There have been eight entries in our "Building a Keyboard" series to date, and at least as many inquiries about the so-called Boba switches from Gazzew. Indeed, the person who goes by Gazzew online has built a strong reputation in the custom mechanical keyboard community by being stubbornly committed to designing and updating his switch components as opposed to simply rebranding factory-provided switches. Gazzew's Boba switches are thus extremely customizable, and come in various options of linear and tactile feedback in addition to several different spring weights. While the switches are made by Outemu, Gazzew confirms the designs are his own and unique from the Outemu OEM switch portfolio. Thanks to Gazzew and his team at Outemu, we take a look at four different Boba switches today!
This keyboard build was in the making for a while, especially since I wanted to source a 60–65% keyboard kit to use with the Boba switches. MARVODIY, who we saw before with the impressive Undefined 61 kit, came out with a new keyboard kit called the Re-defined 68, which is a 65% form factor kit that aims to be a more budget-friendly option. It seemed perfect timing then to combine the two brands, with MARVODIY also providing a keycap set and Gazzew providing the Boba U4 RGB, Boba LT, Bobagum RGB, and famous Boba U4T from left to right.
MARVODIY Re-defined 68 Kit
The MARVODIY Re-defined 68 kit was not even ready with retail packaging when the company had sent it over, which should tell you how long this article has been in the works. It's now a retail product, with the first image above showing what the retail packaging will look like. The cardboard box is simple in design, utilizing a render of the kit on the front to go with the company logo and product name. A user manual comes included with the kit (online copy here), in addition to various accessories that shipped separately in my case. These are a metal badge with pre-applied tape to stick onto the back of the kit as needed and a handy metal wire keycap puller and switch remover combo tool.
The final set of accessories included with the MARVODIY Re-defined 68 kit help with the available hybrid connectivity options, with a detachable white USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable for the expected wired USB Type-C connectivity on the keyboard kit itself. There is also a wireless 2.4 GHz connection, which is where the white USB dongle comes into the picture. Adding to the feature set is Bluetooth connectivity, making for three different options in total.
As the name suggests, the Re-defined 68 is a 68-key, 65% keyboard kit in the ANSI layout only available in one color option at this time. It utilizes a tray-mount design with an aluminium alloy frame and ABS plastic shell paired with a steel plate and silicone + foam sections for added appeal. There is no visible branding in use, with the white plate and silver-finished frame with slim bezels making for a clean design.
Flipping the kit around, we see long rubber pads on the corners adding friction against the resting surface. Two feet at the top can be raised for a total of two available elevation steps. These feet have fairly substantial rubber pads as well, which is nice to see. The recess in the plastic is where the provided badge sticks on to, and it allows for easy modding, too. Five dip-switches under one of the keyboard feet add further customization options.
There is a dedicated on/off switch, which is handy for the two wireless connectivity options to your PC. Next to it is an inset Type-C port, which the provided cable snugly fits into but makes some aftermarket cables a struggle to use. USB 2.0 will suffice for power and data alike in wired mode, and the provided 2.5 GHz USB dongle can work with one of those too. If your PC has a Bluetooth NIC, the Re-defined 68 also supports Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.
The plate is powder-coated white on a steel base and only held in place with some screws. Straightaway, we see the use of 5-pin hot-swap switch sockets for the standard 3-pin or 5-pin Cherry MX-style mechanical switches with the kit. There are also plate-mounted stabilizers, and they do not come pre-lubed out of the box. Doing your own lubing and stabilizer swapping requires disassembly, which is on the simpler side of things owing to all of seven screws holding the kit together. The plate comes off right away, which also gives us a closer look at the thick silicone damper machined precisely to fit under the plate to absorb the impact and noise from downstrokes.
The PCB is blue and held in place with a few more screws onto the plastic case, removing which confirms the presence of a thin foam piece to further absorb typing noise and reduce case reverberations. You need to dislodge an internal cable on the PCB to fully separate the two pieces.
This cable comes from a daughter PCB on the case, which hosts the Type-C port, and power from the battery placed here. MARVODIY is using a 2000 mAh battery, which is about average these days even considering the relatively small form factor. It will drain quick if you plan on using RGB lighting throughout, but should suffice for hours of Bluetooth or 2.4 GHz typing. We see the use of generic CIY hotswap sockets, and the entire PCB is a CIY AK68 MARVODIY incorporated into the rest of the product. This includes the set of five dip-switches from before, a generic HID USB microcontroller, Cypress CYW20730 Bluetooth 5.0 transceiver, and Beken BK2425 2.4 GHz transceiver. All the components, including the switch sockets, LEDs, and capacitors, are soldered to a multi-layered PCB.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Keycaps
As with the first MARVODIY entry, the company offered to send along another keycap set to use here. This time, I chose what is being referred to as "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" keycap set, which appears to be a primarily forest and greenery themed set in various shades of blue and white, or so you would think based on the product page and photos there. Once again, this is clearly a re-sale of another design, with the keycap set coming in a generic cardboard box that has no banderole for branding or aesthetics. A cutout provides a sneak peek at the keycaps inside, and opening the box, we see a welcome note from MARVODIY as well as a metal wire-style keycap puller.
The photos on the product page are clearly not color-graded properly, and I was surprised to see a greener set instead. Of course, this matches greenery, plant, and flower themes better, but I am now left wondering what this has to do with The Wizard of Oz! The product description on the MARVODIY website also confirms this is the correct color scheme, with the different shades of green aiming to reflect various plant leave surfaces as they are touched by sunlight. The white contrasting with the green keycaps themselves is supposed to be a "holy light of an otherworldly paradise," which just results in more questions than answers. Regardless, be aware of the color discrepancy and note that this is otherwise a 144-keycap set in the rarely seen XDA profile, which on its own is reason enough to be interested in the set if the aesthetic appeal to you. The keycaps come individually packaged in two plastic layers with compartments to house them as seen above.
The keycaps are composed of thick PBT plastic with an average wall thickness of 1.4 mm, and employ 5-sided dye-sublimation for the legends and designs on top of the base colors. This is why we end up with contrasting legends on the base colors, which works out fairly well here. The keycaps are well built, with no visible manufacturing signs when installed, but the top surfaces are rougher than on some of the higher-end PBT keycap sets we have examined before. These are opaque keycaps and thus not optimal for those who wish to have backlighting. The novelty keycaps all focus on the plants and gardening theme, so consider this as the real theme rather than whatever inspiration The Wizard of Oz seemingly provides.