If our guides were written by some trendy chick lit novelist, we’d start off by saying that there are times when you forget about the price and the consequences and feel like throwing your cheap keyboard out of the window as it has brought you so much pain and loss (by that I mean frags, of course). Simply put, today you’ll find out how a mechanical keyboard is constructed and what criteria you should take into account when picking one in the price range between $80 and $170. Finally, I’ll let you check out 4 keyboards with the best software and design. There will also be the best universal mechanical keyboard for gaming and for work for amateurs.
The conjuncture is such that most of the mass market keyboards are membrane ones. The reason for that is historic as once the TV set manufacturing has become large-scale, the producers have simply started saving on the remote control design and equipping it with mere membrane rubber buttons. Despite the design refinements and high-profile names, membrane keyboards are not the best quality product, especially for gamers. If you, like me, don’t consider yourself to be a common consumer, then read on.
The Advantages of a Mechanical Keyboard and the Principles of Its Functioning
Why Do You Need a Mechanical Keyboard and Why Pay More?
Most readers will likely be resented, will close their browser tab and go on tapping on their membrane keyboard bought at a random consumer electronics store upon quoting the mechanical keyboards prices (~$30-900). This may be reasonable for those who are far from the gaming world and who only use their PC to check their email. But I dare say that our readers are people who elicit pleasure not only by absorbing the information coded by the game developers but also by using the gaming devices.
So what would a mechanical keyboard give you?
Smooth and easy hits.
Lack of discomfort when you tap for a long time be it a simple chat or time-consuming work.
Durability and millions of hits.
Pleasant touch even after a year of use.
After using a mechanical keyboard for a couple of hours, you will barely want to switch back to a membrane one.
Lack of annoying plastic sounds of hitting (however, some models position this aspect as their competitive edge as the hits are very loud).
Is it worth it? It surely is. Note that I don’t advertise any certain model, and that I only opt for the technology, which is one of the oldest and most reliable in the world. The gamers have understood the whole potential of such devices only in 2014 when Razer launched its legendary keyboard. Since that time mechanical keyboards have filled the niche of the eSports market and reached the ordinary gamers. Of course, general hardware price inflation can be felt, but let me warn that despite that an average mechanical gaming keyboard is worth its price. Undoubtedly just like with any type of device, you’ll find renowned overpriced brands, but overall the choice is wide and you’ll be able to find a keyboard to meet your budget.
The Core of the Device or What a Mechanical Keyboard is Made of
Obviously, the keyboard is all about the keys. Mechanical gaming keyboards are known for its mechanical switches. Most of them are Cherry MX of different colors, and it’s not simply the color that makes difference between them.
Cherry MX Black. The hit of the switch is smooth and even, and it doesn’t click. Its main advantage for a gamer is that the moment of hit and letting go is equal. What does it translate into? For instance, this allows hitting the key non-stop like crazy without fearing response delay during QTE scenes in the game. All of that is possible due to the lack of tactile touch and the mechanism’s all the way functioning. Mind that the whole idea of a mechanical keyboard is the insurance against frequent repeat hits.
Cherry MX Red. This is a light version of a previous switch. The hit is light and is practically intangible. It won’t fit everyone’s hands, though. Many people rely on their tactile perception when gaming, and here it is too subtle. That’s why the gamers who are used to force hits will be disappointed, as the MX Red keys are too ethereal and you won’t always understand whether you’ve actually hit one. Let me emphasize though that this switch is considered to be on the same level as Cherry MX Black in terms on suitability for gaming, so there are lots of people whose fingers are well adapted for such “enhanced lightness”.
Cherry MX Blue. This version provides superior soft tactile communication, and the hit force is comparable to that of the scissor-switch laptop keyboards. This is a subjective perception as I, the author of this article, am used to hitting my laptop keys so hard that they start clanging (which is very untypical of them). That’s why you should consider this option if you usually hit the keys with much force.
