Posted On 07/01/2015 By In Keyboard Reviews, Reviews

REVIEW: KC60

  • Page Contents:
  1. Introduction
  2. Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
  3. External Build
  4. Internal Build
  5. Switches
  6. Layout and Function Keys
  7. Programming the KC60
  8. Summary & Conclusion
  9. Full Gallery
  10. Where to Buy

Introduction

I will start by mentioning that the KC60 I tested was a sample unit and not an actual production model, so some information may be subject to change after production units start to arrive. I will make those changes accordingly after I use a production model.  

The KC60 is a new keyboard that Massdrop recently made available to the community. At first glance the KC60 seems almost too good to be true, with price of ~$75 that included being fully programmable, PBT keycaps, and backlighting options. The excellent price makes it one of the cheapest 60% keyboards available, while having more features than many of it’s direct competitors. Is the KC60 too good to be true? Well, let’s find out.

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Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents

Unfortunately, due to the fact that I had a production sample, the unit came in a second hand box with Varmillo accessories from Massdrop, obviously not be how production models ship. I have been informed that the keyboard will come with a mini USB cable and a plastic keycap puller, which is what most keyboards come with. I will update this section after I receive my production unit if anything else comes in the box. If I had to guess, I would think the KC60 would arrive in very plain packaging much like the KBP V60.

External Build

Case

The KC60 case is one of the weaker aspects of the keyboard. There is a moderate amount of flex in the case if you twist the keyboard from both sides. I also had a slight issue with the USB mini opening in the back of the case , the cutout is so large that the PCB can be seen at the top of the opening. To me that just looked a little cheap. I am hopeful that this will be more refined for the retail version. The bottom of the case was unfinished  due to the fact that there were no rubber feet of any kind and no plate branding the keyboard. I think it is safe to assume that both will be on the final product, though I felt it was still worth mentioning.  While the case isn’t anything to brag about, especially in a market where companies like Vortex, TEX, and Ducky have 60% keyboards that come stock with aluminum cases, it wouldn’t prevent me from buying the KC60 by any means.

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Keycaps

Unlike the case, the keycaps were quite a high point of the keyboard. The PBT was very thick and on par with stock POK3R keycaps. Their profile was very close to a Cherry profile, and was slightly lower than the OEM profiles of the POK3R and V60. The unit I had featured purple dye-sublimated legends which were very vivid and clean. Dye-sublimation uses heat to impregnate ink in the plastic, resulting in legends that won’t wear off. There was also an option for either white or black laser engraved keycaps, though I have not seen any pictures on what those look like at this time.

IMG_0585

 

Internal Build

The internal components of the KC60 were all very solid with no obvious issues. The PCB on my sample unit was blue, though the retail version will feature a black PCB. I think this is actually going to end up being a small improvement as the PCB will now look better in acrylic and low profile cases that tend to slightly show off the PCB. Instead of Dip switches on the back of the PCB there is a reset button that is used when flashing new firmware to the keyboard.

IMG_0327

 

The keyboard was extremely easy to disassemble, with only 6 screws needed to get the PCB and plate out of the case. A standard Phillips screwdriver is all that was needed. The screws are all in the same location as the Poker line of keyboards, making it fully compatible with all of the popular 60% keyboard cases. Here is a picture of the KC60 plate mounted in a POK3R’s case, though it will also fit the TEX aluminum and acrylic cases:

IMG_0330

To me, being compatible in this way is a huge benefit to the KC60. The V60, for example, will only fit 3 of the 6 screws on most aftermarket cases, and while it is sturdy enough, having it be 100% compatible is always nice.

A huge feature of the KC60 that really makes it stand out over the V60 and POK3R is the fact that you CAN take the switch tops off without desoldering the switches themselves thanks to the way the plate was designed. I should mention that if you have LED’s you will still need to desolder those. The benefit of this feature is that you can easily swap out springs, sticker the switches, or even swap out the stems to give the keyboard an entirely different feel all without any soldering. To pop a switch top simply slide a thin flathead screwdriver or tweezers into the four slots on the top of the switch and very gently pry inwards. The switch top should easily come off. This feature should definitely be taken into consideration when purchasing the KC60, as not having LED’s actually has a huge benefit now.

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If you wanted to install LED’s later it would  not be a difficult operation either. The LED’s already have solder points on the PBC, and the controls come pre-programmed on the keyboard so anyone with basic soldering skills should have no problem adding LED’s. RBG LED’s can not be used as they have 4 leads and the PCB only supports LED’s with 2 leads. I am planning on making a quick tutorial on how to install LED’s after the keyboards arrive.

