I'm falling down the custom keyboard rabbit hole
#Keebs on Instagram has me buying far too many keyboards lately.
Writing about tech and games, often times I find myself spending far too much time thinking about things that most consumers probably only gloss over in their pursuit of a good deal. We tend to recommend the best keyboards from major brands like Razer, Corsair, and beyond. Still, increasingly artisan and boutique-style brands are capturing users on social media, who are seeking something a little more unique.
It all started with Instagram's Reels algorithm for me. #Keebs showed me a wonderful world of custom keyboards from brands I'd never heard of, atop artisan keycaps and customized lubricated switches as users seek unique aesthetics in harmony with superior functionality.
Already I've bought custom epoxy keycaps for my Razer Huntsman V2 (red switches, tenkeyless of course), and now I look at keyboard build kits, keycap collections, and even display mounts. Is this consumerism gone mad? Maybe, but it's fun.
A world of custom keebs
If you search best keyboards on Google or Bing you'll most likely discover a list of major brands as mentioned above, but users on TikTok and Instagram are increasingly looking further afield. We have it on good authority that some major brands have noticed the growing trend, and are gearing up to launch their own custom keycaps designs through this year, so expect this nascent market to go mainstream sometime in 2023.
For #keebs fans, that might be antithetical to the entire point of customized keyboards, which promote uniqueness and flavor to match a general setup aesthetic. RGB is out. Epoxy is in.
A lot of these custom keyboard outfits seem to sell directly out of Instagram, TikTok, and other social platforms. Sites like KBDfans and Epomaker are already offering DIY kits and components allowing users to build their keyboards right from the frame, including the switch plate, the switches themselves, keycap collections, and beyond. There are custom braided cables, extras like lubrication, and more. As someone who has up until now simply purchased keyboards from Razer and not thought much more about it, I've found the rabbit hole increasingly fun to traverse.
I haven't gone quite as far as to buy a full-blown DIY keyboard kit (yet...), but I have found myself trawling Etsy and Fiverr for custom keycap designers. The two I have featured in this piece come from BoHo Keycaps (opens in new tab), who crafted this stunning skeletal backspace key (which fits perfectly in my Razer Huntsman V2), and this lovely backlit Warcraft Horde keycap from ChrisP3DPrints (opens in new tab).
Beyond looking cool, the Horde keycap actually helps orient my fingers while playing World of Warcraft. Placed on the ESC key to cancel spells, my demonology Warlock uses somewhere in the region of 20 keybinds and macros for DPS and PvP, and it's sometimes easy to forget where WASD is as I'm moving from number keys to F keys while spamming those phat demonbolts. To that end, I'll probably find another subtly textured key for my W movement key to help keep me centered.
A rabbit hole with no end
I feel like I've only just scratched the surface of this wild and wonderful landscape of custom keebs. In a world of 3D printing, homebrew enthusiasm, and social media
✨aesthetics✨, it feels like this relatively niche trend has a lot of potential to absolutely blow up.
It isn't exactly a cheap hobby to get into, though. Some of the higher-end DIY kits run to the tune of hundreds of dollars. Keebs fans often make light of the expenses involved through memery. Indeed, the boneyard keycap I purchased set me back around $30 dollars, but it's hard to deny the craftsmanship. It all depends on how much you value your workspace aesthetics. I know people who own dozens of pairs of shoes. I myself only own one pair. Yet, I own four keyboards of different types. And let's not discuss my Windows Phone collection ...
Big brands have yet to fully get on board, but they've put the pieces in play, as keyboard switches and sizes become increasingly standardized to allow for customization. Bedroom businesses have sprung up across Etsy, Fiverr, and other platforms to fill the gap, and it makes you wonder what other aspects of computing could join the custom Windows PC building revolution in the future.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!