All you wanted to know about the WhiteFox and you actually dared asking.
Below I’m trying to reply to the recurring questions that came out on Deskthority, Geekhack and MassDrop. during the keyboard pre-order. If you feel something is still unsolved please drop a comment to this post or keep the discussion on the aforementioned communities.
» Where can I buy one?
The WhiteFox pre order took place in December 2015. Approximately 1300 units were sold. A new batch started in July 2016.
» What is the difference between barebone, kit and assembled options?
The barebone is for hardcore enthusiasts; it includes the case, the plate, the PCB and the stabilizers only. You have to add your switches and your keycaps. Surface mounted components always come pre-soldered.
The kit includes all the keyboard components: case, plate, PCB, stabilizers, switches, LEDs and USB cable. All surface mounted components (the ones that are really hard to solder at home) come already soldered, you need to solder the switches yourself and –if you want– the LEDs.
The assembled option brings a functional, fully assembled, FCC compliant keyboard to your door step. Plug the cable and start typing.
» Is the assembled fully assembled?
Yes, the keyboard is ready to rock. You don’t need a soldering iron with the assembled option. That being said –depending on the layout you chose– you might still need to flash a suitable firmware. Don’t worry, it’s easy-peasy, it doesn’t require opening the case, soldering or any engineering skill.
» Can I buy the barebone option and add just the [switches/keycaps/cable/LED]?
No, sorry that wouldn’t be possible. We are trying to keep the sale as simple as possible, adding too many options would make things more complicated for logistics and we don’t want to screw up with logistics.
» Can I buy the keycaps separately?
Not at the moment. We might run a full stand alone set of white PBT keycaps, but not just now. Initially we wanted to sell a set separately, but we preferred to keep things simple this time.
» May I have an assembled WhiteFox with Zealio switches?
No, only Gateron and Cherry switches can be ordered assembled.
» Will Zealio switches be available again?
We are trying. It’s not just an availability issue, we have to deal with increased logistics complexity too. Keep an eye on the MassDrop page especially the last few days.
» Will I be able to buy the WhiteFox again in the near future?
My educated guess is that it will take no less than 6 months and production is another 3-4 months. So we are probably talking Q4 2016.
» Is the cable included?
The kit and the assembled versions both include a braided white cable with a blue accent. The barebone version comes without cable.
» I’m an international buyer, can you declare the goods less than the actual value?
I’m sorry, no. That would be fraud.
» If you are selling so many, why doesn’t the price go down?
We are already offering the WhiteFox at the lowest price point possible. To get better deals from the manufacturers we would need to sell in the range of 10000 units.
» Do I get the keycaps just for my layout or for all?
You get all the keycaps whatever layout you picked, assembled or not.
» I heard about a gold edition, is it true?
Yes, the plan was to include a special edition with gold instead of silver anodized aluminum. Unfortunately we couldn’t without delaying the release, so we opted to keep the gold case out and possibly run more color options in the future. We are even in talk for a wood case.
PS: of course it’s not real gold…
» Why was the limit raised from 1000 to 2000 units?
The WhiteFox should have been produced in 1000 units first, later upped to 2000. To get the best price possible we are dealing with OEM manufacturers. They normally require a very high minimum order quantity (usually +5000), so 1000 samples is really the bare minimum we were able to squeeze out the manufacturers. Fortunately the WhiteFox surpassed the 1000 mark and up to 2000 there won’t be sensible production delay.
» Wouldn’t raising the limit to 2000 units slow production for everybody?
The manufacturers are able to produce much more than we could order, anyway to be sure that early buyers get the keyboard on time, the production for a first batch of 1000 has started earlier.
» Are the first 1000 a special edition?
There’s no “special edition” per se but the first 1000 are indeed considered a limited edition.
Help me decide
» Should I get it assembled or solder it myself?
If you are asking yourself this question you probably want to get the factory assembled version. That said, soldering the switches is very easy. If you already have a soldering iron and have even very little experience with it, I would suggest to get the kit and assemble the keyboard yourself. It will be an incredibly satisfying process and the WhiteFox will be really your own.
» What switches should I get?
This is something no one can help you with. Switch choice is a very personal matter. There are mainly three types of switches: linear, tactile and clicky. Each kind can be found with different actuation forces (the stiffness).
