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Five Mechanical-Switch Keyboards: Only The Best For Your Hands

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Anonymous
June 13, 2011 4:41:11 AM

"You will find keyboards even pricier than these, but that's a consequence of built-in special functions and gimmicks, not better quality or suitability."

That's a bit ignorant, since you didn't test them. Try a Topre Realforce and tell me it's a gimmick.
June 13, 2011 4:42:14 AM

Great write up! I have a tenkeyless Leopold cherry brown and love it.
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June 13, 2011 4:43:54 AM

Where is the Filco Majestouch in the product list?
June 13, 2011 4:54:49 AM

Poorly done overview. A lot of keyboard missing in action.
June 13, 2011 5:03:53 AM

Hmm looking at those keyboard's layouts make me wince. I don't think I could stand a huge enter key, a nonexistent "\", Y and Z being switched, and a funky shift key. I'm happy with my blank das keyboard, thank you very much.
June 13, 2011 5:26:36 AM

I actually went away from mechanical keyboards about 7 years ago. I really prefer a solid rubber dome keyboard. I currently use a Logitech MX5500 for gaming and a Logitech Wave for typing. Never had any issues with either for their purposes. I do miss the tactile feel, but honestly the 5500 is a MUCH better gaming board, plus the noise doesn't drive me crazy.

For all of you with exotic keyboards, you must be extra special picky ;)  I type 110 wpm without error and have no trouble with the wave or 5500.
June 13, 2011 5:41:33 AM

My Model M is too cool for this review.
June 13, 2011 5:50:42 AM

wheres the das keyboard model s ultimate?
June 13, 2011 5:53:48 AM

I kind of wished they had compared them to some mainstream keyboards like the cheapy walmart logitech, dell keyboard, or ibm. Sure they work great, but compared to what. I'm not a fan of loud and clicky ibm, but thats as far as my interest in key-presses goes.

I bought my G110 for the extra macro keys that I never use. In fact I use the onboard volume control more often.

Anonymous
June 13, 2011 6:03:39 AM

Where is the Model M? Is it too cool for this review?
And it's "buckling spring", not "bent spring"
June 13, 2011 6:26:44 AM

You did miss one criteria for comparison and that's typing noise. SteelSeries went through allot to successfully keep typing noise at a minimum while the Razer is a screamer! It would suck to invest in a quite rig and then end up with a keyboard like that.
June 13, 2011 6:42:24 AM

I wish they gave out sample for me to try before buying....
June 13, 2011 6:58:13 AM

Its more about the switches than the keyboard brand/manufacturer. there is a good explanation of how the different Cherry MX switches work at EliteKeyboards. I would have to say picking the switches is defiantly personal preference over anything else. For me its Topre 55g all the way!
June 13, 2011 7:03:54 AM

It should be 50 000 000 not 50 000!
June 13, 2011 7:31:58 AM

I would only buy the Ione based entirely on the fact that they didn't flub up the layout. Seriously, what's with the enter key from these other companies? Why would I want to reach my pinky finger FARTHER to reach a commonly used key? I see no benefit to those layouts.
June 13, 2011 7:42:22 AM

What about daskeyboard? I saw a pic while looking at cherry MX keys yet no review?
June 13, 2011 7:49:02 AM

My $30 wireless Logitech is still better
June 13, 2011 7:51:47 AM

dragonfang18What about daskeyboard? I saw a pic while looking at cherry MX keys yet no review?

they choose the keyboards based on the switches inside. there was no real need to review multiple boards with the same switches for their purposes because it was more a review/explanation of the different switches than of the keyboards.
Anonymous
June 13, 2011 7:53:19 AM

I have an old MS Internet Keyboard Pro from 2000 - does anyone know what kind of switches it uses? Are they mechanical?
Anonymous
June 13, 2011 8:28:29 AM

You should specify that the macro 'functionality' of the Razer Blackwidow Ultimate is actually done through their windows software and does not work on OS X or Linux, which makes the feature kind of useless for some people.
June 13, 2011 8:42:33 AM

michaelahessFor all of you with exotic keyboards, you must be extra special picky I type 110 wpm without error and have no trouble with the wave or 5500.

