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iBuypower, Gamdias, And The TTC Switches Inside The MEK Keyboard

In the mechanical keyboard world, Cherry MX switches were at one time so ubiquitous that they were nearly a proprietary eponym for "mechanical keyboard switches." Increasingly, though, we're seeing more switches from different manufacturers enjoying market adoption, including numerous Kailh switches, Razer's green and orange switches, and Greetech Brown switches (which are found on the Das Keyboard 4C Professional).

When we received the MEK keyboard from iBuypower, we yanked off a keycap and found yet another switch brand: TTC.

Another Knockoff, Or Successful Ingenuity?

Our first question, upon seeing what was to us a veritable unknown switch brand nestled into iBuypower's gaming keyboard, was why? Why TTC switches? Perhaps iBuypower knew something we didn't. Shortly, our query passed from iBuypower to the OEM of the MEK keyboard, Gamdias.

Although the company has been around just a few years, Gamdias is already fairly well-known for its gaming peripherals, which include mice, keyboards, headsets, mouse mats, and accessories such as a gaming glove. Gamdias uses Cherry switches on some of its boards, and the TTC switches on at least one other (with either red or blue switches), the Hermes Lite (which is the same thing as the MEK).

A company representative told me that Gamdias chose the TTC switches because in addition to helping keeping costs low for budget-strapped gamers wanting a mechanical keyboard, TTC's switches evince "durability" and "reliability."

He also noted that TTC switches enjoy strong "readiness of availability," which I take as a subtle dig at Cherry and its rumored delays in filling OEM orders.

iBuypower MEK/Gamdias Hermes Lite Keyboard
SwitchesTTC Red
BacklightingRed LED (with 5 levels of brightness)
Onboard memory256 KB
Polling rate1,000 Hz
NKey/Antighosting21-key
Windows disable keyYes
Cable1.8 m, USB 2.0
AccessoriesWrist rest
Dimensions17.3 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches
Weight2.5 lbs.
PriceiBuypower MEK: $54Gamdias Hermes Lite: $79.99

So, about that enormous price gap between the MEK and the Hermes Lite. This is the result of iBuypower's business approach: It wants to sell custom gaming systems primarily, and peripherals like this keyboard are designed to sort of sweeten the pot, so the company is offering them at a low (apparently significantly low) margin.

And yes, you can buy the keyboard from iBuypower separately, without purchasing a pre-built system.

TTC Red Switches

Like most other switches on the market, these TTC switches claim a 50 million-click lifecycle (which is more than you'll ever need to worry about). Obviously, it offers a red switch, but TTC's product portfolio also comprises blue, brown, black and yellow (really, yellow?) switches.

TTC Red Switch
Operating Force45 (±10) gf
Total Travel4.0 (±0.4) mm  
BounceON bounce: 5 ms max.OFF bounce: 10 ms max.
Mechanical / Electronics Life50 M cycles / 50 M cycles
Operating Temperature Range-25 degrees C to +85 degrees C
Operating Relative Humidity ≤85% RH
Environment Temperature5~35 degrees C
Insulation Resistance100MΩ min.
Initial Contact Resistance200mΩ max.

Spec-wise, there's little to note here that separates these switches from any other of this type on the market. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding.

Back To iBuypower

It's one thing for an OEM to put its faith into an unproven switch, but it's another for a seller like iBuypower to buy in. It's a bold move that guarantees criticism from knee-jerk commenters. "Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!" would no doubt be the refrain.

On one hand, those commenters would have a point, although iBuypower would surely prefer the term "inexpensive" to "cheap." A company representative did not specify what exactly the cost difference is between TTC switches and the more familiar Cherry switches, but he did say that the delta was "significant." (Gamdias said even less about the cost differential.)

That is in part how iBuypower can offer a relatively full-featured gaming keyboard for $54.

TTC (full name: Trantek Electronics Co.) has been around since 1998 (you've likely clicked TTC switches on a gaming mouse before), but it's now giving mechanical keyboard switches a go. This MEK/Hermes Lite keyboard is among the first (or possibly the first) keyboard shipping with these TTC switches.

That's not to say iBuypower saw the low price tag of TTC's switches and gave a green-eyed thumbs up; a representative told me that iBuypower vetted the switches in-house with its own employees and engineers.

"Some members of our staff consist of former professional gamers, and high level competitive gamers, [who] we felt were qualified in testing/designing the keyboard," he said. "Ultimately we chose [switches that] we felt would serve our market best."

It's further worth noting that although iBuypower is obviously entering the mechanical gaming keyboard market, it's not doing so to necessarily compete with the entrenched players. iBuypower told me that the team felt as though providing a gaming keyboard as a bundle with its high-end custom gaming PCs was simply a natural evolution of its product portfolio. It's an easy plus-one kind of sell.

