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Klash of the keyboards: We mash down hard on six all-new mechanical models

Hayden Dingman | March 21, 2014
A good keyboard is like a good bed--once you've lived with one, you'll never be satisfied with anything less. And if you're like me, you spend more time behind a keyboard than you do in a bed, so why are you hanging onto that crappy plank that came with your PC? There are oodles of great choices available today, and I've just laid hands on six of them.

A good keyboard is like a good bed — once you've lived with one, you'll never be satisfied with anything less. And if you're like me, you spend more time behind a keyboard than you do in a bed, so why are you hanging onto that crappy plank that came with your PC? There are oodles of great choices available today, and I've just laid hands on six of them.

Not sure you need to upgrade? Listen, the cheap membrane keyboards that mainstream PC manufacturers ship with their machines can wreak havoc on your fingers and wrists over time. The keys on these types of keyboards require your finger to push the key all the way down to the keyboard's hard plastic bed to establish the electrical contact that sends a signal to the computer.

First, the initial resistance these keys present makes your fingers work harder than necessary. Second, when the key bottoms out, it sends a shockwave up and into your fingers and wrists (and all the muscles, tendons, and bones they're made from). Finally, the membrane beneath the keys wears out over time, delivering mushy tactile feedback and eventually failing to register keystrokes consistently, causing typos and frustration.

The keys on mechanical keyboards don't require your fingers to push the key until it bottoms out, thus reducing the wear and tear on your fingers and wrists. If you use a keyboard strictly for productivity, using a fully mechanical keyboard will boost both your typing speed and accuracy. If you're a gamer, you'll also benefit from quicker response times.

Keyswitch choices
You'll hate using the fanciest, most elaborate keyboard if it has lousy switches under its keycaps. Five of the six keyboards reviewed here — the Feenix Autore, the Logitech G710+, the Ozone Strike Pro, the SteelSeries 6GV2, and the WASD V2 — use ZF Electronics' very popular Cherry MX series keyswitches These come in Blue, Brown, Red, and Black varieties.

Cherry Blues produce the most audible feedback and are suitable mostly for typing, though they're not necessarily bad for games. They take a bit of force to press, but halfway down a prominent click lets you know it's been pressed. Cherry Browns are similar to the Blues, but they take less force to actuate and deliver a subtle bump of tactile feedback to let you know the key has actuated.

Cherry Reds and Blacks are more common in gaming keyboards. Instead of a bump or a click, Blacks and Reds press straight down linearly. The further you press the key, the more resistance the switch presents, helping you learn to avoid bottoming out. These switches don't deliver as much tactile feedback as the Blues and Browns, but they're quicker to push — hence their popularity among gamers.

 

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