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Drop Sense75 Review

A well-built, serious mechanical keyboard for typing fanatics, the Drop Sense75 will thrill that crowd—but it’s priced out of reach of everyone else.

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Drop Sense75 Specs

Name Value
Number of Keys 81
Interface USB Wired
Key Switch Type Drop Holy Panda X
Key Backlighting RGB Per-Key
Media Controls None
Dedicated Shortcut Keys No
Onboard Profile Storage No
N-Key Rollover Support Yes
Passthrough Ports None
Palm Rest None

As a supplier of premium mechanical keyboards and components for a highly engaged enthusiast community, Drop sweats the small stuff. The company, originally known as Massdrop, designs and collaborates with various brands to produce keyboards and audio gear based on fan feedback. You can argue that its latest flagship, the Sense75, is a window into exactly what keyboard enthusiasts look for in a luxury device. While the 75-percent-size board has some spiffy features you can see, like RGB underglow lighting and a knurled volume dial, the things that really make it stand out are subtler aspects of its construction. They affect the keyboard’s typing feel and sound, and your ability to swap out its proprietary switches. With such attention to detail, the Drop Sense75 is an immaculate keyboard worthy of enthusiasts’ adoration, but it comes at a breathtaking price—$349 for black and $399 for the "Polar" white model seen here. Keyboard illuminati need only apply.

Since 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. See how we test. (Opens in a new window)

That Obscure Object of (Keyboard) Desire

The Drop Sense75 looks and feels like the luxurious piece of tech it is. Measuring 1.8 by 13 by 5.5 inches (HWD), the board is thick and heavy, thanks in part to a replaceable weighted backplate. (Drop plans to sell alternate rear plates in the future.) The Polar model features an electrophoresis coating over its aluminum base, which is supposedly a bit more durable than the anodized finish found on most modern aluminum gear. If you prefer a more modern look or don’t worry about light wear over time, the "Nightfall" black model has a conventional anodized coating. All I’ll say is that the smooth, matte finish of the base and the rounded, sans-serif keycap font give the Sense75 a minimalist, neo-classical look sure to appear elegant in any setup.

It’s also worth noting that the Sense75 has both RGB lighting under the keys and a downward-facing RGB rim that creates a light underglow all around the edge of the keyboard. With the default keycaps, which don’t allow light through, the lighting is noticeable but not overpowering. That said, you can always disable or change it using function-key shortcuts or open-source configuration apps like Via and https://jiji.ng/ Vial.

The Sense75 features the slightly-larger-than-65-percent layout that’s grown in popularity among keyboard buffs. It has 81 keys, or 84 if you include the three customizable inputs of the volume dial at top right. That’s close to what you get from a standard tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard, which normally has 87 keys. Compared to a TKL, you’ll notice that a few navigation and editing keys have been removed, such as Home, End, Screen Lock, and Pause. Meanwhile, the whole layout has been compressed a bit so the up and down arrows almost line up with the right edge of the main block of keys. The navigation keys that normally line up above the arrows—Delete, Page Up, and Page Down—form a small line below the volume dial.

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This compact form factor isn’t original with Drop, but it may feel new if you usually stick to keyboards from mainstream manufacturers. Truth be told, the two are very similar, but the 75 percent layout may appeal if you want to save desk space. You get a more compact, navigable block of keys in exchange for a few extraneous inputs.

For the Sense75, build quality is everything. Beyond its form factor, the most substantial upgrades are its gasket-mounted construction and "south-facing" switch mounting. Gasket-mounted keyboards put a piece of foam or other sound-dampening material around the base of the switches to isolate the base from the rest of the keyboard. In theory, this extra layer provides a little extra cushioning, smoother action, and dampens the sound.

