Matias Ergo Pro w/ Salmon ALPS & PBT caps

kshopper2084

04 Nov 2019, 23:11

Just thought I would post-up my recent Ergo Pro project. Sorry for the length but thought someone might find it interesting.

TLDR; I replaced the stock switches in my Matias Ergo Pro with vintage SKCM Salmon complicated ALPS and white PBT keycaps from a donor Apple M1066 board and it blew my mind.

aLeftHalf.JPG
aLeftHalf.JPG (3.03 MiB) Viewed 611 times
FullAbove.JPG
FullAbove.JPG (2.66 MiB) Viewed 611 times
Background

The Matias Ergo Pro has been my daily driver board since its release. As is unfortunately common, during that time I received one replacement board from Matias after the left-side gradually quit working altogether, and replaced many of the Quiet Click switches as they too failed, one by one.

Originally I started out just moving working switches from keys I didn't use, like the Undo/Cut/Copy/Paste keys on the left side, to replace critical keys that had failed. Eventually those ran out so I purchased a 10-pack of switches from Matias and used those as well. Finally, earlier this year as yet another key began the very familiar pattern of first registering multiple times per press to eventually failing to register at all (usually within a day or two), I gave up. Though the Ergo Pro is by far my favourite keyboard of all time I just couldn't deal with the constant failures.

Inspiration

Fast forward 6 months or so and after messing around trying to find a suitable somewhat affordable split keyboard replacement I kind of settled in with a Kinesis Freestyle 2 which I could best describe as being extremely 'okay'. Then one day I happened upon one of Thomas' (Chyrosran22) ALPS switch videos and it occurred to me: instead of replacing the failing Matias switches with new Matias switches (soon to fail themselves no doubt) I could instead replace them all with a salvaged complicated ALPS tactile switches!

The Donor

Off to Ebay to find a suitable donor board. Settled on a far from pristine Apple M0116 that was badly yellowed and had been crudely engraved with some kind of property ID number - I didn't want to destroy a nice specimen that someone could use intact.

The board came with salmon ALPS which I was happy with (Orange would have been even better, but I wasn't willing to pay the extra $ to secure them). I had every intention of disassembling each switch and running them through the ultrasonic cleaner, but when I took them apart they were pristinely clean inside. I did run a few through the cleaner anyway to test if they felt different afterwards, but I honestly couldn't feel a difference so didn't bother opening the rest.

The Project

So after disassembling the M0116, which itself was a treat (about 4 screws and done), I carefully desoldered and removed all the salmon ABS switches.

I then removed most of the Matias Quiet Click switches from my ergo pro board's (left/right halves). Since I didn't have quite enough salmon switches to replace every switch on the Ergo Pro I left a few of the keys that I use least often with the stock Matias switches.

I soldered the salmon switches in to both halves and then tested. That is when disaster struck. A sequence of keys on the far right side weren't working. I tested the switches and they were fine, the board had a bad trace somewhere. Without schematics I tried to trace the circuits that were common to those keys but couldn't solve it, there were no visible defects that I could see.
BareSwtiches.JPG
BareSwtiches.JPG (3.36 MiB) Viewed 611 times
Very fortunately, a few days earlier I had found a minty fresh Ergo Pro board on Ebay and managed to win the auction for a relative steal (about 1/3 the full retail price). I figured I could use it to spruce up my board's case, keycaps, and wrist rests which on my old Ergo Pro were looking pretty shabby. It would also provide me with a parts board should I even need them, and well, it turned out that I did. We can debate whether my purchasing this board was a wise exercise in forethought or is the action that actually cursed my original board to fail. ;)

So after the tedious work of once again removing the salmon ALPS from the right side board of my old Ergo Pro, and most of the Matias switches from the right side of my new Ergo Pro, I installed the salmon ALPS into the new board successfully.

