Glorious GMMK 2 Review
It could be a coincidence, but ever since the COVID pandemic forced the majority of the population to work and study at home, we've seen the (custom) mechanical keyboard scene boom like never before. In these past two years, standards have risen considerably not only in the higher tiers of custom built boards, but also when it comes to (budget) prebuilt gaming keyboards.
Glorious is one such company that has tried to raise the standards in a bunch of markets (their GMMK Pro made some serious waves in the keyboard community, and the Model O was one of the first commonly available ultralight mice) and today we're taking a look at the newest iteration of their first gaming keyboard.
The GMMK 2 is the successor to the GMMK (so not the GMMK Pro; that's a different product line altogether) and it takes aim at that very competitive mid tier market. There's certainly no shortage of great boards in that ~120 dollars market, so does the GMMK 2 do enough to set it aside from the market or is it a dud? Read our full Glorious GMMK 2 review to find out!
"Powerful performance meets versatility. This modular mechanical keyboard is designed to be redesigned."Glorious
Glorious GMMK 2 - First Impressions
The first thing I noticed about the new GMMK line is the fact that they made some smart design choices, at least for me personally. It comes in two sizes, namely a 65% version and a full size (96%) version. That last one has the key clusters closer together and sacrifices some keys for the smaller form factor but it still has the numpad and functionality you'd expect from a full-sized board, which I like. I am not a fan of full-sized keyboards so I did most of my testing on the 65% board, though both keyboards are the same under the hood so what I say in this review regarding the performance, keycaps, and all of that goes for both versions.
One thing that immediately stands out is how much better this board feels when compared to its predecessor. That's to be expected since the original GMMK was released years and years ago, but everything from the font on the keycaps and the feeling of said caps to the overall solidity of the case just feels like a massive upgrade. If you're rocking the GMMK 1 and you like the platform there's no need to hesitate if you're wondering whether or not it's worth it to upgrade: it definitely is.
One slightly controversial aspect about the keyboard itself is that the switches still sit directly atop the plate with the GMMK 2. This doesn't change anything about the overall performance and it's merely an aesthetics things, but I can't help but feel as if this type of design has gone out of style a bit in recent years. Even though this is easier to clean than a keyboard where the switches are recessed I would personally also prefer an option to get a regular high profile case since that does look a bit classier if you ask me, though this is of course completely subjective and very nitpicky.
The GMMK 2 comes with a novelty escape key which proudly displays their updated logo, and I think most people are going to be happy with this change. The new logo is a lot more subtle and looks a lot less geeky/gimmicky than the previous bearded man. I'm not a massive fan of this particular logo either but if you swap out the novelty keycap (there's a regular escape keycap included) you don't see it anywhere on the board, so that's all fine.
The GMMK 2 has a polymer bottom portion and an aluminum top frame, which makes it feel very sturdy. What also helps in that department is the fact that Glorious have added weights to the case. This both fills the case up (which changes the acoustics as it makes the case less hollow) and it makes the keyboard feel heavier and thus more premium. There's no creaking or flexing with the GMMK 2, and while it obviously doesn't feel as premium as something like the GMMK Pro it doesn't feel cheap or 'budget' at all to me.
The RGB also looks fantastic. Thanks to the slightly reflective backplate and the transparent housing of the switches you really get an impressive light show. Slap on a bunch of pudding keycaps (called 'Aura' in Glorious' shop, but you can get them from a variety of vendors) and you're in RGB heaven with this keyboard if that's what you're after. The RGB diffuser strips on the sides only help with that feeling: they make the keyboard look a bit more premium and of course add to the RGB show.
Inside the box of the GMMK 2 you'll find the bare essentials and not much more. You get a pretty decent braided USB-C cable (which certainly feels a lot better than the cables that you usually get with keyboards at this price point), a keycap puller, a switch puller, a regular escape key, a sticker, a quickstart guide, and then some more information about the brand.
Nothing more needs to be included with a keyboard at this price point of course, and if you would like more premium accessories (cable, keycap puller, ...) you can always buy those at Glorious' store. I quite like that approach: if you don't want a coiled cable, for example, you're not paying extra for it, but should you want it you can always order it separately from the same brand. This 'one stop shop approach' when it comes to keyboards and accessories is one that I like, as the keyboard world can be awfully confusing and frustrating (with lead times for group buys easily surpassing a year these days) so I can only applaud Glorious' attempts at making it all a bit easier to view and purchase.
Size & Dimensions
Features and build
I want to add a quick disclaimer: I am not comparing this keyboard to a custom-built board that costs hundreds of dollars in parts and labor. I say this because Glorious also makes a board that's aimed at the higher market tiers but it makes no sense comparing keyboards with hand-lubed boutique switches and stabilizers to a mass-produced keyboard that's aimed at a different audience altogether. This is the successor to the GMMK, which is a board that's aimed at gamers, regular consumers and beginning keyboard fans, it's not something that should be compared to the GMMK Pro (which is aimed at enthusiasts and people who are into the keyboard hobby) if you ask me.
Let's talk about the switches first. The GMMK 2 (the prebuilt version at least; you can also get a barebones version) features Glorious' new Fox linear switches. Followers of the keyboard world will know that Glorious already have a linear switch in their arsenal in the form of the Lynx, but this is a new one. For now, these Fox switches are exclusive to the GMMK 2 though I of course don't know what kind of plans Glorious has for the future.
