“Would I recommend buying either of the GMMK compacts? simply put Yes! but the GMMK has its faults, I’ll admit that”
I want to first mention that I’ll be reviewing both of the GMMK Compact keyboards the ANSI and ISO layouts. Functional they are the same, The ISO Compact is equipped with the Gateron Brown switch and PBT Pudding keycaps. The ANSI with lubed Zealio V2 65g switches with PBT keycaps.
The GMMK compact is one of those products that has honestly left me a bit lost. I’ll attempt to explain what I mean throughout the review. First, let’s cover the basics.
The GMMK Compacts are made by Glorious PC Gaming Race, GMMK is short for Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard. The name basically explains exactly what the keyboards are, I’ll explain. Glorious sells the compacts in the same manner as their full size and TKL (tenkeyless versions) which means you have the choice of purchasing it prebuilt with Gateron Brown switches and ABS double shot keycaps. This is what Glorious calls a prebuilt and it cost $109. The other purchase option is what Glorious calls customized. When you purchase the customized version you have the option to buy just the Keyboard minus the switches and keycaps for $60 (what I did) or you can choose to purchase 1 of 10 different switch options from Gateron and Kailh including the Box switches. Lastly, you have the option to choose from 3 keycap sets, a white or black double shot ABS set or PBT black pudding caps. If you go all-in on the customized route the most you would spend is about $120 before shipping.
The ANSI compact customized version ($60) is hard to get, at the time of this writing but you can order a prebuilt version for $109 ( what I did for the ANSI Compact). The ISO customized version is available from a few places around the $60-$70.
Just to simplify it, the GMMK are hot-swappable keyboards that you can purchase with or without switches and keycaps, that makes them modular.
Let’s start at the unboxing experience. I received the ANSI first and was excited to open the box which wasn’t over the top but it was a nicer box when compared to the boxes that I’ve received with theGK61 orAnne pro2.
Inside you are greeted with something so awesome and simple I don’t know why other manufacturers don’t include it, A clear plastic dust cover. If you’re like me and have multiple keyboards or just don’t like dust getting into your keyboard this simple cover is great. I took this keyboard with me on a trip recently and the dust cover protected the keys very well. I can’t explain just how useful this cheap but thoughtful plastic cover is. Good job Glorious!
Under the cover in the box, you’ll find the main event, the keyboard. Let me just say this keyboard exudes quality and luxury. I was recently trying to explain the various keyboards I’ve been testing to someone and I described the GMMK’s like a Rolls Royce. After further testing, that description has proven truer than I originally thought, more on that later though. The GMMK’s features an anodized aluminum top plate in a royal grey/ space grey color. The edges are chamfered/machined and it has a shine to it. Just removing it from the box and holding it in your hands for the first time is an experience. TLR’s ISO came in the day after the ANSI I waited and watched her reaction when she unboxed it. This thing isn’t a lightweight, she was as amazed as I was.
Include in the box are extra keycaps including a red ascend escape keycap, a Glorious logo windows keycap, and switch puller. The keycap puller is mounted under the keyboard which is another brilliant idea on the part of Glorious. A braided micro USB to USB A cable, instruction manual, and a Glorious PC Gaming Race sticker are also included in the box along with the previously mentioned dust cover.
The Good Stuff
Now that I’ve got all the basics out of the way lets get into my thoughts and a proper review. The ANSI and ISO keyboards are fundamentally the same, there is no difference other than the keyboard layout. We set the extra ( \ ) key next to the shorter right shift key on the ISO compact to also be a right shift. The extra key is a duplicate when using the American English layout, this makes hitting the shift easy when playing games. Basically the short right shift and extra key are about the same size as the long shift bar on an ANSI layout. So as far as this review goes, they both work the exact same way.
The great thing about this keyboard is that it’s hot-swappable and it’s about $100 cheaper than the Mass Drop ALT when bought completed. If you buy just the GMMK keyboard and order the switches and keycaps separately you could easily build this keyboard for around $100-$120 all in. This a fantastic price for an RGB, hot-swappable keyboard with an aluminum top plate, and great build quality.
I built my GMMK with lubed Zealio V2 (I’m a tactile kind of guy) and 2 different PBT keycap sets from the same company. TLR’s ISO Compact was built with Gateron Browns and black PBT Pudding caps. ( This is the exact same build you’d get if you order the prebuilt model)
This is the reason hot-swappable keyboards are harder to review than non-swappable. The user experience will vary greatly depending on how it’s built. I personly like Gateron Browns but others don’t so reviewing the typing experience even on the ISO Compact which is built identical to the prebuilt version from Glorious might be useless to some. What I can review is the build quality, style, functionality, etc. I’ve already mentioned that the GMMK is by far the best looking 60% keyboard in our fleet and we have more than a few. So if you want an elegant keyboard that turns heads then look no further.
Glorious programmed 18 different RGB modes into the keyboard that can be accessed by pressing the function key and one of 6 letters. These modes include solid colors, color waves, animated patterns, and reactive modes that respond to keypresses.
Image: TLR Technology
So far everything sounds fantastic but this is when I begin to get lost… remember I mentioned that at the beginning. I like this keyboard, I want to love this keyboard and in many ways, this keyboard should be the last keyboard that you need to own. BUT!!!
