Glorious GMMK Pro Review
Custom mechanical keyboards have been rising in popularity for a while now, but the pandemic seems to have increased this growth immensely. With almost the entire world working from home at one point it's perhaps not surprising that the demand for premium keyboards was (and still is) on the rise, so it was only a matter of time before a mainstream manufacturer saw that gap in the market.
That manufacturer is Glorious, and that keyboard is the GMMK Pro. A gasket mounted, modular keyboard complete with a rotary encoder, CNC aluminum case, new 'GOAT' stabilizers, stylish side lighting and RGB backlighting, and the choice between three plates to further customize your typing experience. The enthusiast keyboard scene was went a bit wild with anticipation when this board was announced, and we've sent one over to our reviewer to find out if that enthusiasm was appropriate or not. Is this keyboard that much better than a cheaper board if you don't care about keyboards? Is this the ultimate board to buy as a beginning custom builder? Find out all of that in our full Glorious GMMK Pro review!
"Compared to pretty much any keyboard I've formally reviewed so far this is a fantastic board that blows the competition out of the water in every single department."Our reviewer
Glorious GMMK Pro - First Impressions
I want to start this review with a little disclaimer. I am not a custom keyboard professional. I know my way around keyboards and I have built my own keyboards (though I don't have boards that are worth 1000 dollars or anything close) but if you're reading this review as a seasoned veteran you might want to adjust your expectations.
With so many great reviews out there by people who are pillars of the keyboard community I thought it would be a good idea to review this board from the POV of someone who isn't necessarily an expert. So I won't go super deep on the intricacies of the stabilizers and what have you, both because it's been done a lot before and also because there are people who are more knowledgeable on those topics than I am. I'm trying to answer questions like 'is this worth your money if you just want to get a more premium keyboard?' or 'should you get this even though you don't care about keyboards and have been using plastic mass produced boards for years?' rather than 'how does this stack up against (much more expensive) enthusiast keyboard options?' if that makes sense.
With that out of the way I can get to the first impressions. One of the first things that I noticed is that this is one heavy board. You could do some serious damage with this thing, but the heft of it only adds to the premium feeling if you're asking me. The matte black finish is also something that I immediately noticed and liked. That finish combined with the rounded edges and medium thickness bezels makes for a really classy looking case if you ask me, and the fact that Glorious resisted the temptation to slap logos in any visible areas is definitely a plus. I don't really mind logos on gaming gear but it's clear that they're also aiming at non-gamers with this board so I think going without visible logos is the right decision.
One thing to note is that the board doesn't ship with any switches or keycaps. You have to buy those yourself. For this review Glorious sent me some of their Panda Switches along with a set of their own keycaps, though I've tested it with a variety of switches and keycaps.
The GMMK Pro is definitely well built. It's extremely sturdy and heavy, and as a result there's obviously no creaking or flexing when applying pressure to the case.
If you're an RGB fan you won't be feeling forgotten should you get this board. There is of course per key RGB here but there are also two light strips along either side of the board and I have to say I really like those. When I'm going to a LAN event or locking myself in to game for an entire night I like to bring out keyboards with lights that rival those that you can find over in Las Vegas, but otherwise I don't tend to use any backlighting. These side light strips then provide a pop of color and personality without looking gaudy or overly 'gamery' and I love that. They really do elevate the look of this keyboard if you ask me.
When you open up the thick box you first get greeted by a foam slab that has that tiny info booklet placed in the middle. Move that aside and you will find the keyboard itself, along with a keycap puller, a switch puller, a braided USB-C cable, and some extra gasket strips. I suppose Glorious started chucking those in after some other reviewers complained about the gaskets being too compressed because I don't see this mentioned on their website under 'what's in the box'.
Either way: this is a good addition if you ask me. If you don't care/know about the gaskets you probably won't ever open this package up, but if you do care about them (or you learn more about gasket mounting later on) you've got the option to replace them should you choose to. As always I love the inclusion of a keycap puller and switch puller.
Size & Dimensions
Features and build
The GMMK Pro is built like a tank, as I mentioned before. On the bottom of the thick aluminum case you can find a debossed 'GLORIOUS' logo without the bearded man, and I think that's an apt choice. I don't have anything against their bearded mascot but it would've been a bit misplaced on a classy board like this if you ask me so I'm glad to see that Glorious have went with the more subtle option. Bear in mind that there are no flip up feet here; the typing angle of six degrees is all that you've got to work with. It's a comfy angle though, and unless you like to angle your keyboard as much as possible I don't think you're gonna have any issues with this one.
