TM680 Review: $60 Build Kit

The TM680 represents a good entry-level kit for beginners, and it won’t burn a hole in your pocket at $60

We’re beginning to see more and more budget kits appear on the market, and the TM680 is one of the more popular ones out there right now. Going for as low as $60, it is a good value proposition, and on top of that it can be ordered as in in-stock item instead of having to pre-order or join a group buy. The TM680 is a barebones build kit, which means you only need to add switches and keycaps. In addition to this wired version, there is also a wireless version that has Bluetooth and 2.4Ghz connectivity. This is a tray-mount board that is available with an aluminium or polycarbonate mounting plate.

Package contents

First impressions are solid. My unit arrived in good nick and there was no apparent damage or marks on the keyboard. On some websites this particular colour is listed as rose gold, but it’s definitely more of a pink. I like pink but this is probably too pink for my taste, and in hindsight I should’ve gone for the tiffany version. However with this colour there are some great keycap pairings, like the Olivia and Black & Pink. So we’re going to start with a stock build, and I’ll be using my FFFF switches and Akko Black & Pink ASA keycaps.

Stock build

The Black & Pink turned out to be a great choice, and the pink aesthetic is definitely growing on me. Lately my style has leaned towards understated and minimalistic, and the TM680 is pretty much the opposite of that with its lavish case lighting. While it isn’t my personal style, I can appreciate the more showy appearance of the case, which features no less than four lighting zones. This would look right at home in a flashy setup! Now these FFFF switches are actually meant for through-hole LEDs, but I did throw on some Creams to showcase the RGB a bit better. The RGB modes can be cycled with Fn + Del and the case lighting is controlled with Fn + Pg Up. None of the case lighting zones can be set independently, which didn’t really bother me but might be vexing for RGB aficionados. Then we have all the other expected RGB controls like speed, brightness and single colours. It’s also possible to record your own static colour mode.

Over 20 RGB modes

The stock typing experience was pretty good. The TM680 is quite loud and slightly hollow-sounding, which is to be expected from a tray-mount board. The foam layer between the PCB and plate does help, but at the very least you should add some foam in the case as well. This should improve the hollowness although it will still be loud. Depending on what kind of sound you want, the tape and PE foam mods could also work here. This is actually a really fun board to mod, and you can get a significant improvement with some very basic mods.

With all of that said, the board doesn’t sound half-bad stock, and the softer FFFF switches was an excellent pairing, as it offset the loudness. For the TM680 I’d recommend a switch with a more cushioned and dampened bottom out. What’s nice about the FFFFs is that the full nylon housing gives you a deeper sound than polycarbonate or UHMWPE. The TM680 comes with clip-in stabs that have been pre-lubed, albeit very sparingly. I was quite happy with the stock performance and didn’t pick up a lot of rattle. The space bar is extremely loud so I will be adding some stabiliser pads and dielectric grease.

FFFF 62g

The 67-key layout has become my favourite over the past few months, as the dedicated arrows and extra Nav Cluster keys are invaluable. Another thing I never really mention about these layouts is the compactness. Everything is in close quarters and it works great for productivity. We’re also seeing more and more 65% boards with a rotary encoder, which again is super useful, especially if you’re a media junkie like me! The TM680’s encoder is used for volume control, and it is also clickable which is mapped to Play/Pause. It’s a friction fit and feels quite loose, but it didn’t affect the usability. I did find that the volume wheel wasn’t 100% responsive when turning it faster, as in the volume wasn’t changing with each step, but I wouldn’t say this is a deal breaker.

Love me a volume wheel

The Fn layer has comprehensive RGB control as shown earlier, then you also have your F-row. I was expecting to find the rest of the Nav Cluster keys on the Fn layer, but curiously it’s missing. For example there is no Home and End keys, not even a Prt Scr. The software only allows remapping on the standard layer, so it isn’t possible to add these keys to the Fn layer. At least I was able to map Delete on Caps Lock, and the keyboard does have on-board memory so this mapping persisted. Apart from that, the software has lighting control and then there is macro recording. You can find a Google Drive link for the software on Carousell.sg. You might want to call upon AutoHotkey if you’re looking to add more layers to the keyboard.

TM680 software

Build quality is good and I didn’t have any issues with the plastic case. This version features an aluminium mounting plate, but I would love to try the PC plate in the future. The case construction is quite similar to something like the Gamakay TK68, where the assembly is sandwiched between the case and top frame. On the bottom of the case we find four rubber feet, and the natural angle of the case was very comfortable so I didn’t miss the flip-outs. Good to see that the TM680 includes foam between the PCB and plate. This is of course a hot-swap PCB, and these sockets have T-M branding on them. I had no difficulty installing any of my switches.

Pink is taking over!

All in all, the TM680 represents a good entry level kit for beginners, and at $60 it’s not going to burn a hole in your pocket. It’s really exciting to see the keyboard hobby becoming more and more accessible.

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