. I don’t get tired like most people with switches. I might want to try other layouts but not really switches.

I think hot swap would help manufacturers cut down on the number of sku’s/permutations of boards they need to carry to satisfy the market.

Does anyone remember backlit keyboards before RGB? Ducky used to carry a veritable crap ton of SKU’s due to multiple switch types per LED color.

Also if a switch goes bad, the board wouldn’t need to be RMA’ed as the end user can fix it. Just include a few spare switches in the box like Wooting.

The challenge is how do you sell the user on buying a keyboard without switches preinstalled? If you sold it as a “Makerspace” kind of keyboard that’s a possibility.

I’m surprised Zeal hasn’t come out with a Zeal60 with hot swap preassembled so you can just drop it into a case, throw in some switches and you’re good to go.

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I’m hoping that there’d be a hot swap which accepts pcb mount switches, and something that stays on the pcb better than Kailh’s

I was under the impression that Kailh Hotswap sockets were the end all - be all to hotswap socket design? Or are you unconvinced of this?

@donutcat said the sockets are only held in place with little bits of solder so they can fall off easily

Personally I’m not a fan of any hotswappable methods at the moment, current implementations aren’t durable enough for my liking. I think that if Kailh sockets were modified to be more mechanically fastened to a PCB then they’d be better and more up to my standards. Additionally, as someone that tends to differ a little from the “normal” layouts on my board, I’m not happy that hotswap tends to limit your layout options

As for are they good for the market, there’s a few ways to look at that. Hotswap boards are a sorta weird spot in the current hierarchy of mechs because they’re not as simple as someone just buying a Corsair or a CM, but they’re below completely sourcing all components. With more offerings I could see them being more popular, but right now it seems like the kinda “middle” market that might be interested in them is content with prebuilts, willing to desolder/have a board desoldered for them, or is willing to go all in on full custom. That could change with more offerings being made available and hotswap becoming more commonplace in the hobby.

Currently Kailh sockets are only held on by the solder joints used to electrically connect them, which at times can be insufficient as shown by some K-types, especially that picture going around of a K-type that lost 20+ sockets off the PCB during shipping. I think that these sockets should have pins on them similar to PCB mount pins on switches in order to offer more secure fastening to the PCB to help prevent this from happening.

:sweat: donutcat you killed my boner.

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Whoops. Maybe I need to start an IC for PCB mount Kailh sockets now :thinking:

For me, the three big issues with current Hotswap boards:

  1. Weakness of the SMD soldered joints on the sockets
  2. Lack of flexible layouts
  3. Lack of compatibility with after market tray mounted cases (b/c of collision with the sockets)

Finding a better way to secure the current Kailh sockets would be big improvement. I would hesitate to recommend a HS board to anyone that didn’t have the ability to resolder in a pinch.

I’m going to guess it’s fairly common for a beginning hotswap user to accidentally bend a pin upon insertion and try to force the switch into the socket with a good deal of pressure. If the solder joint is weak, you’re going to break the connection.

This is no issue to me whatsoever, b/c I can just resolder it and it’s still faster than soldering the entire board. However, if you have no soldering tools, you have an unusable board.

I have 3 hotswap boards. On the cheapest one (igk61), I’ve had to resolder 2 of the sockets. That was the first week I got the board (and before I got down a good technique for inserting the switches carefully). Since then, I’ve swapped out all of the switches probably 25-30 times. I’ve never had an issue since.

Never had any issues with my LFKeybaords 65% hotswap or my HS60 (granted the LEDs were messed up and now not working, but the SOCKETS all worked perfectly :stuck_out_tongue:)

I feel like hotswap is only worthwhile if you are the kind of person that wants to try every new MX style switch and build all the new MX frankenswitches. Once you know what you want to build with hotswap becomes pointless and it some cases annoying if you have tight fitting keycaps.

Yes, that’s exactly what I use it for. The only reason I have multiple is because the IGK board has leds at the top of the switches, so I cannot get a good feel for Cherry profile caps on it (I don’t like the slight contact cherry profile makes with the upside down housings)

Although I have used an IBM Model M2 buckling springs keyboard when I was a kid, I’m fairly new to this hobby of mechanical keyboards. I still don’t know how to solder/desolder and as of the moment don’t have funds to buy all the things needed for a DIY kit. But I really want to try switches so I got myself a GMMK and BOX Navies. Wow I didn’t know hot-swappable keyboards were very vulnerable. Good thing I was able to put my Navies successfully without any problem. My only issue is some keycaps are slightly misaligned (function row and nav keys) if I look at it closely which makes me think I didn’t put the switches very well into their place.

I just have a question though. I’m not a fan of small keyboards. Growing up mainly with full-size, anything smaller than TKL, while it looks great, bothers me if I have to use it. Is it just me or is it hard to find TKL/Full-size kits for a fully customized keyboard? Seems to me that most if not all of the fully customized keyboards are smaller than TKL. Does it have something to do with price? Making your own fully customized 60% keyboard is already pricey, so a TKL or full-size probably will cost more? OEM market seems to be filled with TKLs and full size mechs while custom keyboards are mostly smaller than TKL like 60%.

I am going to respectfully disagree with donutcat and side with the kailh sockets actually being pretty secure. GMMK has sold a crap ton of boards with them and I have not seen a bunch of reports of the sockets falling off. The kira issue sounds like a board/company specific problem with the soldering. I have hand soldered a bunch of these sockets and I dont see how one would dislodge during shipping, much less 20. I also dont see how pcb pins would help because it would just secure horizontal play and not vertical play (unless there was some kind of hook mechanism like pcb stabilizers.

I think hotswap sockets are the future and we are seeing creative solutions to the limited layout options like the offerings from LFK and OLKB.