GMK keycap sets are arguably the most sought out keycap brand in the mechanical keyboard hobby. They boast unique and gorgeous-looking designs and have essentially become an integral part of every high-end custom keyboard build.
Before purchasing GMK keycaps, there are some things that users have to take note of. Some of these include their keycap profile, group buy and in-stock options, kit options, durability, and the proliferation of clones. Knowing these things can massively help in avoiding mistakes, especially with harder-to-buy GMK keycap sets.
The only catch with GMK keycap sets is their high price. They are considerably higher than the rest of the competition and can get even higher in the aftermarket. They are also harder to get than your typical keycap set.
Given how expensive and hard to find these keycaps are, newer enthusiasts should learn a few things first before purchasing their first GMK keycap set. In this article, we will be telling consumers everything they need to know about buying GMK keycap sets.
We’ll be discussing everything from their keycap profile, durability, and the available keycap kits. We will also discuss where to buy them as well as the presence of clones. By the end of this article, potential buyers should be able to make the best purchase decision.
GMK Keycaps Uses Cherry Profile
Before considering GMK keycaps, the first thing that users have to take note of is their keycap profile. All GMK keycaps exclusively use the Cherry profile. This means that users have to make sure that they like this profile, and this profile has to work well with their keyboards.
For those who have never tried Cherry profile keycaps, we highly recommend testing them out first using more affordable cherry profile keycaps. Of course, these keycaps won’t have the exact same feel as GMK keycaps. However, they will give you a good idea of how they will feel.
The second thing to take note of is that Cherry keycaps will cause interference with keyboards with north-facing switches. In a nutshell, what happens is that the keycaps will hit the LED on the PCB, causing the keycaps to have a different sound and feel.
Most gaming mechanical keyboards and budget keyboard kits will most likely have north-facing switches. To know the switch orientation of your keyboard, simply take off the keycaps and check if the LEDs are found on the top or bottom of the switch.
Interference can still be fixed on north-facing switches. However, it involves buying additional components and some DIY steps. You can learn more in our dedicated north-facing vs. south-facing switch article.
If you feel like Cherry profile keycaps aren’t for you, then there are still plenty of other high-end brands that utilize other keycap profiles. MAXKEY and Domikey, for instance, use SA profile keycaps. Other brands, such as DROP, offer other profiles such as MT3.
In addition, some GMK sets are also available in other profiles via other manufactures. Some examples include the GMK Laser and GMK Godspeed that are both available in an SA profile.
Of course, not all kits will have this option. This was only possible since Mito, the designer of these keycaps, worked together with DROP to produce his design in other profiles.
GMK Keycaps In-Stock and Group Buy
Once you are sure that GMK’s keycap profile fits your keyboard and your preference, the next thing that you have to take note of is where you can buy them. There are two ways to buy GMK keycaps.
The first one is to participate in a group buy. The second is to directly buy them from a vendor who has them in stock. Let us first talk about group buys.
GMK Keycap Group Buy
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Like most high-end keycap manufacturers, GMK is a smaller company. They cannot meet the demand for their products and cannot mass-produce the different designs. To solve this issue, GMK sells most of their keycaps via a group buy.
A group buy has multiple stages. First, the designer has to present his design and undergo an Interest Check to prove to the manufacturer that there is a market for their design. Once the IC is finished, the group buy will now commence.
Group buys are pretty much like pre-orders. However, the fulfillment time is way longer and is not guaranteed.
It usually takes almost an entire year before the keycaps that you buy can reach your doorstep. This does not include the delays that can happen during production.
There is also another catch. Once the group buy is finished, you can no longer buy these keycap sets straight from the manufacturer. The only exception is if they decide to do a second or third round for their group buy.
Another thing to take note of is that there are different vendors that will be hosting the group buy. This all depends on the region where the group buy is being held.
Some of the common hosts for GMK group buys include KBDFans, Drop, Cannonkeys, TheKeyCompany, ZFrontier, and Zionstudios (SEA exclusive group buys).
In-Stock GMK Keycaps
If GMK group buys already sound unappealing, then the good news is that there is an alternate way to purchase GMK keycaps. The second way of purchasing them is to get them through a vendor that has them in stock. Drop is currently the only one who is selling various in-stock GMK keycaps.
Buying in-stock GMK keycaps may sound like a way better option than participating in a group buy. However, there is a catch here. The designs of in-stock GMK keycaps are very limited.
Some of the popular designs that are available on Drop include the GMK Red Samurai and GMK Blue Samurai, GMK Godspeed, GMK Laser, GMK White on Black, and many more. While these are all great designs, consumers will still not be getting access to group buy exclusive designs such as the GMK Striker (Tifu’s keycap set on his Keycult 1/60 custom keyboard).
Aftermarket GMK Keycaps
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There is a third option. However, it is the least desirable option. We will be explaining why shortly.
The third way to get GMK keycaps is to get them via the aftermarket. These include places such as the Mech Market Discord and Subreddit, Facebook groups and FB marketplace, eBay, and other online selling platforms.
The catch is that consumers will most likely be paying double or potentially triple the group buy/SRP price of these keycaps. Most sought-after keycap sets, such as the GMK Nautilus, can easily sell for $200 or more.
In addition, there are potential issues that can come with buying used sets. They can have shine or other damages. They can also break on the spot while mounting them to your keycaps.