Sporting an exploded 75% layout, this board should have all the keys that you could want, unless you really need a numpad. I think that the choice to go for a 75% board is a good one as 60% and even 65% layouts can feel a bit daunting to newcomers with all of those missing keys (that you can access through key combos; it's not like they're gone) so the 75% layout is probably a good compromise on that front. I myself prefer 65% boards due to their mix of functionality and smaller form factor but this is compact enough for my tastes.
As you may or may not know, Glorious likes to use their own branded stuff. You've got the BAMF sensor in their wireless mice, the Glorious Panda switches, and now also the Glorious GOAT stabilizers. If you name any of your products GOAT (which stands for Greatest Of All Time) you better come out strong, and I have to say that I rather like these, though you have to put that into perspective. Compared to what you'll find on 99% of production boards these are absolutely fantastic, with almost no rattling and a smooth operation process. They don't hold up to the Durock V2's that I put in my other keyboards though. Do they have to hold up to hand-lubed aftermarket stabilizers? Probably not, but it's a valid question if you name your stabs 'GOAT'.
That said: I don't think that a lot of people will have any issues with these stabilizers. I think you need to have quite some experience with custom keyboards and aftermarket stabilizers before these really start to annoy you (and even then you have to be someone who pays a lot of attention to the stabs) so I'm going to say that they're absolutely fine. I am someone who dislikes rattling stabs on boards that I use for work to the point where I even holee modded the stabs on my other boards (even though some would say that that indicates that I'm not doing a good job lubing them; I can live with the shame) and I haven't felt the need to do anything to these. On my unit they're definitely more than passable, even when compared to aftermarket ones. They're not the greatest of all time though.
Usually I talk about the keycaps in this section as well but the GMMK Pro doesn't come with keycaps. Glorious did send me a set of their GPBT Ocean caps, and while they're a bit too flashy for my style I must say that I like the thickness and texture of them. If you do decide to get this board you don't have to go for Glorious caps though; the world is your oyster. I ended up putting a set of ePBT Gray Japanese caps on there and I love the way those match up with the case, but that's entirely down to preference. That's the beauty of (custom) mechanical keyboards: you can completely make it your own.
On the bottom of the case there are four tiny rubber pucks to keep the board in place and these four pucks combined with the weight of the GMMK Pro ensure that the board always stays exactly where you put it. I'm someone who often readjusts their keyboard a tiny bit when gaming, and I often do that by applying pressure to the front with my left hand but here I often found myself 'getting stuck' and needing to push harder than I usually do so there's really no need to worry about slippage.
Performance and every day use
As you may or may not know, the GMMK Pro does not come with switches. Glorious do make their own switches, called the Pandas, and they sent along a pack of that for me to test so I'll talk about those for a bit here too. Consider it a mini Glorious Panda review. You can skip the next two paragraphs if you don't care about that.
I had actually tried the Glorious Pandas before I tested this board: I had them in a 60% Tofu build for a couple of months, so I do have some experience with them. I you like very tactile switches you will probably love the Glorious Pandas, but be warned: these have quite a bit more tactility than something like a Cherry MX Brown. I say that because the Cherry Brown (along with its clones and variants) is one of the most commonly used tactile switches in mass produced boards, so it can be handy to make that comparison. Anyway, the comparison is short: both are tactile switches in name, but that's about it. The Pandas have a much more noticeable tactile bump and just feel and sound a lot better to me. If you want a subtle and tiny tactile bump you should probably look somewhere else, but for your high tactility needs these could be it.
I will say that it's best to lube the Pandas though, if you end up getting them for your build. There's a bit of scratchiness to them if you use them stock, and I find that lubing them up also improves the acoustics, so if you really want to get the premium experience I would encourage you to take the time to properly lube them. Glorious have also started selling Panda switches that have been lubed in the factory, but I haven't tested those yet so I can't say how good those feel.