Your Logitech board won't last 10+ years like my mechanical board will. Mechanical boards are also *always* the exact same stroke for every single key, and the consistency makes them a bit more pleasurable to type on.
June 13, 2011 8:54:20 AM

personally, topre realforce is the best keyboard
to bad their availability is really limited and the price is expensive but worthed
although you can find it rather easy if you in japan

pros:
-the switch is topre switch not cherry switch
-made in japan
-recent version have soft weight switch thinggie to set the weight 45,55,60gram
http://www.archisite.co.jp/topre_xe01b0.htm
Anonymous
June 13, 2011 9:39:13 AM

"Bent Spring" ? , This is known as the bucking spring used for model m keyboards which are extremely popular and still made by unicomp. The review also doesn't have the Das Keyboard.
June 13, 2011 10:13:30 AM

Overclock.net is a website with user generated information and images. You should have attributed those images to the user in question and linked back to the Mechanical Keyboard guide you took them from.
If anyone wants a more in depth guide go search for Mechanical Keyboard guide on Overclock.net. Manyak put a lot of time into it. Also user Ripster has a lot of good info.
June 13, 2011 10:41:34 AM

Ah, Cherry MX Blues. I personally own the now impossible to obtain Rosewill RK9000; one day, when my mom's computer went down, she was forced to use it to change her passwords... I ended up having to buy her an Adesso MKB-135, which she is passionately in love with. Though the Adesso is cheaply built, both have the advantage of N-Key Rollover. Neither of us have issues with playing button mashing games like Resident Evil 5, and her typing has improved since she abandoned that stiff rubber dome she was using.
June 13, 2011 11:14:14 AM

I actually like the sound of my Blackwidow. I usually wear headphones while gaming though, so the sound doesn't really affect me. Drives my GF nuts though.
June 13, 2011 11:31:01 AM

the issues I have with this review are (while it gives good detail on the differences between the switches and usb vs ps/2)...

ps/2 is about to be removed from motherboards so why bother unless you are talking for the guy who refuses to upgrade past the availability of ps/2 ports.

And why in the living hell did you use all german keyboards? isnt this an American website? Cant you find these in America?

Lastly the keyboard with the best overall performance scores lower than the razer annoyitron/usb hub/headset extender? Really now? Do you NEED illuminated keys? If you are a gamer and cant touch type why not just plaster a sign above your head that says "I R N00bR Plz 2 Kill Meh"?
June 13, 2011 11:31:55 AM

I wish they made some of these in ergonomic design. I have to have a split keyboard because of my wrists, and because Logitech changed the 4-arrow layout (diamond instead of the 1:3 layout), I found it impossible to use it for gaming. I've been limited to the MS4000 Ergo, which isn't bad, but man they wear out fast.
June 13, 2011 12:31:38 PM

check geekhack(dot)org or deskthority(dot)net
all the info you need to know
June 13, 2011 1:18:16 PM

I was a huge fan of Logitech keyboards for years, but I recently discovered mechanical keyboards and I can not go back. I'm actually typing this on a generic Microsoft dome keyboard at work, and it just feels odd to me, like I have to hammer the keys down to get a response. I have a Leopold Tenkeyless (blue) and a Ducky 9008 (brown) for both of my computers at home, and another Ducky (blue) at my main station at work and can not imagine ever using a "regular" keyboard again.
Anonymous
June 13, 2011 1:55:11 PM

All this Microsoft X4 documentation and no shout out to the product? :( 
June 13, 2011 2:11:57 PM

I think a keyboard with analogue keys would be great for games, especially racing games.
June 13, 2011 2:14:15 PM

stiehlHmm looking at those keyboard's layouts make me wince. I don't think I could stand a huge enter key, a nonexistent "\", Y and Z being switched, and a funky shift key. I'm happy with my blank das keyboard, thank you very much.

