Drop ALT High-Profile Mechanical Keyboard Review

Manufacturer: Drop Drop ALT High-Profile Mechanical Keyboard Review

The world of mechanical keyboards is deep – much deeper than you would ever think just by looking at the gaming market. In fact, by looking at gaming keyboards alone, you’ll usually find yourself paying more for “gaming” features while the manufacturers cheap out on other qualities that can make a core difference in your typing experience. And here’s a secret: a lot of those gaming features really aren’t that unique to gaming keyboards at all.

Today, we’re looking at a keyboard straight from the enthusiast-sector with the ALT High-Profile from Drop.com. It features a tall body made of solid aluminum, high quality PBT keycaps, hot-swappable switches, programming and remapping without software, and vibrant RGB lighting.

Retailing for $230 from Drop.com, it’s an expensive board but easily one of the highest-quality pre-made keyboards money can buy at this price.

Product Specifications
  • 67 keys
  • Anodized CNC-machined aluminum frame
  • 6º case angle
  • Custom PCB
  • Hot-swap switch sockets
  • QMK firmware
  • Plate-mounted Cherry-style stabilizers
  • Cherry MX, Kaihua, or Halo switches
  • Doubleshot PBT shine-through keycaps
  • Dual USB-C connectors
  • PCB compatible with plate-mount switches only
  • Online Keyboard Configurator
  • Dimensions: 12.6 x 4.4 x 1.7 in (32.2 x 11.2 x 3.2 cm)
  • Weight: 43 oz (1,219 g)
Pricing
$230 USD
Manufacturer Description

“The Drop ALT High-Profile is just like the original ALT, but now it comes with a tall CNC-aluminum case that covers the switches. Machined to have a 6-degree angle, the case is ergonomically crafted for a natural feel.”

Packaging and Contents

You shouldn’t expect a lot from Drop when it comes to packaging. Their whole thing cutting costs on expensive, niche products to make them more accessible to the masses (or at least more affordable than they would be elsewhere). That means that retail boxes usually go without the fancy gloss finish and product shots. In this case, it’s simple simple cardboard with the Drop logo.

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Inside, the keyboard comes well secured with a cutout that eliminates sliding during shipping, a plastic tray to protect the board keycaps, and a styrofoam dust sleeve. You also receive a nice aluminum keycap puller, a key switch puller, and a USB Type-C to Type-A cable. There’s also a helpful card with some information to get you started.

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Design

Looking at it for the first time, you might be wondering about the layout. The Drop ALT is a 65% keyboard, which means it’s roughly 65% the size of a full-size board. If you’ve ever seen the Ducky One 2 Mini, you should be able to see the relationship. The Mini is a 60% keyboard. The extra 5% comes from the addition of arrow keys and a single column of editing and navigation buttons.

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To me, this is the perfect layout because I can quickly jump around documents and web pages, have my arrow keys for games and navigation and then have everything else on a second layer. Make no mistake, even though it seems like buttons are missing here, the ALT offers all the functionality of a tenkeyless, but each of the lesser used buttons (like the function row) are hidden on a second layer accessed by holding Fn.

The pictures really don’t do the ALT High-Profile justice. It is a big boy. Its rear stands almost two inches tall and slopes at a 6-degree angle. That sounds like a lot but works well because of the way the keys recess into the case. The frame is aluminum and comes in your choice of silver or black. All that metal makes this one of the heaviest compact keyboards I’ve ever used, tipping the scales at 1.2kg or 2.68 lbs.

On the surface, that may not sound like a lot. The Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT weighs in at 2.8 pounds, after all. Considering that the ALT is more than six inches smaller in length and nearly two and a half inches shorter in width, all of that weight is centered in a small body and makes the ALT feel downright dense.

As a keyboard fan, I absolutely love a heavy keyboard that won’t move around on my desk and feels made to last. In the case of the ALT, I feel like I could use it to hammer in a few nails, guard against a home intruder, and prop open a steel door all before going back to typing my next review.

