OLKB Preonic MX Rev.3 Review
Lets keep this one "short" and sweet.
Ortholinears, what the heck are they?
To summarize they are a full size keyboard, cut in half, trimmed down, with the keys straightened out in linear rows and columns, meaning the rows are not staggered.
Why would you want this?
The main idea behind othrolinears is that your fingers should never be more than two keys away from any given key when placed on the home row. Thus reducing fatigue and stress when typing for extended periods of time. The ‘Lower’ and ‘Raise’ keys allow quick access to other key layers, meaning little functionality is lost over a full-size layout.
So the general idea is improved ergonomics in a compact layout.
Why I bought this:
Being a bit new to the world of custom mechs, I only learned about this layout earlier this year. But I really wanted to give it a try. I knew the layout would be tricky to get used to, but the ‘Lower’ and ‘Raise’ function is what sealed the deal, if you can get that down you functionally have a full-size board on your hands.
Originally I placed a preorder on Drop for the Planck, which is basically the same board but without a number row. Ultimately shipping got pushed back twice, and by then the Preonic V3 was available and ready for immediate shipping, so I cancelled my Planck and got the Preonic.
In truth a layout with an extra row would be my first choice regardless, so I was happy it played out this way.
I went for the full Drop special on this.
|Case +PCB +Plate||OLKB PREONIC MX V3 (60-pc)||$140.00||https://drop.com/buy/preonic-mechanical-keyboard|
|Key Caps||DROP + MATT3O MT3 /DEV/TTY KEYCAP SET||$75.00||https://drop.com/buy/drop-matt3o-mt3-dev-tty-keycap-set|
|Switches||Invyr Holy Panda Mechanical Switches 70-pc||$65.97||https://drop.com/buy/massdrop-x-invyr-holy-panda-mechanical-switches|
|Total:||$280.97 USD $359.02 CAD||Hot-Swap - PCB Mount Switch - No Per Key RGB|
I decided on the Invyr Holy Panda switches because I wanted to try them out, they mostly seem highly regarded tactile switches. But at $1.21/per switch, they command a steep premium.
And for keycaps I went with the Matt3o MT3 /dev/tty Ortholinear set (dye-sub PBT), they look really nice and the accent red keys match the red anodized aluminum case very well without going overboard aesthetically.
My thoughts on the OLKB Preonic:
I now have 3+ weeks under my belt. The Preonic MX V3 kit is really good overall. Key features being:
Anodized CNC aluminum case
5-pin PCB mount switch or 3-pin plate mount
USB C w/ included cable
Underglow LED’s and user optional solder RGB LED compatible (for per key lighting)
Included stabs, screws, hex bolts + nuts, hex tool, & rubber feat
The build quality of the Case is of very high quality, it feels lighter than I expected, which ultimately for a compact board that would be easy to move around is not a bad thing. But the anodized aluminum holds up even next to some more premium cases.
The PCB is feature rich and as far as I am concerned, of high quality, no issues to report here. The built in mini speaker is a nice touch, and hot-swap is a blessing, especially for a quick and easy build.
The RGB on the back of the PCB is a nice touch but ultimately unless you get the diffused acrylic case it does not do much.
Stabs are push-in, not screw-in (booooo), but only using a single 2U stabilizer, this is acceptable.
The fitment tolerance of the backplate is very good, one of the best I have dealt with so far. I suppose it would be easier with a smaller plate and case, but nonetheless I was very impressed.
If I am going to be extra picky, and I am. My main con is the noise the case produces when you type, there is a very subtle metal clang on some key presses (middle keys in particular). A rubber / foam gasket would completely minimize this, so I would have liked to see one included, but this is not extremely noticeable, just something I picked up on.
Otherwise this kit delivers on all fronts, I really enjoy the layout, the quality of the parts is A+, and while $140 feels steep for a small layout (now on sale for $115, Planck is $100), you get good value for what you are buying. The feature rich PCB takes away from any feeling that something is missing. And with limited runs you can always expect to pay a price premium.
One quick note on the Ortholinear layout. While an adjustment for typing, for gaming it is much better, ‘W’ directly above ‘S’ is actually perfect.
As this is a hot swap board there is not much to it. A nice little booklet is included with basic assembly instructions:
Once you have your switches and keycaps you are ready to build, this kit has everything else included.
To begin you mount your single 2U spacebar stabilizer, I lubed mine with TriboSys 3204. Then mount it into the case, and thread in the 5 screws from the bottom of the case. Optionally you can use the brass hex spacers to secure it furthermore, which I opted to do.
Next mount a few switches to the plate, then to the PCB. I like to space them out so the plate is secure and aligned.
Then mount the remainder of your switches. Once done you secure the plate from the top with 5 hex nuts (included tool is provided), and tadah! A prepped Preonic V3 ready for keycaps!
And some completed pics!
I also got the carry case for $5, as I will use this on the go I like the idea of having my keeb secured and avoiding scratches to the aluminum when possible.
Switch of choice for this test is the Invyr Holy Panda (tactile), un-lubed.
* Amplified audio by 10db * (Audio recorded with a Blue Snowball Mic, at approximately 15cm from the keyboard)
Stay tuned! An upcoming entry will feature the Holy Panda’s lubed vs un-lubed.
This keeb has been an interesting one, it has taken the most time to get used to simply because the rows are not staggered. I do not type ‘correctly’, as my fingers hover instead of remaining on the home row, so I often make many spelling errors as keys are not in the same position they would be on a standard keyboard layout. That said it is not a deal breaker, and I have gotten much better over the past weeks and I will continue to use this board for several more weeks.
So while the layout is an adjustment, in many other ways I prefer this over something like a 60%. The Preonic with the top number row is a huge benefit personally, as are the arrow keys. And while I first thought I would have growing pains using the small spacebar, this is not the case, not only do I not mind it but the ‘Raise’ and ‘Lower’ functions right beside the spacebar really reduce the lack of functionality that I normally get with smaller layouts. I have several frequently used functions down to muscle memory and I am beginning to really enjoy this board. Even more so that I initially thought.
Currently I am working on a custom key layout, in particular I want to rearrange the bottom left keys, not having ‘Control’ in the bottom left it really throwing me off, otherwise I have adjusted well and will also add some keys to the ’Lower’ and ‘Raise’ layers.
Ultimately this is a board I am pleasantly surprised with, and happy that it is of high quality with a feature rich PCB. For those looking to spice up their custom mech life, I actually can strongly recommend this board. This coming from a guy who's 'one weapon keeb' is a 90% layout. So if I can make the switch, I'm sure many others could as well! This Drop+OLKB board really nailed it!
Change can be hard, but often we find that it can result in something that is not as negative as we once thought it to be.