Back to the board itself, then. One of the talking points is the rotary knob that you can find in the top right portion of the board, and I quite like it. There's a touch of tactility to each step when you rotate said knob, and you can also press it for good measure. Pressing it does require a fair bit of force but seeing as I don't see anyone using this for gameplay purposes I don't mind that as it prevents accidental clicks. You can program this knob in Glorious' software (more on that a bit further on) so it's cool to see this included but I'm not really someone who uses these things so for me it's not really a huge selling point for me. It definitely looks better than just leaving that space blank though, so there's that.
Something else that I should briefly discuss are the gaskets. This is a gasket mounted keyboard, which basically means that there's a gasket between the case and the plate and PCB, making for a softer, more cushioned typing experience. I have to admit that I don't have any experience with premium gasket mounted keyboards (these can cost insane amounts of money and I don't want to spend that on keyboards: I'm not that deep down the rabbit hole) so I can't really review that section but for good measure I replaced the gaskets on my board with the extras that Glorious provided and I can't say that I really noticed a major difference in the typing experience.
What I do have to say is that the overall typing experience is quite stiff. That's not necessarily a bad thing (whether you like that or not comes down to preference) but I expected a bit more cushioning from a gasket mounted keyboard. This might feel different if you're using the polycarbonate plate (you can buy a polycarb plate from Glorious for a more flexible experience with a deeper sound, and there's also a brass plate for a firmer typing experience and a higher sound) but I did not get any extra plates to test and since the GMMK Pro comes with the aluminum plate by default I'm just going to judge it on that.
I don't want to sound as if I'm giving this keyboard a hard time though. Compared to pretty much any keyboard I've formally reviewed so far this is a fantastic board that blows the competition out of the water in every single department. It sounds fantastic (this of course greatly depends on the type of switches that you put in), the typing feeling is fantastic, and the classy case looks and feels premium.
You do pay for that, however. The case alone costs almost as much as the most expensive mass-produced boards from gaming companies, and then you still have to buy switches and keycaps, so if you need to buy all of that brand new you'll be spending a pretty penny. I'll talk about the value/performance proposition in the next section, I'm just mentioning it to frame why I might sound a bit more critical in this review. This is a board that wants to compete with entry level custom boards, so I have to at least partially judge it based on that.
One last thing that I want to talk about is Glorious' Core software. I don't really like it for the keyboard right now. It seems a bit buggy and unfinished. It all appears to work like it has to (though I spent ages trying to figure out how to only light up the side lights and not the per key lighting) but it's a bit bothersome and illogical to navigate.
That might just be me; maybe other people don't have a problem here, but their software could definitely use some work. Still, I managed to program whatever I wanted (I swap the tilde key with the escape key on 75% and larger boards since I'm so used to the escape key being closer due to my time with 65 % and 60% boards) and the programmed keys haven't messed up yet, so it's all good in the end.
Gateron Cap Milky Yellow (Stock)
Glorious Panda (Lubed)
Conclusion & Recommendation
I have long been wondering when a big manufacturer was going to jump on the fact that the custom/premium keyboard scene can be a very overwhelming place, even if you manage to cobble together enough knowledge to know what parts you need to order for your first build. With group buys on the one end (where it can often take months or even more than a year before you get your stuff) and very limited availability on the other end the market is ripe for a manufacturer that can keep their stuff in stock or at least deliver the goods within appropriate timeframes, and it seems like Glorious is the first company that tries to be just that.
Aside from the fact that their board is sold out in most places (probably due to the hype; I am hoping that stock levels will stabilize with time) at the time that I'm writing this I applaud their attempt to try and bring premium keyboards to the so-called 'masses'. Yes, not everything is perfect. The gasket mounting doesn't really do a lot to make the typing experience more flexible, and the GOAT stabilizers aren't exactly the GOAT, but that doesn't take anything away from the fact that this is without a doubt a worthy entry level custom mechanical keyboard. I say 'entry level' because there are keycap sets out there that more than double what this board costs (in its barebones form) but I would personally call these types of boards 'premium', definitely if you compare them to mass produced plasticky boards.
I guess the question is: is it worth it? If you want to take a step up from mass produced stuff to get yourself a premium board and/or you're already interested in the custom mech world then definitely. I find the GMMK Pro to be right up there with other popular entry level boards such as the KBD67 Lite (I know that that's a completely different type of board; I'm just talking about the overall quality levels) and as such I would really recommend it to people who are looking for a bit more.