GMK is the most sought-after keycap brand in the world of mechanical keyboards. They are found on the most premium mechanical keyboard builds and usually command very high prices.
But because GMK keycaps are expensive and scarce, various clones have made their way into the market.
GMK keycap clones may look similar to the original sets. However, there are several things that they cannot accurately copy. Some of these include the packaging, the plastic material used, the consistency of the legends, the novelties, the thickness, and the color accuracy of the keycaps. These apply to most GMK clones.
Custom keyboard enthusiasts are torn on the concept of GMK clones. On one hand, they allow users to have their desired keycap theme without breaking the bank.
But on the other hand, many believe that it is unethical to copy the original designs of GMK. After all, GMK keycaps are designed by smaller artists who spent a lot of time and effort in designing the keycaps.
The matter further becomes complicated when considering the fact that there are many legitimate brands that create high-quality keycap sets that are inspired by the designs of GMK. These include brands such as Akko and HK Gaming.
But one thing that everyone can agree with is that clone keycap sets should never be sold or advertised as if they were the original. Users who intend to buy original GMK keycap sets should not be misled or ripped off with keycap clones.
In this article, we will be laying out everything that buyers should know to avoid GMK keycap clones. This is especially useful when purchasing on second-hand websites such as eBay. We will be going through the characteristics of clone keycap sets as well as the things to look out for when purchasing online.
Characteristics of GMK Clones
GMK uses different techniques to achieve the quality seen on their keycaps. Considering that GMK clones are made in different factories, they will have obvious differences from the original sets. Here are some of the common things that make GMK keycap clones more obvious.
Of course, the quality of GMK keycap clones varies. They are rapidly improving every day, meaning there will be higher-quality clones out there. But at the time of writing this article, there are no clone sets that can truly create a one-for-one copy of the original GMK sets.
Packaging of Clone Keycaps
The first thing to look out for is the packaging of the keycaps. Original GMK sets come with a box that is based on the theme of the keycaps. And inside, the keycaps are housed in trays similar to egg trays.
GMK keycap clones, on the other hand, come in a generic-looking cardboard box without any design. The trays inside that are holding the keycaps are made of plastic.
Having no original packaging is one possible sign that a GMK keycap set may not be authentic. However, there are many second-hand sets that are being sold without the original packaging.
There are many reasons for this, such as the seller saving on shipping costs or the box being damaged during shipping. For these reasons, we highly recommend looking at the other things that can give away a clone GMK keycap set.
Plastic Material Used On Clone Keycaps
GMK keycap sets are made of high-quality ABS plastic. There are several reasons why GMK chose this material over PBT plastic.
Some of these include being less prone to warping and being more accurate at showing more vibrant colors. We have a dedicated article for those who are interested in learning more about the differences between ABS and PBT plastic.
GMK keycap clone sets, on the other hand, use PBT plastic. This highly affects the way the keycaps look and feel. The method of printing the legends on top of the keycaps is also usually different.
In addition, the thickness of clone keycap sets isn’t the same as the ones found on original GMK keycaps. This highly affects the sound profile that clone keycaps produce. If a listing states that a GMK keycap set is made of PBT, then it is usually a giveaway that indicates that the keycap set is a clone set.
Consistency of Legends of Clone Keycaps
GMK is well known for having highly consistent legends. The legends are aligned properly and are pretty much perfectly made. And thanks to its double-shot molding, the legends look very sharp and will never fade away.
This is something that clone keycap manufacturers cannot easily copy. For lower-end clone keycap sets, the imperfections in the legends are very obvious. Several things, such as imperfections on the alignment, the font used, and the thickness of the letterings, are easily noticeable on clone keycap sets.
Furthermore, the majority of clone keycap sets will most likely be utilizing dye-sublimation instead of the double shot molding used on authentic GMK keycap sets. This is done to save costs since double-shot molding is usually a more expensive process. As a result, the legends are less sharp compared to original GMK keycap sets.
Novelties of Clone Keycaps
Another big giveaway of clone keycap sets is that they rarely copy the novelties found on original GMK keycap sets. The reason for this is unknown. But most likely, this is to avoid getting in trouble with the original creators of the keycap sets.
There are some clone keycap sets that still copy the novelties. However, these sets are very few, and they still have most of the imperfections discussed in this article.
Color Accuracy of Clone Keycaps
One thing that GMK clones can never truly copy is the color accuracy of the keycaps. Compared to the original sets that they are copying, clone GMK keycap sets are usually duller and less vibrant than their original counterparts.
For less vibrant keycap sets, such as the GMK Olivia, the differences are quite subtle. However, for sets such as the GMK DMG and GMK Botanical, the colors of the clone sets are way off compared to the original sets.
Another thing to take note of is that some GMK keycap sets, such as the GMK Lazurite, are meant to fit with certain keyboards perfectly. In this case, the Lazurite is meant to be paired with the KBDFans D60 Lite Lazurite Edition. If a clone version of the GMK Lazurite ever appears, it won’t blend well with the D60 Lazurite Edition.
Other Precautions When Purchasing GMK Keycaps Online
Buy GMK keycaps From Authorized Dealers
For consumers who intend on purchasing authentic GMK keycap sets, we highly recommend buying from official sellers and authorized dealers.
Drop is the dealer for most in-stock GMK keycaps. They are also the vendor for many GMK keycap group buys.
There are also other vendors of GMK group buys. Some of the notable ones include KBDFans, Cannonkeys, Novelkeys, TheKeyDotCo, and many more.
Buy GMK keycaps From Trusted Marketplaces
For users who wish to buy GMK keycaps from the aftermarket, we highly recommend buying only in trusted marketplaces. The most famous marketplace for everything mechanical keyboard-related is the Mechmarket subreddit and discord server. There are also tons of trusted communities on websites such as Facebook.
Of course, since these are second-hand marketplaces, we still advise being cautious. However, most sellers in these places are usually honest and usually properly declare the keycap sets they are selling.
Confirm the Authenticity of the GMK Keycap Set With the Seller
For users who intend on buying GMK keycap sets on marketplaces such as eBay, we highly recommend properly investigating the product they are selling before fully committing to them. Many sellers from these platforms are not fully aware of the products that they are selling.
This is especially true for in-stock GMK keycap sets such as the GMK Red Samurai and GMK Laser. A lot of these sellers also sell these keycaps without their original packaging.
In these cases, we urge users to ask all the details that are necessary to properly identify if a GMK keycap set is original. Ask for all the pictures that can help you compare them with authentic keycap sets. Also, feel free to ask the mechanical keyboard community to help in identifying the authenticity of a GMK keycap set.
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.