Just like with their Panda wireless headphones we got a pre-release look at recently, Drop has worked its active community to create a few keyboard options that are excellent choices for those wanting a mechanical keyboard that is well built and can be easily modded. We got our hands on the Drop ALT keyboard, the 67-key aluminum-bodied RGB entry point. Check out the video below for some more thoughts and to see and hear it in action.
Drop ALT: Design
To save on space and give a simple, clean design, the ALT keyboard uses 67 keys instead of the more standard 87 found in a TKL or ten-keyless layout. This makes the ALT even smaller than other standard keyboards and cleans up the design.
There are no function keys across the top, but those can all be used by holding the Fn key next to the right alt key and pressing a corresponding number key. Likewise, there are tons of other second layer keys at your fingertips when using the function key. And they can be completely customized to your workflow – more on that a little further down.
And what would a mechanical keyboard be without some built-in RGB? Thankfully, the ALT has plenty of easy to use configurations already installed on the keyboard. You can cycle through them quickly by pressing Fn-D and also change speeds, brightness, and a host of other controls. The scrolling full-spectrum color is excellent, that’s what I usually have my Razer stuff set to, but there are other beautiful options as well. And there is complete RGB customization via QMK, just like the keystrokes.
Drop ALT: Video
Built out of solid aluminum, the ALT feels, and looks, very well made. Even down to the magnetically attached removable feet, everything feels well thought out. And that is no surprise given Drop’s method of product development by polling their engaged community.
Switch Swappers Rejoice
Of course, one of the significant benefits of a mechanical keyboard is the sound and feel of a switch. And with the ALT, that sound and feel are hot-swappable. With the keyboard plugged in, you can easily remove the installed switches and change to a completely different feeling if you want to. At checkout, you can choose between a few options of Cherry MX, Kaihua, or Halo switches. But, you can also use any other switches as well within that style. I have some Cherry MX Blue switches as well as Halo clear. Both have a similar actuation force, but the feel and sound are entirely different. The Cherry MX Blues give that satisfying (or annoying if it’s not your keyboard) clicky sound, which the Halo Clear switches have a great tactile bump without being as loud as the Blue.
Another great thing about mechanical keyboards is their ability to have custom keycaps. The ALT comes with a well-designed grey colorway that matches the aluminum base. They’re shine-through double shot PBT keycaps that look and feel great. But, if you want a different style, Drop also offers different keycap sets at checkout for a bit of an upcharge. I’m thinking of getting the IBM inspired set that features a white/light grey color scheme with red accents.
Customization via QMK
Since it is a small footprint overall and skips the physical function buttons, the ALT keyboard can be programmed via the QMK firmware to add any custom key configurations and control RGB lighting. By default, the ALT keyboard has plenty of these function hotkeys built-in. Everything from print screen to home to managing all of the RGB lightings can be done with quick keystrokes. Just keep the cheat sheet near at hand to have a quick look at what commands are available.
Of course, if you find yourself using function keys often, you may want to take a peek at the CTL keyboard instead. While it costs a bit more, it has 20 more keys to give the full functionality of a tenkeyless keyboard.
Overall, I am thrilled with the ALT keyboard. If you’re looking for a mechanical keyboard with a small footprint that has the features and build quality to last you a long time, this is it. And the best part is that while you’re using it if you think you’d like a different switch more, you can pick some up and hot-swap them in.
If you haven’t heard of Drop before, they do their production in runs, and so if you miss a buying window, you might have to wait a while for the next run to come in. So there is a chance that you might be waiting for a little while. Currently, Drop says that orders placed now will ship April 30. But if you don’t mind waiting a bit, this keyboard is worth it. If you’re looking to get a quality keyboard that you can tinker with and customize to your liking – this is it.
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