Cherry MX Brown. This is a great option for those who are not used to hitting the keys all the way. The response will occur in the middle of the hit, so there is no need to go too far. This switch will be more suitable for typing fast large texts. In this case the fingers slipping over the keys without making full hits will be appropriate. It will also be suitable for gaming once your fingers fully get used to this keyboard. You’ll be able to play once you get accustomed to finding the right moment between letting go of a key and its triggering. These 2 ms will be crucial in the eSports and less important in single-player gaming.
Cherry MX Clear has balanced keys which would suit those who fastidiously don’t want to switch to mechanical keyboards due to their “hardcore nature”. The tactile perception is similar to that of membrane keyboards, but certain stiffness is present still. This results in having a complete mechanical keyboard with a membrane flare.
Cherry Switches Hit Depth:
- Response: 2 mm.
- All the way: 4 mm
Tactile sensations will differ depending on how close these two points of depth are. The pictures illustrate the mechanism quite vividly.
It is Cherry MX Black that caught gamers’ attention and became market leaders among other options. This is not in vain as everyone can relate to the simple philosophy of hitting the keys all the way. The more so, not only those who are used to laptop scissor switches, but the fans of membrane keyboards will be able to handle this switch. Cherry MX Clear could provide intense competition if only the manufacturers used it more.
Just like in case of any other modern keyboard, the keys depend on the price you’re willing to pay and on the manufacturer. I don’t feel like repeating myself, so for details please refer to our “Quit Hesitating and Pick a Gaming Keyboard!” article.
Which Mechanical Keyboard Should You Buy? A Review of the Best Models
Amazon.com website is really like the currents of the Amazon River as it is too easy to drown in the assortment of offers and goods available if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It is even easier to buy something that you didn’t want at all. You best possible course of action could be referring straight to the manufacturers’ official website right after reading a manual, but you can find some exclusive offers ashore the online Amazon River. Let’s now therefore take a look at the most interesting mechanical keyboards which deserve our attention. By the way, these aren’t top models, they are simply runners-up.
Logitech G910 Orion Spark RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
The Best Universal Model
The Romer-G switches used by Logitech are probably the most notable feature of the review of this keyboard (and it wasn’t very easy to find)! We suppose that they were installed to ease the monopoly of Cherry, this could be the only logical explanation. The switches are similar to the rivals’ MX Black. In general, everything is satisfactory, as every hit is felt, it’s hard to miss a key and the touch is pleasant.
Illumination is the second aspect to pay attention to. It has 16.8 (!) million of colors (however, it has lately become bad taste to use under 15 million colors in the illumination). The light it exudes is pleasant but many believe that it isn’t bright enough because of the key stencils. They remind us of the Transformers and are for the fans only. Those who love minimalism will hardly appreciate them.
You can also mount your smart phone to the keyboard and sync it with the ARX Control app. This isn’t necessary for everyone. What will be useful though, is the output of PC data on the keyboard screen.
Just like with any other models, I won’t be using multimedia keys which are located too far (which is even good, because they don’t get in my way). A scrolling wheel is placed right other the num keys and you’ll be able to comfortably use it only if you have slim and small fingers. Overall, the additional keys leave much to be desired, the same goes for other manufacturers.
The keyboard is comfortable to use, and the hand stand available is made rather soundly. Your hand will neither get tired nor frozen when you place it there. Read all customers reviews on Amazon.com, to see for yourself if it’s true.
Orion Spark costs about $150 and its decent quality will offset the high price. The design is still questionable as it can put off many potential customers. If you’re looking for an upright product to get used to mechanical keyboards, this one will surely do.
Price: ~$150 Check the current price
ASUS (STRIX TACTIC PRO) Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
The Best Software
This is yet another interesting product by Asus, which isn’t a gaming device tycoon, but a manufacturer and supplier of cut-rate goods of great design, operation and quality.
