Building A Silent Keyboard On A Budget- An Inexpensive Approach To A Better Typing Experience

Continuing my keyboard experimentation, I wanted to see what you could get in a build project for as cheap as possible. So, this is the M87 Pro Keyboard, a TKL keyboard that is hot swappable, with south facing RGB LEDs. It was going for $29.99 before a 20% instant coupon. I didn’t disassemble it, but the video of its disassembly shows a gasket mount with 5 layers.

I already had some keycaps I had taken off another keyboard for cleaning(they were getting a bit shiny), and I decided this was also a good time to try some new types of switches. Because the description for the product said, “Sound Absorption Foam & Silicon Bottom Pad…Each press feels like a symphony of comfort and precision…”, I opted to try two types of advertised silent switches.

The Akko V3 Fairy Linear Silent Switch and the Epomaker Sea Salt Silent Linear Switch, as pictured below. Of course, my first box of Fairy switches showed up pre-opened from Amazon(which I assume was a return they didn’t detect). I apparently wasn’t the only person with this problem, as there were similar reviews. Either way, the Fairy feels a bit better, is definitely more silent when I type, and is actually cheaper. At the same time, the Seat Salt is a box type switch, seems a stronger construction(none of them showed up broken or pre-used) and are rated for 10 million more uses. So, I can see the benefits of both of those.

I did consider some alternatives to try in the sub-$50 kit space. You can find some even cheaper on Aliexpress and sites like that, but there is a comfort with using Amazon, I suppose. The CIY GK68 Wireless Hotswap Keyboard is only $37.90 at time of writing here, and that adds in, obviously, wireless capability using AAA batteries, as well as being a 65% layout as opposed to TKL, and comes in a few colors.

Also, being as keyboard kits, unless they are higher end, can cost more than keyboards where you just discard the switches they provided, you can also consider some budget models that you intend to completely strip.

Much to my annoyance, or happiness(just wish I’d known it was coming), the Keychron C3 Pro, which was a budget model I really like, now has a hotswap version. I recommend it even more, and it is selling for $48 at the time I write this for the hotswap version, and I’ve seen the regular version for as low as $30.




Know When To Fold ‘Em? My Quest For A Modern Folding Keyboard

The first time I saw a keyboard and knew I needed to get it was when I saw someone with the Targus Stowaway keyboard. It was connected up to their PDA. I immediately wanted a PDA and the keyboard to use to type on the go. For those of you who missed the PDA phase, it was the smartphone before smartphones. I still have fond memories of my Handspring Visor.

The Stowaway Keyboard was a tri-fold keyboard that folded into a pocket size item, and contained a mount to put your PDA into to connect to it. The modern equivalent is bluetooth or USB, and connects to your phone. So, I looked on Amazon to see if I could find what the successor to that is.


You still can get TriFolds like that…for example, the Moko Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard. It even has a full number pad.

There are also bifold bluetooth keyboards of varying prices and quality. But, I’ve been on a mechanical keyboard exploration of late, so I wondered what was available in folding or otherwise tiny form factors that was mechanical.

I tried out the Royal Kludge F68 60% folding low profile keyboard. Royal Kludge is a fairly well established lower cost brand, and this was a unique design. I used it to write on a tablet, and it had no issue being plugged in via USB or paired via bluetooth. I was able to type an entire email comfortably with my phone. The only issue was the keycaps started showing discoloration immediately, so I decided to swap the keycaps for something of better quality. The keycaps are low profile, so I found a nice inexpensive set, and it worked perfectly…except for the spacebar. It’s 6U, as opposed to the more common 6.25U…so…problem. But the rest of it is now much better.

But that is a problem in itself. If a keyboard doesn’t start out close to what you what, is it worth putting money in to make it that? I’ve been delving into keyboard videos on YouTube and keyboard forums. I have been buying keyboards only to immediately switch to PBT keycaps. I’ve been experimenting with new switch types…and for the most part, you can only get a limited selection preinstalled on the board and there are so many other options.

We’ll see what I try next, but what is your preference for mobile keyboards? I’ve covered folding as well as the smaller form factors…



Musings On The Best Keyboard For Travel

In my previous writing, about using a Mini PC on the Go, I mentioned a 60-65% keyboard as the right size in my opinion for travel. So, what are the different types of keyboards?

  • Full-size
  • Tenkeyless(TKL) – A tenkeyless is the same size as a full-size keyboard, but omits the number pad.
  • 75%  – condenses the function keys
  • 65% – usually retains the arrow keys while condensing the other function keys.
  • 60% – removes the function and navigation keys
  • 40% – the smallest keyboard

I have long since given up on full sized keyboards. All my home keyboards are TKL. This is something of a practical issue. I’m left-handed, and the number pad is on the right side of the keyboard, favoring right handed typists. In the rare cases when you need it, you can try for a keypad such as this inexpensive one from Kisnt, which has Red, Brown, and Blue switch options and PBT keycaps already.

40% is too small. I know people are very passionate about this size once you get used to the combinations to use it. The most economical 40% I found was at the local Microcenter.

