The Korean Custom Keyboards #1: 356 Series

Since a bunch of people always ask "omg what is that keyboard???" every few weeks, whenever someone links a picture from OTD, I figured it would be nice to write a summary about all the Korean custom keyboards released within the past few years. This first summary will take a look at the 356 series, not the first or oldest custom keyboard series, but most likely the most popular one.

Many thanks to the admins of OTD for granting me permission to publish this information to the western community. Also thanks to soulbane for helping me to fill in empty gaps of information and translating the stuff I did not understand!

Now with further ado, here is the summary.

The 356 Custom Keyboard Series

The 356 custom keyboards are a series of fully "community-developed" Cherry MX keyboards made by members of the Korean keyboard community OTD. The development started with the 356L in 2008.

Core Features across all models:
* Tenkeyless design
* Full aluminium case (CNC carved)
* Features and construction usually adjusted and tuned for the optimal feeling of a certain type of keyswitch
* Distributed as kit containing of the housing, the switch backplate as well as the PCB and sometimes some additional parts.
* PS/2 Interface (With the exception of the 356L, which is USB)
* Usually available with and without steel plate, partial steel plate or partial acyrlic plate

The First: 356L (Limited)
Image
Picture courtesy of 늙은Dell♨

Release: March 2008
Optmized for: Linear switches
Color: Black
Winkeys: Yes
N-Key: No
Controller: Cherry G80-3000 USB
Units Made: 60

The 356L keyboard was developed for the use of linear switches. It was only available with a black aluminum case and did not come with a custom controller. The PCB was designed around the use of a Cherry G80-3000 controller and therefore is the only board from the series to use a USB connection. Being limited to only 60 pieces, this is by now one of the most rare keyboards from the 356 series. Every 356L has the serial number carved into the bottom of the case.

The Second: 356N (Non-Click)
Image
Image
Pictures courtesy of 이동진

Release: 2008
Optmized for: Tactile Non-Clicky switches
Color: Silver and Chrome
Winkeys: Yes
N-Key: No
Controller: Holtek IS628A
Units Made: 40

The second in the series, the 356N was developed to be used with non-click switches (Cherry MX Clear, Cherry MX Brown). As a result, the red-colored PCB is thinner and more flexible than on the 356L. There was no steel plate for the 356N and it was only available with a light aluminium plate or a partial acyrillic plate. The keyboard is most common in the silver version, with a few variants in a polished chrome look. The entire run was limited to 40 pieces. The 356N uses a custom controller based on the Holtek IS628.

Third: 356CL (Classic)
Image
Image
Image
Pictures courtesy of 절대고독

Brass Plate
Image
Image

Release: 2009
Optmized for: Varies
Color: Gunmetal, Black
Winkeys: No
N-Key: No
Controller: Holtek IS628A
Units Made: 60 Gunmetal, 30 Black

The 356CL is probably the most versatile in the series. The aluminum case has been designed to give space to an extra thick brass plate, located under the PCB in the bottom part of the case. The brass plate is mainly supposed to minimize the sound resonance (pinging and the like) caused by the Cherry MX switches. The PCB is much thicker and less flexible. In comparison to the other keyboards in the series, the brass plate also results in a massive weight increase. The 356CL has been available with a steel plate for the full keyboard as well as partial plates from steel and acrylic. The controller is still the same Holtek as used on the 356N series.

Fourth: 356CL Dark Gray Edition
Image
Image
Pictures courtesy of EdWard

Release: 2009
Optmized for: Varies
Color: Dark Gray (duh!)
N-Key: Yes
Winkeys: No
Controller: ATMega16
Units Made: 200+ (estimated)

The 356CL Dark Gray Edition is considered to be a "value" or "budget" version of the 356CL. In comparison to its rarer brother the 356CL, it does not offer the possibility to increase the weight with an extra brass plate and uses a different controller. Hidden under the spacebar are 4 dip-switches, offering for some layout customization in a similar fashion as found on the HHKB (Swap CTRL/CapsLock, etc). With over 200 units made, this can probably be considered as the first "mass produced" keyboard from the series.

Fifth: 356mini
Image
Pictures courtesy of StarDori

Release: 2010
Optmized for: Varies
Color: Black, Red, Khaki
N-Key: Yes
Winkeys: Yes
Controller: ATMega16 (Protoype) or ATMega32
Units Made: ~100

The 356mini is an exception to the series, using a very space saving design, similar to HHKB in size. Similar to the 356CL, it also offers a brass plate to be attached in the bottom part of the case to increase the stability and weight. Designed for portable use, the brass plate is located at the outside of the case and not under the PCB as on the 356CL. The mini uses the same controller as the 356CL Dark Gray Edition, but also can be entirely customized using an online webapp. The 356mini uses a detachable PS2 cable that features a PS2 plug on one side, and a mini-usb plug on the other side. Despite this, the 356mini is not actually USB compatible.

Sixth: 356N MK2
Image
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Pictures courtesy of devolition

Release: 2011
Optmized for: Non-Click switches
Color: Silver, Black, Red
N-Key: Yes
Winkeys: Yes
Controller: ATMega16
Units Made: ~100 (10 red, rest silver and black)

The MK2 variant of the 356N is a re-make of the original 356N with a lower quality case and a different controller. Unlike the original N variant, this one offers N-Key rollover.
sixty
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 09:25

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Impressive :o which one has the double-layered PCB?