Yes, this was a *lot* of desoldering/soldering. Fortunately, I have a pretty decent desoldering gun but I think I'll avoid projects that require it for awhile. ;)

I originally intended to use the fresh new Ergo Pro ABS keycaps as my originals were fugly after years of use - shiny and nasty looking. These ABS keycaps are just "okay", definitely an overall weak link in the Ergo Pro. However, as I had completed cleaning the PBT caps from the M0116 to possibly sell, I decided to see how different they were from the alphanumeric caps on Ergo Pro. As it turns out, they were only very slightly off. The biggest difference is that the number row keys site slightly higher than stock but in practice this is a non-issue. Oh, and the M0116 caps have the "home-row" bump on the D and K keys instead of typical F and J keys (thanks Apple). This does feel odd for a bit but I quickly got used to it.

The Result

Behold, a Matias Ergo Pro with absolutely fantastic vintage SKCM Salmon complicated ALPS switches and beautiful white PBT keycaps!

Using this board is blowing my mind. The tactility and "thok thok" sounds are immensely satisfying. The PBT caps feel really, really good - it's amazing what a difference they make to the overall feel of the board. Needless to say I feel that all the effort and expense was well worth it. The difference between this and the stock Matias Quiet Click switches and ABS keycaps is simply profound.

This thing is my keyboard for life. I'm thinking about marrying this thing. I hope I never die so I can type on this baby for all eternity... okay, you get the drift - I really LIKE this keyboard!

I hope you enjoyed reading this long tale, honestly it just gave me an excuse to type. 8-)

FullKeyboard.JPG
FullKeyboard.JPG (2.33 MiB) Viewed 611 times

User avatar
Menuhin

05 Nov 2019, 07:24

While Alps is most famous for its much hyped SKCM blues, Salmon Alps are my favorite tactile Alps (a close second SKCM browns).
But I am a linear guy... So lubed MX Vintage Blacks is my to go.

Enjoy this nice creation while Matias is gone for a long time with totally no hope for us that he will actually create any of those PBT caps he said he will and no hope for actually good modern improved complicated pine Alps design from him.

User avatar
swampangel

05 Nov 2019, 14:28

I'm glad you shared this. I had contemplated doing similar, but the micro usb port went on my Ergo Pro and I had to work around it like this: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=90 ... msg2666708

That experience frustrated me AND the repaired board is still a little flaky (sometimes doesn't respond right when you plug it in) so I put it away for now, with grand plans to try a custom replacement pcb down the road.

kshopper2084

05 Nov 2019, 16:02

swampangel wrote:
05 Nov 2019, 14:28
I'm glad you shared this. I had contemplated doing similar, but the micro usb port went on my Ergo Pro and I had to work around it like this: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=90 ... msg2666708

That experience frustrated me AND the repaired board is still a little flaky (sometimes doesn't respond right when you plug it in) so I put it away for now, with grand plans to try a custom replacement pcb down the road.

I'm using a micro-usb cord without that annoying 90 degree angle to try to reduce any tension on the port as well. But with these boards you're always waiting for the other show to drop. :(

Keep an eye out on Ebay you might find a decent replacement for far less than retail.

User avatar
swampangel

05 Nov 2019, 17:10

kshopper2084 wrote:
05 Nov 2019, 16:02
I'm using a micro-usb cord without that annoying 90 degree angle to try to reduce any tension on the port as well. But with these boards you're always waiting for the other show to drop. :(

Keep an eye out on Ebay you might find a decent replacement for far less than retail.
I did snag a used ergo pro from ebay for a donor board. It was shipped in a big box (stuffed with paper) with all the cables plugged in. As a result, by the time it rattled its way to me it was worse for wear :(

Image

Image

So right now it's consigned to the project box.

kshopper2084

05 Nov 2019, 19:10

swampangel wrote:
05 Nov 2019, 17:10
kshopper2084 wrote:
05 Nov 2019, 16:02
I'm using a micro-usb cord without that annoying 90 degree angle to try to reduce any tension on the port as well. But with these boards you're always waiting for the other show to drop. :(

Keep an eye out on Ebay you might find a decent replacement for far less than retail.
I did snag a used ergo pro from ebay for a donor board. It was shipped in a big box (stuffed with paper) with all the cables plugged in. As a result, by the time it rattled its way to me it was worse for wear :(

Image

Image

So right now it's consigned to the project box.
Man that's really too bad. This thing has a white-whale aspect to it (working Ergo Pro). For something that feels so robust it's just not.

Post Reply

Return to “Keyboards”