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Mechanical Keyboards: BlackWidow, Osmium, G710+

Results: Key Rollover And Ghosting Results

About Key Rollover And Ghosting

Key rollover and ghosting are two of the more important factors of a keyboard’s real performance. Insufficient rollover results in missing key inputs, while ghosting occurs when two or more depressed keys cause a third “phantom” keystroke to be activated. Considering that the keyboard’s primary function is to serve as a go-between for you and the system itself, anything that can cause interference is pretty important when benchmarking these things.

Most consumer keyboards typically use a grid system for determining which keys you’re pressing. For most, this is enough, as only awkward combinations like the letters “T+H+G” pressed all at once would cause a failure. In gaming, however, things get a bit dicey. A common sequence in a first person shooter, for example, would be “Shift+W+R” corresponding to crouching while moving forward and reloading a weapon. “W” and “R” almost always share a horizontal row, but because they are typically on separate vertical columns, that alone wouldn’t be too big of a deal. Sometimes, though, “Shift” and “W” will share a vertical row (it sounds weird but that’s the case with one of our old laptops), which will, in turn, cause a keyboard to misread the press.

As a general rule, mechanical keyboards have become popular with gamers, specifically because they tend to isolate key presses by using a distinct switch for each and every key. Instead of shorting an entire row or column, all of the keys can be more or less reliably detected, allowing all the input to be relayed back to the computer. With more and more games being played competitively in the world of eSports, it’s no wonder so many are turning to more reliable equipment.

That said, each of these devices uses a USB interface instead of PS2, meaning that an on-board controller had to interpret each press and then encode and send that data to the computer for processing. Historically, that’s always meant a limit on the number of keys that can be reliably understood by the keyboard, and to a degree, that’s still true. Because of that, none of these boards will be perfect.

Testing

Razer advertises 10-key rollover in gaming mode, and we still don’t understand why it can’t just be active all the time. Meanwhile, Logitech’s website claims a 26-key rollover on the G710+, and Gigabyte says that their controller can handle up to 64 independent keys simultaneously. While ludicrous, these numbers are still easily testable, something that can’t necessarily be said of mice. However, since the average person only has 10 digits to use for typing, we did have to call in a few friends to help.

We used a simple utility that is freely available from Microsoft’s Applied Sciences research division, Keyboardtester.com’s software, and Passmark’s Keyboard Benchmarking software.

Since these are mechanical keyboards, no preference was given to assumed rows or columns of keys. Instead, we press one standard key, followed by a modifier (Shift, Ctrl, Alt), repeating that process until we hit the alleged limit of each board, and then randomly release each key to ensure that the order was being accurately reported.

Each keyboard performs about as well as its advertised figured indicates, but in the cases of Razer and Logitech, their numbers are a fair bit better than was expected.

Despite the admirable performance of each board, the stand-out here is the Osmium. At 60 keys depressed simultaneously, even a full-sized computer keyboard starts to get crowded, especially when you consider all the people standing around it. For the last few, we tossed on some small objects to hold them down.

The nature of the test alone should prove just how silly these numbers are. At the most extreme, an average player might have a friend playing on the same keyboard, and so maybe 20 keys would be necessary, but anything beyond that is largely just for bragging rights.

Really talented typists can hit over 100 words per minute and at around five characters per word, that amounts to more than eight keys per second. Ignoring the time it takes to activate the keys or even the pause between presses, no one will ever need 64- or even 28-key rollover. At one point, USB controllers had problems handling more than 6 keys, but our tests show that this simply isn’t true anymore. For all intents and purposes, the Logitech and Gigabyte boards have N-key rollover, and unless you regularly find yourself with an extra few dozen fingers, none of these three boards  are limited by anything more than your own reaction time.

  • retrac1324
    I don't understand how you included "actuation force" into the overall keyboard score, it's personal preference.
    Reply
  • slicedtoad
    umm, why does it say that lower actuation force is better on the graph? Right above the graph it says
    Keys that are too easy to press can be easy to accidentally trigger, while keys that are too stiff can be particularly exhausting after long typing sessions.
    Using that as a scoring metric is somewhat absurd.
    Reply
  • slicedtoad
    On another note, razer. I really wish I could endorse their products. They have neat designs and features and sell at a decent price point. But I've had 5 razer products and only one of them is still in use, the rest are broken or returned for not working correctly.

