XD84 Custom Mechanical Keyboard Build & Review

XD84 Custom Mechanical Keyboard Build & Review


When looking for budget custom options, KPrepublic
has emerged as one of those stores, much like KBDfans, that offer a range of kits that are
relatively affordable, and readily available. The main line of customs that KPrepublic offer
is the XD range. There’s the 60%, 75%, and the 96 key. Today we’re going to build the XD84 which
is the 75% option. And on their store, they do offer a couple
of case options, including a plastic case, bent steel cases, and CNC’d aluminium. As always, we start with the PCB, and it’s
a bit of a busy one. Fortunately on the product page, they do have
a labelled picture. I’m not a PCB guy, so I’m not quite sure
what some of this stuff does. We have some sort of expansion interface. We have our 7 RGB SMD underglow LEDs, and
also the ability to add more. There’s the Kimera Core, and the magnetic
reset next to that which you need to reflash the board if you wish. These things here is something to do with
some LEDs or something. And finally, this is powered by mini USB. Now to the case. It comes pre assembled like this, so yes,
it does include the plate, and that’s not bad for 70 bucks. Usually you’d have to spend another 20 bucks
or so for a plate. The person that I’m building this for wanted
black, but this does come or will come in a few other colours. And this is version 2 of the XD case. The main difference being that this now has
a tempered glass bottom, which is called stalinite. And this acts as the diffuser for the underglow
RGB LEDs. Whereas before, they used an acrylic piece. The glass piece is secured by 4 Phillips head
screws, and it pops straight off. And it’s double sided taped to an aluminium
piece that goes around the sides. The aluminium supporter piece is 1.5mm thick,
while the glass is a nice 3mm thick. When I asked about why they changed to glass,
they mentioned that some customers were having issues with the acrylic cracking. Glass may seem fragile, and well it is if
you were to drop it, but it won’t crack like acrylic under pressure. And notice how there weren’t any standoffs
on the bottom. This is because the plate is screwed to the
case itself. This is what we refer to as a top mount design. So we have a bunch of screws around the perimeter,
and we have to remove the flip up feet to access some of them. The plate is made from 1.1mm thick aluminium,
so it’s quite light. And it has a nice smooth finish to it. And we can see that it has some decent layout
compatibility. So you can pretty much do whatever, besides
split spacebars. We’re just going to use some Gateron Red’s
for the keyswitches, which is a light linear switch, and is relatively smooth. When first putting them in, it doesn’t sound
and feel very convincing at all, even though it’s all screwed in, but that will change
later. I’m trying some screw in stabilisers from
KPrepublic. They come with gold plated wires, and nylon
washers to ensure the screws don’t short anything on the PCB. They’re still a bit rattly before lube,
and are not as good as the GMK screw in stabs, but they’re not bad. As always, I won’t go through soldering
again. I’ll leave some soldering tutorial links
in the description if you want to learn how to solder. But with keyboards, for the most part it’s
just very simple through hole soldering. I also installed 1.8mm white LEDs for each
key. You can add some LEDs here if you wanted to
light up the cat graphic a bit more, but I found that the underglow LEDs do that just
fine. One thing that I thought was pretty cool were
the rubber feet. They have a hole in them that goes over the
screw head. Little stuff that like is what I enjoy. For the keycaps, the person wanted backlit
caps. But when dealing with layouts that aren’t
just the standard ANSI layout, there’s hardly anything available. But we did find these frontlit keycaps for
this specific layout. The font on them are nice, simple, and clean. And they have some pretty good thickness at
1.4mm. However the downside of these, are that they
are ABS caps that are coated in black and are laser etched. So they won’t be the most durable, and they
don’t feel the best. But as always with keycaps, you can change
them later. Here it is with SA Miami Night’s, and they
definitely feel a lot better. Ok so the first thing that I noticed is the
underglow. The underglow lighting is pretty weak and
disappointing, and I guess that’s to be expected with just the 1 row of 7 LEDs on
the bottom, that run along the centre, so they’re not even close to the edges. At max brightness it’s definitely visible,
and is quite tasteful with that subdued look, but you have to have dim lighting to actually
see it. In normal lighting conditions, it’s very
faint. Back in the labelled photo of the PCB we saw
earlier, it mentions that it supports external light bands. So I went ahead and bought these LEDs. These are using the same WS2812B RGB LEDs,
and these are addressable. On the PCB we have 3 labelled pads here. The LED strip has 5 wires. 2 of which stick out the side, so I cut those
off. And then we’re left with the 3 main wires. On the packet it came with, it says the Red
wire is VCC, white is ground, and green is data. And basically we just solder it correspondingly. Again, I’m not very knowledgeable, but it
