Drop CTRL 1 Month Review

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Tonight we’re going to review the Drop CTRL, the tenkeyless mechanical keyboard entry to the group-buy giant’s line of bespoke enthusiast hardware. The CTRL fits snugly in the middle of the Drop Mechanical keyboard line, with the aptly named ALT and SHIFT, sporting 60% and 1800 layouts, respectively.

So, let’s start with the shipping/packaging experience.

The keyboard came with retail packaging encased in a standard shipping box. Not much to note here, the packaging is satisfactory, but nothing to write home about.

Included in the box is the following:

  • Keyboard itself
  • Keycap puller
  • Keyswitch puller
  • two magnetic tenting feet
  • USB A to C cable


This board is stunningly beautiful. My camera work simply cannot do it justice. (I’m working on it)

The keyboard is made of solid aluminum and has a beautifully textured finish. The base has a ring of LEDs that wrap around the keyboard, each individually addressable and fully controllable by the QMK firmware. It should be noted that the LEDs cause the base to get ever so slightly warm if they’re left on for a few hours. While this isn’t a cause for concern, I wanted to include this in the review. This amount of heat shouldn’t effect anything.

The bottom of the board has 8 holes for the tenting feet. The keyboard, by default, has three positions. Flat, tented forward and tented reverse. I use reverse tenting and find that it helps a lot with wrist flexion. Additionally, the keyboard has a button recessed into the bottom. This is for putting the keyboard into programming mode. (you can also set a keyboard shortcut for this so you don’t have to flip the board over every time)

note the serial number. :smiley:
Something else to note, which I didn’t manage to take a picture of, is that every keyswitch on this board is hot swappable. This means that you can replace switches without taking the board apart and (de)soldering switches on the PCB. The included switch puller makes this a breeze.

Tenting Comparison

Typing experience

Typing on this is an absolute wonder. I’ve gone with Cherry MX Brown RGB switches. Fairly pedestrian when it comes to the exotic keyboard scene, but it’s what I wanted. I am using the Kingston Hyper-X Pudding keycaps, which I’ll link below. I think the etching on these keys is much better than the keys that come with the board itself. For some reason, the keys that come with it are not sharp at all. I would recommend skipping them ($25 option from Drop) if you’re thinking about customizing the board like I did.

Some people on the Drop community thread mentioned pinging, particularly towards the middle of the keyboard. I experienced no such issues. My suspicions are that Drop fixed this on the run that I received.

I get occasional bouncing on the keyboard with the latest firmware that I created, just for this review. (Gotta get those Christmas colors, amirite?) I only mention this because I think this is a setup that many people will be using. The firmware from the Configurator never experienced this issue, so I’m confident it’s something I’ve done wrong or a bug that’s been patched since.


So this is where the review gets complicated. The software is both amazing and horrible at the same time. Drop has a configurator on their site, similar to the QMK configurator, but it allows for per-key RGB addressing. This is great, but the problem is that it’s very barebones when it comes to configuring the actual keys. The Drop configurator will work great for you if you just want to swap some keys around, or put arrow keys on hjkl or something, but I wanted to do more.

As with most situations I run into, this keyboard won’t quite do it all. It gets extremely close but in order to make it do it all, I had to get my hands dirty and jump into the C code. So I pointed my browser to docs.qmk.fm and was immediately greeted with an insane codebase for keyboard firmware. with eleven thousand commits and 1251 contributors, I was extremely impressed with the sheer scope of the project. QMK is no simple keyboard firmware. Drilling down into it, they have support for over 350 different keyboards and at tons of different features.

So, I got cloned the repository and got started. QMK has relatively easy-to-configure matricies to configure the bindings of every single goddamn key on your keyboard. You want RALT, L to insert a Lenny face? Done. Wanna raise your dongers with RALT, D? Not a problem with QMK! What about some more useful things then? The CTRL doesn’t have media keys. However, it does have a dedicated FN key. Now, normally, the layout is RALT, FN, MENU, RCTRL. I didn’t like that, so I swapped FN and MENU. This was extremely easy to do in the firmware. Just swap the order of the keycodes in the base layout matrix and you’re done!

How about lighting? Well, lighting is a bit more complex. That requires some significant changes since proper support for the Drop LED configuration hasn’t landed in master on qmk yet. You’ve got to either manually merge that code in or you’ll be running some slightly outdated (~2000 commits behind master) firmware. I’ve opted to be lazy and not try to merge master into this branch, simply because master doesn’t have any new major features and I am holding out hope that some brave soul will get these features into master soon.

Anyways, now that we’ve clarified the complexity with the lighting, we can talk about how it’s done in the branch I’m using. Who here is familiar with Bit Fields? Well, if you’re not, read up. We use bit fields to address the LEDs we’re programming. There are 119 LEDs on the CTRL, when you include the base leds. Since the CTRL uses a 32 bit ARM processor, we can address 32 at a time. This means we need 4 INTs for every instruction we send the keyboard.

Our final LED Instruction code will look something like this:

If there’s anyone interested in some more detailed instructions on this, I’d be happy to go in depth on this, but it’s really getting a bit off topic for this review.


The CTRL is a great keyboard. I am absolutely in love with it. So much so that I got rid of my MasterKeys S, which proved to be a solid board for me over the course of the last 18 months. While I would avoid the keycaps that come with it, I’d absolutely recommend this board to anyone who wants a tenkeyless board with the ultimate in customizability. With the included tools and firmware choice, Drop has really proven their dedication to the enthusiast community with this board. The CTRL is absolutely worth the premium.

