As much as I love the world of PC gaming, complete with upgrades, settings tinkering, and all, I do find some of the branding at odds with the inclusivity and flexibility of the platform. The excessive RGB, aggressive names that sound like deodorants, and unironic use of superlatives just feels like posturing to me. It was with some trepidation, then, that I unboxed the GMMK with its ‘Glorious PC Gaming Race’ logo. Though not as bad as the ‘PC Master Race’ label (which needs to just end, tbh), the inbox mission statement reads like a love letter to some of the worst excesses of the system and its fans. Fortunately, though, once you get past all of that, the keyboard itself proves utterly worthy of the hype.
GMMK stands for ‘Glorious Mechanical Modular Keyboard’ with the unique selling point being that this is the ‘world’s first mechanical keyboard featuring hot-swappable switches for Cherry, Gateron, and Kailh branded switches’. I’ll freely admit to not being an expert on all things key-switch related but the manufacturer’s website offers an accessible overview of the varying options and their features. I opted for a multi-purpose Gateron Brown set that is well suited for both typing and gaming, offering the feel of real mechanical keys without the associated volume. The more adventurous or single-purposed amongst you can always go for a more focused approach as the boards are fully customisable.
Coming from a massive Roccat Aimo 121, I was first struck by the compact nature of the GMMK. I opted for a full-size as I am old-fashioned like that but even then there is little wasted space here. This means that the RGB doesn’t have the surface area to shine as intrusively as some media keyboards so if you’re just after the visual effect then this may not be the ‘board for you. For those of you who, like me, have a desktop where space is at a premium, the relatively small footprint is a real plus. The Gateron Brown keys are smooth and responsive, providing a satisfying ‘finger-feel’ with lightning fast response rate and an audible but not excessive click.
The board itself is fantastically put together. Made from sandblasted aluminium (actually spelled right in the American specs) it is a hefty 953g. This obviously means it is designed to stay in place rather than offer portability but then this is no surprise as it is wired. The 6ft braided cable is long enough for almost all desktop setups and the RGB lighting is clear but not obtrusive. As is standard for lit keyboards, downloading the relevant software from the manufacturer’s website enables you to configure the 16.8 million colours and 18 patterns although who’s counting at this point? The raised key design is great for both cleaning purposes and allowing the light to shine, creating a nice ambient glow for those late-night gaming – or all-nighter deadline-meeting writing – sessions.
So, in terms of basic functionality, the GMMK is a great piece of kit. Sturdy, responsive, unobtrusive, and refreshingly compact, it certainly ticks all the boxes for a keyboard. Where it really stands out, though, and more importantly justifies its £150 RRP (for its pre-built version), is in how easy it makes swapping keys. This may well be a niche market but the benefits of mechanical keyboards in terms of responsiveness and feel are well documented.
The GMMK offers the ability to customise the keys to suit your purpose without having to buy another whole keyboard – a saving on both cost and waste. There is a handy key-swapping tool included in the box and it is a simple process to pop one cap off and replace it with another. The prebuilt edition comes with a bright red ‘Ascend’ button where ESC normally lives but a more traditional cap is also in the box. This serves as a perfect introduction to key swapping, although I actually returned to the ludicrous red cap for reasons that are unclear even to me.