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

Test System And The Five Candidates

Test configuration and selection of the test objects

Our test introduces five mechanical keyboards that are currently on the market. We received a Mionix Zibal 60, but because the manufacturer dragged its feet sending us the layout we wanted, we decided to test the Ione X-Armor instead. This wired sister of the U27 is already a legend among aficionados.

The games used for testing include typical representatives from various genres, from Doom 3, Half Life 2, Crysis 2, WoW, and Need for Speed to Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein, Jack Jazzrabbit, and some other classics, which we test on a separate DOS-based system. WoW represents the test category of suitability for massively multi-player online role-playing games. Word processing capability is tested in Microsoft Word 2007.

Test System

We affix great importance to a native PS/2 interface, because the current high-end keyboards have at least one of these ports. We also used technology and games that exclude delays caused by an overloaded system.

Test System 1 (2011)
CPU and Cooler
Intel Core i7 2600K (Sandy Bridge) @ 4.5 GHz, Prolimatech Genesis, 2 x Vertex Blue                
Mainboard and RAM      Gigabyte Z68X-UD7B3, 8 GB Kingston HyperX 1600 Genesis
Graphics Card
Gainward GeForce GTX 580 Phantom
Hard Drive
Samsung SSD 470-Series, 1 TB WD Caviar Blue
Connection Ports
PS/2 and USB, both tested
Operating System
Windows Ultimate x64

Of course, we ran classic games in their usual environments. For this, we revved up an older test machine.

Test System 2 (1992)
Cyrix 386 DX40                                                                                                                                 
RAM      8 MB RAM
Graphics Card
Tsenglabs ET3000
Hard Drive
IBM, 500 MB
Connection Ports
PS/2 (via original Cherry Adapter PS/2 to DIN )
Operating System         MS-DOS 6.1

Keyboards Tested

Overview of the keyboards tested
SteelSeries 6Gv2

Ione X-Armor U9BL

Ione X-Armor U27 (Gemini)

Zowie Celeritas

Razer BlackWidow

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  • Anonymous
    "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.
  • skaz
    Great write up! I have a tenkeyless Leopold cherry brown and love it.
  • leather_daddy
    Where is the Filco Majestouch in the product list?
  • steve11
    Poorly done overview. A lot of keyboard missing in action.
  • stiehl
    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.
  • michaelahess
    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.
  • Stardude82
    My Model M is too cool for this review.
  • fakie
    wheres the das keyboard model s ultimate?
  • mortsmi7
    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
    Where is the Model M? Is it too cool for this review?
    And it's "buckling spring", not "bent spring"
  • Luay
    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.
  • dragonfang18
    I wish they gave out sample for me to try before buying....
  • TheProfosist
    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!
  • faresbg
    It should be 50 000 000 not 50 000!
  • pocketdrummer
    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.
  • dragonfang18
    What about daskeyboard? I saw a pic while looking at cherry MX keys yet no review?
  • aaron88_7
    My $30 wireless Logitech is still better
  • TheProfosist
    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
    I have an old MS Internet Keyboard Pro from 2000 - does anyone know what kind of switches it uses? Are they mechanical?
  • Anonymous
    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.