The Foxes are pre-lubed linear switches with a 45G operating force (which is quite common; it isn't very heavy nor is it very light) and a travel distance of 2.2 millimeters. If you know your switches you'll know that this makes it a 'middle of the road' type of switch, and I like that. I don't like super fast switches and, for gaming, I also don't want heavy switches, so they struck a nice balance here if you're asking me.
By far the most important aspect of a switch is how it feels though, and I like these foxes. They're rather smooth out of the box and even though the lubing job isn't anything close to what an experienced keyboard maker can do by hand I would say that lubing these isn't a necessity at all. They feel and sound nice straight from the factory, with no audible pinging and no scratchiness on my testing boards. It does take a bit of time to really break them in (there can be some inconsistencies between the feeling of different switches at first) but once you're past that they really feel quite great.
The stabilizers on the GMMK 2 also come pre-lubed and these also feel very decent. I can't detect any noticeable or annoying rattle, and even though some of the stabilized keys can feel a tiny bit mushy I can't say that I was ever annoyed by any of this. The stabilizers are plate-mounted, but the GMMK 2 also supports screw-in stabilizers should you want to use those with this board.
Glorious haven't only made changes to the parts that you can see: there are all sorts of things happening inside the case as well. There's foam inside to make the whole board sound better, and to that end there's also a thick layer of foam between the PCB and plate. All of these changes work: sometimes these types of plastic boards can sound awfully hollow and cheap but that's not the case with the GMMK 2. It sound nice, and there's no reverb or case ping on my testing units. These things don't influence the overall performance of the board but they do make a big difference when it comes to the overall feeling of using the keyboard if you're asking me.
On the bottom of the case you find four rubber pads and two flip-up feet in case you want a different typing angle. The keyboard stays in place perfectly thanks to the combination of the relatively heavy weight of it and the thick and textured rubber pads.
Performance and every day use
The typing and gaming experience is, as I mentioned in the previous section, very pleasing. Glorious have successfully married enthusiast-level features (lubed stabilizers and switches, case foam, ...) with this slightly more budget-oriented keyboard and it's a marriage that works if you ask me.
Sadly, though, keeping the board under a certain price also means that some corners have to be cut, and here it's in the form of the plastic portions of the case (something that I don't personally mind with boards in this price range) and the keycaps, which are ABS instead of the much more durable PBT. It has to be said that these particular ABS caps are of much higher quality than the ones that you usually see on gaming keyboards, but I would have personally preferred PBT caps. You could say that I could just order a barebones version and get a set of PBT caps (Glorious does sell those) but then I wouldn't be able to get the Fox switches since those are exclusive to the prebuilt versions. It's not a big deal in the end, but perhaps at least offering a version with PBT caps is something they can think about in the future.
Speaking of the future: it's nice to see that the GMMK 2 is relatively mod-friendly. It has a hotswap PCB, meaning that switching the switches of your keyboard is literally a 15-minute task (perhaps a bit more if you're unexperienced with this stuff) and that combined with the fact that you can also upgrade the stabilizers to screw-in stabilizers (or tweak the stock stabs by clipping the legs, for example) means that there's quite a bit of 'headroom' to tweak this board to your liking and make it a bit more premium so it's a nice starter board if you're someone who is new to the keyboard hobby.
It is a bit of a shame that it's not the easiest board to open, though. It's not as if there are any hidden screws or any of those nasty ribbons or thin plastic pieces that are designed to discourage users from opening up products because there's a large risk of breaking components, but there are a lot of screws here, which makes opening up the board a bit of a hassle. Granted, most users probably won't feel the need to completely open up this board (and, to be clear, you don't need to open it up in order to replace the switches or clip the stabilizers or anything like that) but I'm not really sure why they needed this many screws, though I'm obviously not an engineer.
Enthusiasts will be happy to know that the GMMK 2 is compatible with QMK, which is a nice nod to those same enthusiasts (QMK, in case you don't know, is open-source software for configuring keyboards and the likes that's mostly used with custom-built keyboards) but I still wish Glorious would spend some more time in their own Core software for non-enthusiasts. I'm not saying that Core should be extremely in-depth or offer endless amounts of precise macro building options or anything like that, but the whole thing is just one or two steps removed from being 'finished' if you ask me. I'm someone who knows my way around these driver software programs (I'm a gaming product reviewer, after all, so I get to interact with them often) but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to only get the side lighting to light up, for example. There are also tiny bugs and inconsistencies in the software. That doesn't hinder my experience with the actual keyboard (and you don't need the software in order to use it) but it's a complaint I've had for a while now.
Glorious Fox Linears, Stock
Conclusion & Recommendation
The Glorious GMMK 2 has launched in a tough market. At this price point you find boards such as the Ducky One 3 that offer tons of functionality and much of the same options and more gaming-oriented boards like the Fnatic Streak65 LP, but I think that the GMMK 2 has earned a spot among the better keyboards at this price point. It's in somewhat of an awkward spot between a true entry-level board and a more premium experience like the GMMK Pro but if you're looking for a highly customizable gaming keyboard from a brand that offers a ton of readily available customization options then this is definitely one to put on your list.
The Fox switches sound and feel good straight out of the box (but do get better after while), the lubed stabilizers do their jobs nicely, and the included plate and case foam result in a very pleasing sound and feel when using the board. It's good to go in its factory configuration, but if you want to use your own switches or keycaps you can also get the barebones version: it's certainly a very capable platform to build upon if you want an entry level mechanical keyboard.