Corsair, the maker of myriad PC and gaming gear, has announced an acquisition that could give its keyboards a much-needed quality boost. Online retailer and keyboard designer Drop has joined the Corsair family as part of an all-cash deal, the details of which are not being made public. The Drop website and product lines will continue normally for now, but some cross-pollination is probably inevitable.
Drop, which launched in 2012 as Massdrop, gained notoriety by running “group buys” for boutique electronics. Customers would place orders, and Drop used the money to fund manufacturing for the product. Usually, the more people who ordered a product, the lower the price was for everyone. The wait times often stretched into months or even years. Drop provided a better framework for accountability than the alternative, which was to give your money to a random forum username and hope you didn’t regret it.
From the start, custom mechanical keyboards have been a large part of Drop’s business, and it has focused on these products even more as time went on. Several years ago, the site shaved off some lesser-used product categories and began designing its own keyboards, switches, and keycaps. This helped Drop transition from a group buy setup to more of a traditional retail store. You can go to Drop right now and order keyboards, headphones, desk mats, and other in-stock products. Some are made by third-party partners, and others are in-house affairs. For example, the company’s popular Alt 65% mechanical keyboard (above with SA Laser keycaps) starts at $180 when it’s not on sale.
It’s the keyboard business that attracted Corsair’s attention. “Personalized Keyboards that can be modified by the consumer is one of the fastest growing trends in the gaming peripheral space,” says Corsair CEO Andy Paul. Corsair, of course, makes gaming-oriented keyboards. In our experience, Drop’s hardware is a cut above mainstream offerings like Corsair. Drop’s boards are easier to customize, they have better build quality, and they run on open-source software.
As part of the deal, Corsair is getting access to all of Drop’s technology and designs, some of which almost rival the best boutique products in the mechanical keyboard niche. For example, Drop created expensive tooling to produce double-shot keycap sets that look almost as good as market-leader GMK, and Drop has a license to sell keyboard components with Lord of the Rings and Marvel IP. It also has a line of keyboard switches for which it owns the tooling.
Drop’s keyboards aren’t perfect, but they descend from a lineage of premium designs with enthusiast-friendly features. Corsair’s plastic keyboards with non-standard layouts can’t compete. It would be nice if Drop’s designs feed into Corsair’s products, which can only improve them.