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Input Devices Hardware

Cherry MX Mechanical Keyboard Switches Compared 223

Posted by timothy
from the so-it's-back-to-scouring-thriftstores dept.
crookedvulture writes "Keyboards with mechanical key switches are enjoying a renaissance of sorts. They're prized by gamers, coders, and writers alike, and Cherry's MX switches are the most popular on newer models. There are MX blue, brown, black, and red switches, each with a different tactile feel and audible note. This comparison of four otherwise identical Rosewill keyboards details how each switch type feels and sounds, complete with audio recordings of the various colors in action. Recommended reading for anyone considering a mechanical keyboard or one of the Rosewills, which cost about $100. Looks like the removable USB cord on these particular models is prone to breakage."
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Cherry MX Mechanical Keyboard Switches Compared

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:32AM (#40983663)

    Sounds like an ad, but seriously I found the best advice there.

    • by cruff (171569)
      Except it doesn't seem to be a very usable site for drilling down into the various categories of keyboards.
  • I bought one (Score:5, Informative)

    by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:33AM (#40983673) Homepage

    from the company that holds the original design patent from IBM for the Model M, and inhereted the process from Lexmark. The keyboard is still built and serviced in Lexington, Kentucky. They ship internationally. have a nice rennaissance.

    http://www.pckeyboard.com/ [pckeyboard.com]

    • by uburoy (1118383) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:36AM (#40983713)
      I would have had first post if only I had the right keyboard ...
    • Re:I bought one (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:40AM (#40983765)
      I bought one about 4 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was made in Kentucky. I love typing on that thing. People know you're serious.
      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>I love typing on that thing. People know you're serious.

        Reminds me of a line from a movie:

        George Clooney: "Are you angry with your laptop?"
        girl: "I type with purpose."
        George:"Keep that up and you'll be typing with carpal tunnel."

        I couldn't hear an IBM Type M keyboard even if I had one. I listen to radio or audiobooks while at work, so I just use whatever keyboard comes with my computer. It's pretty quiet.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          The point of the click is to provide tactile feedback, the auditory feedback is incidental. I'd still use mechanical keyswitches if I were deaf.

          And while we're on the topic, you don't have to hit the keys hard to use a mechanical keyboard. You know exactly how hard you have to hit the keys to get them to activate because of the tactile feedback. And if you overshoot, there's a lot of travel and a gentle increase in resistance.

          Compare a rubber dome keyboard. In order to activate the key switch, you *hav

        • by Misagon (1135)

          The Cherry MX Blue [deskthority.net] switches in the Rosewill keyboards is much lighter than the buckling spring in the IBM/Lexmark/Unicomp keyboards, while still providing tactile feedback and an audible click. They are much easier on the fingers than the Model M or most cheap rubber dome keyboards.

          By the way, there are ways to dampen a buckling spring keyboard's sound. You can dampen the "clack" when bottoming out by installing O-rings around the shafts. You can also remove the ringing almost completely by installing a str

    • Re:I bought one (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:47AM (#40983835) Journal

      Reading the review, it sounds like the Model M is still going to be superior.

      • by Nimey (114278)

        I'm typing on a Unicomp right now. It feels a little lighter than a classic M and there were a couple minor cosmetic issues (mainly with keycaps needing a slight trim) but it's still a solid keyboard and IMO a good buy for $79.

        I've been considering buying one for home so that I can use the Super/Windows key now that more programs are using it, and eventually the PS/2 port is going away.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Reading the review, it sounds like the Model M is still going to be superior.

        ...and cheaper.

        You can get a new one for $79 on pckeyboard.com.

    • by ctheme (2694307)
      I collect keyboards and own both vintage Model M's and Unicomp's reproduction, and am typing this on a 1993 IBM unit. The buckling springs are analogous in design, although it seems to me that they keystems on the Unicomp version are a bit softer and the springs a bit less tensioned. I prefer the originals, as they have a more definite click to them, while Unicomp's are somewhat softer feeling. Of course, both are far and above conventional membrane keyboards. Now if only I could afford a Happy Hacking or
    • I found this very interesting. I work on a Model M at work, and a Das Keyboard with the Cherry MX Brown switches at home. I was always a little disappointed in the Cherry switches, they feel slightly "gritty" or not as snappy, as the author of this article found as well. My next keyboard is likely to come from Unicomp now that you pointed it out!
      • Re:I bought one (Score:4, Informative)

        by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:30AM (#40984391) Homepage

        That's due to the switch design. An MX is a wiping gold plated contact design. Going to be feeling a bit "gritty" for starters. The bucking spring design was superior for tactile feedback- which is why I prefer a Model M "Clacker" over a Cherry keyswitch design- but I'll take a Cherry over the membrane contact and bubble switch designs since it's still superior over those.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Which version are they based on?
      The later lexmark units are inferior to the older 1391401.

