If you clicked on this article, I am guessing you have already dove deep into the custom mechanical keyboard rabbit hole, and now you want to know about these legendary keycap sets, strangely named GMK! While the name would mean nothing to a layman, GMK keycaps are considered the holy grail of custom keycap sets for keyboard enthusiasts and collectors around the world.
If you have just started your journey in this unusual mechanical keyboard hobby, you will find some valuable information in this in-depth article on GMK keycaps. So, grab a cup of coffee (or any drink of your choice, really) and get into it right away!
GMK Keycaps: Everything You Need to Know!
Now, below you will find helpful sections in which I have explained every aspect of GMK keycap sets – from how they are manufactured to why are they so damn expensive. I mean a base set of GMK keycaps could cost up to $200 for god’s sake! So, be sure to read this article till the end to know everything about GMK keycaps.
What are GMK Keycaps?
GMK keycaps are nothing but double-shot ABS keycaps for your custom mechanical keyboards that come in a variety of colorways and designs. They are produced by a German company named GMK and are sold under its own Uniqey brand around the world.
GMK electronic design GmBH is an electronic equipment company, established back in 1992 by three gentlemen – Manfred Güntner, Jürgen Meinhardt, and Wolfgang Kredler, whose initials make up the company name.
While GMK only produced keyboards, PCBs (printed circuit boards), and other electronic peripherals, it started producing its iconic keycap sets in 2011. Since then, the company became a crowd favorite amongst mechanical keyboard enthusiasts for many reasons.
Firstly, GMK keycaps are produced in the original cherry profile, which is highly preferred by keyboard connoisseurs. GMK, for those unaware, acquired the official cherry profile mold for keycaps that was used by Cherry, the German company that produces high-end mechanical key switches.
Secondly, each GMK keycap set is designed by professional designers and goes through various stages before actually being produced and shipped to customers.
Furthermore, GMK keycaps are sold in small batches, especially those that are exclusively designed by community members. Hence, if you can get a GMK keycap set, you’d know that you are only some of the people in the world who owns that set!
Thirdly, GMK keycaps are made with the highest quality standards and come in various colors and designs. Moreover, the keycaps produce a lower-pitched sound (which is often referred to as “thocky”) than cheap, mass-produced keycaps that you get on e-commerce sites and online retailers.
So, these are some of the points that make GMK keycaps, well GMK keycaps. Continue reading to know why they are so expensive and how to actually buy them!
Why are GMK Keycaps so Expensive?
Now, if you know a little about GMK keycaps, I am sure you have seen how extravagant their prices can be. While a full GMK keycap set (including novelty keys) could cost roughly $200 during group buys, they can go up to $300 to $350 in the aftermarket, depending on the exclusivity of the design and demand for it in the keyboard community.
So, you must be thinking that spending that much money on keycaps is insane. At the end of the day, they are just pieces of plastic, right? Well, kind of, but there are a few logical reasons why GMK keycaps are so expensive in the market.
The significant reasons for the extravagant price tags of GMK keycaps are quality standards and the exclusivity of the designs. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of steps before a GMK keycap set is produced for customers and finally shipped to them.
Firstly, designers work with GMK for months (sometimes years) to finalize their designs. After that, 3D renders of the keycaps are made to represent their real-life counterparts and they enter the Interest Check stage.
Now, what’s an interest check, you ask? Well, an interest check or IC is essentially a stage in which manufacturers and designers share a pre-set IC form along with their renders, be it a new keyboard or a keycap set, to online keyboard communities.
This allows designers and manufacturers to acquire the demand for their product before listing it in group buys. If you do not know about group buys, I’d highly recommend you go through our in-depth guide on mechanical keyboards.
Once the IC is done and a GMK keycap set is listed in a group buy, customers can join the group buy and pre-order their units. However, the shipping can take up to a year due to high Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) and other factors.
Furthermore, GMK keycaps are made with the highest-quality ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic, which is a type of plastic material used to produce keycaps.
Although ABS is considered lower quality than PBT (polybutylene terephthalate), which is an alternative material, ABS plastic is much softer than PBT and can be produced in brighter and more vibrant colors due to its nature.
They can also be produced using double-shot or triple-shot methods to increase their durability and prevent wear and tear of the legends.
So, in a nutshell, GMK keycaps are expensive because they are rare, produced using the highest quality standards, and come in unique designs and colors that are approved by the keyboard community. In a way, GMK keycaps are truly custom-made keycaps that can add a distinctive flair to your custom mechanical keyboard.
Are GMK Keycaps Worth It?
Now, I am sure you are thinking that if GMK keycaps are that much expensive and take excessive time to ship, are they even worth it? Well, it all comes down to your “preference.”
If you do not want to spend all that moolah on GMK keycap sets, you can very well go and get cheaper keycap sets as there are plenty available in the market.
However, you must also know that there are people in this hobby who are willing to pay hefty prices to get their hands on their favorite GMK keycap sets.
Moreover, you must understand that the prices of custom mechanical keyboards can go up to $2000, depending on the build materials, machining, and other attention details. Hence, if someone can pay up for a $2000 – $2500 computer peripheral, they won’t be hesitant to buy a $200 keycap set for their precious mechanical keyboard.
