Keyboard mounting styles must be a familiar term if you have been in the keyboard collecting hobby for quite some time. Given this, there is a variety to choose from as enthusiasts have come up with different ways to achieve a particular typing experience.
A tray mount is the most common and straightforward mounting style for budget and prebuilt keyboards. A tray mount is when the PCB is screwed into the case through mounting posts, also known as standoffs, attached to the bottom of the case. Enthusiasts prefer to avoid this mount due to its inconsistencies.
In this article, we will be discussing the tray mount, why enthusiasts choose to avoid this mount, and if they are worth purchasing.
What are Keyboard Mounting Styles
For context, a keyboard mounting style generally means how the PCB and plate are secured to the case. The mounting style affects the keyboard’s sound, feel, and assembly. There are many ways of securing those components to the case, resulting in a variety to choose from that offers a different and distinct typing experience.
Tray Mount Keyboards
What is a Tray Mount Keyboard, and How Does It Work?
A tray mount keyboard consists of a very straightforward mount. Because of this, budget and prebuilt keyboards tend to use this mounting style. The bottom of the keyboard has mounting posts, also known as standoffs, with screw holes. Both the PCB and the plate must have matching holes for assembly.
The PCB sits on top of these standoffs and will be screwed in place by the standoff screw holes. Screws are situated in several, usually random, areas due to the standoffs. This method holds the PCB and plate in place while allowing relatively minimal downward flex. It also makes an uneven sound throughout the casing and feels stiff and rigid. These inconsistencies jeopardize the build quality and typing experience.
Advantages of a Traymount Keyboard
The advantages of the tray mount are that it is pretty versatile and allows the production of more budget keyboards, making it more accessible to those who want to start getting into the keyboard hobby.
With this, you can opt to use plate-mount or screw-in stabilizers to see what you prefer more. You can also easily modify tray mounts to your preference.
Disadvantages of a Traymount Keyboard
As for its disadvantages, due to the standard placement of many mounting posts, or standoffs, in 60% keyboards, it offers inconsistencies in both sound and feel, offering an unpleasant typing experience.
Another disadvantage is that the tray mount limits the choice of PCB as it needs to have standoff holes to secure it to the case. You must also remove the keycaps first to disassemble the keyboard.
Tray Mount Keyboard Typing Experience
Tray Mount Keyboards Typing Feel
The tray mount is rigid and stiff as the standoffs do not allow much flex. The standoffs are placed in random places, which causes uneven stiffness throughout the case.
Tray Mount Keyboards Sound Profile
The tray mount is more resonant than other keyboard mounts in terms of sound profile. It has a higher resonance frequency as airborne vibrations are more prominent and have a slight bounce space, raising the pitch. Its inconsistencies are also reflected in its sound profile.
Why Do Enthusiasts Avoid Tray Mount Keyboards?
Enthusiasts avoid this mounting style because the tray mount’s inconsistencies can compromise the quality of a build. The standoffs on the bottom of the case are placed randomly, so areas in the keyboard feel still and less stiff. The placement also affects the sound throughout the case and is very noticeable.
The shortcomings of this mounting style are also reason enough to avoid using it in creating a custom build. Because of the issues with the tray mount, it’s tough to suggest a factory keyboard to anyone searching for absolute quality.
There’s almost no reason to buy a tray mount custom kit unless you’re doing a low-end build. They argue that tray mounts are not considered in a custom build because there are better options.
Should You Buy Tray Mount Keyboards?
Objectively, tray mounts are not so bad. It is just that once you have tried other mounting styles, you realize how different tray mounts are compared to them. With that being said, tray mounts could be better once modified.
Although it is a significant factor, a keyboard’s sound profile and typing experience are not just limited to its mounting style. Plate materials, case material, keycaps, switches, lube sound, stabilizer sound, dampening sound all play a role in the sound and feel of your keyboard. Keyboard modifications also make a difference.
A tray mount may not be the best mounting style, but it doesn’t mean you can’t improve it. Think of it as a project, and there are endless possibilities in making it better and more suited to your preference.
It is possible to switch out the plate or remove it entirely, or even add a gummy o ring on top of the standoffs to have a softer typing experience. You can also try cutting off some of the standoffs to allow the PCB more downward flex and reduce some inconsistent stiffness and sound. These are just some ideas that you can try for modifying a tray mount.
So, if you’re planning to get into the keyboard hobby and want something cheap, then the answer is yes. You can freely experiment with how you wish your keyboard to sound and feel, making it a great way of getting into the keyboard collecting hobby. It is accessible and won’t burn a hole through your wallet.
But, also expect that you are getting what you pay for. Given a low price, you will probably end up with a low-end build, but that doesn’t mean it’s terrible. Whether or not it is, is entirely up to you. It is all preference. Just do not expect much from it right off the bat, and it will take a bit of work and a couple of modifications before it sounds and feels the way you want it to be.