    • by CaptBubba (696284)

      I use this same keyboard for work and it is wonderful. It is slightly lighter than the Model M I was using before but feels the same while typing.

    • I've bought 3 ... it's the only thing I want to type on. I've had one for over 3 years and it seems indestructible. The key printing isn't rubbing off either.

      What's great is how they've become viral at work since I've brought mine in. It's great to hear the clickety-clack coming from other offices.

      Relevant to this article, I bought a Rosewill to try. The build quality is less-than-desirable, and I suppose I'll be trying out their warranty service with the referenced USB port issue. I've stopped buying

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      Heh... When I found out about Unicomp I bought one of their keyboards- on the spot. Hoping to get it back out of storage soon. Keyboard I've got is nice, but the clacker's better by leaps and bounds.

    • by greg1104 (461138)

      At this point the Unicomp keyboards are a medicore Model M clone as far as I'm concerned. The build quality of the Model M keyboards was already slipping while being released under the Lexmark name. There is a noticable drop in keyboard feel if you compare a 1994 and 1995 model; there was a 1995 redesign to lower costs [thefreelibrary.com]. And judging from the two Unicomp samples I've tried, the quality kept dropping under their watch.

      • by maztuhblastah (745586) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:51AM (#40984687) Journal

        All the old stuff is better. They just don't make it like they used to. Why back in $YEAR, they were durable and built to last, now $COMPANY's really gone down the drain...

        Or maybe that's just nostalgia... I always get those things confused.

        The "did the Model M quality drop" issue has been covered in depth at Geekhack and other places, and apart from a reduction of the metal back plate by (IIRC) a couple hundred grams, there aren't any substantial differences. (There was also a change in plastic makeup, for what people speculated to be regulatory reasons, but that's about it.) The reduction in weight corresponded in some people's minds -- yours included, apparently -- to a "reduction" in durability, but that's psychological. People perceive heavier things as being sturdier; it's the same reason why some audiophile companies add weights to their products.

        For me the reason to get a Unicomp board in addition to my used Ms was simple:

        Unicomp 0) still makes durable, reliable keyboards 1) actively employs people in the US 2) offers a warranty and repairs any Model M you bring them. None of those things are true if you buy a used Model M.

        • figured id chime in again and mention that yes, the warranty is absolutely valid. I had a 101 classic shipped with keys that were DOA (ctrl, alt, and numlock) and the turnaround from Lexington to Los Angeles was 3 days. The packaging was very well done, and the entire keyboard had been replaced for free along with an apology from an actual carbon lifeform over the phone.
          my spacesaver 104 with the windows keys feels a bit tighter than the 101 for keyclicks, but its not a bad thing. after 2 years of heav
        • by Svartalf (2997)

          The problem lies in more of adapting the "old stuff" to the new. Upshot is that Unicomp's offering USB models along with USB models with the "eraser" mouse in it. Pretty useful for server settings and the like. I'll adapt my old Model M keyboards and the like as long as I can, but I'll buy a Unicomp as long as they are in business for a "newer" keyboard.

        • Re:I bought one (Score:5, Interesting)

          by spauldo (118058) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @02:17PM (#40987077)

          None of those things are true if you buy a used Model M.

          I'm sure it's not an official policy, but I was missing a few keycaps off a Model M (a 1980s model) and shot off an email to Unicomp to ask them if I could buy just a few caps from them. I made it clear that I was expecting to pay for them.

          The guy emailed me back, asking what keycaps I was missing. I answered, and then didn't hear from him again. A week or so later, I get a small box in the mail with my keycaps.

          I had never given Unicomp a dime of my money - this was an old IBM product I wanted parts for. Since then, I've bought three of their keyboards, and they're the only keyboard I'll buy.