For my latest attempt, I opted for a 65% Keychron K6 that was discounted at the time I purchased it and is still reasonable. The K6 is bluetooth and USB-C, but has a hardware rather than a software switch between wireless and wired. Some models of the K6 are hotswappable, meaning you can change the switches.. Compare that to the well reviewed Royal Kludge RK68, which has a software switch. 65% gets you the arrow keys, which I do enjoy having as dedicated functions.

I previously used a 60%, and tried several variations, but missed those arrow keys. However, if I opt to try a 60% again, I might try the Royal Kludge RK61, which is not only hot-swappable, but has QMK/VIA support…which allows you to remap the keys to a configuration of your liking. Since I’m on a Keychron kick of late, they have the K12. The Pro Version has the QMK/VIA support.

By the time you get to 75%, you might as well carry around your tenkeyless on a trip, thus making the 65% percent the perfect compromise between the two.


Musings On Keycaps- Should you Favor ABS or PBT?

With my recent keyboard commentary, I thought it best to talk about keycaps…Keycaps are the covers for the mechanical switches on a mechanical keyboard. Likely the switches themselves, the keycaps are also the subject of intense debate. And I’m just experimenting with these things myself.

I remember, years ago, I bought this flat rollable keyboard, and within a few weeks, the letters started to rub off. I filed a warranty request, and spoke to the company…whose name I don’t remember at this point, but I remember was based in Texas, and they told me that some people’s natural oils tended to degrade the coating more than others. They sent me one with a newer coating they were working on and it lasted for years.

So, the tendency of letters to rub off, and keys to get shiny is certainly a concern of mine. You can clean the keyboard, but the ability to replace worn out keycaps is also a plus, and with mechanical keyboards, there are no end of options I’m still trying to figure out.

The most common discussed materials are ABS or PBT plastic. ABS is the most common keycap material on all types of keyboards. ABS is the one that tends to get shiny in a shorter period of time. But even within the two categories, there are differing levels of quality. PBT is usually more expensive, but you can get cheap and poor quality, or high quality in either material.

PBT has a bit more texture, to most opinions as well, which many enthusiasts prefer. It is generally thought to have a less jarring sound when typed on, but ABS can have the same property if you get a thicker ABS keycap as opposed to the more common ones.

This is not to mention stylistic questions like:

  • Doubleshot – two color keycaps, often used to mix a solid color on the top with transparency on the sides for backlit keys
  • Backlit keys
  • Side or top printing of the legends
  • Printing…Laser Etched, Dye Sublimation, or Pad Printing as the way to label the keys…or….do you need legens on the keys at all…some people like all blanks
  • Profiles…the shape of the key.

So many choices. In the end, I’m not buying the most expensive PBT, but I have, on the keyboards I use regularly, replaced the keys with PBT because I like the benefits. Even on the inexpensive budget keyboard I just bought, I switched out the keycaps for an inexpensive PBT set on sale. Still feels better than the originals.

My only problem is specialty keys. For example, it seems like no one makes PBT keycaps with the media markings on the function keys. I rarely use the function keys on my keyboard, having them show the traditional media options instead would be useful. I guess I’ll just have to remember which is which.

In case you are just getting started, like me, here are some brands I have experimented with, with a few examples as of publish date that were on sale.

Review: The Keychron C3 Pro Keyboard- A Value Priced Mechanical Keyboard


I have a problem. I keep buying mechanical keyboards. I only have one set of hands, and I don’t type with my feet, so why do I keep buying new ones? Partially because I’m hard on my keyboards. I gave up on non-mechanical keyboards years ago, but I didn’t buy really expensive ones. I bought a moderately priced ones. And I keep looking for new options in that. The pictures you see are the Keychron C3 Pro Keyboard. This particular model, an Amazon exclusive, retails for more, but I was able to get it for $29.99 on sale, which made it worth a try. I’m typing this post on it right now.

The keyboard comes in two switch varieties, red and brown. It offers a red backlight. The keycaps are replaceable, but the switches are not. Keychron makes plenty of keyboards that allow you to swap the switches as well. It is well-built for a budget keyboard, and neither version is overly loud, something people tend to comment on with these keyboards. It has many of the features a more expensive keyboard would.

I’m clearly not a keyboard aficionado, despite my keyboard purchases. I have generally bought budget mechanical keyboards, there are too many color switches I don’t have an opinion on…I don’t know the lingo. The feature that interested me particularly is something called QMK/VIA. The feature allows reprogramming the mapping of the keyboard. Never use your Scroll Lock key? Turn it into a Mute button for Zoom. Build macros into the keyboard instead of software. Certainly an interesting thing to play with. With a few custom keycaps…you can repurpose keys you barely use.

There are upgraded models from Keychron, and competing models from other companies, but for the price and features, I doubt they can beat it…especially if you get it at $30.

Update: April 2024 – Keychron is now offering the C3 Pro in an RGB hot swappable variation for only $10 more than the regular price of the variation they originally released.