When it comes to custom keycap sets, the GMK brand is always brought up in the conversation. Almost all high-end builds from your favorite content creators and community members are usually equipped with GMK keycaps. If you are a newcomer to the scene, then you may be wondering what is so special about these keycaps.
GMK is a producer of high-end keycap sets. Their products boast the highest tolerance when it comes to color accuracy and the printing of the legends. However, they are a brand that cannot meet the demands of the consumers. This makes the prices of their keycaps inflated in the aftermarket.
In this article, we will be giving a brief overview of GMK keycaps. We will also be outlining the reasons as to why they have become extremely expensive, especially in the aftermarket/second-hand market. And ultimately, we will be helping consumers decide whether or not they are worth their price tag.
What is GMK?
GMK is a company that specializes in manufacturing luxury keycaps primarily for the custom keyboard enthusiast scene. They are a German company that acquired Cherry’s tooling machines.
The company’s name is derived from the names of the founders: Günter, Meinhardt, and Kredler. The company was established in 1992 and started manufacturing keycaps in 2011.
What Makes GMK So Special?
In today’s market, GMK is not the only high-end keycap manufacturer anymore. There are tons of competing brands that offer keycaps at the same price point. However, many enthusiasts always go back to GMK.
So this begs the question. What makes GMK so special? The answer lies in the quality and diversity in their designs and products.
GMK keycaps are made of high-quality ABS plastic. This is not to be confused with the ABS plastic used on entry-level keycap sets or stock gaming keyboard keycap sets. The ones that GMK uses are much thicker and more durable.
In addition, GMK keycaps utilize a technique known as double-shot printing for their legends. This means that the legends will never fade. In addition, the clarity of GMK’s printing is next to none.
There are also no misaligned keys since their quality control is top-notch. There are also many other factors that add to the premium typing experience that GMK keycaps provide. The thickness of their keycaps, for instance, greatly helps with producing a good sound signature.
In terms of designs, there are plenty to choose from. There are tons of original designs such as GMK Laser, Red Samurai, Godspeed, Olivia, etc. There are also many designs that pay homage to pop culture icons, including GMK Kaiju. GMK Rudy, GMK DMG, GMK Dualshot, etc.
And overall, the gorgeous aesthetics of GMK keysets is what makes them an instant buy for many keyboard enthusiasts and collectors. It is also what makes them so hard to get. We will be talking more about that later in the article.
What Are GMK Keycaps Made Of?
As we have mentioned earlier, all GMK keysets are made of Double-shot ABS plastic. Many enthusiasts will know that PBT is preferred in the entry to mid-range price segment of the market. However, GMK has many valid reasons for using ABS plastic over PBT.
ABS plastic allows GMK to produce keycaps with more vibrant and accurate colors. PBT keycaps, even high-end ones, look washed out most of the time.
Also, ABS keycaps are less prone to warping compared to PBT keycaps. Longer keys, such as the spacebar, are usually problematic for PBT keysets. They usually have to be manually straightened if they come out warped from the factory.
One thing to note is that if a GMK keycap set is advertised as being made of PBT plastic, then that keycap set is most likely a clone. Check out our dedicated article about things to watch out for when buying GMK keycaps to learn more.
Do GMK Sets Shine?
With their incredibly high price tag, one might think that GMK will be more durable and resistant to shine. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. Just like most ABS plastic keycap sets, GMK sets are not resistant to shine.
But with that said, even PBT keycaps are not totally immune to shine. With enough or heavy use, even high-end PBT keycaps can shine.
For this reason, some prefer not to use their GMK keycap sets and would rather treat them as collectibles. This is especially true for rare GMK sets. But for regular enthusiasts who daily drive their GMK keysets, shining is usually not a concern.
Do GMK Sets Come in Other Profiles?
GMK sets only come in Cherry profile. This would not be a problem for most users since Cherry profile is a universally accepted keycap profile. However, the issue stems from users who have north-facing switches.