    • by l00sr (266426)

      This is confusing, as the Model M is based on a buckling spring, not a mechanical switch as the keyboards in the article have. Also, it's worth mentioning that there are vastly different Model M's--IIRC, the earlier ones have a softer feel, and the later ones require much more pressure. I have a Unicomp Model M, and it appears to be closer to the latter, which I dislike.

    • I wanted to get one from them, but their shipping calculator doesn't include my country; I tried to ask, and they never replied to my email. Went to eBay and got a Solidtek 6600 instead.

    • by dskoll (99328)

      I bought two... one for home and one for work (my beloved original Model M keyboard finally died.)

      Those keyboards are the best computer peripherals I've bought in a long time.

    • by sl149q (1537343)

      I keep meaning to buy some keyboards from there, but the six Model M's I have on my desk and in my lab refuse to die.... I'm stuck on old keyboards that look old, are dirty and don't have any of the modern keys... and have old PS2 style cables. Something like 15 years old and the refuse to DIE!

      Really PCKeyboard (aka Unicomp) I really will be buying some keyboards from you ... real soon now.... if these Model M's would just DIE.

  • by ZiakII (829432) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:36AM (#40983707)
    Hands down the best set of information have ever seen about mechanical keyboards was this forum post [overclock.net] on the topic it has everything you want to know about the subject.
    • by bdbr (1882500)
      The guide is nicely technical, but doesn't describe usability very well. I used that guide to buy a Rosewill keyboard with MX Blue (for typing only) at work. It really misses the key points of this evaluation - particularly the way it will "pelt you with shrill, high-pitched clicks". I'm surprised my cube neighbors haven't asked me to stop using it because it's so damned noisy. Also that they're "almost too crisp" - they have such a light touch (compared to the IBM M that I still use at home) that after six
      • That would very much be my assessment of the Cherry key switches over the IBM buckling springs - the IBM is heavier, and louder, but the key sound is probably less irritating (even if people do comment about the machine gun noise on conference calls...)

        In addition, they don't have the longevity of the IBM switches, the switches on my G80-3000 are slightly less reliable now. While I have confidence in my current keyboard lasting me a few more decades, I really wish I'd bought the other one from the same vend

    • by awyeah (70462) *

      I never thought I'd read something that would make me feel so bad about my keyboard chioces. :(

  • Does anyone make a Bluetooth keyboard with mechanical switches, or is it all just USB or PS/2? (And why would anyone want to use PS/2 in a new design, anyway?)

    • And why would anyone want to use PS/2 in a new design, anyway?

      Some users of KVM switches or older computers may find it useful and I doubt there is any signficiant cost difference between a chip that can scan a keyboard and output over USB and one that can scan a keyboard and autodetects USB or PS2.

      Also IIRC there is a design flaw in the USB keyboard specs which limits the number of keys that can register as down at the same time.

  • People like to swear by mechanical keyboards. However, mechanical keyboards make me start swearing. I find it hard to concentrate when suffering that cacophanous sound constantly and it ruins any semblance of a tranquil work environment for me.

    To each their own, I guess

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      People like to swear by mechanical keyboards. However, mechanical keyboards make me start swearing. I find it hard to concentrate when suffering that cacophanous sound constantly and it ruins any semblance of a tranquil work environment for me.

      Glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't like the cacophony these keyboards generate. It seems they're even more annoying in an office environment. I understand the appeal on a tactile level, but never liked the noise. If they made it so they were quieter, perhap

    • by danhuby (759002)

      I agree.

      Despite all the talk of positive feedback, accuracy, key travel, etc. I find I get on best with an Apple keyboard, which has little feedback and almost no key travel (probably less so than a typical laptop keyboard).

      It's quiet and effortless, and very comfortable to use. When I'm forced to use another keyboard (e.g. on-site at a customer's offices) I often find it way too noisy. In a quiet office it's almost embarrassing to type when there's a loud 'clack' sound with each key press.