Some sets may also have missing keys or incomplete packaging. And since there is no warranty with second-hand sets, you won’t be getting a replacement set or a refund.
Different GMK Keycap Kits
When purchasing GMK keycap kits, buyers are presented with different options. Some of the common ones include the base kit, alphas, accent, spacebars, and novelties. Depending on the keycap set that you are purchasing, there can be potentially more options.
The base kit has all the necessary keys to fill most keyboard layouts. From there, buyers have the option to purchase additional add-on kits or alphas to help spice up their keyboards.
In addition, buyers who are not interested in purchasing the entire kit can opt for just the alphas or the modifiers. These can then be combined with other keycap sets.
Extra spacebars can also be purchased. This is very useful since the spacebar is one of the most used keys on the keyboard.
If the space bar ever gets worn out, users can simply replace them. There are also different-sized spacebars, which can accommodate split keyboards, ergonomic keyboards, or any kind of keyboard with a non-standard layout.
Since group buys have an extremely long fulfillment time, we highly urge buyers to properly check which set they need before purchasing them. This also applies to those who are planning on getting their set from the aftermarket.
GMK Keycaps Durability
Potential buyers of GMK keycaps should be aware of their durability. Despite their high asking price, GMK keycaps are not indestructible.
Yes, they are very durable since they are using double-shot for the legends and they are using thick ABS plastic. However, they are still prone to a number of issues.
Like most ABS keycap sets, GMK keycaps are prone to shine. This occurs when the texture found on the top coating of the keycaps wears out.
While some users prefer the look of worn GMK keycaps, shine generally degrades the value of GMK keycap sets. This is something to take note of when purchasing GMK sets in the aftermarket.
There are also some rare cases where the keycaps can become damaged during mounting. They can also get scratched when using lower-quality keycap pullers.
If any of your GMK keycaps gets damaged, then it can be incredibly hard to find a replacement. This is especially true for keycaps that were only available via group buy.
The spacebars can still be replaced since most GMK sets can be bought with additional space bars. However, other keys, such as the alphas, can be more difficult to replace.
In summary, GMK keycaps aren’t that different from other high-end keycap sets. They should be treated with care, especially if you wish to resell them in the future. If you are someone who doesn’t want to treat their keycaps as a collector’s item, then you can either opt for in-stock GMK keycap sets since they are easier to replace or go with a different brand entirely.
GMK Keycap Clones
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Lastly, buyers should be aware that there are lots of GMK clones in the market. These clones range from similar-looking sets to flat-out copies.
Enthusiasts with a lot of experience will be able to spot these clones easily. However, newer buyers should be more careful, especially with sets that are trying to make a 1:1 copy of the original set.
Easy To Spot GMK Clones
Fortunately, most clones aren’t trying to pass off as the real deal. Most of them are declared as clones and usually avoid copying the novelties.
In addition, most of these clones are made out of PBT. In contrast, all GMK keycap sets are made of ABS plastic. They are also quite easy to spot since the color of these keycaps widely differs from the real deal.
Also, all GMK clone sets are missing the original packaging that comes with all GMK keycap sets. The packaging on these clone sets is plain and simple and does not have any kind of GMK branding.
Most of these sets can be found on websites such as AliExpress and Taobao. Some may end up in the second-hand market, but mos enthusiasts declare that they are clones.
Harder To Spot GMK Clones
While they are quite rare, some GMK sets are trying to pass as the real thing. Their colors are much closer to the original sets and they copy everything from the legends to the novelty keycaps.
Spotting these can still be a challenge for newer enthusiasts. However, these sets can still be identified upon closer inspection.
Most of these clone keycap sets still look different from their original GMK counterparts. Try to look for all these subtle differences along with any issues with consistency in the legends. All GMK keycaps have perfect printing on the legends.
Also, buyers can try to compare the thickness of these clone sets with original GMK sets. All GMK keycaps are thicker compared to clones or lower-tier keycaps. Lastly, when in doubt, try to ask online communities such as the mechanical keyboard subreddit.
Indirect GMK Keycap Clones
Lastly, buyers should be aware that there are some legitimate companies that are copying the design of GMK keycaps. They aren’t trying to pass as the real thing. However, they make it seem as if they were originally the ones that came up with the design.
To be fair, these keycap sets aren’t direct clones. After all, nobody can own specific colorways. Also, even GMK has made sets that referenced properties that they do not own.
Some examples are the GMK DMG and the GMK Dualshot. These sets are based on the Nintendo Gameboy DMG and Sony Playstation. GMK does not own any rights to use these IPs.
These kinds of GMK clones aren’t bad. And since they are coming from reputable companies, the quality is going to be a lot better than the usual GMK clones from Aliexpress.
Most enthusiasts still identify these sets as clones and refuse to buy them despite their lower price. However, the choice is entirely up to the consumers. Some brands that produce indirect GMK clones include Akko and HK Gaming.
Stephen is the head content creator of Keyboardsexpert. His mechanical keyboard journey began in 2014 when he got his Razer Blackwidow. Since then, he has been fascinated with all things mechanical keyboard-related. He later discovered the custom keyboard hobby and fell in love with the vast customization options. He is currently searching for his endgame and is very excited to share his journey and educate other keyboard enthusiasts.