The letters being switched around are due to the keyboards being setup for a different language, versus the standard layout you might be used to. These same keyboards would show a slightly different layout when sold in a different country that would be more representative of the standard there, ie US standard layout.

As for the big Enter key, that is more reminiscent of the keyboards of yore. I remember some of my first computers and typewriters having that huge key. As much as I prefer the \ key being where it is now versus the larger Enter key, I remember thinking the opposite when I got my first keyboard that did away with the large Enter key. My how times change, as do we.
June 13, 2011 2:14:54 PM

"PS/2 is like an expensive luxury watch: it's a nice feature, but you can really do without it."

Except PS/2 is not multiple hundreds more expensive than USB. If you could get a real Rolex for $100, why not?
June 13, 2011 2:40:40 PM

I have the Razor and can say that it is a really good unit, but cannot say it is better or worse than the others in the review. I orginally was gonna buy the Das, but when I played with the demo unit, I was turned off by the size of the keys and the sound. It was pretty loud. The Razer was a little larger for my bigger hands and the sound less obnoxious. I use the num-pad as my play area and the drivers are excellent for rebinding keys and placing a modifier like Alt. As stated in the review, the Font is pretty bad on that keyboard. I have owned it for over 4 months and still hate the font, but the good well outweigh the bad. I went to the Black Widow from a Tarantula and had little problems ajusting to it despite being a very different keyboard design. The thing I missed the most was the layout of the insert, delete, home, end, pgup, pgdwn, which was great for this numpad gamer.
June 13, 2011 2:43:07 PM

Anyone know where you can get a split keyboard with real switches. I'm still using an old Apple keyboard (EKB-905 with an AAUI-USB dongle, lol) with the dedicated reset button in the top left because it's one of the only sufficiently clicky splits I can find.
June 13, 2011 3:03:57 PM

Good article, Tom's. It's been a while since one got my full attention. Except for the products, of course... Didn't read those, didn't care to read them. I've been gaming all my life on cheappy keyboards and they work just fine. I'm also used to typing on my cheap keyboard. It was dirt cheap and I have it for 6 years now (and with minimal cleaning and care too).

Seriously. If I need a new computer tomorrow, I'd rather invest the extra dough in more GPU power (or a better LCD monitor since it's primarily what I'm looking at when using the computer).

But anyway, enjoy your gold plated contacts ! Hahahaha.



PS: Here's a more in-depth article on mechanical keyboards (and especially the coloured switches): http://www.overclock.net/keyboards/491752-mechanical-ke...
June 13, 2011 3:22:28 PM

iamtheking123Your Logitech board won't last 10+ years like my mechanical board will. Mechanical boards are also *always* the exact same stroke for every single key, and the consistency makes them a bit more pleasurable to type on.


I've used a MS Natural at work for well over 10 years, they don't wear out in that short of a time, and that board gets a LOT of use. Maybe if they are really really crappy $10 keyboards, but not "good" ones.

I still do like the click of my old Keytronic, but comfort wise I still prefer the rubber. There is no way I could tell the difference in keypress' between them, they all feel the same to me on each key.
June 13, 2011 3:34:15 PM

LuayYou did miss one criteria for comparison and that's typing noise. SteelSeries went through allot to successfully keep typing noise at a minimum while the Razer is a screamer! It would suck to invest in a quite rig and then end up with a keyboard like that.

