Results: Volume And Activation Force
Keyboards can be a bit more difficult to test than, say, CPUs or graphics cards. There’s no Sandra or 3DMark for peripherals. As a result, we had come up with various testing methods to “benchmark” these products.
Our volume test compares the noise each keyboard creates while typing five paragraphs of dummy text from lipsum.com. Each was recorded with a microphone array one foot away that allows us to control the ambient noise level and cancel out any sound not coming directly from the keyboards. The average decibel level of the entire test gives us a pretty accurate representation of each board’s average operational volume.
As we might have expected, at around 60 dB, the Razer BlackWidow is by far the loudest due to its mechanical switch design. That puts the Razer in the same range as a moderately loud conversation. Depending on your environment, it isn't hard to imagine the folks around you getting annoyed by loud key presses.
The Siig and Kensington keyboards both come in at 38 dB, which is about average for a notebook keyboard. Neither is completely silent, but they certainly won't irk someone sitting nearby.
At 42 dB, the Logitech K800 is only slightly louder.
Finger exhaustion and strain over time are not unusual for most power users, and actuation force plays a big part in that. The more force needed to press any given key, the faster you'll become fatigued. To test this, we used a set of small stacked weights. We placed them, one at a time, on a selected key until it depressed. To help ensure accuracy, the front of each board was tilted upward until the keys were completely level.
Unexpectedly, the BlackWidow actually requires the least amount of force to trigger at just 0.049 Newtons. While this board’s high noise level might have made you think it'd require considerably more force to register each key, our tests show the exact opposite to be true. Meanwhile, at almost 0.068 Newtons, the Kensington board took the most force to register a keystroke. The Logitech and Siig boards are much closer to the Kensington than the Razer, scoring 0.062 and 0.064 Newtons, respectively.
The data shows that there doesn’t seem to be any direct correlation between activation force and noise level. Ultimately, though, these measurements really only matter if you plan to use one of these keyboards extensively. If you're only buying a peripheral for LAN party gaming, characterized by plenty of noise, headsets, and hours of gaming at a time (rather than days of use), these results might be superficial to you.