The Drop Alt is an excellent keyboard for those wanting to get into more enthusiast-grade options at an affordable price point. It’s immensely well built with a solid aluminium chassis, while its Halo True switches offer one of the best typing experiences I’ve had on a keyboard in a long time. While its out of the box lighting is fantastic, you’ll just have to watch out for the fiddly firmware.
- Excellent build quality
- Halo True switches feel fantastic
- Vibrant RGB lighting
- Software is a tad fiddly to operate
- Halo True switches:Features Halo True soft tactile switches, with a 60g weighting.
- Detachable USB-C cableThe Alt is wired, but includes a detachable USB-C cable, which makes it a good choice for typists on the go.
- Machined aluminum frame:It also comes with a CNC’d aluminium frame, making it rather sturdy.
Anybody and everybody seems to be getting into the world of mechanical keyboards at the moment, and the last few years has seen an explosion in their popularity.
As a result, I’ve seen a lot of people on the search for their endgame keyboard – one that you can conceivably leave on your desk for all eternity. Of course, this is all down to personal preference, as everyone has different tastes and the like, making it a difficult thing to narrow down.
For some though, I may well have found their holy grail with the Drop Alt, a 65-percent layout mechanical board that brings creature comforts that enthusiasts will love, combined with some fantastic keyswitches and solid design, all for a retail price of just $129. Is it too good to be true, or is this really one of the best mechanical keyboards money can buy? Here are my thoughts.
- Gorgeous, Mac-type looks
- Sturdy aluminium frame
- Convenient, space-saving layout
The Drop Alt looks and feels fantastic. It provides an especially sturdy frame, complete with a CNC machined aluminium case to reinforce its nature as more of a premium product. There isn’t any deck flex to speak of, thanks to that sturdy and thick frame.
The Alt is also reasonably heavy for such a small keyboard, with a mass of just shy of 700g. It isn’t too far off some full-size keyboards in terms of weight.
The Alt features a space-saving 65% layout, giving you the alphanumeric keys you need, plus the added benefits of arrow keys, and a small nav cluster. There aren’t any F keys here, though. 65%, for the slightly added footprint, provides so much more in terms of functionality than 60%, making it one of my favourite keyboard layouts to use, besides my more traditional 75% (as found on the Keychron Q1 V2 I use on some days) The Alt’s layout, therefore, is convenient and is a great choice for productivity.
The well-made nature of the Alt is reflected not only within its aluminium case, but also in all its fixtures and fittings. It features two tone light and dark grey keycaps, giving it an almost MacBook Pro-like colour. Indeed, when placed on top of the keyboard of my 16-inch M1 Pro MacBook Pro, the colours match pretty well.
The big thing about these keycaps is that they’re textured, aiding for comfort, and comprised of PBT plastic. PBT has long been a favourite of keyboard enthusiasts, given it’s a lot more hard-wearing than the cheaper ABS plastic seen on more affordable boards. The keycaps on offer here feel brilliant under finger.
Round the back, the interface is simple, but also thoughtful. Drop has bundled the Alt with a pair of USB-C connectors, one on either side of the keyboard. This means you have the option of which side to plug the detachable cable into, so you won’t have any unwanted wires strewn across your desk.
- Solid switch selection from Drop
- Halo True switches feel fantastic for typing
- Hot-swappable PCB is mighty convenient
Normally with the Alt, Drop provides you with a vast selection of switches from a range of different manufacturers. These include, but aren’t limited to, Halo Trues, CHERRY MX Blues, and Kalih Speed Silvers. Right out of the gate, it’s nice to see a vast selection for fans of linear and tactile offerings.
Inside my review sample are the Halo True switches, a 60g tactile switch most similar to CHERRY MX Clears, for a point of reference, in terms of force. Drop says these switches feel similar to Topre’s unique capacitive rubber domes. However, in switching between the Alt and my own RealForce R2 PFU, there isn’t too much of a similarity.
The Halo True feels more like Drop’s own Holy Panda switches, and makes for some of the best tactile switches I’ve ever used. For day to day work, they’re supremely comfortable to type on, with an especially pronounced bump halfway down the key travel. That heavier force means they aren’t as well-suited to gaming as something like a lighter, linear switch like an MX Red, although you could still try and use them. However, for their intended use of typing, the Halo Trues don’t half feel good.
What also makes the Alt an excellent buy for enthusiasts and generalists alike is that it’s a hot-swappable keyboard. This means you can chuck in any switches you like, whether they’re tactile, linear or clicky, although they have to conform to having 3 pins on the bottom, as opposed to 5 pins. Changing switches is easy, since Drop provides a switch puller inside the box.
Software and Lighting
- Vibrant RGB lighting
- Configurable QMK firmware seems a bit of a faff
I’ve always maintained that getting lighting right on a keyboard is a bit of an art form. Go for too much, and it cheapens the look of a board to no end. Go for too little, and you won’t please RGB fans. The Drop Alt gets things right, without looking too gaudy.
Its RGB lighting comes both per-key, as well as also being in the middle of the two halves of the keyboard’s case, providing you with an RGB-based sandwich of sorts. There’s no denying that this is some of the brightest and most vibrant lighting I’ve experienced on a keyboard, especially when it isn’t designed as a flashy gaming ‘board.
What’s more, you can also choose varying colours by using Fn and the D key, as well as change the brightness with another key combo. There’s a lot on offer by default, which is convenient for anyone who doesn’t want to involve themselves with the minefield that is dealing with QMK firmware.
Well, I say it’s a nightmare, but it just seems like a bit of a faff. As opposed to having its own software suite, like a lot of other manufacturers do, the Alt relies on you selecting keys and specific settings in the brand’s online configurator, saving those settings, and then flashing them to the board itself. As much as you get complete control, it just feels like a lot of extra work for something that should be so simple.
Should you buy it?
You want a fantastic typing experience: If it’s an amazing typing experience you want from some marvellous tactile switches, the Drop Alt is an amazing keyboard.
You want easy-to-access software: The QMK firmware may be powerful, but it is tricky to access. Other keyboards arguably provide a simpler software solution.
Drop is a brand that has carved itself out as a great player in the world of enthusiast-level keyboards, and with the Alt, it’s easy to see why. It’s got the makings of a fantastic keyboard for enthusiasts and newbies alike, with a slew of great features that everyone can get behind. The build quality on offer is superb, while its Halo True switches make for some of the best tactile switches I’ve used in a long time.
What’s more, its lighting is vibrant, and holds a candle to gaming keyboards from much bigger brands than Drop. My only issue comes with its software. It’s a bit fiddly to configure at first and could be a bit of a minefield if you aren’t used to flashing firmware onto a keyboard. The configurator Drop provides is extensive though, giving you a lot of control.
$119 for the Drop Alt is a fantastic deal, I have to say, considering what you’re getting for your money, making it a brilliant keyboard for typists to use all day, every day.
How we test
We use every keyboard we test for at least a week. During that time, we’ll check it for ease of use and put it through its paces by playing a variety of different genres, including FPS, strategy and MOBAs.
We also check each keyboard’s software to see how easy it is to customise and set up.
Spent at least a week testing
Tested the performance on a variety of games
Compared the build quality with similar priced keyboards.
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The Drop Alt is fully programmable with access to QMK firmware, thanks to the brand’s online configurator, where your selections can be downloaded and flashed onto the keyboard.