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DailyProcrastinator

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GMMK Pro Review

Pinnacle Value of the 75% layout?  

 

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Intro:

 

Lets begin with the main highlights of the GMMK Pro, when the launch of this went live in November 2020 it was highly talked about, Glorious was giving us all the features we wanted.

  • 5-pin hot-swap sockets 
  • CNC aluminum case 
  • Gasket mount PCB 
  • Screw in stabilizers
  • Per-key RGB 
  • Customizable layout via GloriousCore software or QMK (QMK compatibility may not be possible for later production models)
  • And a highly coveted rotary knob

All of this comes in at $170usd (pricing for batch1), and represents what is likely the best al-round value for a ready-built DIY mechanical keyboard, especially for a 75% layout. 

 

I placed a pre-order ($70 deposit) when first launched on Nov.11/20 for Batch1 and received my order on Apr.15/20 (paid remainder $100), there were some delays due to the global logistics being completely overwhelmed, and my order also had to ship to Canada. However, Glorious was very good about keeping the customers updated and even provided info on the ship which their container was on (sitting in the port of LA for more than 2+ weeks). All-in-all a positive buy experience, and despite some delays this was a relatively short turnaround time between pre-order and delivery. Especially for the custom keeb community where a 8-14 month wait time is not at all uncommon.

 


 

Build:

 

For a hot-swap socket build the process is always easy, as this board comes assembled it makes it even easier, I did not do much other than lube my stabs with Krytox 205g0. Once that is done you mount your switches, then keycaps and you are ready to go!

 

My original build process was a little more lengthy as I decided to lubricate my Equalz C³ Kiwi switches, for more info on that process check my upcoming Switch Lube Guide. The C³ Kiwi tactile switches are one of my favorite switches and lubing has made a big difference, as noted in my C³ Kiwi VS Zealios V2 comparison. However by the time of this review I swapped out the switches for the heavier Zealios V2 78g, another highly recommended tactile switch.

 

My keycap of choice was the Drop MT3 Camillo, lately I really like MT3/SA profile keycaps, and this is now my 3rd set. Originally, I was leaning towards the GMK Civilizations but ended up missing the GB and in some ways I am happy with this as the ‘White Ice’ is not as described (more on this later). The aesthetics with the additional gold rotary knob I purchased looks really good in my opinion. 

 

Parts:

Spoiler
Case+PCB+Plate+Gasket+Stabs GMMK Pro +Extra Rotary Knob $180.00 https://www.pcgamingrace.com/products/glorious-gmmk-pro-75-barebone-white
Switches Zealios V2 78g 90-pc $99.00 https://zealpc.net/products/zealio?variant=14276634438
Key caps Drop MT3 Camillo Keycap Set $110.00 https://drop.com/buy/drop-mt3-camillo-keycap-set/reviews
Total:   $389.00 Hot Swap - PCB Mount Switch - Screw In Stab - RGB

Note that you can easily get a great set of keycaps for around $50-70. And you can easily get enough switches for $45, which would bring the build to $285 total. 


The C³ Kiwi switches I originally used for this build go for $0.65/pc vs the $1.10/pc that you pay for the Zealios V2 switches.

 


 

Thoughts On The GMMK Pro:

 

Overall I am very impressed with this keyboard, it is well made and delivers on the pre-order promise. As stated earlier this board is assembled out of the box and ready to use. For new enthusiasts this can make the barrier to entry for custom mechs a lot easier, something the GMMK lineup is very good at. 

 

However unlike previous GMMK boards the Pro welcomes a healthy amount of customizing that we did not get with the past GMMK Full-Size/TKL/Compact keyboards. This includes desired features that the enthusiast community is demanding more of, and in the more desirable layout. So for first time builders it does not get any easier while still allowing for the base building experience, and the healthy dose of premium features. 

 

 

For my build I only made one change, and this was just a simple lube stabilizer mod, otherwise I left the board as is. Which oddly enough seems to be one of the main complaints with this keyboard, the stabilizers comes with a rather thick (described as glue like) lube, and the go-to mod is re-lubing them. I cannot confirm the type feel of the stabs with the original pre-applied lube as I removed mine for lubing thinking they were un-lubed, subsequently found out they were, but just went ahead with lubing them anyways as I assumed Krytox 205g0 would be better (turns out it is), and as I had just purchased the lube I wanted to try if for the first time.

 

I will also note that the switch mounting is probably one the better experiences I have had. The switches click in with ease and are very easy to remove as well. Not something I get a consistent experience with for past DIY builds, especially budget kits, for an equal experience it often costs significantly more. Making the key switch swap more enjoyable and easy for newcomers to the hobby.

