Mechanical Keyboard Review – GMMK

As I mentioned in this post, I’ve developed a keyboard issue forcing a purchase. Not the best timing I have to admit, but there we go. Modular mechanical keyboard land ahoy!

I’ll cut to the chase, I ordered a full-size Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard with their own standard key-caps and a box of Kailh Box White switches. All I can say is – this is indeed very glorious.

Modular == Unassembled

Firstly, don’t let the word modular put you off. It was so ridiculously easy to put together anyone could do it, even without looking at the instructions! If you can put together something you bought at Ikea, you can handle this.

The only build advice I’d give is, before putting any switches in, plug it into your PC and fire up Keyboard Tester Site and test each switch as you pop it into the board.

Pop all the switches in, testing each as you go, then pop all the key-caps on. Don’t try to do both at the same time. I found that adjacent key-caps got in the way of being able safely and properly mount the switches on the PCB.

Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard Build Quality and Design

The GMMK or Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard is a direct replacement for my recently injured Ducky Shine 6. There is no getting away from the fact that even though the Shine 6 is entirely plastic, it’s build quality and rigidity are incredible. The flagship Ducky’s are built like tanks and deserve all the respect they get and more.

I’ve not tried a Shine 7 but the addition of the metal casing must only improve on things.

Keyboard Build

The GMMK is certainly holding it’s own in this regard. It’s not as substantial as the Ducky Shine 6 but it’s not suffering with any flexing, wobbling or nasty creakiness. It’s feeling as solid to type on as any of my Ducky or Filco boards.

When I first pulled the GMMK from the box and placed it down on my desk I noticed there was a slight off-balance wobble. Turns out that one of the larger rubber feet had been placed incorrectly at the factory. It wasn’t sat neatly in it’s little recessed place. Not a big issue. Spares are included for all the feet in the box, so that can be fixed later.

However, after assembling all the switches and caps the wobble had noticeably diminished. Now, a few days into use, it has vanished altogether. The rubber foot has somehow worked itself into the correct position, of it’s own accord. That, or I have a keyboard haunted by a ghost with OCD.

All in all the build quality is great. The feel of the metal plate adds a great premium feeling and adds to the stability of the board. The powder coating is flawless and the machining on the metal is first class. The angle once the two rear feet are lowered is also perfectly combined with the height of the key-caps.

That said, It would be really nice to see a future version of this board that uses low profile switches.

I really haven’t got a negative point to raise on the overall build quality. It’s all really very good.

Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard?

Considering it’s got the word modular in the name it’s a shame the cable on the full-size GMMK isn’t detachable. Seems an odd decision for a ground up, new modular keyboard design. Even the Shine 6 has a detachable cable. That said, the cable on the full-size is a nice premium braided affair.

In reality the only modular thing here is the switch mounts. It doesn’t come populated, unless you explicitly buy the pre-built of course, and you don’t have to solder the switches you do choose to use. That’s it. That’s the sum total of the “modular” aspects to this board. And the key-caps, but then all key-caps are modular really.

Honestly speaking, I think that’s a bit of a misuse of the word modular. Coming from a pro audio background I know what the world “modular” means in relation to electronics and it invariably involves more soldering that this does!!

Design

In terms of the overall design, I really like the understated nature of the design. No massive logos, names or model number motifs spewing out over the design. Understated RGB (when using their standard caps) is also very welcome, massive respect for not wanting to scream “GAMING” at everyone.

Looking from the top down there is barely 0.5cm of top plate protruding past the key-caps on each side. The whole thing sits just outside the footprint of a standard ISO key-cap set. Really appreciate this small yet full-size form factor. It’s the antithesis of some of the other gamer boards like the enormous Corsair’s. I had a K70 RGB Lux for a while which is a huge keyboard, to be honest it’s size became an issue. Part of the initial attraction of the Ducky Shine 3 Tenkeyless for me was the size. Being able to pop a proper mechanical keyboard into a laptop bag was a major feature for me.

I really like the flat nature of the main chassis as well, it’s really a no fuss design overall and I’m really appreciating it. This might be a silly point for some but so many keyboards have awkward to clean corners under the keys, The Ducky Shine 6 is a nightmare in this regard. Even using my mini PC vacuum bits get left stuck in these corners and are then perfectly illuminated by the RGB … nice.

I’m still in two minds about the bare milled-metal bevel. Leaving this sharp obviously wasn’t an option (something I wish the MacBooks didn’t do), but I’m not completely sold on the bare metal either. It is growing on me though. Maybe if this was facing inwards and actually sort of interacted with the RGB? Not sure that would be any better and is quite possibly a terrible idea.

Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard Standard Key-Caps

There really isn’t an awful lot to say here. They are pretty standard ABS double-shot with translucent glyphs. For the incredibly reasonable price I paid – £14.99 – there is a lot to like.

RGB Illumination

I’m not saying here that the GMMK suffers with patchy RGB illumination in particular. Every back-lit keyboard I’ve owned or used has had an issue with inconsistent, patchy glyph illumination. This is an issue across many boards and across wider industry. The realities of how buttons work, how switches work and just how many glyphs are on some buttons dictates this issue will exist, to some extent, on every keyboard. I’m yet to see a keyboard that has completely solved this issue.

Key-Cap Font

The older version used a pretty bad font to be honest and I’m glad that has been changed. The old font seemed to have some kind of “gappy” stencilling effect, which when combined with patchy RGB coverage, can utterly ruin the legibility completely. I really like the font they settled on for these updated key-caps. It’s proving very clear and legible.

Another good decision is to put the shifted symbol characters like, % £ & * etc, up to the top of the key along side the main glyphs. This way they get the same level of illumination from the LED. The options accessed with the “Fn” key are still difficult to illuminate but it’s hard to hold that against this board in particular. So many boards suffer this same hard-to-solve illumination issues. Also when a key cap set tries to cover a keyboards specific features and provides bespoke iconography it’s only further complicated.