Refer to the table below to get an idea of the options available for the WhiteFox (there are actually far more switches available on the market).
|Cherry MX Blue
|Cherry MX Brown
|Cherry MX Clear
|Cherry MX Gray
|Cherry MX Green
|Cherry MX Red
|Cherry MX White
|Zealio Purple 67g
|Zealio Clear 65g
|Zealio Clear 67g
People new to mechanical keyboards usually find tactile switches easier to get used to. Clicky switches give an audible together with a tactile feedback, they are very entertaining to type on but also pretty noisy. Linear switches do not give any kind of tactile or auditory feedback and are considered very good for gaming.
If you really don’t know where to start from, I would suggest Cherry MX Brown for tactile, Zealio Clear 65g for linear, Gateron Blue for clicky.
» What is the difference between Gateron, Cherry or Zeal switches?
First of all Zealios are actually produced by Gateron. They are all fine switches. It is said that early Gateron switches were overall lower quality compared to Cherry’s, but lately we don’t see that many complains.
I believe you shouldn’t let the brand be your main decision point when picking the switches, but one thing is undeniable: Cherry is the only company with a 30 years history on their products. MX switches are used in airports, POS, banks, … and they are known to be very high quality.
» What switches do you like?
Not sure why this is relevant, but since you asked… I’m not very picky about switches, I like most of them. I find clicky switches the most enjoyable. I also like linear switches for being so general purpose; they are good for gaming, for typing and everything in between. My least favorite are tactile switches. So my choice would go to MX Green, Ghetto-Green (blue slider with black spring), Gateron Blue, MX black or Zealio Clear.
» What is the size of the keyboard?
321x110mm (~12.6×4.3in). Height should be approx 30mm in the tallest point including feet (not including switches and keycaps).
Full assembled the keyboard weights approximately 700g.
» Is it compatible with a Mac?
Yes, of course.
» Does it support NKRO?
» Is the WhiteFox open hardware? Can I get the source files?
Yes, the WhiteFox is open hardware. You’ll have full access to the source files including case 3D drawings and PCB schematics. The files will be available close to the keyboard release in May 2016.
» Does it support backlighting?
Yes, the PCB supports basic backlighting. Backlight can be turned on and off and changed in intensity.
» What color are the LEDs?
This is the WhiteFox, guys. LEDs are white.
» Does it support RGB LEDs?
No, adding RGB LEDs would have added a lot of complexity, delayed the release and ultimately made it more expensive. We decided to keep it simple, the WhiteFox’s charm is in her fancy layout, not one billion Christmas lights.
» Can I open the switch to change the spring or lube the slider?
Yes, the plate is designed so it is possible to open the switches without desoldering (or even opening the case). Please note that if you soldered the LEDs you can’t open the switches anymore because the LED seals the top of the switch casing.
» Can I open the switch if the keyboard comes pre-assembled?
Pre-assembled keyboard comes with LEDs already mounted. LEDs seal the top of the switch and it’s not possible to open the switches anymore. You would need to desolder all LEDs first.
» What stabilizers does it support? Does it support PCB mounted Cherry stabilizers?
The WhiteFox supports Costar stabilizers only. If properly installed Costar stabilizers –in designer’s opinion– offer the best typing experience. Being an open frame keyboard multiple stabilizers support wouldn’t be a fancy option.
Please note that the PCB actually supports PCB mounted Cherry stabilizers, so if you can design your plate you could still make a Cherry based keyboard.
» Is it a mini or micro USB port?
The port is a micro USB. While mini USB are more common in the mechanical keyboard world but micro USB is better in every possible way. Especially it helped us to keep the WhiteFox as low profile as possible.
» What is the main PCB processor?
It’s a MK20DX256, similar to the one on the Teensy 3.
» Is it hard to find keycaps for the WhiteFox?
The WhiteFox has few out-of-standard keycaps, notably the right 1.75u shift. Depending on the layout you may also need a 1.5u backspace and 1u bottom row modifiers. The Jack of All Trades layout instead features all standard sized keycaps, so if that is your priority definitely go for it.
Most community designed keycap sets support the few WhiteFox exceptions. Granite, Round 5, DSA Retro, SA Retro, Skull Squadron, Midnight and many others all have enough keys to cover all WhiteFox layouts.
» Are the keycaps backlight compatible? Will the LEDs shine through the letters or bleed out the sides?
