The custom keyboard world is absolutely exploding. For the first time ever, it’s possible to buy a high-quality kit without breaking the bank. Many affordable kits are made of plastic and feature compact layouts; there aren’t many that push into the full-size space. That’s exactly what the Akko MOD003 aims to deliver, while also incorporating fan-favorite options like hot-swappable switches and gasket mounting for a soft, flexy typing experience. Coming in at $189.99, is this the DIY keyboard kit for you?
- Current Price: $189.99 (Epomaker)
- Layout: 1800 (98-key)
- Case Material: Premium CNC Case
- Case Colors (Anodization): Jade Green, Ocean Blue, Dark Night, Sakura Pink, Peacock Blue
- Plate Material: Aluminum (matching anodization)
- Mounting Method: Gasket Mount
- Stabilizers: Plate Mount, Pre-lubed
- Included Foams: Case, Plate
- Hotswap Sockets: Compatible with 3/5-pin mechanical switches, supports Cherry Switch/ Gateron Switch/ Kailh BOX Switch
- Switch Orientation: North facing
- Cable: Detachable Type-C
- Backlight: Yes, RGB SMD light
- Weight (approx. 4.7 lbs assembled)
Akko MOD003 Overview and Key Features
Akko has been a go-to brand for new mechanical keyboard fans for years, but with the MOD003, it’s stepping up its game. Like Keychron and Glorious, Akko is delivering a full DIY custom keyboard kit. It’s made of a two-part CNC-milled aluminum case in a variety of anodized colors. It uses the enthusiast-favorite and completely in vogue gasket mounting style for a soft, dampened typing experience, hot-swap sockets to easily install and swap out switches, and includes two layers of foam under the plate and within the case to dampen any reverberation. Straight out of the box, it’s better than most prebuilt keyboards in build quality and typing experience, even from major gaming brands.
Let’s deconstruct that, starting with the layout. The keyboard uses an 1800 layout, which is like a compact full-size. It includes a full Numpad, function row, and arrow cluster. Above the number pad, you also have a selection of navigation and editing keys (Delete, Insert, Page Up, Page Down). By holding shift, you can also access hold and end through the number pad like a full-size keyboard. This layout is a great fit for users who need the extra buttons of a full-size keyboard but still want to step up to a custom.
The case is composed of two pieces of solid aluminum. They’re big, heavy, and very well milled. The bottom half even includes little sub-chambers that seem to be related to reducing reverberation (ping) from switches. Looking closely, I didn’t see any blemishes on the anodization or swirl marks from the finishing process. Both halves are held together with eight hex screws, which are harder to strip, but note that you’ll need a longer bit or an actual Allen wrench to reach those in the top half of the case. The bottom half of the case features some slick-looking angles and a yellow piece for some added flair. Note that it’s not a brass weight, but this kit really doesn’t need it as it weighs approximately 4.7 pounds fully assembled.
Between the two halves is the plate that switches will mount to. It’s also aluminum and anodized to match the color of the case (available in Jade Green, Ocean Blue, Dark Night, Sakura Pink, and Peacock Blue). There are flex cuts along the function row and number pad to add a bit of flex to the board. Out of the box, the level of flex is actually very good, which allows the typing experience to feel soft. It’s not quite to the level of the Keychron Q1 but is still very good.
This brings us to the gasket mount implementation. If you’re new to the world of keyboards, gasket mount means that instead of the plate screwing right to one of half of the case, it’s lined with foam gaskets that are then sandwiched in between each half. This prevents any of the reverberations from typing from making its way into the case, dampens/softens the typing experience, and can even allow the plate to flex more on top of the flex cuts.
The gasket mount implementation here is pretty good! It’s better than I would expect from an affordable kit like this and works well to both dampen typing and allow flexibility in the plate. There are 28 foam gaskets on each side of the plate, 56 altogether, so there’s no shortage of material. The foam is somewhat firm but is thick enough to still depress and get the job done effectively.
Inside the case is a layer of foam under the plate (between it and the PCB) and within the case. The plate foam is fine but the case foam is very lightweight. Out of the box, there’s quite a bit of hollowness (but not much ping), so I would recommend swapping this out for some shelf liner, neoprene, or, as I’ll show later, a dedicated sound dampener.