Spoiler

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The construction between the PCB and plate is very good, the gasket between the two is done well as far as I can tell and I have no obvious issues to report here. However, I did find a minor imperfection in the case aluminum, as it is on the inside edge no one would notice unless they took the board apart. Likely a tooling / QC issue with Batch1, I do not care as it is so minor.

 

 

The GloriousCore Software works but is slightly annoying to use, for customizing your key-map each individual change needs to be applied then saved. The software is still a bit buggy and feels like another Corsair iCUE bloatware, but less intuitive. The good news is you can customize your layout and RGB, flash the board. And never touch the software again as it is not required for a profile that is flashed to the board.

 

As this is a Batch1 board the PCB is also QMK compatible, I tested both GloriousCore and QMK compatibility. Using QMK is just as I have experienced with all my other QMK compatible boards, set your profile via QMK Config, export your profile, flash via QMK Toolbox, and you are good to go, no issues via QMK, which is very good. (As mentioned QMK compatibility may not be possible for later production models)

 

 

When purchasing you have two colour options, Black Slate and White Ice. I chose White Ice, and in my opinion this should really be called ‘Super Silver’ the colour is not white and the stock photos used on GMMK’s site are not very representational of what this board looks like in real life. As shown:

Spoiler

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GMMK Pro White Ice stock photo

 

VS

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Reality

This is why I was happy about missing the GMK Civilizations GB. They would not match the silver colour of the board very well, But the Drop Camillo matches perfectly. 

 

Ultimately this does not sway any use or functionality of the board but the custom keyboard market loves aesthetics and style, I think that many would be disappointed by the colour of the ‘White Ice’, myself included. And while I do not mind the silver now that some time has passed, I am disappointed.

 

The RGB is satisfying enough, while I set mine to static white I did play around a bit in GloriosCore and was content enough. The lightbars on the side are a unique touch that help distinguish it over competitors, and I like that they flash when Caps lock is ‘On’ although depending on the lighting of the room you are in this is not really visible. But a nice feature regardless.

Spoiler

 

On final order (now in stock) you get to add options that were not available when the pre-order was made, this included coiled aviator cables in various colours for $50. Backplates options (ANSI), brass for $50, polycarbonate for $20 (aluminum plate included by default). Additional rotary knobs for $10 (black, white, and gold), a carry case for $25, and many keycap, switch, plus various other Glorious accessory options. All of these are optional and are not required in order to use the GMMK Pro, I only added an additional knob as I wanted another colour. The only two items required are switches and keycaps.

 

For those looking into ISO layouts they do not seem to be available directly through Glorious on PCGamingRace, but instead through Authorized Retailers & Distributors listed on the main landing page for the GMMK Pro, CandyKeys is one of the many retailers in the EU.

 

As of completing this review the ISO layout is now available directly through Glorious.

 

I like the varying options you can get with your keyboard right at the time or purchase, and it gets users to buy more and customize their boards, which falls right into the hobby. A smart move by Glorious, but a pricey one as they charge a bit of a premium, although I can appreciate the ease of a one-stop-shop, I decided to get my accessories elsewhere.

 


 

Type Test:

 

Stock Zealios V2 78g switches, stabilizers lubed with Krytox 205g0. 

 

 

     * Amplified audio by 10db * (Audio recorded with a Blue Snowball Mic, at approximately 15cm from the keyboard)

 

 


 

Pictures:

 

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Mixed in some Zilent V2 67g on the top row and right column.

 

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Simple matching custom cable from Donut Cables.

 

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This is a placemat on my dining table and not a desk mat, just to clear up some possible confusion haha. Not some limited edition GB.

 

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Shown here on my desk with a custom coiled cable from Zap Cables that I am using for another build. 


 

Conclusion:

 

I think that for $170usd in the current mech market there is no direct competitor with the GMMK Pro. You either spend the same or less, and get a significantly lesser board in terms of quality and/or features, or you spend a considerable amount more to get one that has the same features. In an upcoming build with the KBD Bella 75% I will look back and compare that board to the GMMK Pro, but for about $120 more you get what is essentially the same board (options wise), other than the missing rotary knob.

 

Thus at the time of writing this GMMK has nailed the market segment. They have included the most ‘wanted’ features of a custom mech in 2021, and at a price point nobody can touch at this time. You get a lot of board per $ and unless you are looking at a very specific layout, style, or specific feature, you are likely going to pay a significant premium, a $200-700usd DIY board is not uncommon and most equal competitors (in terms of features) with the GMMK Pro start at around $250+. The ID80 is probably the best direct competitor as it sells for the same price as the Pro, but it does not offer as many features, or equal build quality, making the decision easy now that the Pro is in stock. 

 

After several months of using this as my daily driver I can confidently recommend this keyboard. I am very happy with it and the features it successfully delivered on, it is by far the best value I have gotten from a keyboard and other than my issues with the “white” colour it is a very good option that I highly recommend. 

 

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