Recently my wife’s been on a quest to reduce our EMF exposure. I’ve been using the built-in keyboard of my Sager gaming laptop, and she suggested that I switch to a keyboard accessory.
Therefore, I picked up a non-mechanical keyboard, the Logitech K740, from a nearby Staples. The main issue with the K740 is that it’s full-width and has a tenkey numpad I never use. From an ergonomic standpoint, the keyboard width forced the mouse to be placed too far off my center line, and this was not comfortable. So I decided that a tenkeyless (compact) keyboard would be the way to go.
Top (@unindel) recommended that I take a look at mechanical keyboards, which provide a more customizable and richer tactile experience relative to rubber dome keyboards. I found a good option in the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid – Tenkeyless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard with Cherry MX Red Switches, which was favorably reviewed on various shopping sites (e.g. Amazon.com, Newegg.com) and forums, and it had a reasonable price point just under $100 USD.
The keyboard came sturdily packaged:
As I had hoped, the compact keyboard allowed for comfortable alignment and distance between my left hand on the keyboard and my right hand on the mouse, which is my default setup when gaming. From an ergonomic standpoint, I want my hands to be about shoulder width apart.
There are several design characteristics that influenced my decision to pick up a CM Storm keyboard:
- Each key is concave, so your finger naturally falls into the middle of the key when depressing
- There is a meaningful gap and crevice between each key and surrounding keys, which helps with correct finger placement
- Each key has good travel distance, which prevents misfires from brush contact
I’ve only been using the QuickFire keyboard for a few days, but I already love it! The only downside to the keyboard is that it’s somewhat noisy, and in the heat of PVP, my wife can hear me clicking madly away in the next room. LOL.
Aside from brand, the main thing one has to decide with a mechanical keyboard is which Cherry MX mechanical switches to go with. There are 4 switch options, denoted by color, and per the manufacturer each option is tuned differently:
- Blue: for typists, tactile actuation bump, actuation click sound, 60cN actuation force
- Brown: for typists, tactile actuation bump, no actuation click sound, 55cN actuation force
- Red: for gamers, no tactile actuation bump, no actuation click sound, 45cN actuation force
- Black: for gamers, no tactile actuation bump, no actuation click sound, 60cN actuation force
I found an article and poll which recommends Cherry MX Brown instead of the Red I’m using. I’m tempted to order the Rapidfire keyboard with Brown switches to see which works best for me.
I got several dozen responses on Twitter about this topic. Here’s a link to the conversation:
Another thing to consider for your Cherry MX switches is whether to install O-Rings to prevent bottoming out the keys (which means less noise) and to reduce the travel distance. From reading various forums, 0.2mm O-Rings seem preferred over 0.4mm O-Rings, as the latter decrease the travel of the keys too much.
What keyboard are you using, and if you have Cherry MX switches, which color(s) have you used and what’s your take on them? What do you think of O-Rings?
I did extensive hands-on testing on Red versus Brown Cherry MX switches and Red versus Blue O-rings. You can read about that here.
Ok, the high voltage power line and stuff.
Not just that. Some folks believe that exposure to EMF, even from consumer electronic devices, can be detrimental long-term to one’s health.
I’m being mindful of it now.
I used a Ducky keyboard with Brown switches for just under 2 years before one of the keys finally broke. It takes a while to get used to typing and gaming on it, and in my opinion, it doesn’t feel significantly better or worse than a standard rubber domed keyboard, just different. So now I’m back to a Logitech K310 (just cos it’s easier to keep clean).
If you are concerned about the noise, consider investing in a set of O-Ring switch dampeners. They are relatively cheap, and most mechanical keyboard retailers should carry them.
That said, I never did get the point of a Tenkeyless design though. If you were going to save space by cutting off the number pad, why not go all the way and rearrange the directional arrow columns as well, like what laptop keyboards are already doing. All that blank space in between the keys are wasted, and when was the last time you used Home/End/Insert/Delete/PageUp/PageDown?