    I had the non-ultimate black widow and it worked excellently for a year and a half and then just crapped out randomly (sent out a random key sequence whenever plugged in). There was no physical damage and I treat my peripherals very well.

    Every time I had a problem with a razer product I kept thinking, "this must just be an outlier and not representative of Razer", but I can't really say that anymore. Mostly I use logitech now. And for keyboards (since logitech just started mechanicals) I use daskeyboard.
    Reply
  • Vorador2
    Personally i prefer old school. Using an Unicomp keyboard, a clone of the classic IBM Model M. It is really loud, but built like a tank.
    Reply
  • adamovera
    11529348 said:
    I don't understand how you included "actuation force" into the overall keyboard score, it's personal preference.

    Carpal tunnel. The harder you have to press and the more you type, the faster this can get you. I'd have to imagine that the lower actuation point on the Blue switches would make them the worst for that - though Razer makes gaming peripherals, not keyboards for typists, so their choice does make sense if you're going for a "trigger" effect. In any event, I seriously doubt any of these top-end keyboards have a too low actuation force issue. They should all be quite solid feeling, and unless you have incredibly heavy hands, that's typically not an issue in this class of product. The preference is probably more between switch types and the different ways they go about providing tactile feedback than any leanings toward a certain amount of force needed to depress a key.
    Reply
  • Someone Somewhere
    There's nothing that stops mechanical keyboards from being in a grid layout - it's less common, but possible.

    Also, conventional/cheap boards still use individual switches (one per key). It's the type of those switches that make it mechanical (spring-loaded contacts instead of a conductive dome on PCB traces), and rollover etc. is all because of how it's wired to a microcontroller.
    Reply
  • Western Infidel
    Had my fair share of TOTR Logitech and Razer Keyboards and to be honest, all of them have either failed prematurely, had the symbols "rub off" the keys through use (unacceptable for kb's in that price range) or just fit into the "look nice, but cheap tat with crap feel" category. In fact i have been pretty underwhelmed, disappointed, cheated by everything until i bought a Corsair Vengeance K90. That K90 was expensive when i bought it but i soon realised that it was money well spent. It is simply awesome, it was so good i bought a second one for my partner and recommended that my friends also buy one, some of whom have and are equally ecstatic. I will admit to owning the Logitech DiNovo Edge - thats used in the lounge with the media center and whilst not very rugged and not mechanical is better than any of the wireless keyboards ive had for media center use, although the software is prone to freezing sometimes. Im still very happy with my Razer Deathadder Mouse (without the Cloud Driver nonsense).

    My advice would be to check out the corsair K90 or the newer K95 before you throw money at the others.
    Reply
  • ubercake
    I like the feel of the browns and blues. They feel mechanical. The blacks and reds to me feel like non-mechanical keys.

    Keyboards aren't pretty, but the 710+ is just plain ugly. Who thought pairing orange with black and gray would be a good idea? Also, it only has white lighting.

    Anyhow, I was able to pick up a 710+ for $99 new on sale. While it's ugly, it's a great keyboard from a practicality/usability standpoint. I like how you can change the lighting level of the wasd cluster independent of the rest of the keys. The tactile and audible feedback of the browns has got to be my favorite of the bunch. I'm constantly using the roller-style volume control too. I wouldn't pay $150 for it though.
    Reply
  • Hayden Jones
    I find it sad that Corsair was not included and the CM storm peripherals considering the fact that those keyboards seem to be more customizable based on macros/switches and these "high end" keyboards are synonymous with overpriced and over marketed.
    Reply
  • madogre
    I have owned both the Gigabyte and Logitech keyboards from this review, and I must say the G710+ hands down is the better keyboard for me. The only problem I have had out of the G710 is some of the led's went out after I got it(twice RMA'd the first one for the same thing) I also had the LED's go out in the Gigabyte keyboard as well, but the Macro keys where in such a bad place I just could never get comfortable using them, so I returned it and got the G710+, I would like for them to make a G720+ with a LCD screen like the old G15 I would buy one in a flash!
    Reply