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As you can tell in the pictures above, the frame actually comes together in two halves. This design allows for a slick RGB ring around the outer edge that can be customized in Drop’s Configurator. It also makes it easy to disassemble the keyboard if you ever need to make a repair. The keycap puller actually unscrews to reveal a phillips-head screwdriver you can use to remove the seven screws on the bottom.

One of the biggest reasons the ALT High-Profile exists — other than to cater to BBK lovers live myself (that’s Big Beautiful Keyboard, for the uninitiated) — is to hide the key switches. Over the last few years the “floating key” design has been hard to escape. It definitely shows off the RGB on backlit keyboards, but not everyone wants their switches half-naked with the missing top shell. The High Profile is an excellent response to that and a solid option for keyboard fans who prefer a more classic design.

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The ALT has a few really cool features that come stock, too. Around the back, you’ll notice that there are two USB Type-C ports. Either one can be used to connect the keyboard. The other allows for intelligent passthrough and will auto-negotiate voltage needs up to 4 watts (depending on your PC). This is great for routing your cable in a way that’s convenient for your setup and then docking a smartphone, for example.

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The second cool feature is that the key switches are able to be hot-swapped without even powering down the keyboard. When you order, you’ll be able to choose from Cherry, Kailh (Kaihua), and Drop’s own Halo Clear and True switches. If you ever want to change things up, you won’t be stuck buying a whole new keyboard or breaking out the soldering iron. All you need is enough switches to fill the keyboard, which can usually be purchased for around $60 on sites like Drop or NovelKeys.

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Since the ALT is an enthusiast-level keyboard, it comes with enthusiast-level keycaps. Drop has outfitted it with double shot, backlit PBT keycaps and they’ve a big upgrade from you average gaming keycaps. Since they’re made of two pieces of bonded plastic, the legends will never fade and, likewise, the PBT plastic ensures they won’t begin to shine and look greasy over time.

Programming with the Drop ALT High-Profile

The ALT offers excellent programmability that doesn’t require a software suite. That’s even more impressive when you consider that all of your remappings and shortcuts take place on the firmware level and can span multiple layers – including with RGB. Using Drop’s Keyboard Configurator, you can move keys, program in shortcuts for Windows functions and media controls, and really make the keyboard your own.

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The ALT works through a layer system, where every layer can have its own unique layout. You can also customize how you access these, whether it’s holding a button similar to how you hold shift for most symbols, tapping to switch and again to swap back, toggling for a single press and auto-switching back, or just changing until you manually choose the first layer again.

This opens up lots of options, such as having unique layouts for games or applications. For games, you could set a layer where the left side was movement and the right shortcuts for skills and abilities, for example. You could have a second layer that access all of your Word of Excel shortcuts. One thing it lacks is sequence macros, so if you like to program in repeated strings, you’ll still need to use a second program like AutoHotKey.

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The programming system isn’t as refined as big-budget apps like iCUE or Synapse, and could honestly use more options to make it more user friendly. This is especially true when programming lighting. Drop helpfully includes a few presets but it’s nowhere near as in-depth or easily customizable as something like Corsair’s iCUE. You can see the Configurator’s DIY roots shining through, but it’s a far cry from what gamers are used to.

The good news is that, once you save it, you’re able to download the firmware file and the settings will follow you to every PC thereafter, no matter the OS. While gaming keyboards rely on software or onboard memory to recall their settings, what you’re doing with the ALT is rewriting the code for how the keyboard functions.

Once you’ve downloaded the firmware, you will need to download a small program called mdloader to apply it, but it’s a fast, simple process that takes less than 30 seconds when you’re familiar with it.

Usage Impressions

I’m a firm believer that a good keyboard is worth investing in. A good keyboard can make you want to use your computer more and, as a writer, I’m never happier to begin drafting than when I have an excellent set of keys under my fingers. At the same time, if you’re buying an expensive keyboard, it should feel like an expensive keyboard, and this one certainly does thanks to that heavy metal case and excellent keycaps.