The main issue for someone based in the UK using mechanical keyboards is that the vast majority of key-cap sets are not ISO compatible, even when they claim to be! Keep an eye on this when ordering as some sets will claim to be ISO compatible but are in fact sill missing some keys.

Glorious PC Gaming Race themselves make a really nice looking PBT Aura set but have only released in ANSI format. I’m waiting for the ISO format as these Aura caps really make the RGB sing a little more whilst still being pretty muted. I have found a number of alternatives online but they are still missing certain ISO keys. Very frustrating.

 

Mechanical Keyboard Switches – Kailh Box White

I can’t lie, I was concerned about moving away from Cherry MX Blue switches. I’ve been under the Cherry MX spell for a long time. To be honest, the entire industry is at this stage. Apart from the odd Razer keyboard bundling their own optical switches, everything on the UK high street is Cherry MX. Usually only available with red switches to boot.

From all I’ve heard it was just too tempting to try something completely different and I’m really not in the slightest bit disappointed. Quite the opposite in fact. This keyboard is an utter joy to use. In fact, I’m a convert. I have to say it …

Cherry MX switches are over-rated. There, I said it!!

Since my early experiences with IBM Model M keyboards I’ve been chasing that kind of experience in a modern board and I’m getting really close. The consistency of the Box White switches is amazing. Honestly, The Cherry MX Blues in my Shine 6 just cannot compete, at all. I’m so thoroughly impressed with these Kailh box white switches. In fact, the Shine 6 already feels bad to me in comparison. Wow.

From some further reading on the topic I had already decided that I was going to buy the Kailh Box White switches as a starting point in my switch journey. These will be followed up with a set of Box Pink switches as a potential upgrade in the new year. The pink switches are more tactile and slightly clicker than Box Whites and sound like they could in fact be perfect. However, finding stock of Box Pink switches without a 6 week delivery lead-time is hopeless.

Besides I’d like to get used to using the box white switches first. All the other switches I’ve mentioned were inspired by the whites. Right now I think the biggest upgrade I could make would be some sturdier PBT key-caps but really we’re talking refinements on an already fabulous keyboard at this point.

Software

As a software engineer myself I often dread this part of the experience of having to own and manage hardware. Particularly utilities designed by gaming hardware companies. The UX is usually utterly dreadful and the entire application effort seems to take a back seat to the hardware, not really surprising to be honest.

In fact I’d say the software is one of the weakest points of the Ducky Shine 6. It’s a confusing UX nightmare to be honest. So much so, I set it up after buying it and then uninstalled it. Dreadful software that essentially obfuscates a lot of the keyboards capabilities. These applications really shouldn’t be an after-thought.

So, how did the Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard software do? Well, not as badly as Ducky.

On the plus side, I had it all figured out in minutes. The bad side is that there aren’t a lot of options or much control. But – it’s getting better, it isn’t a confusing mess and it actually works. So it’s a thumbs up here all in all.

It’s a shame there are only three profile slots provided. But, get this for an oversight. There’s no shortcut to switch profiles on the keyboard itself, you can only do that via the software. It seems this has been raised by other users and Glorious have more or less hinted this is coming in an update.

It can be a bit hit and miss working with the basic tools offered to paint in the setup you want. Which means most of the time it’s going to be fairly simple setups which honestly isn’t such a bad thing. Too many features can also make for a poor UX.

Day-to-Day Use

From the sound of the switches, the caps and the feel of the switches, this is proving to be a really great choice. Not too heavy, just about clicky enough and nicely tactile. Even though I do hint at trying the Box Pink switches these Box White switches are already a pure joy to use. They are highlighting just how scratchy, lumpy and inconsistent a Cherry MX board is. I keep saying WOW in my head as I’m typing this!

I’ve just completed my first full work day with the board and I’ve just loved it. Such a fantastic typing experience.

Cleaning

Often overlooked. Cleaning RGB keyboards can be an issue. With all those photons flying around any dust literally has a light shining on it. This is where I really like the flat face plate of the GMMK. I’m a little sad to see this gone from the GMMK Pro. The switches on the GMMK Pro are sat in a recessed section, this a step backwards I think.

Cleaning has also highlighted one of the drawbacks of this modular approach. As I was pulling key-caps, sometimes the switch would be pulled out of the PCB along with the cap. The was particularly an issue with the F1 to F10 keys. All of them popped out when pulling the cap to clean in between the switches.

Even after reseating them and pulling the cap again, the switch would pop out with the cap. Will keep an eye on this as time goes on and I update this review.

Conclusion

I made the right choice. This is a killer mechanical keyboard. Good hardware, alright software and lets face it, a really reasonable price too. At least in terms of mechanical keyboards and modular mechanical keyboards in particular. It came in at a full £50 less than the Shine 7.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend anyone get one of these boards. If you’re a die hard Cherry MX fan, I think you need to take a look at some other options now. They really are very, very good. In fact I’m not sure I’ll ever buy a Cherry switched keyboard again.

I LOVE MY GMMK

Check out the Glorious keyboard here.

UPDATE 5th April 2021

Just thought I’d loop back around and post a little update. All in all, I’m still really impressed and would definitely recommend. It still feels identical to the day I bought it. Even Cherry switch based boards, after a few months, will feel a little different. Not so here.

The only thing I’ve noticed is the keycaps are starting to bleed light a little. Just on the edges of the CTRL and SHIFT keys, where your hands generally rest a lot. Can’t really complain about that, they were only £15.  In this design they are also particularly exposed due to there not being any case around them. Still after less than 6 months that is a bit early. That said, the plan was always to replace them with something better anyway.

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