Cherry profile keycaps, such as GMK keysets, are known to have interference with these kinds of keyboards.
But with that said, many of the artists who have collaborated with GMK have also worked with other brands to produce alternate profiles of their keycap designs. A good example is Mito, who has collaborated with Drop to create SA profile versions of his popular keycap sets.
Unfortunately, this does not go for all GMK colorways and designs. Some artists strictly collaborate with GMK, meaning their keycap designs are only available in Cherry profile.
What Makes GMK So Expensive?
We have discussed earlier GMK’s impeccable build quality and design. Those factors alone would normally be enough to justify the high price point of GMK keysets. However, there is another factor why GMK keycaps are so expensive.
Like most entities in the custom keyboard world, GMK is not a big company. They can only produce limited batches of their products every year. This creates a scarcity in the number of GMK keysets available.
To solve supply issues, GMK decided to use the “group buy” business model. To quickly summarize this, group buys are very similar to item pre-orders. The customer has to pay upfront and wait for their products to arrive at a later date.
However, the catch is that once the group buy period finishes, the key set cannot be purchased anymore unless GMK and the vendor decide to do a round 2 or round 3 group buy.
Naturally, there will be users who would want to purchase these keycaps after the group buy period. This creates a market for scalpers to inflate the value of GMK keycap sets.
In addition, GMK keycap sets take approximately one year to fulfill group buy orders. Many buyers are not willing to wait that long, which is why there is a huge market for aftermarket keycap sets.
Retailers, such as Drop, are trying to combat these kinds of issues by providing in-stock GMK keycap sets. The selection is currently still limited. However, the number of keycap sets that are becoming in stock is always increasing.
How Do You Buy GMK Keycaps?
As we have discussed earlier, there are three ways to buy GMK keycap sets. Consumers can get them via group buy, via in-stock vendors, and through the aftermarket.
For GMK group buys, there isn’t a single vendor. The vendor/distributor will often depend on where the artists of the keycap set originated.
For in-stock keycap sets, there are also different vendors. However, the one that has the most in-stock keycap sets is Drop (formerly Massdrop).
As for the aftermarket, there are many places to get them. The most popular ones are the Mech Market subreddit and Discord Server.
Are GMK Keycaps Worth It?
We have finally come to the ultimate question that this article imposes. Are GMK keycaps truly worth it, given their high price tag and how difficult they are to acquire? The answer will, of course, depend on the consumer.
For those starting out in the mechanical keyboard hobby and are planning on building his/her first mechanical keyboard, then GMK keycap sets may not be worth it. Even in-stock keycap GMK keysets can cost as much as the entire build. Beginners who fall under this category may be better off spending that extra cash on other quality components that can significantly improve the performance of the build.
However, for more experienced keyboard builders who have a midrange or high-end build, GMK keycaps may easily be worth their cost. They can serve as the cherry on top of any custom build and will certainly complete the overall aesthetics. And when using the right GMK keycap set, keyboard enthusiasts may end up with a one-of-a-kind build.
In summary, beginners who have not yet invested in the other components of their keyboards may want to look to upgrade those first before their keycaps. Users who have a more advanced build (and a bigger budget), on the other hand, are highly recommended to check out GMK keycaps.
GMK Keycaps Alternatives
As we have mentioned earlier, GMK keycaps are not the only high-end keycap manufacturer in the market. There are competing brands that can potentially rival the quality of GMK keycaps. We’ll be listing some alternatives that buyers may want to check out.
The closest alternative to GMK is ePBT (Enjoy PBT). They also make lots of high-quality keycap sets in different colorways and designs. They also utilize the Cherry profile that GMK uses.
In addition, ePBT uses both ABS plastic and PBT for their keysets. They also produce keycaps at different price points, which should certainly satisfy different kinds of audiences.
And lastly, we also recommend checking out Drop. Aside from carrying different keycap brands, they also manufacture their own profile, the MT3 profile. All of these brands are worthy alternatives to GMK keycaps.
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.