  • I have no idea what the hell any of this is about. Mechanical keyboards?
    So you have to start them up like a chainsaw or something?
    Are they like the old C-64/VT100 keyboards. Cause you needed kung-fu death fingers to type on those.
  • by MikeyTheK (873329) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:58AM (#40983951)
    I have a DAS Keyboard with brown Cherry switches. They are 45g to activate, and not clicky. The keyboard is not silent, but it is certainly not noisy, either. This is the best feeling keyboard I own, and maybe the best feeling one I have ever owned. I have pounded the crap out of it for over a year and it still works, as one would expect. Every time I shop for a laptop, I just cringe when I feel the keys and I think about spending all day using it.
    • What's the key stroke depth like? Have you ever typed on a Model M for comparison? I like the feel of a model M (and I have two - an original and a Unicomp) - but the key travel is a bit long for my tastes.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I have Model M at work and Das Keyboard with Cherry MX Browns at home. They're both great. If I had to chose one, I would chose the Browns over the buckling springs. It's just a little easier to type all day without fatigue, and they are much easier on your co-workers' ears. They are slightly lighter to actuate and just a shade less springy.

        However, you do give up the extra-ordinarily crisp and precise actuation point that the buckling spring has. The spring has the most fluid and crisp motion of any o

    • by Asmor (775910)

      I've got two of the Das Ultimate keyboards, one at work and one at home. I love them.

      Using the blue cherry switches. They're really not all that loud at all, despite the company selling earplugs for your coworkers. :)

    • Yes, I'd love to see a laptop with a mechanical-switch keyboard. No idea how viable it is weight-wise. And since thinness is the new end-all-be-all of laptop design, it's very unlikely to ever happen.
  • The Truly Ergonomic Keyboard [trulyergonomic.com] is a smaller ergonomic keyboard that currently only comes with Cherry MX Brown switches.

    There are other, larger, keybards like the Maltron or Kinesis that are ergonomic with mechanical switches, but they tend to be enormous, while the "Truly Ergonomic" is similar in size to the "Happy Hacker" keyboard.

  • Another advantage of my decades old model M is the keys don't stick. I have a POS dell mushboard at work and my biggest annoyance is you need to hit the keys, especially the larger keys, precisely up and down or they stick half way or slip-stick-slip-stick before they hit. So unconsciously the poor quality makes repetitive stress injuries more likely.

  • Using a mini-B connector was a poor choice. The Mini-B was not designed for many plug-unplug cycles, Micro-B is designed for many more cycles, in addition, the portion that wears is the plug-end, not the soldered down jack.
  • by wytcld (179112)

    These come in variants with the various Cherry keys, and also without the keypad, which is very good if (1) you don't use a keypad and (2) you're right handed and don't want the mouse too far away. Here [amazon.com] - anyone tried them? I haven't. Tempted though.

  • for it to get back in fashion. Yay!

  • by Freddybear (1805256) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:27AM (#40984345)

    You can get foam "landing pads" which eliminate the bottoming-out clackiness of all the cherry-type keyboards. That makes all but the blue switches almost entirely silent.

    http://elitekeyboards.com/products.php?sub=access,slpads [elitekeyboards.com]

    • by arkhan_jg (618674)

      If you're bottoming out a cherry keyboard though, you're probably doing it wrong. Cherry switches have the activation point somewhat higher than the bottom of the key travel - so you can touch type with a lighter 'gliding' motion across the keys, only depressing them as much as you need to to hit the activation point. Some, like the blues and browns give you a tactile 'change in force' when you hit it, so you know you've activated and can start back on the way up. This is hard to learn to do though, especia

  • I wish I could get a buckling spring design without the numpad. (or with the numpad on the left) Who has room for that? Looks like you can get a keyboard with those CherryMX switches without the numpad (for substantial cost) but I've never actually tried one of those before. I wish I could give it a shot first.

  • Few years old, but still contains lots of interesting stuff

    http://www.overclock.net/t/491752/mechanical-keyboard-guide [overclock.net]
  • WASD keyboards (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I can't believe no one mentioned WASD keyboards:
    http://www.wasdkeyboards.com

    You can fully customize the keyboard, from what is printed on each key (and what font is used) and what color the key is, to what type of switches they use.
    They don't cost much more than other mechanical boards.

    I highly recommend them!

  • I looked at several keyboards using Cherry switches and after price comparisons, I could buy a full blown Cherry Keyboard similar to the IBM Model M for the same cost as the damn Rosewill crap on Newegg. You have to go to CDW.com for them but better build quality and such is the advantage and that's where my next keyboard is coming from.

  • by PPH (736903)

    A Model F [clickykeyboards.com] keyboard with a custom USB converter.

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