Did you ever try the Red switches?
I’m curious about Brown vs Red, if anyone has firsthand experience with both.
Yes, I may do that.
Do the dampeners affect the feel of the keyboard noticeably?
Laptop layouts tend to be pretty cramped.
I like having the arrow keys and Home/End/Insert/Delete/PageUp/PageDown in a column, along with PrtSc, etc.
I’ve never personally had them when I was still using my Ducky, but from what I gather, O-Rings don’t just reduce the noise. It also provides a cushion for bottoming out, especially if you are a heavy handed typist like me (or when you get excited and start banging on your keyboard).
It’s the main reason I chose Browns over Reds in the first place when I was trying them out at the store. Red switches are incredibly light, and with no actuation bump, I figured I’d be smacking the bottom constantly, which is likely going to hurt my fingers after a while.
I can see the value that Browns bring over Red with the actuation bump.
Do you find the actuation pressure for Brown keys to be high? I like how light the Red keys are, they are effortless to press.
What I might do is pick up O-Rings for my Red keyboard to decrease the travel distance and provide more feedback on keypress.
I can’t find the source right now, but when I did my research before and from some experience, Brown switches are just as light as Reds up until the actuation point (45cN). Past the bump, it supposedly gets slightly stiffer (55cN), which acts as a sort of “braking” mechanism – in theory that is. In practice, I rarely feel the difference unless I was paying attention to it.
TL;DR: Cherry MX Red is too noisy for me. Now have a gamepad, and a separate compact, wireless, extremely comfortable and silent keyboard for typing. Fits well between the gamepad and mouse.
I’ve used Corsair Vengeance K70 Black (design) with Cherry MX Red, and I found it too noisy. I am very reliant on a silent setup and use, and also have a very silent case (NZXT H2). This primarily due to my hearing condition, or what you call it, named Tinnitus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinnitus). It’s sort of difficult to explain, but let’s just say I like things around me to be quiet, though it rarely is.
I’ve always used a keyboard for gaming, but thought I’d try something drastic. I found this keyboard that was supposedly very silent, and very compact (Logitech BT Illuminated Keyboard K810). Now, this isn’t for gaming, but it being wireless I could move it around with ease, and having tested it I’ve found it extremely comfortable to type on, and it IS actually very silent. I have never experienced a more comfortable keyboard, for typing. My hand rests on my desk rather than the heightened thing you use though.
To supplement my gaming needs, I figured I’d try something that initially seemed weird to me: A gamepad. Ended up with the Logitech G13, partially because of my love for and experience with Logitech (also have a Logitech MX518 mouse, and had a Logitech G930 wireless headset). To my surprise it is extremely comfortable, and I have enough buttons. It being this small, I can easily move it around.
The WASD default keys go down on the middle more so than the others, to recognize you have your hand in the right spot. I found them to be placed incorrectly/strange, with W being on the top row. I don’t want that. I want my numbers up there! So I moved my grip down, still being comfortable, having what normally was ASD now be QWE, as that’s my movement keys in all games. S remains under W though, so I can move backwards in FPS games, and Wildstar’s dodging and breakout thing. From that position my hand lays comfortably, and I can reach every button easilly. I only lift my hand to reach the corners which are ESC to the left, and mount on the right (Z in Wildstar).
My setup from left to right is now the gamepad, keyboard, and then mouse. This is a very flexible setup. The only thing that bothers me is that all the buttons on my G13 are labeled G1-G22. I would like a lid on every button where I could put a tiny bit of paper saying “W” or something, although that’d kind of fuck up the multi-profile thingy. I should just learn the keys, but it’s a bit difficult for some reason. I too often find myself looking down at my hand to reposition it. Less so with the G13 than with keyboards though.
I will tweet you a picture, with measures, once I get home from work. If I remember it. If I don’t, and you’re curious, hit me up :)
That being said, the keyboard you reviewed looks pretty damn awesome!
