Apr 25, 20171486 views

Vortex Switch Tester - RGB Numpad Conversion

A couple people asked me to write up my experience researching and converting this to full RGB with the optional PCBA, so here it is. I'll try to keep it short.

What to Buy The most critical information to know going in is which RGB emitters will work with this PCB. I got a breadcrumb from Xi and Yanbo at Massdrop - "3228 PLCC4" - and the search began. Eventually I found the right part at Digikey: 1497-1257-1-ND
This is part number ZMDKCBDDG45S-9 manufactured by SunLED -- a US-based company. If you don't have access to Digikey in your country obviously you'll have to source a similar part from elsewhere. The critical features to look for are:
  • SMD Case Size: 3228 (3.2 x 2.8mm)
  • SMD Package: PLCC4 (or 4-PLCC) "Gull Wing"
  • Common Anode
  • Compatible with the typical 5v USB power
  • 20-30mA operating current
  • "Reverse" orientation -- can't really search for this term, but you'll know it when you see one. This just means that the LED faces the PCB when installed.
Here's a link to the part on the SunLED web site:
And the manufacturer's data sheet:


How to Install it The second most important thing you'll need to know is that the silkscreening on the PCB is wrong. Vortex labeled the anode (+) incorrectly for all of the LED pads. The silkscreen indicates the anode position is upper left -- about the 10 o' clock position. It's the opposite. You'll want to orient your LEDs with the anode in the bottom right position -- around 4 o' clock. You'll know you have it right when your anode is on the pad with the largest trace wire. If you look carefully at each LED position it'll be pretty obvious that one of the traces is much thicker than the other three. That's your positive lead. Study the datasheet for your LED if you're not sure which leg is the anode - each component is keyed and marked for orientation.
If you have a hot air station you're probably already familiar with SMD components so you can skip to the end. But if you're like me you've only got a middle-of-the-road consumer soldering station and you'll have to make do. I'll assume for the moment that everyone reading this knows how to solder basic thru-hole components. SMD is a little tricky but you can do it with your basic soldering tools and a set of tweezers.
  1. Get good tweezers designed for electronics work. :P
  2. With a hot iron and the smallest tip you have, put a tiny dot of solder on 1 pad for every LED. Try to do the same pad position on each one and only do ONE PAD out of every set of 4. You'll understand why when you start installing the LEDs. This dot of solder is your "glue".
  3. Hold an LED over the hole and double check your position/orientation. I found my LEDs were a little smaller than the area Vortex gave us to work with, so I had to hold it pretty much dead center.
  4. Very gently touch your hot iron to the pad with your "glue" on it. If you do this right some of the solder will jump to the LED and stick to it.
  5. Carefully move the iron away. Don't move the LED at all. It'll need a second or two to cool and harden. Then let go of it with your tweezers. If you did it right, the LED will be stuck in position. If you screw this up you can lift the solder pad and have a bad day, so DON'T MOVE THE LED until it's set.
  6. Proceed to solder the other 3 joints. You may need to come back and apply a little more heat/solder to the original "glue" pad.
  7. Repeat 21 times.
Note that you don't need to worry about resistors for this project. Vortex already installed them for us.
The easiest way to test your work is just go plug the PCB in. The default light mode is all LEDs on, full white. If any of them aren't white, reflow your solder joints on that LED.


How to Make it Work If you haven't already, you'll want to download and study the user guide linked on the drop description page. Here's the link again in case you missed it, ya lazy bum:
Note that the key labeled "Esc" on the PCB silkscreen is correctly labeled "Fn" in the guide. It is actually Fn and not Esc. Thanks, Vortex!
Your two main lighting modes are:
  1. Fn + 1 -- All lights on (Mode 1)
  2. Fn + 3 -- Cycles through various on-press reaction modes (Mode 2)
You can choose the color of your Mode 1 backlight. Hold Fn and you'll notice the slash, star, and minus keys change to red, green, and blue respectively. Pressing any one of them while holding Fn will cycle the other LEDs through 7 levels of color intensity for each of the 3 emitter colors. You use the 3 color controls this way to mix about 210 color combinations (assuming maximum light level).
The Mode 2 levels are reactive -- you have to press a key to see them.
  1. Lights the depressed key, white
  2. Lights the depressed key, random color
  3. Lights the column of the depressed key, lights the adjacent columns in a wave pattern, white
  4. Lights the column of the depressed key, lights the adjacent columns in a wave pattern, random color
  5. Lights the row of the depressed key, lights the adjacent rows in a wave pattern, white
  6. Lights the row of the depressed key, lights the adjacent rows in a wave pattern, random color
  7. OFF
Note that the Num Lock LED remains in the pure white color and ignores all LED settings.
Use Fn + 8 to increase the overall backlighting intensity and Fn + 2 to reduce it. There are 7 intensity levels including "off".


Enjoy your number pads, guys! :) Full photo gallery here: http://imgur.com/a/AnZ1c
Matthias Ko, AR l Audio Reaction, and 15 others

@Data Thanks for putting this detailed guide together and sourcing the parts. Huge help! Noting the incorrect anode position on the silkscreen was huge and most likely saved me plenty of frustration. I would like to note for others, in my experience the board did not have the LEDs enabled by default. I went and quickly shorted the FN and 1 keys to enable them before moving forward.
That's interesting. I don't recall having to do that on my build but it's good to note it regardless.
This is awesome. Not sure yet if I'll be picking up this numpad myself, but I read through the guide anyway because it is unusually well done—and the additional info helps with a buying decision too.
Thanks for taking the time to post this.
What was the final cost for the SMD LEDs?
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Smd leds are really nice, but yeah expensive :(
It only cost me $27. Shipping was only $4 for USPS
Holy cap dude, great writeup. I wasn't aware that you meant you needed to buy SMD LEDs, nor had I any knowledge on how to install them if ever I was to try. This is an excellent DIY on the topic and we'll described.
Thanks for really explaining how to actually go about doing this in real life.
Always impress me with your level of knowledge on circuit and electrical experience. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing this with us :D
Thanks for even making this post possible. I couldn't have done it without your help. <3