Alps keyboard: Matias, Custom or Ebay??

Jaki1122

09 May 2019, 04:11

So after a lot of research, I'm about buying a clicky alps (or the closest possible) keyboard at a fair price. I've around 150€ (167.93$) to spend, and going to use the keyboard for coding (aka typing the lines that doesn't compile at StackOverflow ;) ). My question is, do I get a Matias Tactile Pro or make a custom one? Buying a used keyboard is also an option, but so far couldn't find anything in good condition for my budget (mainly because anything from ebay has no less than 30$ shipping and then the importation tax, rated at 21% of the value). Note that the bigger it is, the better, a tenkeyless like the KB Paradise won't do for me.
Given that I'm still a bit new to the alps keyboard world and have no experience, I would really appreciate your opinion.
Thanks!

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StrangerInTheAlps

09 May 2019, 04:31

I don't think custom would be viable, both from cost perspective and from lack of options (pre-fabricated plates for full size Alps keyboards are either non-existant or very rare, for instance).

You have to hunt around if you want a used board in good condition, but it should be doable (may depend on your market, but here in U.S. it's possible to score a good deal on an Alps board if you aren't looking for a rarer type... may be more challenging in Spain, though).

Buying a Matias is likely the easiest option, and the least likely to have potential headaches due to board or switch condition. I have read of issues with Matias reliability in the past, but those may have been addressed; I don't have a Matias myself, so I can't say from experience.

It's a shame about the lack of 100% size Alps, though. I'm in a similar boat as you. Currently planning a custom Alps build, but decided to settle for 60% and separate numpad due to the limited PCB, plate, and case options. :cry:

I've also considered Alps-clone switches and preassembled boards like iRocks K67M (only ~$100 here, and I actually like the LEGO top, as childish as it might be), but wanted to make sure I tried genuine Alps first in order to have a good baseline. I also don't know how good clones are in terms of QA/reliability, though I'm guessing most would be worse than your standard Cherry in that regard.
Last edited by StrangerInTheAlps on 09 May 2019, 05:05, edited 6 times in total.

Hak Foo

09 May 2019, 04:34

The Tactile Pro is expensive for what it is.

What about the KBParadise V80 plus a Planck-style "ortholinar" kit to add a few dozen extra keys?

Jaki1122

09 May 2019, 04:58

StrangerInTheAlps wrote:
09 May 2019, 04:31
...may be more challenging in Spain, though.
Yep... I'm actully from Valencia and the only mechanical keyboards you can find are some pretty expensive or pretty damaged IBM M series and some Acer 6312-TW or similar. Nothing at recycling centers. Import, new or rubber dome :(

Jaki1122

09 May 2019, 05:00

Hak Foo wrote:
09 May 2019, 04:34
The Tactile Pro is expensive for what it is.

What about the KBParadise V80 plus a Planck-style "ortholinar" kit to add a few dozen extra keys?
Maybe, looks like one of the bests options given how expensive it get to import a keyboard form ebay that comes from other country... Ends up very overpriced.

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lhutton

09 May 2019, 05:22

I'm by no means an Alps expert but I've got more than a few Alps boards at this point. If you're just looking for a no fuss daily driver I'd hit eBay. Matias branded boards are spendy, have a "meh" warranty and seem to have problems if the internet is to be believed. I think I prefer the older Alps sound/feel to Matias as well but YMMV. Over the last few years the community tuned me into the Focus boards and I've picked up a few and they're not bad. Seems like you can throw a rock and hit a dozen of them too. I've heard Focus boards have reliability issues but mine seem to be doing just fine and since Focus was a prolific maker of these things they are _everyhwere_. Although it seems prices have shot up recently, stupid hipsters found out about them. I blame Chyrosran ... ;)

I know Alps switches have a reputation for being touchy but I think they're tougher than folks give them credit for, plus they're pretty easy to repair if a switch does go sideways. I've got an Adesso AEK knock-off (I think Ortek is the OEM) with white simplified clicky Alps that's help up OK despite abuse from many of my family members and a former girlfriend 15 years ago in high school. I've replaced a few of the more worn out switches in the last year with Matias clicky switches. It's still going strong. AEK/AEKII are another of my favorite vintage Alps boards but they're tactile.

I've also have two the of KBParadise Matias Clicky V80s and just from the two samples I have I can say that they vary in typing feel quite a bit. Could be the keycaps, one of mine has the double shot Taihao Dolch and the other has the cheap "Vintage" caps KBP usually stick on their boards. The Dolch is the better one of the two IMO. I've not had reliability problems out of either of them but if the reports online are to be believed it's only a matter of time before they start chattering/cutting out. Others have reported problems with the Matias' branded boards. I've had zero problems so far out of any Matias product myself but I think all of my switches and boards are from after their retooling.

As for a project board I like the idea of using a Dell AT101 as base, clean it up and stick whatever switch I want in it vs building an Alps board from scratch. Got one on the bench right now I'm finishing up as we speak. If you don't mind spending some time and have access to a workspace for sanding/painting it's not a bad way to go. The one I'm working on had a pretty nasty case of rust on the mounting plate and that's a strong possibility with those boards. But they were another common Alps platform (well supposedly common, I've never seen many of them around, even back in the day we always had the NMB Dell QuiteKey) that can be found laying out behind the dumpster.

