Custom Keyboard Spotlight: The RAMA M6-A

By Ryan Whitwam

Small but powerful.

I make no secret of my affinity for small keyboards—I don't even own any full-sized boards anymore. Once you get under 40% (like the Minivan), you're not really talking about a replacement for a larger board. Sometimes, that's not the point. There are mechanical keypads and even smaller devices called micropads. One of the coolest micropads I've ever seen is the RAMA M6-A, which I've had a chance to play around with over the last couple weeks. It's an extravagant luxury for the discerning keyboard enthusiast.

There's no hard and fast definition of what constitutes a micropad, but I'd say it's anything smaller than a number pad. The M6-A, as the name implies, has just six keys. You can use those six keys to do almost anything you want. They can be single characters, modifiers, or even macros.

The online firmware manager "Knops" makes it easy to build new layouts and flash them to your keyboard. Since this is entirely self-contained firmware, the M6-A works the same no matter what computer you plug it into—it'll send whatever keycodes you've programmed. For example, I have mine configured to put my PC to sleep, show/hide the desktop, open the task manager, split screen my last two windows, and more. Sure, I could do all that manually, but it's neat having a little mechanical pad that does it with a single press.

The M6-A doesn't come cheap—the original sale price was upward of $150, and it's not much cheaper on the second-hand market. You're not only paying for the features but the design. The case is machined entirely from brass with just two chassis components. The base screws into the top frame for an incredibly sturdy feel. This device fits in the palm of your hand, but it weighs 14.5 ounces (around 400g).

You don't need to solder your switches into this micropad thanks to the Kailh hotswap sockets. If you get tired of the switches you popped in originally, you can take them out and put in different ones. You could even equip the M6-A with a mix of switches; they just need to be compatible with MX-style pins. The PCB also includes a USB Type-C port that understands both A-to-C and C-to-C connections.

The M6-A comes with a set of double-shot ABS keycaps with RAMA's signature "XO" legends. You can toss whatever keycaps you want on the switches, though. I have some novelty caps from a set called GMK Laser on the M6-A right now. There's also a fancy little zipper case with the kit. You have to expect a few bells and whistles with a $150 micropad.

The M6-A isn't on sale widely right now, but RAMA just launched a group buy for the M6-B. It's a similar device which I hope to look at in detail as soon as I can get my hands on one.