Looking forward to it.
I wonder how you handle having so many devices next to one another. Doesn’t it spread your arms too wide?
Sorry, forgot about this completely! No, I can easily fit the narrow keyboard between the pad and mouse, though it might be too wide for your preferences. And the buttons are not too tiny, as on many smaller keyboards. Tweet will come soon!
Yes, I’m realizing noise is an issue too.
While Reds don’t give the clickety clack that Blues do, I’m constantly bottoming out the keys, and it’s an annoyance to my wife – totally understandable.
I’ve checked a few shopping sites and the keyboards I’m interested in with Brown switches are all out of stock.
I love this keyboard, but the noise will likely drive me to switch to Brown.
Heya Ed! Used to pvp ya in SWTOR sometimes. And we really miss seeing ya on GBTV (gw2 buildcast). Anyhow, I use the Merc Stealth. It’s massive :( but i LOVE the left side quadrant for all gaming needs. Here’s a link- http://steelseries.com/us/products/keyboards/steelseries-merc-stealth picked it up on e-bay brandnew for $30 USD (lucky bid).
You got a great deal!
What’s interesting about the left-hand quadrant is that it’s slightly more ergonomic than just remapping keys on the left-hand side of the keyboard, which is what I do.
The keyboard is really wide though. A tenkeyless version would be more comfotable to use.
I completely agree. It takes up a LOT of desk real estate, but it sure does the job. I have this paired with a Naga Elite (wired/wireless) mmo mouse and i never lack for a keybind on my hotbars :)
I use a Razer Blackwidow Ultimate keyboard. I love it. It uses Blue switches and I like the tactile click when you press a key.The macro keys are also very useful.
Did you try other switch colors aside from Blue?
I hear Blue is very much a love/hate thing with the loud clicks from actuation.
This is the first keyboard I have that used the has Cherry MX switches. The keys sound like the old school IBM keyboards. I have seen videos that compare the sound of the different colors and to me they all sound about the same. The blues sound a little bit higher pitched to me. I don’t even notice the sound of the keys anymore honestly.
Hey Taugrim, been a while since I visited your blog. Nice to see you’re still updating once in a while! ;D
I personally use the Logitech peripheral set; I specifically use the G710+ mechanical keyboard (it comes with O-rings pre-installed on the keys, which makes it much quieter than most mechanical keyboards out-of-box, plus 6 programmable macro keys for all your laziness—er, I mean convenience—needs), G502 programmable DPI mouse (VERY useful for FPS games, and the customizable weight is nice), and the G430 headset. My only real complaint is that the headset’s cushion is a bit narrow and tends to make your head hurt after several hours of wearing it… which under further consideration is probably is a good thing since it basically tells me that I’ve been playing video games for too long, lol.
And I don’t know how you can manage without a number pad. Every time I type any kind of number I always use it. I’d go crazy without it. I hate having to hunt-and-peck at the top of the keyboard for it, lol.
I think brown switches are the best .. whats your opinion on that Ed Park ??? I use the Nixeus MODA Mechanical keyboard
I bought a 2nd CM Storm keyboard (the newer Stealth model) with Cherry MX Brown switches.
After trying both the Red and the Brown, I ended up sticking with the Red for a few reasons:
1. the Brown’s actuation bump is pretty subtle, not enough to get me from stopping a keypress mid-stroke
2. the activation point is so high on a Cherry MX key, like literally 2mm of pushing down
3. Red keys feel like butter, very easy to press
I took some pics of the setups I tried. When I have some time I’ll post them.
This is the primary keyboard I have that utilized the has Cherry MX switches. The keys sound like the outdated IBM keyboards. I have seen recordings that analyze the sound of the various hues and to me they all stable about the equivalent. The blues sound somewhat sharp sounding to me. I don’t see the sound of the keys any longer genuinely.