Drop CSTM80 review

If you're looking for a start in the custom mechanical keyboard world, there are few options as exciting as the Drop CSTM80.

Drop CSTM80 Review

Our Verdict

Easy to mod and beautiful typing performance more that account for a lack of gaming driven focus. The Drop CSTM80 is the kind of keyboard that catches the eye of everyone who sees you using it

Reasons to buy
  • Modding is easy
  • No intrusive software required
  • Price is very reasonable
  • Typing feel is incredible
Reasons to avoid
  • Gaming performance is so-so

The Drop CSTM80 is an incredible moddable keyboard that prioritizes design over performance but still packs both in at a very reasonable price. If you want to have full control over how your keyboard looks, feels, weighs, and even sounds, the Drop CSTM80 is a must-have, despite its gaming shortfalls.

When it comes to the best gaming keyboards, modding ability has generally been a niche consideration, but it’s fast becoming a major factor in the decision-making process. If a keyboard can be effectively modded and customized, you can fine-tune it to your needs and consistently breathe new life into its design. The Drop CSTM80 excels from a modding perspective, but its gaming performance doesn’t quite hold up against other hyperfocused products.

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Number of Keys 88
Switches Gateron Brown (Tactile) or Yellow (Linear)
Connectivity Wired – USB-C
Media Keys None

Drop CSTM80 closeup

Drop CSTM80 features

The Drop CSTM80 is packed with features, mostly revolving around the customizable nature of the keyboard. It only comes in a TKL (tenkeyless) ANSI (American National Standards Institute) layout. While the key layout isn’t my preferred – ISO is what I am used to – the TKL size is my favorite style as I never tend to make use of the number pad anyway, and it allows me to claw back some desk real estate.

If you’re less definitely keen on TKL-only keyboards, the Mountain Everest Max offers the best of most worlds with a TKL main board and modular numpad section. The Asus Claymore 2 also offers this customization.

The main body of the CSTM80, its clip-on decorative outer cases, and the switch plate are all made from polycarbonate while the case contains several layers of Poron foam and silicone rubber for dampening and cushioning the keyboard. The keyboard uses a gasket-mount design, which is where the key switches are mounted to a plate that’s suspended between silicone gaskets, which helps soften the switch landing and reduce noise.

In the base you can also add a weight plate – with steel and brass, and carbon fibre options available, all of which vary in weight and design. You can also opt for different switch plate materials, including FR4 and POM plastic, aluminum, carbon fiber, and brass.

You can choose between Gateron Brown Pro 3.0 switches or Gateron Yellow KS3 switches at the point of purchase. The keycap profile is Cherry while the material is ABS, so these keycaps will wear to a shine a bit quicker than PBT keycaps.

There is per-key RGB in play with South-facing keycaps (where the key legends are on the front face of the keys), making for a very clean look. You get a keycap and switch puller in the box as well as a USB-A to C cable and a standard one-year warranty from Drop.

Drop CSTM80 teardown

Drop CSTM80 design

A modding keyboard like the CSTM80 lives and dies by its design more so than its performance. Thankfully, the design here is stunning and I’m genuinely giddy every time I look at the Drop CSTM80 on my desk for how beautiful it looks.

Of course, beauty comes from within as well, so you’ll be pleased to know that ripping apart the CSTM80 is a simple task for any of your modding desires. It supports all five-pin switches and Cherry MX keycaps meaning the most common keyboard modding products on the market are compatible.

Just 14 screws stand between you and a completely disassembled CSTM80 and the whole process takes only a few minutes.  Pulling keycaps and switches takes a bit of force at first but is generally quite easy.

The South-facing keys might be an adjustment if you’re unfamiliar with anything other than a standard keycap, but you can always pull the included set off and replace them if you’re that put off.

The magnetically-attached outer cases are very simple to switch, and the fact that most replacement cases are only $25 makes them a relatively affordable way to refresh your keyboard. I intentionally requested the heaviest base to come with the board I tested, to ensure I don’t even have to pick up the CSTM80 to change the case. A heavier weight allows me to just slide one case off and replace it with another, and the decorative Overgrowth case that came with my review sample is spectacular and gives off Lord of the Rings vibes.

The matte ABS keycaps feel light, but give off the most satisfying sound when punched through to actuation. Gasket mounting ensures that the typing flow feels light but responsive. You don’t get a wrist rest in the box but I didn’t feel I particularly needed one with this board. Moreover, we often recommend getting a separate dedicated wrist rest if you do want one, as included ones are often not very good, so I’m not too fussed.

The absence of media keys is a little disappointing but when I think about it, beyond volume control – which is often incorporated into gaming headsets anyway – how often do I use these keys versus the typical Windows shortcuts? Not often. Your mileage may vary, so it’s still a notable omission, but I didn’t find it a dealbreaker.

One issue I tend to run into with some keyboards, especially when they’re not full-size, is that they slide around desktops very easily, even if only incrementally with a particularly heavy keystroke. Still, the ability to screw in a variety of weighted plates to the CSTM80 means my keyboard is going nowhere, no matter how hard I type, and it’s a small worry that’s been completely dispelled by the simplest solution.

Drop CSTM80 RGB

Drop CSTM80 performance

When it comes to typing performance, the CSTM80 offers a superb experience thanks to its combination of a secure base, every so slightly cushioned keys, and dampened noise. It feels and sounds very premium, though it can’t quite compete with the sheer heft of the solid aluminum Monsgeek M1W SP, for instance.

When it comes to gaming, the CSTM80 doesn’t slip up in terms of raw performance, but there’s little beyond this to add to its gaming capability. Many other keyboards add a lot more gaming-centric features.

For instance, when it comes to the keyswitches, optical and hall effect switches offer the ability to customize the trigger/actuation point and add multiple trigger points. Here you just get a simple single actuation point.

You do have the option to play around with keycaps and switches to find the right balance, but ultimately the configuration that we tested worked fine. I have no complaints, but also no raving declaration of love for how it changed the way I game… because it didn’t.

The Drop CSTM80 is technically driverless, given you’re not prompted to install software when you first connect it and all of the controls for the LEDs are baked into the function key. You can, however, download the Drop keyboard configurator if you want to play around with the layout and shortcuts.

Should you buy the Drop CSTM80?

If you are keen to get started with keyboard modding, you’ll find it hard to locate a better option than the Drop CSTM80 at $149. Most of what you need will be available directly from Drop, but the CSTM80 is also built to ensure it’s simple to find compatible components elsewhere.

If you need an alternative that’s a little better balanced between modding and gaming, the Razer Blackwidow V4 75% is a great choice, although a little more expensive.

Verdict

The Drop CSTM80 is a dream to mod, and great for typing, but falls a little short when it comes to gaming performance, at least in the configuration that I’ve selected. It is, however, the prettiest keyboard I’ve ever owned. A large part of this is thanks to the additional case provided by Drop, but it goes to show that if keeping your gear fresh is a problem you currently have, the CSTM80 has it covered.

That being said, considering the base price of the CSTM80, you could easily spend a lot more on a pretentious gaming keyboard that doesn’t necessarily offer too much more. As always, picking a product for your needs is what’s most important, and the Drop CSTM80 is a fantastic keyboard for mine.