The Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard Pro provides a great example of what to look for in a DIY gaming keyboard.
It’s 2022 and you’re thinking of buying the Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard Pro you’ve heard so much about. But it’s also expensive and was released over a year ago by Glorious Gaming so you might be asking yourself “is it still worth putting in your shopping cart?” And my answer to that is an overwhelming “yes!” not only because modular keyboards often have a longer lifecycle but because there is nothing else quite like the GMMK Pro. It took the keyboard community by storm for its ease of assembly, hot swapability and zero-solder modifications. It’s a glorious example of a modular keyboard.
Fair warning: It will spoil you. I ran the keyboard, and myself, through the gauntlet, taking it apart and rebuilding it dozens of times to experiment with different configurations and it held up through all of my abuse. Now the idea of buying a premade keyboard seems like a relic of the past. Simply taking any other keyboard apart can void the warranty, but not this one.
The GMMK Pro has a 75% layout, which is slightly more compact than a tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard, which keeps keys like PgUp and Home, but moves them towards the side. Did I mention this keyboard is heavy? It weighs three and a half pounds, and is tough enough to use for defense during a zombie apocalypse or two.
The RGB lighting diffusion is massively improved using Glorious’ Polycarbonate back plate. Chase Evans/CNET
The GMMK Pro starts at $170 for the base and from there you choose the components that you want, starting with your preferred key switches and keycaps that best suit your style. While $170 may seem like a steep cost for a keyboard, its rugged design will stand the test of time as you take it apart and rebuild it throughout its life and you can often find it on sale for $140 if you’re patient.
If you don’t want to pay so much just for the shell, Glorious offers other DIY keyboards from their latest GMMK 2 models to the original GMMK 1 full size keyboard all of which start at $70 for their respective barebones kit. If building it yourself isn’t your forte, you can order them prebuilt by Glorious for a fee.
Beyond that there are also O-rings that you can attach to the keycaps for a quieter sound, a fancy aviator-style USB-C cable that comes in different colors and multiple forms of wrist rests to choose from. If you’re one of those power users that can’t live without a numpad, Glorious also just announced the GMMK Numpad, a wireless keypad for macros with a slider and extra rotary knob in matching style.
The advantage of DIY aside from customizability is you can always upgrade it. Even better, if something breaks you’re not stuck having to buy a completely new keyboard, just swap out the components that you want to repair/upgrade and you’re Gucci.
Dissembled GMMK Pro with Polycarbonate backplate installed and Glorious Panda switches. Chase Evans/CNET
While I think the GMKK Pro is certainly worth every penny, the different customizations can really begin to add up on you fast. If you want the absolute best keyboard then it will cost, however you don’t need to get everything all at once and you can always upgrade/swap components over the lifetime of the keyboard.
It’s all very straightforward to build and perfect for right-to-repair folks out there who enjoy tinkering and repairing the products they use everyday. Indeed the possibilities of customization here are endless with this keyboard, and Glorious makes it super easy to customize by offering everything directly from their website.
Fully assembled GMMK Pro with Glorious Model D wireless mouse and Glorious gaming keyboard tools. Chase Evans/CNET
Those new to building their keyboards should start by prioritizing features that are important to you. Do you prefer the best lighting possible, or the best typing experience, or both? If you primarily care about sound, then you should choose tactile switches in combination with their polycarbonate switch plate along with a set of their GPBT keycaps.
There are also tons of YouTube tutorials available about tuning the sound of the GMMK Pro even further, such as using tape mods and aftermarket stabilizers, and it’s worth mentioning that you can save money by lubing the switches yourself if you have the time — only the Glorious switches are sold as pre-lubed.
