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Summary And Recommendation

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

First things first. All of the keyboards tested are excellent, which reflects on the generally high-end nature of this niche. We didn't encounter any build quality-oriented issues among the test candidates, and they not only met, but routinely exceeded our expectations. This shows, on one hand, the investment made in developing these keyboards and the attention to detail. On the other hand, it showcases the consistent quality of Cherry's switches, regardless of their color and the devices into which they are integrated.

Which keyboard is the best?

The answer isn’t easy. All of them are great and none of them are best. We deliberately tested keyboards with three types of switches and came to the conclusion that each version is best suited to certain applications.

However, we must emphasize that there is no single genre for which any one of these keyboards would be completely unsuitable. All of these devices teeter between "very good" and "excellent," and accordingly all of our complaints are extremely picky. In addition, one must allow for a user's subjective preferences, especially on a device as personal as a keyboard. Just as hands and fingers are different from one enthusiast to another, the reaction of users to these keyboards could range from good to euphoric.

The fact, in our view, is that all of these switches are significantly superior to the usual rubber domes. This applies to the product's life cycle and the experience you have using it. 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.

Do you need PS/2 or is USB good enough?

Theoretically, you should go for PS/2 if it's available. But you really have to be a turbo-typer to notice a difference. And still you would only perceive it in very few exceptional situations. If your PC doesn't have a PS/2 port, it's unlikely that you'll miss out on anything here. Go ahead and use it though, if that'll put your mind at ease. Certain differences can be measured, but not felt.

Why no clear winner?

Quite simply because there are no losers. Each keyboard has its own specific advantages and appeals to its own target audience. And whether illuminated or not, heavy or light, all have tiny advantages and disadvantages.

Whether the user is a tactile light-typer or a heavy-handed key-pounder, we're sure that there's something for everyone represented here. All the keyboards tested performed at almost the same level, regardless of price: a rare enough result for a roundup. If you're playing with the idea of typing and gaming mechanically in the future, you can pick up any one of these models with a clear conscience. You certainly won't regret it.

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  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , June 13, 2011 4:41 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.
  • 0 Hide
    skaz , June 13, 2011 4:42 AM
    Great write up! I have a tenkeyless Leopold cherry brown and love it.
  • 4 Hide
    leather_daddy , June 13, 2011 4:43 AM
    Where is the Filco Majestouch in the product list?
  • 7 Hide
    steve11 , June 13, 2011 4:54 AM
    Poorly done overview. A lot of keyboard missing in action.
  • 0 Hide
    stiehl , June 13, 2011 5:03 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.
  • 0 Hide
    michaelahess , June 13, 2011 5:26 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.
  • 5 Hide
    Stardude82 , June 13, 2011 5:41 AM
    My Model M is too cool for this review.
  • 1 Hide
    fakie , June 13, 2011 5:50 AM
    wheres the das keyboard model s ultimate?
  • 4 Hide
    mortsmi7 , June 13, 2011 5:53 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.

  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , June 13, 2011 6:03 AM
    Where is the Model M? Is it too cool for this review?
    And it's "buckling spring", not "bent spring"
  • 0 Hide
    Luay , June 13, 2011 6:26 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.
  • 0 Hide
    dragonfang18 , June 13, 2011 6:42 AM
    I wish they gave out sample for me to try before buying....
  • 1 Hide
    TheProfosist , June 13, 2011 6:58 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!
  • 0 Hide
    faresbg , June 13, 2011 7:03 AM
    It should be 50 000 000 not 50 000!
  • 1 Hide
    pocketdrummer , June 13, 2011 7:31 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.
  • -1 Hide
    dragonfang18 , June 13, 2011 7:42 AM
    What about daskeyboard? I saw a pic while looking at cherry MX keys yet no review?
  • -5 Hide
    aaron88_7 , June 13, 2011 7:49 AM
    My $30 wireless Logitech is still better
  • 2 Hide
    TheProfosist , June 13, 2011 7:51 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.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 13, 2011 7:53 AM
    I have an old MS Internet Keyboard Pro from 2000 - does anyone know what kind of switches it uses? Are they mechanical?
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , June 13, 2011 8:28 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.
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