The question is, how much will you actually notice the difference if you aren’t actively trying to? After using the Sense75 for a couple of weeks and comparing it with a couple of other keyboards, including the Drop Shift, I found the differences in typing feel small: The action is slightly smoother, but requires a comparatively hard press to get each key moving. I like how the keys require a deliberate press, but gamers and others who prefer speed over feel may disagree.

A far larger and more noticeable difference is in how the keys sound. The dampening quality of the gasket, made from an elastopolymer foam called Bisco, dramatically softens both the volume and the tone of the keys’ clacking noise. You get a much more even sound without the tinny clang of some keyboards, especially those with clicky switches such as Cherry MX Blues. (See our guide to mechanical key switches for much more nuance around this topic.)

Speaking of switches, let’s get really keyboard-nerdy, and talk about "south-facing" versus "north-facing" switch mounting. All Drop keyboards feature hot-swappable switches, so you can remove and replace the mechanical switches without taking the keyboard apart. The company’s previous boards featured "north-facing" mounting that lined the LED pass-through hole on each switch with the top or back edge of the keyboard. The Sense75 follows the enthusiast trend of "south-facing" mounting, where the LED pass-through lines up with the bottom or front edge. Fans who like to switch keys or use custom keycaps prefer this mounting because it reduces the chance of "switch interference," in which a keycap physically touches the switches, altering their sound and feel. Drop says that south mounting also makes it easier to pull switches without damaging them.

By default, the Sense75 comes with Drop’s proprietary Holy Panda X tactile switches, which are comparable to Cherry MX Browns. As I said, these switches require a bit more force than the tactile switches of mass-manufactured keyboards, but they have a very smooth feel that makes the firm press feel quite comfortable.

These changes, while impressive to me as someone who tests a lot of keyboards, aren’t likely to make a big difference to everyone. They improve typing feel a little, but primarily affect aspects such as sound and customizability that are minor factors to the average user. It’s possible that you’ll sit down at the Sense75 and immediately notice that you enjoy typing on it, but you might not realize why. It’s also possible that you try it and not notice much of a difference. I’d like to believe that the changes will, in some way, shine through for most people.

Configure It Any Way You Want To

Like Drop’s other keyboards, the Sense75 relies on two open-source QMK-based configuration apps, Via and Vial. Drop usually gives you an easy and direct way to customize its keyboards by offering model-specific configuration web apps (Opens in a new window) that let you remap keys and change lighting as you please. Since I’m testing the Sense75 prior to its first public shipments, its web app wasn’t available to me. Even without it, however, you can configure the Sense75 using the generic web (Opens in a new window) or desktop version of Via. You can also perform a fair number of quick config actions such as cycling through lighting settings using a long list of function shortcuts (Opens in a new window) .

Using Via to make macros and custom keyboard maps, including multilayered function shortcuts, is fairly easy and intuitive. The app also lets you choose from a fairly large library of RGB lighting presets. However, you’ll have to flash the keyboard’s firmware to use any config software. This isn’t difficult, but it requires a little more technical know-how than apps from vendors like Logitech and Razer, which simply work the moment you download them.

Verdict: It’s a Gourmet Feast for the Fingers

The Drop Sense75 is a dream come true for keyboard lovers—really, really serious keyboard lovers. The things that make it stand out will delight hardcore enthusiasts but may not register for every user. It comes across as an exceptionally luxurious, well-constructed keyboard, however, even if you don’t care about the details of how its construction impacts your typing experience.

As mentioned, that luxurious nature has a price to match. At $399 for white or $349 for black, the Sense75 is one of the most expensive keyboards we’ve ever seen (more than twice the price of our top-rated Razer Pro Type Ultra), though Drop says it plans to sell a bare-bones version of the board without switches or keycaps for $100 less. These costs reflect the nuances of the keyboard’s spare-no-expense design, but make it hard to justify unless you have an incredible love for the intricacies of (and like to tinker with) keyboards. You can get a keyboard that feels great for a lot less, but the Sense75 is a remarkable showpiece that offers a phenomenal typing experience.

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