So, it is for you to decide whether or not GMK keycaps are worth their value. If you ask me, I’d say if you are a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, you must own at least one GMK set for your custom board, just for its brand value and high appreciation in the community.
GMK Keycaps Compatibility
Coming to the compatibility of GMK keycaps, these keycaps are just like any other keycaps that come with a T-shaped stem to fit Cherry and Cherry-clone switches like Gateron and Kailh.
Furthermore, other than a novelty set and maybe a spacebar set, GMK releases a base set for every design that covers most keyboard layouts, including full-size, 80%, 75%, 65%, and lower.
Hence, GMK keycaps should be compatible with most custom mechanical keyboards, considering they are using Cherry switches or Cherry-style switches with a T-shaped stem.
However, if your mechanical keyboard uses OEM switches such as those from Logitech or Razer, you might not be able to fit the GMK keycaps onto your switches.
It is also worth mentioning that as GMK keycaps are cherry profile keycaps, they might cause sound interferences with north-facing LEDs, which are found on many gaming keyboards. In that case, you must use long-pole switches to mitigate the interference and get a smooth typing experience, both physically and in terms of acoustics.
Where to Buy GMK Keycaps?
Buying a GMK keycap set is not as easy as getting an off-the-shelf keycap set from Amazon or Aliexpress. As explained before, you will need to keep a track of the latest interest checks in the community and join group buys to get exclusive GMK sets.
However, there are a few ways to get GMK keycaps without waiting for a year or paying with your fixed deposits.
The uber-popular and community-led e-commerce platform Drop.com has started keeping a few in-stock GMK keycap sets that ship as soon as you place the order. These sets are also fairly priced and range from $100 to $160.
Drop also offers discounts on the in-stock GMK sets from time to time, which brings down their prices to as low as $70. However, do keep in mind that there are only a few options for the in-stock GMK keycaps on Drop.
Another way to buy GMK keycap sets without waiting for a long time is to get them from r/mechmarket on Reddit. The r/mechmarket subreddit is essentially a huge community on Reddit where keyboard enthusiasts, collectors, and even manufacturers buy, sell, and trade keyboard parts, including GMK keycap sets.
However, it is worth mentioning that although you will have to wait for less for the GMK keycap set that you buy from r/mechmarket, you might have to pay double the price for the set, depending on the demand and reputation of the set in the community.
Other than these, you can join Geekhack, which is an online platform where designers and manufacturers share ICs and GBs for GMK keycaps from time to time. Then, you can join the group buy for a GMK keycap set that you like, and wait for it to arrive in the given time.
Moreover, you can keep a track of group buys on regional vendor sites that sell GMK keycap sets in your region. However, keep in mind that getting your GMK sets from vendors can extend the already-long wait time for getting the keycap set in hand.
Is There an Alternative to GMK Keycaps?
Now, if you are not willing to pay hefty prices or do not want to wait a year to receive your keycaps, there are a few alternatives to GMK keycaps.
Drop, the community-led mechanical keyboard marketplace, recently introduced its DCX profile keycap sets, which are strikingly similar to GMK keycap sets, both in terms of quality and design.
Although the Drop DCX profile is not exactly the Cherry profile, there are only slight differences between the two. Furthermore, much like GMK keycaps, Drop’s offerings are made with high-quality ABS plastic and come in a variety of colors.
And the best part, Drop DCX keycap sets cost less than GMK keycap sets and ship much faster than the latter.
Other than this, there are manufacturers like ePBT and Osume that produce high-quality ABS-based Cherry-profile keycap sets. In fact, in my opinion, Osume is an up-and-coming company that can strongly compete with GMK, though the former produces PBT keycaps with dye-sub legends.
However, in a short period of time, Osume has become a fan favorite in the community and all their keycap sets often remain out-of-stock.
What are the Best GMK Keycap Sets?
Now, coming to the best GMK keycap sets, again, it all comes down to preference. What I like might not appeal to you and vice-versa, and hence, you’d have to check out every available GMK sets to know what you prefer.
If, however, you ask me, let me provide you with a list of GMK sets that I think are most popular among keyboard nerds. Check it out right below:
- GMK RedSuns Red Samurai
- GMK RedSuns Blue Samurai
- GMK Striker
- GMK Laser
- GMK Dots
- GMK Modern Dolch 2
- GMK Mizu
- GMK JIS
- GMK White on Black (WoB)
- GMK Classic Black on White (BoW)
So, these are some of the most popular GMK keycaps sets that you should check out. Let me know which one you like and why in the comments below.
So, there you go! This was all about GMK keycaps and their expensive price tags. While spending so much time and money on mere pieces of plastic may seem unreasonable to a layman, keyboard enthusiasts, and collectors think differently. They want the best for their precious custom keyboards, which they built as per their preference, and a GMK keycap set is often considered a crown of their builds.
What do you think, though? Are you willing to go the extra length and spend extravagant time and money to get your favorite GMK keycap set? Tell us in the comments.