Did you even read the discription of the switches? Any keyboard that uses MX Blacks is going to be 'quiter' than MX Blues. The point of the MX Blue switches is to have a tactile as well as audible feedback. That's a feature. If you prefer less noise then pick a switch that doesn't make noise but don't presume that everyone values low noise the same way you do.
Anonymous
June 13, 2011 3:54:20 PM

www.elitekeyboards.com - next time, try to include some of the boards found there. I've been a cherry mx fan for years, and some of the best products in the niche were missed. Great write-up though, I'm glad this has nit the mainstream :) 
June 13, 2011 3:57:14 PM

"Keyboards based on the Cherry MX Clears are seldom seen because they offer little advantage over devices with cheaper rubber dome switches."

This is patently false. The tactile feedback as well as the consistency of the actuation force are massive advantages over rubber dome switches. The consistency alone makes for a less fatiguing typing experience than a rubber dome. Arguably these are the best keyboards for RTS games as well but I can see how some would say Browns or Blues would be better.
June 13, 2011 4:39:22 PM

I have to agree with others here that mention the layout of the keys. The Ione is the only one with the common layout used on most keyboards today. Why do they insist on making the enter key huge at the expense of the shift key and \.
Anonymous
June 13, 2011 5:00:41 PM

I'm still using my Northgate Omnikey Ultra. Although the 0 on the upper row now bounces an extra every now and then its still working great 20 years later
Anonymous
June 13, 2011 5:08:04 PM

I own many mechanical keyboards including a XArmor U9BL (Filco, Unicomp, Deck, Topre, DAS, etc...). I couldn't believe you've rated the XArmor as excellent. Have you pulled a shift key to see how weak they are (Keycap quality, stabilizers, etc…) Horribly cheap product. Not worth the cost.

Not to mention their dead website or the rate their LEDS are failing…

Anonymous
June 13, 2011 5:37:21 PM

I'm sorely disappointed that, while mentioned, the traditional buckling spring keyboard did not make it into this review. Several enthusiasts swear by their aging Model M or clone and I, for one, swear by the keyboards based on that design - much to the chagrin of my cube-mates in the office.

While they may not be using the latest or greatest technology, they are durable and have excellent tactile response. They can also be purchased new from a company called Unicomp using the original IBM Model M as a baseline (I think they licensed the original patents on the design). The argument that they are outdated and not worth considering appears to be fallous and, again, I am disappointed they were not included in the comparison. It would be good to see an update to this article if one were sourced and tested accordingly.
June 13, 2011 5:54:01 PM

I feel like this article was a bit biased, or at least its author was too arrogant in his own opinions. Yes, many people will spend more money on a nice mechanical keyboard. However, the feel of such switches does not automatically make these the best, no matter what (almost feels like a car review, and the author has stated that Porsche is better than Ferrari - an opinion). While I wont go into durability, I will briefly say that in the past 21 years, Iv never had a single keyboard die, or have its keystrokes change feeling on me. Iv always used regular rubber dome keyboards, as I like the feel to them, for both gaming, and typing. This is where my issue with this article lies - the feel of a key is completely subjective, and you cannot possibly state that one method is undoubtedly superior in feel to another.

As a side note, I recall this article claiming that the Cherry Red switches are hardly used, as their ease of compression causes errors in typing. Personally, Id have to say more than 90 percent of my typing errors come from purposely, accidentally (if you will - placing your finger upon the incorrect key, and pushing down) pushing a key. If I wanted to hit the V key, and my left pointer finger moved on top of the C key by mistake, Id push down on it until my computer registers a C, regardless of how much force it takes.
June 13, 2011 6:29:35 PM

Say what you will, but I use a wireless keyboard and mouse and I'm a gamer. It works. I'm happy. End of story.

Just had to throw that out there for you 'Wired' fanboys.

Aside from that, the only problem I ever encountered with wireless was on Bluetooth when I had a multi-boot setup (I used Linux at one time). I was unable to select which operating system to use because a Bluetooth was not present until Windows had loaded. The OS selection would be obviously before the OS boot. I went back to an RF keyboard. Problem solved.
June 13, 2011 6:47:53 PM

Nice pics Igor. Even if most of them are stolen!
!