Today we check out a Massdrop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard that’s turned some heads, the CTRL by Massdrop. This has had a bit of history, which I won’t get into it. But you may know the K-type and other upcoming boards, which lets say this is related to.
Inside the box we have some warranty information, and a brief guide on some secondary functions. We have the Massdrop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard itself wrapped in foam.
Then the accessories, we have a USB type C cable. A nice aluminium wire keycap puller, so no cheap plastic one here. We have a keyswitch puller, which tells us that it’s hotswappable. And 2 feet which we’ll come back to. Alrighty, so here is the CTRL keyboard.
In the hands it feels nice and solid, with no flex at all, because it is mostly made from aluminium. And comes in at just under a kilo. Looks are always subjective, but it is a pretty nice looking board for me.
It has quite a clean and simple aesthetic to it, with rounded corners and straight edges. It does appear to look quite slim, because it does have a low profile design, so the keyswitches are exposed from the sides.
But also has the chamfered edges, and the plastic layer that breaks it up a bit. However, there is also the high profile version, which is more of my style. And we have a pretty dark colour scheme overall, with the metallic grey, and also the matching dark and light gray keycaps.
The font or typeface on these are very clean, and this was a design choice that they wanted, because often you’ll see backlit keycaps have gaps and bridges, which doesn’t look as clean.
The caps themselves are also very rough. These are probably the roughest keycaps I’ve ever used. It’s not a bad thing for me personally, like it doesn’t scrape my skin off or affect how I type, but yeh, interesting texture.
On the rear we have 2 USB type C ports. So first of all, it’s nice to have the option of having your cable on one side or the other, depending on where you computer is. You can’t do too much with the other one, well, for me at least I didn’t really ever use it for something else, since you can’t draw too much power from it.
The bottom of the board does look quite sleek. We have a couple of rubber feet for non-slip, and some holes and magnets. So these feet. The cool thing is, is that they’re magnetic, and are super easy to take off and switch between spots.
However, they’re only magnetic on one side, and of course aren’t mechanically attached, so they come off pretty easily. Like if you just slide it across, they’ll become unseated. And you might wonder why you would do that anyway, but it’s happened to me so many times over the time I’ve used this.
And metal scraping against metal never sounds good, so yeh, just be wary. And as for switching positions, we can either have it with the traditional incline, OR, we can have it slope away from us. And that’s something that’s very rare with keyboards, but because of the design, it’s easy to implement.
I’ve enjoyed giving negative angle a go. But to make it work for me, I had to flip the spacebar, because it was just too uncomfortable. And you do need your wrists to be elevated otherwise the angle is way too sharp.
What this allows you to do, is to really reduce the stress on your arms and wrists, as now we’re in a much more natural position. So yeh, awesome that we have this option, but I’m just not a fan of how easily the feet come off.
And to top it all off, we have the very bright and visible RGB backlighting. Because of it’s floating key design, we see the keyswitches light up, and we of course have our sideglow lighting. The sideglow is very bright, matching the backlit keys, and it’s done in a simple way with just a line going all around the keyboard.
I’m not a fan of having uneven lighting, so like we clearly see where the LEDs are, with the bright spots. Personally, I do like a more even and diffused look, but yeh. We can control the lighting onboard, via the FN key, and on the card we got in the box, it tells us all the controls.
So by default, everything lights up. But we can change to just key backlighting. Or to just sideglow lighting as well. There’s also some media controls that aren’t labelled.
And we can toggle between 6 key rollover, and N-key rollover. However all of this can be customised, as the keyboard is powered by the QMK firmware, which is the firmware that’s on most custom mechs.
But QMK can be a bit fiddly for people, as it isn’t like a normal piece of software where we can just apply these things. Rather, we configure everything first, and then flash it onto the keyboard, which is annoying, but the advantage is that it’s quite powerful.
Massdrop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard do have a configurator on their website, which really is needed for a keyboard targeted towards a wider market. And here we have 2 sections, the keymap, and LEDs. So on the side we have our layers, so the default one is layer 0, which you probably won’t change too much.
And it lets us have an additional 15 layers. On layer 1 we have all those extra stuff that they have on the card. And if we press a key we have all of these options. And then for the LEDs, we can customise both the key backlighting and sideglow, all individually. And when you’re all done, you hit compile and download. On Opera, the button didn’t work. But it did work in Chrome for me. And you’ll end up with a file like this.
I won’t go through the flashing process, but I’ll link the instructions in the description. And obviously there’s much more that you can do with QMK to make it suit your needs.
Anyway, the keycaps are made from about 1.1 to 1.2mm PBT plastic, and are doubleshot, so the legend is another piece of plastic and will never fade away. So decent keycaps. But underneath them we have Halo Clear switches, which I’m sure many haven’t heard of, but everyone should know Kailh.
Make a bucketload of switches, including these. These are tactile keyswitches, so they have a bump pretty high up, so you feel that resistance straight away. They’re regarded as a medium weight switch, but to most, they’ll be pretty heavy. And because of that weight as well, the bump is kind of pronounced, giving a satisfying tactile experience.
The stabilisers are pretty good on here. There’s minimal rattle, and that’s always big plus for me. But of course the other big feature of the keyboard is that it is hotswappable. I know it’s been around for a while now, but it’s interesting to see how many keyboards are becoming hotswappable, like I’ve had 5 in the last few videos.
Anyway, so using our keyswitch puller, we press the switch tabs inwards, and firmly pull up. And here we can see our RGB SMD LED which is below the plate, so it won’t get in the way. And then our 2 sockets where the switch pins go into.
So pretty much every MX style keyswitch can be put in. So that includes, Gateron, Kailh, Cherry MX, Outemu, and all the other clones. So this is super cool if you just want to change your keyswitches for whatever reason. It’s super easy, and doesn’t require any soldering equipment, which is a huge plus for many.
To open up the keyboard there’s 8 screws on the bottom. You can use a Torx screwdriver, or an Allen key, which I found much easier to use. And these are pretty nice screws by the way.
The bottom piece is just a thin 2mm aluminium sheet which just closes off the bottom of the keyboard. And we have our 4 magnets for the feet.
The middle plastic layer isn’t mechanically fixed, and comes off nice and easy. And then we have the top aluminium piece which is also the mounting plate for the keyswitches. This is what gives it most of its weight and ridgitity.
So it’s actually like a simple sandwich case design to accommodate for that sideglow. The PCB itself is super clean. We have our RGB SMD LEDs for each keyswitch, as the board is hotswappable.
We have a heap of them around the edge of the PCB to give that bright sideglow. But because they’re so close to the edge, as we saw before, it can’t really be diffused enough to give an even look.
Again, it features the Kailh hotswap sockets, which work differently to say the Outemu sockets, which are much less flexible. With these, it’s like a spring mechanism, where the pin just pushes the contacts apart.
So overall, this keyboard really does seem to have it all, at least for much of the consumer market. I know that spending like 200 bucks on a keyboard may seem like a lot, but when you actually look at the keyboard and realise that it has a nice aluminium construction, backlit doubleshot PBT keycaps, customisable RGB backlighting and sideglow.
It’s QMK configurable for high programmability. It has hotswappable keyswitches, using the Kailh sockets. And even moveable feet. Although that probably is the one thing I dislike about it, with how annoying it is when the feet get loose.
But yeh, there’s not too much more you could ask for, for an all in one package, that I feel will cater for that huge segment of the market that want something relatively premium, but with all these extra features that appeal to them, that many high end boards don’t. It doesn’t replace the custom keyboard stuff, but it is a great allrounder.