seems to work, so I’m assuming it’s all good, as we’re basically just extending
the lighting band. But please correct me in the comments if I’m
wrong. So now we have 15 LEDs in total. If you want to add more, you would have to
address that in the firmware, as by default, it supports just the 16. And here’s the PCB all done and ready to
go. We have our LED strip wired up and secured
by some hot glue. It does have an adhesive backing, but there’s
no real surface to stick it on, and it also protects it from potential shorting. And yep, it makes a huge difference. Especially since the LED strip is now right
at the front where we look at our keyboard, it’s now super bright. And even in bright room conditions, it’s
very visible. And with lighting it’s good to have options,
as we can always turn it down when we feel like it. So yeh, I regard this little mod as a necessity
if you’re expecting something from the underglow lighting, because by default it’s just disappointing. I’ll leave the link in the description to
the LEDs I got, which you can use as reference to buy it wherever you want to, as they’re
available everywhere. But more on how it looks. I really like it. It looks like a strip of light coming out
of the bottom of the board, so you don’t really see it directly, rather you see the
reflection of it on the table. You can go through the different colours which
is useful to potentially match a setup, and we also have our RGB modes, which just consists
of RGB cycling, and RGB wave. From a normal sitting position though, the
RGB lighting does peek through the PCB and plate, in particular through the bottom row
because of all it’s layout compatibility. So maybe that’s something that you can cover
up with electrical tape on the PCB. Although the positive is that we get to see
that cat peeking through under the spacebar. The glass works really well, as it doesn’t
really need to diffuse a whole lot anyway. But yeh, I’m really happy with the glass. It’s gives that extra bit of heft in comparison
to the previous acrylic, and it just feels more premium, and it’s a unique feature
that isn’t very common. And of course, it looks great with that reflective
surface. So far it’s held up absolutely fine, Again,
it is tempered glass, which is toughened glass, and I’m fairly confident in its durability,
providing it isn’t dropped. But, I’m not willing to test that. However having this type of design, we don’t
have a natural inclination. So it is a flat 0 degree keyboard which is
something you may not like. So to create the angle we have these aluminium
flip up feet. I regard this to be the weakest point of the
case. They’re not rubber tipped, so it can slide
around a bit. And they’re just not the most stable solution. When I first got mine, they weren’t even
straight. So that’s a bit unfortunate, because the
case itself is stunning. It’s an extremely simple rectangular piece
of aluminium with rounded corners, and chamfered edges. We get some healthy bezels at about 10mm,
so it definitely holds a presence. And I just love the flat sides as well. It just really accentuates its solidness. The anodised finish is nice and smooth, and
mine came in perfect condition. Again, it’s available or will be available
in some other colours. It is a high profile design, however we still
do have quite a noticeable gap between the actual case and the keycaps. So I can see the keyswitches a bit from a
sitting perspective. The typing experience is also wonderful. This utilises a top mount design, so rather
than having the PCB and plate secured to the bottom of the case, we have it secured to
the top from the underside, so it’s like it’s kind of suspended in a way. This creates a different feeling and sound. As there’s basically no support in the middle,
there is a bit of flex to it, if you actually push down hard. This creates a slightly softer feel, and a
more even feel, with the bottom out feeling a tad more pleasant. I’ve seen some complaints for the XD96 how
there’s some flex in the corners, as there aren’t any screws there, but for this XD84,
I didn’t have any issues. I mean you can make the corners drop a little
bit, much like tray mount boards, but only if you put an unnatural amount of pressure,
much like the rest of the case. Overall I found it to be a very good kit. The obvious alternative and competition for
this would be the KBD75 from KBDfans. They’re both good in their own ways. The KBD75 has that different case design,
with the integrated angle, angular aesthetic, and side glow. Whereas this one has the simpler straight
flat design. And then the KBD75 is tray mount, whereas
this is top mount. The KBD75 PCB is compatible with this case,
and that natively supports QMK which is easier to deal with. The case is stunning in my opinion, but it
relies on the dodgy flip up feet for angle. The glass diffuser is something quite unique
that I haven’t experienced before. Usually it’s acrylic, but this adds another
level of class. And finally it’s a 75% keyboard. It’s a great layout is you want the tenkeyless
primary functionality with the dedicated arrow keys, and function row, but in a more compact
form factor. But yeh, for this price range, this is a great
choice for a custom 75% keyboard.

