Drop CTRL mechanical keyboard review

This is a review of the Drop CTRL mechanical keyboard with CHERRY MX Brown switches.

My keyboard for the past eight years

I’m a software developer. I’ve been working mostly from home since 2014. And since 2014 my external keyboard has been a Das Keyboard Professional S for Mac.

I wrote about it after buying it. I initially got it for work and then bought another one for home use. I loved it! It has CHERRY MX Blue switches (as God endorses) and is built like a tank. It needs two USB-A connections, which is ugly by today’s standards, but provides two full-power USB-A sockets. So that’s almost a wash.

“Almost a wash,” because if you connect audio or video devices you’ll likely suffer a notable propagation delay through the keyboard. For example, your audio application might not wake up until after you’ve been talking for a second or two. But it’s sufficient for uses such as charging your smartphone.

It’s a full-size, 100% ANSI keyboard.

Why replace it?

It still works great and I love its feel. Why replace it?

Two reasons.

  1. I’ve never used the numeric keypad. Not once. The keypad takes up desk space and causes my trackpad to be further to the right than if I had, say, an 80% Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard.
  2. It has two USB-A sockets (nice) and needs two USB-A sockets (not so nice). At the time this was funky but not outlandish. It needs two to function and power its sockets. I can’t leave one plug dangling because I use one of the sockets for my iPhone charging stand. I’ve been using two of my Macbook Pro’s USB-C sockets with USB-C-to-A adapters. But I now want to up my videoconferencing game, so I need more USB-C and -A sockets, so I’m shopping for a hub, and needing two USB-A plugs for this keyboard makes my situation difficult.

So, it’s time to replace it.

Replace it with what?

My shopping list was a TKL mechanical keyboard with CHERRY MX Blue switches, one connector, and high build quality.

I’m not a gamer so I don’t need keyswitch lighting. But I’m resigned to paying for it anyway since manufacturers use keyswitch lighting for product differentiation. I also don’t expect to do any post-purchase customization.

I thought about wireless. Wireless would mean another piece of equipment with a battery that needs periodic charging. So, no. And all things being equal, a wired keyboard will be cheaper than a wireless one.

I use The Wirecutter for many purchases so I read its recent recommendations for mechanical keyboards. It got me looking at Drop.

Drop’s main business is mechanical keyboards, switches, customization kits, and esoteric (to me) mechanical switch tools. If you’re so inclined, you can go nuts and build your own keyboard. I didn’t want that; I wanted a ready-to-use keyboard. I know, I’m a loser. But I’m fearfully respectful of that rabbit hole and didn’t want to go anywhere near it. (Go peruse a mechanical keyboard forum sometime. It’s a wild hobby!)

Their build quality seems top-notch. I surfed for reviews and they all looked great. So, I quickly zeroed in on two candidates: The CTRL and the CTRL High-Profile.

They fit my requirements — except for the switches! Neither one comes in a CHERRY MX Blue configuration!

WHAT? No MX Blue switches?!

The High-Profile model used to have a CHERRY MX Blue configuration but no longer does. It’s still listed on the product page but with a strikeout, which means…what? They recently removed it from their catalog and didn’t want to change the page layout? It’s only temporarily not available? Their front-end site developer is lazy? I don’t know. It does offer a CHERRY MX Brown configuration. The standard CTRL model apparently never had a Blue configuration, but it does offer a Brown configuration.

What’s the difference between CHERRY MX Blue and Brown switches?

  • God approves of Blue.
  • Blues are perfection.
  • Blues require slightly more force to depress and are louder.

I looked at other MX Blue-based keyboards. None of them fit my other requirements and/or had as high an (apparent…) build quality. I couldn’t find any refurbished or used keyboards with MX Blues. I needed this soon and couldn’t afford to watch eBay for months until my desired keyboard showed up.

I just had to get past my hang up about the MX Brown switches.

I suspect some of my friends (Joe H. and Steven B., I’m looking at you) will give me s*it for this. But — I decided to throw caution to the wind, compromise with reality, and buy a CTRL keyboard with MX Brown switches. Sigh.

So how is it?

I give it an A as a Mac user.

Ditching the numeric keypad reclaims only 22 square inches, but it’s a critical 22 square inches that brings my trackpad closer. I noticed an immediate ergonomic benefit from this.

I didn’t realize it has two USB-C sockets! I plugged my hardware authenticator plugged into the other one, which is a nice convenience.

Build quality: A+. And this sucker has some heft. It won’t move on your desk no matter how hard you type, and you can throw it if there’s an office altercation or home intruder.

Typing: A+ once you get used to the MX Brown switches. This can be ordered with a choice of keycaps, but I like the standard PBT ones I got. The sound is muted compared to the MX Blue switches. I miss the Blue’s clickiness but I’ll get used to it.

Lighting and options: A+, but I don’t have high needs here. Out of all the LED lighting schemes, I have it on a solid constant blue and that’s fine. I don’t need any of the others. I like the blue strip around the edge. Honestly, I would have been happy if this thing had one lighting scheme out of the box. I’m editing code. If you want your keyboard to have distracting color changes then there’s something wrong with you.

Key assignments: A-. It works out of the box on macOS, but the Command key has an MS Windows logo. Gah. I could replace it with Mac keycap but it’s easier to complain about it. I’m used to the Command key being adjacent to the space bar, but this keyboard swapped the Command and Option keys. Drop provides an easy-to-use tool for key remapping, and I could swap the caps with a keycap-puller. I’ll do that if my muscle-memory doesn’t adapt quickly enough.

The High Profile keyboard has a more refined look because the key switches and posts are covered by a case top. I like the look of this keyboard just fine.

4 thoughts on “Drop CTRL mechanical keyboard review

  1. I can’t imagine WHY you’d think I might give you shit about the mechanical specifics of a keyboard… Best part is, I don’t need to – you clearly already did for yourself. Mission accomplished.

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