Hak Foo

09 May 2019, 05:42

I rebuilt a Dell AT101W with Matias switches.

The Dell has the advantage of being dirt cheap and using the most standard keycaps. You can buy a Tai-Hao set, an optional caps lock, and cover everything but the space bar (that requires custom adapters for the stabilizers). The stock keycaps are mediocre though and the build quality feels fairly cheap.

The premium play is definitely a Northgate board-- heavier case, nicer keycaps-- but they're old and expensive boards, some of which have dying programmable features or other problems.

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lhutton

09 May 2019, 06:24

Yeah I ordered a Tai-Hao set for my AT101 project and noticed it uses what looks to be MX style stabilizer inserts. I'm going to try to use the inserts off and MX spacebar and see if that will do what I need. Did you do something similar?

The stock keycaps are awful, I'd put them in the same ballpark as the KBP Vintage style. The rest of the board is OK I think, especially compared to a lot of modern boards. I've certainly seen way worse. Considering the rather limited Alps option out there I think resto-modding an AT101 is still a very good way to go.

Northgate boards are basically collectors items now a days like the Model F ATs. I actually have a functional Northgate 386 system that I'd like to get a matching keyboard for, but not at those prices. It's an awesome machine though ... early ATi graphics and a very very early WD ethernet card came in it. The MAC address is mostly zeros, extremely early OUI!

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swampangel

09 May 2019, 15:37

Mostly just echoing the other replies so far. Get an Omnikey if you ever see one for a decent price.

I wouldn't bother with a Matias board for anything other than their Quiet Click switches (ex. for work use), but they are one of the only off-the-shelf options.

A Dell AT101/101W and some SKCM Whites seems like the best combo of quality and attainability.

Jaki1122

09 May 2019, 15:59

Well, afer reading everybody's feedback, I decided to spend more money and get myself a Northgate Omnikey 101 with White SKCM Alps. I almost bought a Focus FK2001 but because of the construction quality, I went for the Northgate. Now just wait for it to arrive... Thanks everyone!

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vometia
irritant

15 May 2019, 06:20

Sounds like the better option. I bought a Matias a few months ago, and while it's a lovely little keyboard in terms of feel and so on, "shoulda listened to the complaints": I experienced all the usual problems of key-bounce, chatter, just not registering at all and so on. From what I've gathered it's something that's just far too likely to happen at some point; some people have reportedly managed to fix it after varying amounts of effort but as there's no guaranteed solution because nobody really knows the cause (so yeah, your QA issues right there) it's hard to recommend them.

And also a black mark against KeyboardCo: after their helpful guy sympathised and I was about to return it in exchange for probably something much more expensive, I got the one who's probably responsible for their equally unreliable reputation who changed their tune from "yes, of course we'll help" to "mebbe, mebbe not. Return it at your own cost and we'll see what happens. Might exchange it, might send it back to you. lol."

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Wintermute1974
Tessier-Ashpool S.A.

20 May 2019, 22:35

I've got both the full-size Matias keyboard with clicky switches as well as the weirdo 65% bluetooth Matias keyboard with linear switches. The enjoyment and experience typing on them is like night and day.

The clicky switches with their ultra-thin PBT keycaps feel and sound both cheap and uninspired. The linears are quiet, with a substantial, meaty feel to them and a pleasant thock-thock-thock sound when you bottom out with them.

Jaki1122

21 May 2019, 17:21

Little update, today I received the keyboard. Very clean, looks almost like brand new, no yellow anywhere and feels & sounds amazing!
Everything works, now I just have to figure out how to emulate or activate the Windows keys, but I don't think that's going to be a problem.
Thank you all for the help, very happy with my new baby!

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swampangel

21 May 2019, 19:06

Jaki1122 wrote:
21 May 2019, 17:21
Little update, today I received the keyboard. Very clean, looks almost like brand new, no yellow anywhere and feels & sounds amazing!
Everything works, now I just have to figure out how to emulate or activate the Windows keys, but I don't think that's going to be a problem.
Thank you all for the help, very happy with my new baby!
I use SharpKeys to remap capslock to winkey https://www.randyrants.com/category/sharpkeys/

Enjoy your new board :D

Jaki1122

22 May 2019, 03:02

Thanks for the advice mate, but since I use Linux SharpKeys won't do it for me, but as said, thanks anyway. Today I still haven't got the time for setting up everything, but probably I'll use Xmodmap for remapping the keys, and later I'll see how does KDE work with multiple layout distributions, macros and all that stuff (new to KDE, I was using XFCE before).
And yes, I am enjoying my keyboard a lot! The difference between this and the old 5€ rubber dome is simply awesome (as you may suspect).
Edit: Just let you know that KDE has a built-in manager for all the shortcuts that works really well (similar to XFCE), so I just replaced all the "Meta" keys (also known as Windows keys) by either Ctrl or ALT, solved the few conflicts that I found (mainly trying to assign a shortcut combination that was already used) and bye bye problems regarding Win keys... At least for the moment. If any problems happen, reset shortcuts to default and use Xmodmap to make any change.

snarfbot

06 Jun 2019, 22:01

Fwiw I just replaced a switch on my matias quiet click, it was like a 10 minute job, theres 2 screws on the back and the rest of the top is held in by clips.

I wasted much more time trying to take the switch apart with toothpicks based on chyrosans video about servicing the switches and cleaning bending the click plate and such.

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