85 thoughts to “XD84 Custom Mechanical Keyboard Build & Review”

  1. All the keyboards you build are for you? One per week. Hope not, you are going to lose all your money πŸ˜‚

  2. I was interested in making a custom 84-key layout keyboard as well, but the customization options for this layout are really limited. There's not a large variety of cases like there are for 60% boards and the key layout is also a challenge. It's a shame as I think the layout is the perfect mix between minimalism/aesthetics and usability.

  3. The 96 key suffers all these same problems plus many of it's own(Other than LED's, it uses 2 rows instead of 1).

    1. Although the body has extra backplate mounting points, the aluminum frame for the back acrylic attachment does not have holes drilled to use them. This causes the middle of the back plate to sag and feels terrible. I fixed it with double sided tape so it doesn't sag, but that makes disassembly a royal pain.
    2. As much as I appreciate the gesture, they allowed for far too many switch configuration options, especially around the arrow cluster. So many, in fact, it is nearly impossible to mount the switches straight as both the plate and the pcb allows the switches to wobble freely in that area.
    3. Since the board is completely swiss cheesed in the right modifier and numeric cluser area, and the bezel leaves a huge gap between the caps and the bottom row, the LED under board to the right of keyboard cat shines right into your eye, in two different places. Between the modifiers and to the right of the right arrow(if you use the same configuration I did).

    Other than that, I love the keyboard, but if I didn't like the layout so much, I wouldn't like the keyboard at all. Too many flaws. It needs thicker bezels, more mounting points for the back plate, and fewer options in the arrow cluster area. It's poor design to place the backlight LED right behind a hole for an optional switch mount location.

    Edit: Also, mine came with acrylic, and of course, the acrylic cracked on one of the screw holes. Not enough for it to not function however.

  4. I've been considering getting into making keyboards for a while now, but I live in Australia, and are struggling to find sites that operate in or ship to Australia. Would you be able to recommend any sites for my situation?

  5. Yes, YES! It's a Tada68 withan extra row. Don't even add anything else, this thing is perfection. Now where did I leave those coalshovel navy heavy switches?

  6. Where could I get that green surface that you are using for covering table when soldering ? I love it so much

  7. I just bought one of these cases on mechmarket last week, then went and bought a KBD75 Type C PCB since I want a split Spacebar and split right shift. I like having an FN key set up to the right of right shift so I can have the arrow keys like on an HHKB.

  8. I'm working on an Anne pro mod that is supposed to create such an underglow, just comment if anyone's interested and I'll make a tutorial

  9. Do you think it's possible to just put metal feet on the bottom of the glass instead of using the flip out feet.

  10. I bought a XD84 as well, instead of the KBD75 mostly for the price and the fact it was top mount (which seemed like the better option). But I still picked the KBD75 PCB for it's additional LED row. It felt like the best combo for my money.
    And overall, I had pretty much the same feeling. But the feet sucks big time, they don't allow the keyboard to sit properly making it particularly annoying to type on. Turning my keyboard into a useless board now. I like the light being diffused on the bottom of the case, the clean look and everything but I don't enjoy typing on the board while it's flat and I can't use its feet because they are crap. Kinda wish I went for the KBD75 instead.

  11. So I have an XD 96. I had to fix the rgb leds on back afterwards my backspace is hittin, , enter, insert, and delete. at the same time. But not vice versa. Any Idea?

    Edit: turns out the whole row below the F keys.

  12. I can imagine who would buy a keyboard and still have to their own hand soldering. Only for those who loves to build a keyboard and able to manually hand solder, but I doubt many people would do that. Nice video by the way.

  13. Hey man. Looking to build my first board and your vids have been very informative and encouraging!
    I have a question which you may be able to help me with.
    I've been doing research and have decided on the 75% form factor, although I've had very mixed information regarding compatibility between the xd84 and the kbd75 parts for some reason?
    Essentially, I've found a certain xd84 case (Anodized aluminium FLAT case), which is a much cleaner simpler case than the overpriced KBD75 stock case.
    I've read some places that they aren't compatible, and in others that they are.
    Something tells me it's to do with the plate?

    TL:DR –

    Which one is compatible?:

    kbd75 PCB | xd84 plate+case

    or…

    kbd75 PCB and plate | XD84 case <(I'm guessing this one)

    Keep up the good work btw! And you should totally check out/review the xd84 "flat alu case" – seems like an awesome alternative for someone who likes the style of the vortex race 3, but doesn't want Cherry MX switches and wants a similar aesthetic (aka me)..
    peace!

  14. Would this case support hotswap PCBs like the 1UP RGB while maintaining the hotswap functionality? All the ones I've seen have standoffs on the bottom and this one does't

    I know this is for the XD84 but the case for the XD60 is the same

  15. The tags for the XD84 PCB on kprepublic show QMK, did they change the compatibility or should that tag not be there?

  16. I think I am going to keep looking into this and perhaps go and do this. I personally prefer the full keyboard layout, so I might have to pay more and solder more but that's fine.

  17. I had to double take when I saw the bent metal case cause I have been hunting that thing for 2 years (that's not a joke) after seeing it while scrolling Instagram one day. Thank you so much

  18. Ordered the acrylic version of the case a week ago, I really hope it doesnt crack like you mentioned in the video!

  19. Help: got the same PCB, but the LED's I soldered on the keys dont work. How do I turn them on? any help apperciated!

  20. So… I bought this case and PCB, I'm going to be building it with kailh box whites and. Some. Nice shine through double shot pbt caps backlit with UV and I'll be adding the extra strip as suggested by you…. One question, what firmware does this PCB run and what do I have to download to be able to customize the layout??

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