Massdrop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard Review


Video Review of the Drop CTRL

Overview

The Massdrop CTRL mechanical keyboard that took the mechanical keyboard community by storm in late 2018.

On the product page, you can see the features that this keyboard has.

It is a tenkeyless keyboard, which means that it is missing the number pad. Massdrop also has a 60% version called the Massdrop ALT and a high profile version of the CTRL as well.

It has a solid aluminum frame with a built-in switch plate. One of its best features is that it is hot-swappable.

Being hot-swappable means that using the switch puller that comes with the keyboard, you can pull out each individual switch and put new ones in. Easy peezy just like that.

There’s no need to desolder the old switches and solder new ones on. Other features include being fully programmable via QMK, which is available on Drop’s website as well. Each side of the keyboard has its own USB-C connector as well. There is backlighting all through the outer rim as well as under each key.

The keycaps are shine-through PBT keycaps with a slightly rough feel to them.

A key important detail is that the keyboard is not cheap, you are paying a bit extra for features such as an annodized aluminum frame with hotswappability. You can find the product on Amazon through this link, so you can check for the most up-to-date price.

You can your pick of which switches it comes with. The options are the following: Halo True, Kaihua Box White, Kaihua Speed Silver, Cherry MX Blue, Cherry MX Brown, and Halo Clears. It’s always nice to have such a diverse selection of switches, because most product offerings make you pick between one or two switch types. This allows you to truly the customize the board to what switch type feels the best for you.

You can also pick custom keycap kits for additional costs. The following are available for selection: GMK Red Samurai, MT3 /dev/tty, XDA Canvas, and SA Pulse Noire.

You can see the specs on the product page, but I’ll summarize them below:

Specifications:

  • 87 keys
  • Anodized aluminum frame
  • Hot-swap switch sockets
  • QMK firmware
  • Plate-mounted Cherry-style stabilizers
  • Doubleshot PBT shine-through keycaps
  • Float key design (low profile)
  • Dual USB-C connects
  • Weight: 34oz

Included with the package:

  • USB-C cable
  • Keycap puller
  • Switch puller
  • Switches, keycaps, plate-mount stabilizers, and keyboard itself

Performance

First Impressions

I received my keyboard on August 12, 2019 with Halo Clear switches and the original keycap kit. It’s been about 5 months since then.

At the time, I was especially worried about keyboard chatter or double typing that everyone was discussing in the reviews/comments section of the product itself.

There was a solution, which we’ll talk about later. I’m currently typing up this review with my Massdrop CTRL itself, and so far, there are zero issues.

It was love at first sight. I absolutely loved it. This is my first-ever enthusiast keyboard.

I’ve been using a 2014 Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition for about 5 years now. I grew tired of the loud intense clicks, especially when talking to friends on Discord or streaming on Twitch, it was just too distracting.

I knew I wanted something quieter, but I didn’t know the difference between tactile and clicky switches even. I talked about it on our first article, Guide to Basic Mechanical Switches, where I discuss the difference between common switches.

So I went with the Halo Clears, and trust me, I Googled the heck out of this thing. I looked up multiple sound tests on Youtube. But I was never sure until I got it in my hands.

Design

This keyboard is an absolute beauty. The solid aluminum plate is a shiny space grey, not like the Macbook space grey. It’s more like the original silver than space grey, but it’s a bit darker.  

The doubleshot PBT shine-through keycaps have a slightly rough feeling to them. I really enjoy this tactile feedback, but others may not.

I love that it has two USB-C connectors, one of the right and one on the left. This makes it convenient for all sorts of desk set-ups and doesn’t limit you from only using one side awkwardly.

There are two magnetic feet (optional) that you can attach to the bottom of the keyboard to raise the back or the front. It’s up to you.

It has a bunch of RGB lighting features built-in. You use the function key and different letters on the keyboard to control the effects, brightness, turn on/off lights/rim light, and speed of pulsing.

For a look on the different RGB lighting, I recommend checking out my wife’s Youtube video review for this keyboard.

Typing

Like I said, I got the Halo Clears, which are a 65g tactile switch. I love them. Initially, it felt like too much pressure for each press. Over time, I got used to it and now I love it.