Gateron Blue Switch

The KC60 I tested used Gateron switches, a Cherry clone. Unlike some other Cherry copies that tend to have some issues like Kailh or Greetech, Gateron switches tend to live up to their Cherry counterparts, and occasionally even surpass them. The switches are also visually different than Cherry switches, and have a clear switch top that really improves the overall look of the switches themselves. Gateron Blues have the same clicky, tactile feel and 45g actuation force of Cherry MX Blues. From my experience Gateron Blues are slighly smoother than the Cherry MX Blues, making them more appealing to me in terms of overall feel, and this keyboard was no exception to that.

IMG_0323 IMG_0320

The KC60 will be available in a variety of both Cherry and Gateron switches, meaning there will be plenty of choices to get exactly the switch that you want come stock with it.

Layout and Function Keys

The KC60 is a completely standard ANSI keyboard in terms of layout, meaning that it will be compatible with any standard aftermarket Cherry MX keycap set. The standard layout and function layer are easy enough to used, but due to the fact that the KC60 is completely programmable the actual layout can be made to fit any possible needs you may desire. There are dedicated function that you can easily program into the KC60 from the GUI including:

  • Calculator
  • LEDs on/off
  • LEDs dim/brighten
  • Media controls (play, pause, stop, next, and back)
  • Home shortcut
  • Email shortcut

I did not see any way to program mouse movement from the GUI, nor did I see any way to have per-key LED control. Overall the stock options were very satisfactory, and more options may be available later due to the fact that it does have open firmware.

Programming the KC60

 

Update 7/3/15 : I just got word from Massdrop that the company making the KC60 didn’t have authorization from the author of TKG to make it the “offcial” firmware loader, so they have developed their own equivalent. I am told it is done and currently in the translation process. I should have it to test in a few days and will update this section accordingly. I will also make a guide right after the KC60 retail versions ship showing how to use the TKG, Easy AVR and any other firmware flashing programs that I find useful with the KC60. 

Summary and Conclusion

Overall I was extremely impressed with the KC60. The keyboard does a fantastic job of combining features that make it almost too good to pass up on. If someone is looking to buy a very affordable 60% keyboard, the KC60 is one of the cheapest available at ~$75. For veteran keyboard users or those looking to modify a keyboard, the KC60 is also an extremely strong choice. The Gateron switches feel great, and look amazing due to the clear switch top covers. Having the ability to remove the switch tops to change out stems and springs is a feature that none of it’s competitors have and a feature that I am extremely excited about.

Pros

  • Price is on the lower end of the spectrum, lots of “bang for your buck”
  • Sleek looks
  • Dye-sub PBT keycaps look and feel fantastic
  • Media keys
  • Compatible with all popular aftermarket cases for 60% keyboards
  • Gateron switches are very smooth, look great.
  • Detachable USB Mini cable
  • Compatible with Windows, Linux and OS X operating systems
  • Ability to take switch tops of without any soldering
  • Available with both Gateron and Cherry switch options

 

Cons

  • Plastic case doesn’t feel the sturdiest
  • 6KRO but no NKRO out of the box
  • No dip switches for on-the-fly layout changes
  • No on board programming
  • Case gives the keyboard a hollow sound when typing on a hard surface\

Personal Thoughts

I am very excited about this keyboard. The price range with the sheer customization options make it a truly great little keyboard. It definitely isn’t the best keyboard out of the box, but the options are endless. As someone that doesn’t usually like backlighting, having the option to swap out stems/springs easily is extremely appealing to me. This will make it very easy for me to try out different springs or switches in a full keyboard scenario. Right now I am happy enough with the programmable aspects of the keyboard, but really am excited to have one long term to dig into and see what I can really do with the firmware. If there was also an option to order this as a kit and assemble it yourself it would be almost perfect to me.

Final score: 8.2/10

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Where to Buy

The KC60 is currently only available on Massdrop

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the review!

  2. Thanks for the great writeup. I just got my KC60 today, and after chasing down a lost stabilizer (who knew Costar stabs were such a huge PITA!) I finally got it plugged in and working on both my Mac and PC, but still haven’t figured out the programming aspect beyond using the preprogrammed function layer. I used your programming guide to save a new layer (with Colemak on it) but I don’t want to mess with in further until I learn how to do basic layer switching. How exactly does one switch to the layers beyond the 2nd?

  3. For the most part, I prefer the typing feel of the KC60 to the Poker II or Pok3r. This is especially so for the stabilized keys, because the KC60 uses Costar-type stabilizers instead of Cherry stabilizers. To me, Cherry stabilizers make the stabilized keys feel mushy. One issue with the KD60, however, is that if you have LEDs, the keycaps on the Q row hit the LEDs, giving the board an uneven feel. However, if you replace the otherwise excellent keycaps with OEM or SA profile, this issue disappears.

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