:cry: I want those dye-sublimated keycaps for the bottom row on the 356N.
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 10:18

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I like this smiley :lol: . It makes me feel like I am actually laughing.
Nice information and great collection of pics! Do you know the exact weight of the 356CL?
I have heard that these custom projects were made in an open source manner.
Is there any CAD files freely available?
Also I want to let you all know, that I have just started a CNC milling course, so custom metal keyboard cases hopefully become a reality in the future.
http://geekhack.org/showthread.php?t=15638
RiGS

Unread post28 Feb 2011, 10:30

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RiGS wrote:Also I want to let you all know, that I have just started a CNC milling course, so custom metal keyboard cases hopefully become a reality in the future.

Excellent!!!
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 11:58

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To boldly go where no innovator has gone before : always engage at full trust.
The 356cl dark gray is hawt. DO want.
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 13:39

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For being the "budget" model, I agree with KBL, the dark gray is hawt.
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 13:42

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keyboardlover wrote:The 356cl dark gray is hawt. DO want.

Ditto!

Hope my
Spoiler:
Chunk Board
looks that good :( .
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 13:43

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Nice summary!
Unfortunately, I've missed all 356 series :cry:
If I had a chance, I'd go for 356CL.
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 16:28

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What, a Korean without a 356? Is this why they banished you to Europe?
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 17:32

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The 356CL gunmetal case is so nice. I definitely need to make one of those.
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Really awesome keyboards, and really nice pictures of them. Especially the pictures of the Dark gray model.
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 21:07

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I wish they'd do a Mac native version of the 356N. But with Cherry blues. It's shame there isn't more of a market for Mac variants. It's made trying to find quality boards for myself particularly bothersome. I know I could just remap the CMD and ALT on Windows boards. But it's not the same. A nice brushed aluminium Mac variant? To match my iMac? Yes please. I don't care how much it costs.

Image
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Unread post28 Feb 2011, 21:26

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Bitches in the parking lot.
webwit wrote:What, a Korean without a 356? Is this why they banished you to Europe?

Yeap! I was banished for 3 yrs... but luckly with my first custom, DK Saver.
They let me kept one keyboard. :mrgreen:
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Brian8bit wrote:I wish they'd do a Mac native version of the 356N. But with Cherry blues. It's shame there isn't more of a market for Mac variants. It's made trying to find quality boards for myself particularly bothersome. I know I could just remap the CMD and ALT on Windows boards. But it's not the same. A nice brushed aluminium Mac variant? To match my iMac? Yes please. I don't care how much it costs.

[img]http://i.imgur.com/fiAu8.jpg[/mg]


this right here is the quintessential apple customer. :mrgreen:
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Unread post01 Mar 2011, 22:59

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Don't even get me started about how Apple is a scam.

Face it: Selling PC's made out of low-cost components (Foxconn mobos, low-cost TFT LCD's, etc.) for twice the price they take to produce is a scam. That's why I'll never purchase a Mac.
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Retarded Quote of the Week:
"Go out on a sidewalk in your town and ask for NT setup files, get arrested"
--Geekhack.org
Other than the brushed aluminum being vaguely Apple I'd say this is a blatant attempt to derail the thread.

I keep pushing the red triangle and nothing happens!
Last edited by ripster on 02 Mar 2011, 00:51, edited 1 time in total.
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sixty wrote:The Second: 356N (Non-Click)
Image

Someone tell that guy that his Alt and Alt Gr are on the wrong way around!
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Unread post02 Mar 2011, 00:51

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I want Dark Grey D:
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Unread post04 Mar 2011, 17:19

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sixty wrote:Image

what is that? cable out?
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wanabe wrote:
sixty wrote:Image

what is that? cable out?

Yup. They made those in a separate order. They are just so you have a bigger more durable plug instead of having to fiddle with the tiny fragline mini-usb plug.
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impressive serie, the korean people are gifted with keyboards. :shock:
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Boards : model M, old board witch cherry mx black, TM 2020, TM 2030 and Filco Majestouch brown switch
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How much did these works of art cost to purchase?
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Unread post05 Mar 2011, 17:45

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These look nice! I want the mini!
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Unread post05 Mar 2011, 17:55

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Evil_Spork wrote:How much did these works of art cost to purchase?

$300~400 per kit (not assembled)
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Unread post05 Mar 2011, 18:42

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Wow, I'm impressed! I'm getting K.A.S. (Keyboard Acquisition Syndrome).
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Unread post05 Mar 2011, 19:03

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sixty wrote:
Evil_Spork wrote:How much did these works of art cost to purchase?

$300~400 per kit (not assembled)

And that's not including switches or key caps I believe.
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Unread post05 Mar 2011, 19:29

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calavera wrote:
sixty wrote:
Evil_Spork wrote:How much did these works of art cost to purchase?

$300~400 per kit (not assembled)

And that's not including switches or key caps I believe.

Yeah - Depends on the set. The latest CMA will be distributed with switches.
sixty
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Unread post05 Mar 2011, 19:31

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Permanently buying all types of rare Cherry Corp. keyboards. PM me.
I'm eagerly waiting for these custom kits to be available on ebay later this year. At least that's what they're planning on. A relatively economic kit that's supposed to cost less than $300. Switches and key caps not included of course.
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Unread post05 Mar 2011, 19:34

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Unfortunately I had to cancel my trade for the 356 mini. The guy was taking forever with shipping/replying, and it was no longer acceptable.
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Unread post06 Mar 2011, 11:47

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