The tactile feedback is very satisfying. Heck, even the sounds are satisfying.

I initially used it for gaming, but after I stopped gaming, I still completed a ton of typing on it.

I use it for blogging every day, and they are performing very lovely.

Now to do the typing test. Typically, I type above 90wpm, but let’s see how we do and if there’s any chattering. I’m going to be honest with you guys right now, since I’m not selling this keyboard or gaining any affiliate whatever. Since writing this entire article, there has been chatter about 5 times total. It happens most often with the space bar.

Typing test of 99wpm with 2 errors

A side note I’d like to make is that I put O-rings on all of my typing keys since I prefer it not to have the loud echo sound when it bottoms out. I had extra O-rings from when I tried to quiet/dampen down my Razer Blackwidow with little success.

There is minimal rattle with the stabilizers. No complaints there. But I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a super rattly keyboard in the first place.

What Makes It Special

One of the most special things about this keyboard is that it features hot-swappable switches. As I’ve said before, this allows you to change the switches on this keyboard very easily without having to solder anything.

Just use the switch puller that comes with the keyboard and pull each one out individually.

As a noobie myself, I don’t have other switches to replace it with, so I haven’t actually done this myself.

I did, however, pull out some switches just for funsies to see what was under the hood. Very cool.

I also enjoy the magnetic feed and the double USB-C cable connectors, all things that are convenient to a casual typist and new mechanical keyboard enthusiast.

Complaints and Problems

As for complaints, I have two primary complaints.

Primary complaint: Chattering

The first few months after I bought this keyboard, I did experience the keyboard chatter and double typing. It absolutely sucked, and I was scared that I would have to return it.

After scouring the discussion boards, they came up with a fix, thank goodness. But unfortunately, the fix didn’t seem to work for everyone.

I’ll attach a link to the fix that I used to configure it so that it would stop chattering.

Three months in, I was doing this maybe every two days with no luck. Fortunately, the problem just seemed to go away after a while.

Secondary complaint: Resetting Every Restart

Another complaint I have is that every time I turn off and turn back on my computer, the keyboard will go back to its initial rainbow RGB lighting. I prefer the blue and purple lighting with no rim light at a low brightness. This may just be me being picky.

I know, there’s a way to use the QMK software and program it myself to make my preferred setting the default, but as a noobie, I have no experience with QMK at all.

So every time I turn it on, I just press Fn+D a few times, Fn+Z to turn off the rim light, and Fn+S to turn down the brightness.

If this isn’t an issue for you, then just ignore this complaint entirely. I may be too picky or too lazy or too ignorant…

Then some minor complaints include… it doesn’t have any productivity buttons. It does have volume up and down, pause and play, but only if you memorize the keys. I think that it’s Fn+PgUp or Fn+PgDn for the volume features.

Summary

All in all, I would recommend this keyboard to you guys to try out. The only gripe I have is that it still does chatter sometimes, although the frequency has decreased dramatically.

It is also expensive for a keyboard that might not behave the way it’s supposed to, which is unfortunate.

Perhaps there are better tenkeyless keyboards on the market right now such as the Logitech G Pro or the Ducky One 2 RGB TKL.

But keep in mind those keyboards may not have some of the features that the Massdrop CTRL may have such as being hot-swappable, having custom switch choices. With Razer you’ll be stuck with the Razer switches, whatever those may be.

I was stuck with the Razer green switches for forever, and I’m not looking to go back anytime soon. You can check out all the other switch types here as well.

Another thing that I’ve read within the discussion boards is that the chattering issues are mostly occurring with the Halo switches, so perhaps using another switch may help you avoid the problem altogether.

Anyways, thank you so much for the read, and happy typing!

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments about the Massdrop CTRL, I would love it if you would pop that in the comments down below! And definitely tell me if I’m missing some crucial information.

Jake Harrington

Jake has been an avid mechanical keyboard user for the past six years. He has a background in Mechanical Engineering and wants to apply his expertise to break down how mechanical keyboards work and show the world all of the cool aspects of the mechanical keyboard hobby.

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