Custom Keyboard Spotlight: GMK Carbon Round 2

By Ryan Whitwam

A popular keyset is back with a divisive profile change.

For many keyboard enthusiasts, GMK keysets are the gold standard by which all others are judged. These sets are manufactured in Germany by GMK on the original machinery built by Cherry decades ago. That's why we call them "Cherry" profile keycaps. However, all the GMK sets to date have technically been a simplified version of the classic GMK profile. There's a new group buy running now for a set called GMK Carbon, and it's the first to use the true original GMK profile with keys for modern boards. It's a unique set, but also a little problematic.

I've talked about GMK Carbon in the past—I bought the first round of this set several years ago, and it's still one of my favorites. The cream, dark gray, and orange color scheme is delightful. You can see plenty of pics in my CA66 build log, too. Cherry profile is sculpted, meaning each row has a different shape to make it more comfortable. In general, Cherry sets are a bit lower and sharper than the OEM keycaps that come on almost all retail boards. GMK sets like Carbon, Laser, Hyperfuse, and many others always used to use the same row profile, but that's changing with GMK Carbon R2.

Before this drop, GMK rows were (from the top F-row to the bottom) sculpted in 1-1-2-3-4-4. So, the top two and bottom two rows are the same. However, Cherry vintage sets used molds for a row 0 and row 5, but GMK dropped those because they lacked some important key sizes for modern boards. With Carbon R2, GMK has created new molds to make the 0-1-2-3-4-5 profile work again. Rows 0 and 5 are a bit taller than the adjacent rows, and in the case of 5, more angled.

I can't tell you if this layout is more comfortable because the keycaps don't exist yet. Because this is a group buy, you order the set now and wait for manufacturing to happen. It's currently scheduled to ship in April of next year.

The change to a new row profile is not without its issues. If you have GMK Carbon R1 and wanted to add a few more kits to cover unusual keyboards, you're going to be bummed. Since the profile is different, the new version isn't compatible with the last round. It's also a little more expensive to cover the cost of creating the new molds. In addition, the fully sculpted profile means the designer had to create more kits to cover all the wild keyboard layouts we see these days. With so many kits, the number of orders for each one is lower, and some may not meet the minimum order quantity (MOQ) to be manufactured.

Like other GMK sets, GMK Carbon R2 is double-shot ABS plastic. The feel of the material and crispness of the legends is simply unmatched. That's why these sets usually command a high price. Currently, the base set is $159.99, but it could drop if more people join before the pre-order ends later this month. That will cover most keyboards, but the non-standard and novelty keys could more than double the cost of your order. Hey, no one ever said this was a cheap hobby.