The stabilizers in this kit are surprisingly good but are plate mount. Screw-in stabs are not supported on this kit. They’re extremely tight, so there’s no wiggle to present extra rattle and come lubed out of the box. Most of my stabilizers were rattle-free but I did need to add some extra grease to my spacebar. Be aware that the tolerances are so tight that not all replacement stabs will fit. I tried a set of Durock plate mounts and they were squeezed so tight that they wouldn’t seat properly. You don’t need to replace them, however. The ones in the box are fine, especially for new builders.
The keyboard as a whole is quite impressive for the price, but it does miss the mark in one key area: it does not support QMK or VIA. Instead, you’ll have to use Akko’s Cloud Driver. This allows you to remap keys, program macros, and adjust the lighting. These settings also stay on the keyboard and can travel between PCs, but it doesn’t offer the same level of customization as QMK. I would love to see Akko add this in a future version.
Akko MOD003 - Building the Stock Kit
The MOD003 comes fully assembled except for switches and keycaps. This makes assembly incredibly easy. If you’re not planning on doing any mods, all you need to do is press the switches into place (remember to press straight down) and then press the keycaps on top. This whole process can be done within 20 minutes.
Of course, if you do get this kit, you’re probably interested in doing some basic mods. Disassembly is very straightforward. After unscrewing the eight hex screws on the bottom, the two halves of the case can be separated and the plate simply pulls out. There are no added cables for RGB or a USB daughterboard (which may be a downside for some users and also means you’ll be replacing the whole keyboard if the USB port ever breaks). The PCB is held to the plate by eight more Phillips head screws.
Akko MOD003 - Modding and Performance
For this build, I rolled out quite a few mods to really try to make this keyboard the best it could possibly be. For switches, I used Novelkeys Silk Blacks, lubed with Krytox 205g0. I replaced the stock stabilizers with Novelkeys Plate Mount Stabilizers, housings lubed with Krytox and the wires lubed with Permatex. The spacebar was Holee modded to eliminate any tick or rattle. Keycaps are the NicePBT Black on White.
For additional mods, I also covered the back of the PCB in one layer of painter's tape (Tempest Tape Mod) and put a layer of PE packing foam between the PCB and the included plate foam. The case still sounded rather hollow, so I removed the included foam and replaced it with a layer of Kilmat automotive sound dampener. I used 2mm of dampener on the top where the case has more depth tapering down to 1mm on the bottom. I tried neoprene which is much cheaper but wasn’t satisfied with the slight remaining hollowness. All of these things are optional extras. It’s entirely possible to build this kit for under $250.
With the keyboard completely built to my preference, I’m very impressed with how it came out. The typing experience is excellent. It sounds very poppy and the switches are exceptionally smooth with the added hand lubing. The Kilmat also eliminates and leftover hollowness, so all that’s left is the sound of the keys.
I was able to remap everything to my preference, but the keyboard also features second-layer commands for lighting and media controls. My only gripe here is that the lighting really isn’t very bright. My choice of switches and keycaps makes a big different here, so I don’t expect a lot, but the shine is comparatively dim to other keyboards with very similar builds.
With my modding, I did eliminate some of the flex of the board but not all. Since it’s so thick, I still have quite a bit there’s enough room to add 2mm of material at the top without and still have room to flex. That height did cause me to pull out my wrist rest.
Where this keyboard really shines though is that it pulls off a combination of features other options on the market currently don’t. It’s full-size (almost). It’s gasket mount and flexy. It’s all aluminum. Those three things make this a great option for people who use their keyboards for productivity or need the number pad and function row for gaming. Options are a good thing, and this is a very solid choice if you need those features.
Akko MOD003 Video Review and Typing Demo
The Akko MOD003 hits almost all of the right notes. If it supported screw-in stabilizers, QMK, and was less hollow out of the box, it would be out of this world. But, it’s currently doing something very few other boards are doing with its layout and mounting style combination, and it’s doing so at an affordable price. If you’re willing to do a few mods, like swapping out case foam, you can elevate this keyboard further, but it offers an out of the box experience that other brands could learn from.
The Akko MOD003 is a winner and an excellent value.The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.