That internal evolution, though, is perhaps reflective of the evolution of the mechanical-switch keyboard market, which is seeing more companies looking at switch options beyond the tried-and-true offerings from Cherry.

______________________________________________________________________

Seth Colaner is the News Director at Tom's Hardware. He curates and edits the news channel and also writes on a variety of topics. He would have become a professional ultimate Frisbee player, but he was born 15 years too early. 

Follow him on Twitter @SethColaner. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

  • alextheblue
    Speaking of subtle digs...

    "It's a bold move that guarantees criticism from knee-jerk commenters. "Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!" would no doubt be the refrain."

    Ahem. Well the Gamdias with TTC are too close in price to Cherry-equipped boards for my taste, and at that point I could justify buying Cherry just to spite Gamdia for their markup alone, let alone personal preference or other factors. But the iBuypower unit at $55 is worth considering as an entry-level mechanical. HOWEVER, they don't have a model with Browns, in fact it looks like the MEK is only offered in Reds? So it's not for me. Still, good price. Might be a good deal for those who want Reds and are looking for something inexpensive.
    Reply
  • Fullertonman05
    How how did the iBuyPower keyboard perform? Solid for entry-level?
    Reply
  • JQB45
    What is the use case for the Yellow switches?
    Reply
  • CelicaGT
    For that price it's worth a shot I guess. I'm on a dome switch playing mmo's, macro key's are worth more to me that mech switches...But I am curious as to all the hype.
    Reply
  • beoza
    For that price it's worth a shot I guess. I'm on a dome switch playing mmo's, macro key's are worth more to me that mech switches...But I am curious as to all the hype.
    If you need macro keys and also want a mech keyboard Logitech makes some like the G710/710+ with cherry mx switches and the G910 Orion Spark with ROMER-G switches. You can find similar keyboards for the same prices as these out there. I have a Corsair K70 with cherry mx reds and I love the feel of the keys, I can play a lot longer and my wrists don't tend to ache (Carpal tunnel syndrome sucks) like they did with my old rubber dome KB. Once you try a mech keyboard you'll love them and won't want to switch back. They cost more but are well worth the price, you can find them without the 10-key as well if you don't use it.
    Reply
  • CelicaGT
    Hmm, I was looking at the Corsair, but sadly it doesn't have the side row of macro keys, left of WASD. Those are a killer feature as I play FF14 and it has a little skill bloat if you know what I mean. I just wanted to try a low cost unit and see how the typing is, I love my Steelseries but I type like a 3 year old on it ;)
    Reply
  • beoza
    Yup know all about the skill bloat thing, I've played FF14, was a long time WoW player before getting bored and moving on to other games. I'm sure someone here knows of better solutions that what I listed. My k70 doesn't have any macro keys, but it's helped my wrists and made long gaming sessions more enjoyable. Some stores have demo units setup where you can try them and see how they feel but unfortunately they only true was to see how they feel is to actually use them while playing a game. And the only keyboard I've actually seen that has more than 6 macro keys is the K90/95 (18 macro keys) but this kb is about 3-4" longer than standard keyboards.
    Reply
  • synphul
    I don't know if it will be the case with this keyboard from ibuypower but every now and then there's a good deal. I've been pleasantly surprised rolling the dice now and then and going with unheard of components. Most of the time you end up getting what you expected but on occasion you come across a gem.

    Bought a mouse as a cheap replacement, I think it was originally $20 something and found it on sale for $14. Since then the brand (not ibuypower) has become a little more popular and their mice have gone up to the $50-70 range. Oddly enough it's been one of if not the best mouse I've owned.

    Competition in general is a good thing. Even if some mechanical switches end up being cheap knockoffs some good ones may very well surface. Not only will they keep companies like cherry on their toes a bit more, if cherry's mx switches maintain quality I think eventually competitive quality will rise to meet it.

    For years Noctua had hands down the best fans in terms of performance and quality and there was a large step down to many inexpensive fans. The past several years have seen new fan companies join the competition and some older brands stepping up their game. Noctua still makes excellent fans but the overall quality among other choices seems to have greatly improved and now there are multiple high quality choices out there.
    Reply
  • rpjkw11
    At $54, I'll bite! My Ducky Shine III was more than twice the price. This will solve another problem: My wife hogs my rig because she likes a mechanical keyboard, so now she can have her own. Neither of us are gamers, so this one should do quite well.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    16876168 said:
    Hmm, I was looking at the Corsair, but sadly it doesn't have the side row of macro keys, left of WASD. Those are a killer feature as I play FF14 and it has a little skill bloat if you know what I mean. I just wanted to try a low cost unit and see how the typing is, I love my Steelseries but I type like a 3 year old on it ;)

    You are looking at the wrong one. The K95 is the MMO Corsair keyboard. I have one and it has 3 rows of 6 G keys with 3 macro presets so in all 54 possible macros.

    Reply