This is my third and final (for now) mechanical keyboard build. The previous two boards were a Keychron Q6 and K4 Pro – both of which I now use at work. It turns out, that once you’ve been spoiled by using a quality custom mechanical keyboard, it’s impossible to go back to anything else.
I wanted to build an ergonomic / Alice style keyboard with a row of function keys and a built in ten key. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any Alice style boards that include a ten key, so I had to be willing to forgo that. The short list of Alice boards, that are readily available, and have a row of function keys, is quite miniscule.
Searching the web for boards in stock, I came across Divinikey’s website. I’ve read good things about their shop before, and decided to use them as my one-stop shop for this build. The multitude of component choices when pieces together a mechanical keyboard can be quite overwhelming. So I decided that Divinikey had to have the items in stock for me to consider them in this build. This really helped simplify the decision making process. I also decided to splurge on this board being that it’s my third and “final” board – get it right, spare no expense.
The Build and Thoughts
- Keychron Q10 Barebone Silver + Knob – Easy pick, the Keychron Q10 was the only Alice board readily available. I had my choice of colors and with or without a knob, so I chose the silver one because it looked cool. Besides, black is boring, and I already built a blue Q6.
Like my Q6, the Q10 is built really well, but there are two areas that could have been improved with regards to sound and metallic ping.
First, the board really needs some foam or sound deadening material behind the PCB and the bottom half of the case. Keychron could have charged a few more bucks and included something engineered specifically for this board. I later found out that they do make a custom foam kit for this board, but I didn’t know that until after everything was already assembled. Regardless, Divinikey didn’t have it in stock anyways. I searched my house, and found a piece of tool chest liner which is a sheet of foam – it did the trick.
Second, they should have had a better rubber spacer or gasket between the top and bottom housing. There’s a couple of areas with pieces of rubber, but they feel very flat and probably do very little. So I used the Force Break Mod (i.e. tape around the screw holes) to reduce the ping.
- Keychron Q10 PCB Plate – I thought I would try something different than the stock steel plate. The Q6 with it’s steel plate sounds decent, but has a faint metallic ping to it that slightly bothers me.
Doing some research online, it seems like PCB was the best choice in stock to use for me, since I want a muted sound. Another cool benefit is it really helps with the RGB lighting. Now that I’m using it, I like the way it sounds – no ping.
One issue I’ve observed, is that when you push down on the volume knob (i.e. mute), you can visibly see the board sink in the upper left corner. It’s not terrible, but it’s concerning.
Another minor annoyance is that when you are pulling off keycaps, on more than one occasion, the switch below comes off with the keycap. Not all the time, but fairly often. I didn’t test this too much, but swapped a few switches and keycaps during assembly. That doesn’t happen with the steel plate of the Q6. Now in all fairness, I didn’t try the steel plate of the Q10 to compare against the PCB, but my guess is that switches don’t properly lock in place with this particular PCB board vs the steel.
- KBDfans Stabilizer Foam Stickers – In the past, I’ve used gaffer tape under my stabilizers to minimize the sound, but for this build I splurged the $2 to have some custom foam stickers! Seriously, they do feel quite nice – better than gaffer tape. They are definitely worth the $2.
If I were to improve anything though, the sticker outline could be cut a little deeper. It seems as though they were sticking to each other more than they should. I had to pull quite hard on a few of them to get them to come off the sticker sheet and away from connected stickers. This in turn caused me to ruin some of them by stretching them out.
Not a terribly big deal, but had the stickers been cut slightly deeper, it wouldn’t have happened.
- Owlab Owlstab V2 Screw-In Stabilizers – This is only the third brand of stabilizer I’ve ever tried, but I’m impressed!
The stock Keychron stabilizers work well when lubed (speaking from my experience with the K4 Pro and Q6), but they do have quite a bit of play. This time, I wanted to kick things up a quality notch in every aspect of the build, hence I decided to replace the stabilizers included with the Q10.
I’m pleased to say that the Owlstabs feel nice and sturdy, work as they should, and seem better made that either the Staebies or Keychron stabilizers that I’ve previously used.
All isn’t perfect though, one of the stabilizer housings that I received was missing the hooks to hold the wire down. When you pay $20 for a stabilizer set, it should come with extra pieces or be in 100% working order. It’s a small thing, and I didn’t need all the stabilizers, but still – it’s a thing.