The keycaps are in PBT material with dye-sublimated legends. They are not properly “backlight compatible”, light does not shine through the legends but it will be more of a diffuse lighting effect from the sides. Of course you can always use third party keycaps.
» What is the length of the cable included in the kit and assembled options?
The cable is 150cm / 60in.
The WhiteFox can be purchased in kit or fully assembled. If you get the kit you’ll need to solder few components yourself.
» Is it easy to solder?
Yes, very easy even with little prior soldering experience. If you never soldered a thing before I suggest you to practice with some spare electronics components first. All you need to learn is how the solder flows when heated.
» Will you help me assembling the WhiteFox?
Follow this very same site, you’ll soon find guides and tutorials to help you build the WhiteFox from A to Z.
» What components do I need to solder?
Only the switches and the LEDs (if you want to). All the tiny surface mounted components come already assembled.
» Is it risky? Can I break something?
Unlikely but there’s always a certain risk involved. You could hit some of the surface mounted components, or you could heat the switches too much damaging the plastic bits inside.
Make some practice with some spare components first, learn how the soldering iron works. Adding switchs is an extremely simple procedure and –unless you are incredibly clumsy– you shouldn’t have any issue.
» What do I need to fully assemble a WhiteFox?
You need a soldering iron or soldering station and some solder wire. Not strictly needed but nice to have some grease lubricant for the stabilizers. There are many brands and availability varies based on your location so it’s not easy to point you to a specific product.
Generally speaking you don’t need an expensive soldering kit. If you plan on making more custom keyboards in the future you may want to invest in a soldering station, especially if you need to desolder.
Probably the most renown brands in the field are Hakko and Weller. A decent entry level soldering iron shouldn’t cost more than $15/€12, while a soldering station goes for around $40-90/€35-80. Anything in the 40-60 Watt range should suffice. High quality soldering stations are pretty expensive ($/€200+) but I wouldn’t adventure in that land if you are really at your first soldering experience.
Some cleaning wire sponge to clean the iron tip might also be useful, steel wool also works and you might already have some at home.
Take any solder in the 0.8mm (0.031″) thickness whereabouts. Lead-free is a bit harder to use for novices, so any 60/40-ish tin/lead wire would probably be a better option.
For the lubricant for the stabilizers I suggest Krytox GPL-205 grease lubricant, Finish Line Extreme Fluoro grease or Super Lube Silicone Lubricating Grease with PTFE (all available on eBay I guess). If you can’t find any of them try to search for “PFPAE grease” and as a last resort try with “silicone grease”.
Please note that the above lubricants are good for the stabilizers only, not for the switches. If you have switch lube, you may use it for the stabilizers, but it’s usually too thin for the purpose (but better than nothing…).
» What LEDs can I use?
Any rectangular 3x2mm, 2.9-3.4V, 10-20mA should do. Round LED may hit the keycap sides, if you can’t find rectangular emitters, 2mm round ones are fine too.
The WhiteFox is very conservative when it comes to backlighting with a 3.3V peak voltage, but way lower on average. You should actually be able to use any LED of any color in the 3 to 5V range (of course higher voltage LEDs won’t make much light).
» What does it mean that the keyboard is fully programmable?
The main keyboard processor can be put in debug mode and flashed with a custom firmware or simply a different layout. The firmware source code is open source and anyone can contribute and play around with it.
The possibilities are endless, the famous Hasu’s TMK firmware for example has already been ported to the WhiteFox. Most likely, though, you’ll just need to slightly customize your key layout. Perhaps you want to change the position of a modifier or add a macro. Those are things that can be easily done with the current firmware.
» Can I set macros?
Yes, the current firmware already supports macros. It is possible to assign multiple keystrokes to a single key or to a combination of keys.
» Does it come pre-flashed?
Yes, the keyboard comes with a bootloader and with a standard layout pre-flashed but it is very likely that you’ll need to flash a new firmware when you get it. To simplify the production process we are flashing one firmware for all 6 available layouts, so it is inevitable that some of them will require some optimization.
» Is it easy to flash a new layout?
The firmware is very easy to customize by editing a text file, but you may find easier to use the online configurator. While it doesn’t support all the firmware features, it is extremely easy to use for simple layouts.
Once you have personalized your layout, you can download the firmware ready to be flashed. On the bottom of the keyboard you’ll notice a small 3-4mm hole which gives access to the flash mode button. More info and full instructions in the coming days.