Contrary to what you may have heard, how a keyboard feels isn’t just about the switch. That does matter, but what the case is made out of, how much hollow space exists inside it, what plastic the keycaps use, how thick they are, how tall they are… the list goes on. That’s why you can use a keyboard with Cherry MX Browns in one keyboard, like I have here, and have them feel different on another./p>

I’m a firm believer that a good keyboard is worth investing in. A good keyboard can make you want to use your computer more and, as a writer, I’m never happier to begin drafting than when I have an excellent set of keys under my fingers. At the same time, if you’re buying an expensive keyboard, it should feel like an expensive keyboard, and this one certainly does thanks to that heavy metal case and excellent keycaps.

Contrary to what you may have heard, how a keyboard feels isn’t just about the switch. That does matter, but what the case is made out of, how much hollow space exists inside it, what plastic the keycaps use, how thick they are, how tall they are… the list goes on. That’s why you can use a keyboard with Cherry MX Browns in one keyboard, like I have here, and have them feel different on another.

Here, the dense case and excellent keycaps allow the keyboard to feel eminently premium. The sound of bottom out is slightly deadened by the metal and gives each key press with my Cherry MX Browns a satisfying, lightweight click. The sound profile is more quiet because of that but it’s one I really enjoy. It’s difficult to describe because I’ve also used many cheaper, even plastic, keyboards that still felt great to use. The ALT High Profile is substantial in a way those other keyboards aren’t, even the original Low-Pro ALT which lives in my main office to this day.

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The layout here really is superb. How you prefer your keys is subjective, but for me, making the keyboard slightly bigger to bring Home, Page Up/Down, Delete, and the arrows keys onto the first layer is completely worth the extra space. Drop has also done an excellent job of mapping the secondary keys intuitively. Notice there’s no End button? That’s because it’s Fn+Home. Want to Print Screen? It’s Fn+P. Media keys? Page Up and Page Down are volume up and down. Delete is mute. There are a few oddballs, but it’s generally much more well done than other 60-65% keyboards I’ve seen.

That’s not to say that board is perfect. From the factory, my stabilizers didn’t seem to be lubed at all, which made them much more rattly compared to the other keys. It’s not a problem, per se, but after using keyboards with lubed stabilizers, it’s definitely noticeable and isn’t in keeping with how great the rest of the board is. I also wish the outer RGB ring could be just slightly more diffused to get rid of hotspots. The outer ring creates a really vibrant underglow but when looked at straight on, or even in reflection, you can clearly make out the individual LEDs.

Modding My ALT High Profile

After testing out the the stock configuration of the ALT, I decided to make it my own beyond just programming. The first thing I did was remove all of the stabilizers and dip the ends in some dielectric grease. They’re now quiet and feel great to use.

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I also decided to pick up a new keycap set. I didn’t plan it this way, but wound up picking up the Drop + Matt30 MT3 /dev/tty keycap set for another $90. The /dev/tty set uses SA profile keycaps which are extra tall and sculpted. They’re expensive but were designed by a legend within the mechanical keyboard community and harken back to the days of typewriters and terminals. I sacrificed having the backlighting shine through the keycap, but as a touch-typist I don’t mind.

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Interestingly enough, even without being shine-through, the lighter color of this keycaps actually enhances the lighting in my opinion. The keys reflect more light and create this beautiful “bed of color” effect I really enjoy. Likewise, the different shape of the keycaps and rounded surface also makes typing feel and sound slightly different and is an all-around improvement in my book.

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Conclusion

The Drop ALT High Profile is a premium keyboard with a premium price tag but that doesn’t mean you should be scared off. Even without my modifications, it’s immediately apparent that this is a keyboard of an entirely different caliber than your average Corsair or Logitech product. The full-metal body, excellent keycaps, and programmability are all excellent, and it even has “gaming” features like n-key rollover, anti-ghosting, and a 1000 Hz polling rate.

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More importantly, this is a keyboard you won’t need to replace until you want to replace it. The hot-swappable switches mean that can make your keyboard feel brand new again for a fraction of the cost of buying a new keyboard. Likewise, if a switch ever breaks, all you need to do is pull it out and replace it, usually for less than a single dollar per switch.

Simply put, the ALT High Profile Mechanical Keyboard from Drop.com is one of the hands-down best, if priciest, keyboards you’ll find short of building one yourself.

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