Custom Keyboard Spotlight: HUB Keycap Profile

By Ryan Whitwam

Combining the best of two different profiles.

Finding the perfect keyboard isn't just about switches—the profile of the keycaps can also make a considerable difference both aesthetically and practically. We've talked about GMK's Cherry profile caps, which are my personal favorite. There's a new contender that has me quite excited, though. TheVan Keyboards is working on a new keycap profile called HUB that combines the shape of DSA with the sculpting of Cherry. There's a Kickstarter live right now to get the project off the ground.

Okay, there's a bit to unpack here for those of you unfamiliar with keycaps. DSA profile (which I'll explain in greater detail at a later date) is low and flat with spherical tops (i.e. gently rounded). They are not sculpted differently by row like Cherry caps. Many keyboard enthusiasts like the shape of DSA, but some miss the comfortable sculpting of other profiles. That's what HUB aims to address.

HUB keycaps are shorter than OEM keycaps, and even a little shorter than Cherry. You get the spherical shape like DSA, but the rows are sculpted to feel more natural under your fingers. You can see in the image below how the sculpting compares to DSA and Cherry—it's sort of a hybrid of the two.

I've had the chance to try a prototype set of HUB caps on a Minivan 40% and a 60% keyboard. The typing experience has been satisfying, even with the rough 3D printing. The way my fingers land on the keys feels cleaner than on flat DSA caps, particularly on the rows above and below the home row. It does remind me a little of Cherry profile caps, but with more surface area and no sharp edges.

3D printed HUB prototype caps on a 60% board.

Since this is an entirely new profile, TheVan Keybaords needs to buy new molds to produce them. Hence, the Kickstarter. The caps will be double-shot ABS like GMK caps, although I can't speak to the quality of the eventual finished keycaps. The usual warning about crowdfunding apply, of course, but the value of the rewards is amazing.

In this Kickstarter, HUB is offered in twelve different colorways. The sets include all the keycaps you'd need for a full-sized keyboard, plus all the non-standard keys for custom boards like the Minivan. You can get a single set of your choice for $50, which is very, very cheap for a double-shot set of this size. You can also get three sets of your choice for $125, six of them for $200, and so on. You could easily spend $200 on a single keycap set elsewhere. The campaign also has an option to throw in a Minivan kit with the rewards.

A different HUB prototype set on a Minivan.

TheVan Keyboards expects to ship the HUB keycaps around October 2018. It's currently still working toward the $500,000 goal with more than a month remaining. I don't usually join Kickstarters, but I did this one. I really want HUB to happen.