My biggest gripe isn’t even anything to do with the keyboard itself, but rather the wooden wrist wrest with the Golden Oak finish I got. While surprisingly comfy and totally just an accessory, it doesn’t match the keyboard aesthetic as well as I thought it would. To make matters worse, the finish itself doesn’t really hold-up well, with it succumbing to wear and tear from hardly much use and the finish flaking off in other areas. If you’re looking for a good wrist wrest, I recommend the Glorious Stealth Slim Wrist Wrest.
Glorious wooden wrist wrest with Golden Oak finish is easily worn and scuffed. Chase Evans/CNET
I’ve experimented with a ton of different builds in search of the optimal combinations of components and switches. Here are my top configurations:
- Best starter build ($240): GMMK Pro Base ($170) + Gateron Brown [Tactile] ($35) + Aura Keycaps ($35)
- Thocky and pretty ($262): GMMK Pro Base ($170) + Polycarbonate Backplate ($20) + Kailh Speed Copper ($37) + Aura White Keycaps ($35)
- Thocky pick ($345): GMMK Pro Base ($170) + Polycarbonate Backplate ($20) + Glorious Panda Tactile Switches [Lubed] ($105) + White Ice PBT keycaps ($50) = $345 total.
- The Works ($461): GMMK Pro Base ($170) + Brass backplate ($50) + Glorious Lynxes Linear Switches [Lubed] ($105) + White Ice PBT keycaps ($50) + Gold Rotary Knob ($10) + Phantom Black Coiled Cable ($50) + Stealth Padded Wrist Wrest ($26)
GMMK Pro Chase Evans/CNET
What to look for in a DIY
There are quite a few hot-swappable, DIY modular mechanical keyboards, but Glorious has successfully taken the GMMK Pro into the mainstream by making upgrades and customization easily accessible from one place: its website. Nothing is quite like it for price, community and mod support. There are a plethora of YouTube videos on how to modify it to your liking. The physical design combined with ease of upgrading and modding as well as the overall longevity of this keyboard stand out as well.
Glorious describes it as a gasket-mounted, build-it-yourself keyboard for enthusiasts, gamers, and professionals. “Gasket mounted” means the parts of the keyboard that mount it to the frame don’t contact any metal. This produces a cleaner, isolated sound and a more cushioned feeling when typing that you don’t get with a typical keyboard. It is compatible with most Cherry MX style switches, so Gaterons, Kailhs, or the higher quality Pandas switches will all work.
GMMK Pro with White Ice keycaps and Glorious Model D wireless mouse in the background. Chase Evans/CNET
The unique metal frame of the GMMK Pro includes customizable LED strips on the side for that premium lighting ambience that Glorious is known for, and it features a volume knob that has a nice tactile feel and which you can customize to match a certain aesthetic. The keyboard produces a pleasant “thock” sound thanks to those gasket mounts and lubricated stabilizers — all illustrious qualities in the world of mechanical keyboards.
The frame is designed to be repeatedly taken apart and rebuilt. As with all custom keyboards, make sure you have the right tools: a keycap puller, switch removal tool and a Philips screwdriver. The ones that Glorious offers at check out aren’t bad, but you can buy some tools on Amazon if you’re trying to save a few bucks.
GMMK Pro with White Ice keycaps and gold rotary knob. Glorious switch removal tool sits to the side. Chase Evans/CNET
You can choose between a polycarbonate base plate, which helps diffuse the underglow of the RGB lighting and provides an even better-sounding thock, ideal for tactile switches or a brass backplate that is most ideal for linear switches… and adds a noticeable amount of weight to the already hefty keyboard. The latter is a stamped piece of brass, so it may require some straightening out of the box. But even so it screws into the board just fine.
When picking a backplate, remember you won’t even be able to see it once the keyboard’s fully assembled. Swapping the backplate is a pain, so it’s best to buy what you want up front rather than waiting to save money. I highly recommend the polycarbonate backplate for the extra $20 bucks.
If you do decide to dive in to DIY keyboards I highly encourage you to research the mods you can perform and attempt to do them yourself, it just brings your keyboard to an entirely new level and you won’t regret it.