Here we go… This keyboard is in many ways like a Rolls Royce ( the luxury car) it is premium, it looks it, it feels like it. It has many feature and functions that others don’t have such as flip-out feet, onboard keycap puller storage but it’s missing some of the more basic features that most other luxury models have, just like Rolls Royce.
This is why I feel lost.
I desperately want this to be the keyboard that I take everywhere I go, I want this to be the keyboard that I reach for when I fire up a game like League of Legends and Apex Legends but it’s so hard. For everything that Glorious got right, there are some simple things that need work. The good news is that all my complaints can be fixed with a firmware and software update. Ok, so what’s the problem…
The first problem is the ability to swap profiles from the keyboard. Glorious gives you the ability to create 3 profiles in the software but unlike every other 60% keyboard that I’ve tested to date, you CANNOT swap the profile from the keyboard. This is crazy to me, even the super-budget GK61 that I reviewed here has the ability to swap thru 4 profiles on the keyboard. A simple press of the function key and a secondary key is all that other keyboards require for a profile swap but you won’t find that ability on the GMMK.
The second problem is the GMMK lacks custom layers. This is the ability to press the function key and another key of your choosing to do something.
Example: On my GK61 and Anne pro2 (reviewed here) I added media keys on a second layer, I hold function and press X or C to raise or lower the volume. Function plus A, S, and D control Previous track, play/pause, and next track. So no matter if I’m on the normal profile, playing League of Legends or FPS profiles I have access to media controls. Again I can swap the profiles on the fly from the keyboard… AND This is all saved to the GK61 or Anne pro, that means I can unplug the keyboard and take it with me and it will function the same no matter what PC I plug it in, NO software required!
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case on the GMMK, I read the user manual multiple times, searched the web and people recommended using a 3rd party software… WHAT!!! I tried to create media keys, which I finally figured out with the help of Reddit. The problem I ran into is it sets this on the main layer, you can’t save it to a second or 3rd layer like the GK61 or Anne Pro2. What all this means is if I press the X key that I set as Volume down it will turn the volume down but no longer function as X and that’s a real problem. A good example is if I’m typing and listening to music and want to change tracks, pause, etc, I either can’t and if I do I’ll lose the use of the keys set to media controls. In my case, I’d lose the use of the A, S, D, X, and C keys. Try surfing the web, typing a review or gaming without the use of those keys… Yeah, now you get it.
This isn’t the problem with the other keyboards because they require you to hold the function key and any of the keys listed above. I can work on the website, surf the web and game with no problems and simply hold Function and tap the A key to replay the song. This might not affect everyone and I have media keys set on a stream deck sitting on my desk but it’s still a very annoying easily fixable oversite.
The 3rd problem is basically the same as problem 1. I created this really cool easy to read RGB color I call Hyper Violet, and I really love it. It’s set to profile 1 and in the first custom color slot. If I swap colors with any of the built-in keyboard short cuts I cannot go back to the custom color until I open the software, scroll back through the color profiles and I select it again. You Cannot go back to a custom color or custom color layout from the keyboard… Again something that Anne Pro2 and $48 GK61 can do… What’s more, they again save the profiles to the keyboard and can be taken on the go and accessed without the use of the software. I do know that when I set the custom color to the GMMK and unplug it and take the keyboard with me that it loads the color back when its plugged up, so the GMMK has to be storing some data to the keyboard. There is just no way to access it again from the keyboard once you swap to any of the other built-in color profiles. I hate beating a dead horse but this is something that is just a simple firmware and software update. I have no idea why GMMK built such a fantastic product took it to 95% awesomeness and then said the hell with it. I cross my fingers that a fix/update to fix this is on the way.
If you use macros get ready to pull out your hair. I figured out theGK61 software that’s half Chinese and English but I couldn’t figure out how to set macros on the GMMK until I searched Google for no less than 20 minutes. Again people suggested using 3rd party software because the Glorious software was so bad at it. Once I figured it out it was fairly easy, though I did have problems setting a macro for things that needed multiple keys to be pressed simultaneously like Ctrl+Z. Here goes that dead horse thing again, this is just an easy software fix.
I know it seems like I have a lot of negatives when it comes to the GMMK and I do have a few. I also have a lot like that I like and that has me feeling lost and confused. The GMMK Compact is so close to perfection and the fact that it falls short due to what is basically a software update is heartbreaking.
Would I recommend buying either of the GMMK compacts? simply put Yes! but the GMMK has its faults, I’ll admit that, but it also cost $100 less than the Mass Drop ALT a keyboard that I think most would consider a true competitor. Next, I’m nitpicking because I’m spoiled when it comes to keyboards. If you just want a really nice keyboard that you can swap switches in and don’t care to make custom lighting profiles or at least don’t plan not swapping back and forth between color profiles once it is set this is the keyboard for you. If you don’t need or care about advance media controls such as play/pause, next track… ( mute, Vol+, and Vol-) are baked in from the factory then this is the keyboard for you.
If you want a hot-swappable keyboard that has easily swappable profiles (from the keyboard), the ability to set other functions on another layer using the function key + another key then you might do better skipping GMMK right now (that really hurts to say). If the software and firmware are updated in the future I’ll edit the revise the review accordingly. Until then the GMMK compacts will be the keyboards that I love and hate.
Buy TLR Technology a cup of coffee or energy drink.