Drop has launched the first in a lineup of new keyboards called the CSTM80. The CSTM name alludes to the keyboard’s customizability. In addition to being able to change its keycaps and switches with a simple pulling tool, the top of its case is also magnetically attached so you can simply lift it off to change its look.
Being able to customize the look of a keyboard is nothing new, but typically, the focus is on swapping out just a keyboard’s keycaps. Making it easier to swap a case alongside a set of keycaps should let you match the colors and designs of both for a more cohesive look.
If you want to go down the custom route, Drop is selling a barebones version of the CSTM80 keyboard for $99. Similar to other barebones keyboard bundles, this comes without switches, keycaps, or stabilizers, but it also doesn’t include the top case, with the idea that you’ll buy that separately from Drop. Polycarbonate cases are available for $25 in white, black, purple, orange, and green, while aluminum cases in silver and black cost $59. Drop is also working with artists to produce cases with more intricate designs printed on them. It’s initially working with OSHETART and Chasing Artwork on a pair of cases costing $39 each and plans to work with more designers in the future.
If you go the $149 fully assembled route, you get a black polycarbonate top case and a set of keycaps with their shine-through legends laser etched on the bottom side. From the look of Drop’s press images, this gives the keyboard a stealthy look while also allowing the LEDs on the south-facing switches to clearly shine through. This is a tenkeyless keyboard, meaning it has a relatively traditional layout but no numpad, and it comes with a choice of tactile Gateron Brown Pro 3.0 or linear Gateron Yellow KS3 switches.
The price difference between fully assembled and barebones means it’ll likely make more sense for most people to pay for the fully assembled version. Buying the barebones keyboard ($99) with a top case (at least $25) leaves you with $25 or less to buy everything else you need, like keycaps, switches, and stabilizers. That’s unlikely to even cover the cost of switches if you buy them direct from Drop, where a set of Gateron KS-3 Milky Yellow Pro Linear Switches will run you $36 for the three packs you’ll need for a complete set. Unless you already have these components lying around, it’s likely more cost-effective to buy the bundle.
Other specs include support for 5-pin switches and plenty of sound-dampening foam. The keyboard can be remapped using Drop’s own configuration software as well as VIA, and the CSTM80 also comes with PCB-mount stabilizers. It ships with a polycarbonate plate and aluminum weight as standard, but of course, there are additional options like stainless steel and brass weights and carbon fiber, brass, and POM (polyoxymethylene) plates.
In terms of typing feel, the CSTM80 uses a gasket-mount design, which is designed to have more flex than a more traditional fixed plate design (like what Drop’s V2 lineup of keyboards uses), often resulting in a more premium typing feel. This isn’t Drop’s first gasket-mount keyboard, but its previous attempt — the Sense75 — was pretty hard to recommend at its original $350 asking price. At $149, the CSTM80 has a much lower bar to hit and more eye-catching functionality up its sleeve.