Owlab included little black bumpers that rest under the stabilizer wires. They’re tiny, and not stuck down with any adhesive. Instead, of being mounted in any way, they rest under the stabilizer wire, and don’t seem to be going anywhere. I used them. From what I can tell, they seem to stay in there just fine. The stabilizers sound and work great, so I’m fine with them being in there, but I do have concerns that they might slide out.
I lubed the Owlstabs with Krytox 205g0, put them over the KBDfans stabilizer stickers, installed the rubber bumpers, and they work great!
BTW – the Owlab stabilizers actually came with their own stickers, but the quality of them wasn’t nearly as high as the extra ones from KBDfans that I purchased. However, I did use the Owlab stickers for the tape to use in the force break mod as mentioned above.
- Gateron Box Ink V2-L Switches – Why these switches? Well, I asked on Facebook for the best linear pre lubed switches sold on Divinikey and got a lot of answer. Many of which weren’t even sold on Divinikey (that’s how the internet goes sometime). Of all the switches mentioned, the Gateron Inks (in their various varieties) were mentioned a handful of times. The Gateron Box Ink V2-L switches were the fanciest / bestest Gateron Inks that Divinikey offered, so I gave them a shot.
Wow! These feel and sound great! No lubing, no filming, just awesome right out of the box (actually a sealed zip lock bag). I’m glad, after all they should be awesome for $.85 / piece.
While these might be on the pricier side of switches, I hate lubing, detest filming, and it’s definitely worth the high price tag for saving me time and preserving my sanity.
The switches have little to no play, the keycaps fit on nice and snug, and the switches are smooth, firm, and silent. No complaints!
- PBTfans Resonance Keycap Set Doubleshot PBT – Keycaps sell out fast. As a matter of fact, there was a particular set I was looking at on Divinikeys, decided to sleep on it, then to find out that it was completely out of stock the next morning.
I needed to buy more than the base set due to the split space bar, and I also wanted to buy a matching ten key set because I plan on building a detached ten key since the Q10 is missing one. Because of these keycap requirements, that narrowed down my options quite a bit.
Another way I narrowed down my choices is that I specifically wanted to avoid GMK. My first set of keycaps was from GMK – specifically their Dots set. The Dots set doesn’t have any markings on the keys except – you guessed it, dots. I spent over $100 on those keycaps, and when I got it I was shocked. The packaging was so bad and haphazard that the pieces all got mixed up. This resulted in me spending a couple of hours trying to sort all of those dots. Each row of dots was a different heights, and it was a needlessly long and arduous process.
Furthermore, the quality of the GMK function keys left something to be desired. You could see a vertical line in the middle of every function key (dot excluded). In addition to which, the right shift key was warped and wobbled on every stabilizer I tried (three stabilizers and two different brands). The solution was to jam some teflon tape under the keycap / on top of the stabilizer. No way did I want to pay a premium price on GMK for that kind of poor quality control, but I digress.
How are these PBTfans keycaps? Great! Quality is A++! Too bad they don’t make an Alice styled version with custom keycaps. That would have been great for the vertical macro keys. Normally each row of the keyboard would have different heights, but there’s not enough custom keys to do that. Not that any manufacturer does (except the Keychron direct keycaps). Fortunately, there’s enough miscellaneous keycaps in the set to make it work. I made the vertical macro keys on the left of the keyboard the same height as the function row keys.
All in all, I am happy with the PBTfans keycaps. They pay way more attention to detail than GMK. The keycaps look and feel great with no visible defects. They were packaged extremely well. They all fit fine – without wobble.
Using the Q10
Out of the box, the Q10 needed a firmware update to unlock some new lighting effects. The F1 and F2 (I use a Mac), weren’t properly configured for screen brightness – easy to fix with Via. I set the F1 and F2 to scroll lock and pause respectively, which weirdly enough affect screen brightness. For the macro keys on the left hand side (from the top down), I set them to do the following:
- RGB on/off.
- RGB cycle through modes.
- Screen shot.
- Show desktop.
- Instant sleep mode.
Is this really the end?
Well, almost. I have a Keychron Q0 ten key arriving in the next few days. I’ll mod it to be as close as I can to the Q10 so they match each other as much as possible complete with a PCB plate, Owl Stabs, stickers, foam, keycaps, and switches to match my Q10.