Imgur album of the keyboard: https://imgur.com/a/inyZiAm
Drop CTRL: https://drop.com/buy/drop-ctrl-mechanical-keyboard
Hyper X Pudding Keycaps: https://www.amazon.com/HyperX-Double-Shot-PBT-Keycaps/dp/B07JDVG4RQ


I bought a hot swap board thinking I’d use it to test a lot of switches but some of the contacts are starting to wear out after only 3 swaps. I have to slightly bend the pins on the switches to dig into the contacts, and over time they lose contact anyway.

Just a word of caution. Hot swap may mean easy installation and one or two switch changes, but not more than that.

That said, no idea if the hot swap mechanism is the same. Mine is from kbdfans.


I’m not sure. I don’t want to mess around with the swap mechanism too much, but I’ll probably be giving it a go at some point to change some of the switches. I want some heavier switches for the MOD keys.

You could always swap the springs instead of buying all new switches.

Originative has heavy (up to 180g) gold plated springs for $12/100. Plain stainless for $9/100. KBDfans I think is around the same.

Yeah, that would work too. I would still remove the switch to do this though.

I haven’t really played around with modifying switches. Any resources for how to do that?

Just found it real quick cause did not dig too deep. Let me know if that works.
Taekeyboards on YouTube might have a dedicated video for it. I believe there is a special tool to make it much easier.


Ordered zealios zilents v2 and some genuine cherry stabilizers. Got my idea from this video https://youtu.be/EtwmMdyFWTQ.
He goes over most of the gotchas. I won’t be lubing anything as he did. I will prob do an in depth review once I get it all built stating differences and such. Alt is a great keyboard I just need to figure out why my b key LED won’t go white stays pink.


Where did you order the stabs? I could only find gmk ones.


Might go down this route myself. I’m honestly not upset by the quality of the stabs though. They’re definitely not the best but it’s not something I notice.

I watched a lot of the keyboard guys reviews of alot of different keyboards. Kept thinking when they talked stabs and the feel/noise that they were way to into it. Got the alt and…I somehow turned into a keyboard snob overnight lol. Oh well the cherry browns with lower actuation than my old blues is throwing me off at the moment. Did not think 5g would make a difference but my fat fingers apparently does. Zeals are suppose to be the best and had 100 dollar gift card for amazon so I decided to hand that to wife and order the switches/stabs.

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Yeah, for the stabs, it’s just about the rattle, and then screw stabs won’t ever pop out. If neither of those are issues, you’re fine.

The stabs I got with a kbd fans kit were extremely rattley. I lubed them and now they’re ok, but probably better to start with a higher quality part.

This is almost exactly what I did with my Anne Pro, it is all Zilent V1s. It is super nice, never touched then with lube. Did put a heavier spring in but I like that in all my keys. It is not a Silent board but it is very quiet compared to a bare OOTB plastic on plastic click clack, and the noise it does makes is pleasant around other people.

I want to put them in my Filco too. Along with better stabs. I would love to try the screw in ones properly this time.

So after 4 hours of disassembling/clipping/reinstalling everything I finally have my Zilents v2(62g) and cherry stabilizers in the ALT. I must say worth the 100 dollars! I did also put electrical tape under the stabs on PCB also since I had it all apart. Not sure if lube can make enough difference for the headache but I have to say guys this keyboard is the absolute shit now. So anyone on the fence swipe that credit card and get them coming.


Understood this is rather old - but, you mention in your review you’d be happy to go more in-depth with regards to the LED programming via QMK if someone wants. Well - I’d love that. =)

I’ve got a DZ60RGB and bought a CTRL because I did miss a few keys on the 60. Here I was thinking that, ‘QMK compatible’ means the same everywhere.

So yeah. =) TIL. When I read your review, your thought process echoed mine EXACTLY - as in, the configurator looks great for reassigning keys and changing LED colors, but beyond that, one has to look to QMK. But the lighting and the bits and all…I get lost there.

Anyway - if you’re still up for it, I’d love to see more info. If not, no worries, I get it - cheers!

I’d be happy to. I’ll make a new thread at some point this week and link it here.

Think of QMK like glibc, but for keyboards, kinda. Everyone implements it differently, so there isn’t always a user-friendly way to get exactly what you want. If you need to do something special, you probably need to program it yourself.

Also, compared to vim and C, (in my opinion), the configurator is very slow

Fantastic, thanks. BTW, after posting this, I happened upon this a link on storyspooler that gave me pretty much all of the (remaining) answers I was looking for. Apparently, I can’t link here.

That, with LastContinue’s FAQ, did most of the job for me. But still, there were some unknowns I had to figure out on my own (WHICH blobs of code to be pasted in the Python script? HOW to run that Python script? etc). All stuff that a total newbie wouldn’t know, but that a seasoned veteran like you likely would.

Anyway, I’d still be very curious to see your output on this - I thank you kindly in advance.


EDIT : Oh, and just to show you how ignorant I am…that ‘glibc’ reference went totally over my head. =)

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Basically, qmk is a core library that you can use to make the keyboard do what you want. There are plug-ins and different ways of doing it, but it all stems from the core of qmk

Yep, that I got. For reference, I have a DZ60RGB that I programmed, and went decently deep (or so I like to think) but hit a big roadblock when I wanted to replicate those functionalities on the CTRL. But I’m on my way now, methinks. =)

I was just reading around on the Drop keyboard, since I ordered the Drop ctrl and was already weary about the stabs.
So you didn’t even apply lubricant on them? It seems like a pretty difficult job from the video, How does it sound with only the bandaid adhesive?

Im also aiming for the zilents, just not sure about which weight (62 or 65)