Like many other areas of electronics, keyboards have also gone through numerous design trends. The appearance, size, features, and components of keyboards, to name a few, have all changed throughout the years. Keyboard manufacturers have done these changes to help keyboards cope with the ever-changing needs and wants of the keyboards community.
There are many trends that can be observed in the custom keyboard hobby. These include the increasing popularity of the Alice/Arisu layout, through-hole keyboards, split keyboards, the use of rotary encoders/knobs, and the emergence of enthusiast-grade entry-level custom keyboards.
Even today, custom keyboard designs are continuously evolving. Many earlier custom keyboards, for example, were just rectangle slabs of aluminum or plastic. But these days, keyboards are now more complex.
In this article, we will be discussing five popular trends that have surfaced in the modern custom keyboard market. We will also explain how these innovations are used, what they are for, where can you get one if ever, and the process of assembling them.
Popular Custom Keyboard Trends
The first popular design trend that we will be talking about is the Alice/Arisu layout. Alice layout keyboards are derived from ergonomic or ortholinear keyboards that use keys that are divided into right and left halves, separated by a small space. It is usually based on a 60 or 65 percent keyboard, which has a smaller form factor compared to other boards.
The design element that defines these keyboards is the position of their alphas and bottom row modifiers. They are tilted at a 10-degree angle that brings your fingertips closer together. It also claims that hand position is more likely to lessen wrist stress and experience hand discomfort. In addition, the space bar is also separated into the left and right-hand sides, making them more accessible for both hands.
In contrast to other ortholinear or ergonomic keyboards, the Alice layout still maintains a staggering keys position. The side modifiers are parallel to the user, precisely like on a standard keyboard, and have minor horizontal offsets to improve ergonomics and angled alphas. Enthusiasts that value ergonomics and comfort are the ones that have gravitated towards Alice/Arisu keyboards.
Popular examples of Alice keyboards include the YMDK Wings, Owlab Spring, the Alice style case from Switch Couture, and the Arisu Keyboard from Nico and Steph’s Studio.
The next design trend that we will be talking about is Through-Hole keyboards. These keyboards are perfect for DIY enthusiasts. Through-hole keyboards are less refined and are more akin to a barebones electronics project. Additionally, these kinds of keyboards require a more complex and time-consuming assembly.
Technically, the through-hole technology is defined as a mounting scheme that incorporates leads on the parts inserted into drilled holes in PCBs. Thus, every LED is soldered in the PCB of the keyboard for it to work.
Through-hole keyboards usually don’t have a casing and have an exposed components style where the PCB and the plate, along with some included acrylic pieces, are the foundation of the whole board. Users can also opt for aftermarket cases as well as custom 3D printed cases. One shop that is famous for providing aftermarket cases is the P3DSTORE.
Examples of through-hole keyboards include the Basketweave-S Ergo 65% modified by piit79 of 42. Keebs, Basketweave DIY Keyboard Kit from Clackery, and the DISCIPLINE V2 from CFTKB.
Compared to most custom keyboards, Through-hole keyboards have a lower price tag. However, users must remember that these keyboards are more fragile and must be handled with the utmost care, especially the PCB.
Just like the Alice keyboard, the split keyboard is also a type of ergonomic keyboard. The fundamental reason why split keyboards are so enjoyable is that they keep your knucklebones or joints from swelling and prevent your fingers from bending awkwardly. This means that it lessens the fatigue that your hand experiences when typing.
The main difference between split keyboards and Alice/ergonomic keyboards is that you can separate split keyboards into two physical pieces. This unique feature allows users to adjust the distance between the left and right parts, depending on comfortably resting their hands. These keyboards are typically connected by a cord in the middle. However, Bluetooth split keyboards are now made available in the market to maximize the placement of both parts.
Some examples of split mechanical keyboards include the Zergotech Freedom Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard, Ultimate Hacking Keyboard V2, and the ErgoDox EZ Glow Stand Alone.
Rotary encoders, famously known as knobs, serve various functions and are one of the most adaptable pieces of keyboard-compatible hardware. A rotary encoder is a knob-like device that can perform multiple actions that the user can program. Most users program it as a volume controller, scroll controller, and more.
Keyboard enthusiasts have been hyping up rotary encoders/knobs on custom keyboards due to the additional functionality they give to the keyboard. Many users also enjoy how easily customizable, and user-friendly knobs are. With how popular they are in the community, it’s no surprise that many manufacturers have integrated them into the design of their keyboards.
Popular examples of keyboards with knobs include budget-priced keyboards such as the Tom680, Akko Mod 007, GMMK Pro, and Keychron Q2. Companies have also integrated this design element in higher-priced options such as the Cannonkeys Satisfaction75 and the Wuque Studios Mammoth75.
Budget and Entry-Level Custom Keyboard Kits
Due to the mechanical keyboard community growing and the increasing number of keyboard content creators, the hobby has reached different parts of the world, making keyboard enthusiasts very diverse. However, the growing popularity of the custom keyboard hobby meant that the demand for more readily available budget-priced custom keyboards would continuously rise.
As a result, brands have moved towards developing high-quality entry-level custom keyboard kits. These keyboards featured many high-end features and compatibility with different popular keyboard mods. Budget and entry-level keyboards also feature other trends such as a gasket mount structure, rotary encoders/knobs, different keyboard layouts, and more.
Some examples of high-quality entry-level custom keyboard kits include the KBDFans KBD67 Lite, Cannonkeys Bakeneko60, Glorious GMMK Pro, Keychron Q1 and Q2, the Wuque Studios Ikki68 Aurora, and many more.
Other trends to look out for
If you enjoyed this read, there are still a lot of available articles on the website featuring different trends with in-depth reviews and guides. These are the various common Mounting Styles, PE foam mod, Tempest Tape Mod, and more.