The curved, cup-shaped keyboard design of Asus Strix Tactic Pro strikes immediately and looks usable. In reality, it doesn’t change much. Perhaps, only the first row of keys which sticks out higher than the others will cause discomfort at first, until you get used to it.
The keyboard has MX Blue switches (in general, it is manufactured with all kinds of MX switches), and you’ll feel it instantly as it will require much more force than Orion Spark, for example.
The illumination is amber; the design is contrary to the previous one and is minimalistic. There are enough programmable keys even for those who overuse them.
The biggest technical perk is the N-Key Rollover technology. Remember, we said that USB restricts the number of simultaneous hits and that this is its big drawback? Well, here the problem is solved completely, as you can have even four hands hitting the buttons, you will get the response. If you got shaky hands after partying too hard, you can easily turn on the mode which restricts simultaneous hits.
The software which allows easily creating configuration profiles and flexibly switching between them will also not disappoint you. This is something an online gamer definitely needs.
The model costs ~$167. Be careful with the curved design as its convenience is debatable and you might not get accustomed to it at all. And if you accidentally throw it against the wall while enraged, the debris of the gadget will remind you of the wasted money.
Price: ~$167 Check the current price
Roccat Ryos TKL Pro TENKEYLESS Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Best Minimalistic Option
Now this is manufacturer which is renowned among few. Roccat Ryos TKL is one of the best minimalistic models I’ve ever seen. It has a comfortable wrist stand and the number of keys is just right as no additional scrolls and wheels get in the way. In general, this is something those who keep stumbling over various additional keys and modules should get acquainted with!
The brand Roccat design will also not disappoint you: the neat and classic keys are lit with blue and the variety of the visual effects isn’t extraordinary. It doesn’t provide for millions of colors, but you don’t really need them as the basic set of gaming keys illumination is sufficient.
As a rule, the keyboard is available with all types of Cherry MX, so you can pick the one that suits your hands. Even large hands won’t feel cramped as there is just enough space for them.
The lack of num keys and additional keys will become a serious drawback for many. Roccat Ryos will meet your gaming needs to the minimum without any frills. Still, many gamers don’t ask for more than that.
The product is quite attractive in terms of its design and price (it ranges from $80 to $90). I was about to write something along the lines of “you can pack it in your bag and visit Internation Gaming Awards with it”, but its functionality isn’t wide enough for pro gamers.
Price: ~from $80 to $90 Check the current price
Corsair Gaming K70 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Backlit Red LED
The Best Design
I would like to ask those who crunch cookies or something else in front of the screen to skip a few paragraphs now. Corsair K70 literally has an open design: you can easily see the switches in front row under the keys, and small objects keep falling into this gap. There are no other complaints of the design, as you won’t have any problems in case of due treatment.
The brand illumination is red. It reminds us of the Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge ship recreated in one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. Perhaps, it actually inspired the Corsair designers. The gaming keys have texture and are illuminated, you can always tell them apart by touching them simply. The wrist stand is sharply inclined which is a questionable decision. Still, larger and more voluminous options look smoother and are more usable.
The MX Red switch copes with its task well as no hits are heard and the touch is pleasant enough.
That’s probably it regarding the benefits of this product. If you ignore the design, you get technical minimalism for $130. The lack of proper brand software can put off many customers, but if you can do without and are used to the lack of extra features, go for it!
Price: ~$124 Check the current price
Take a look at the chart where the main aspects of the above keyboards are rated on a scale from 1 to 5.
Logitech G910 Orion Spark
Asus Strix Tactic Pro
Roccat Ryos TKL
Corsair Vengeance K70
P.S. I have instantly understood that there is no point in recommending the hyped Razer Blackwidow or any of the Mad Catz options. They are well-promoted; the manufacturers rarely lie about their characteristics and features (although I personally question some of these brand-name models). It is much better to accentuate your choice on the quality rather than on a brand and turn your attention to the items which are less popular with the mass audience. If you are an experienced reader of ours, you are welcome to study our catalogue. Also, don’t miss our review of the Best Wireless Keyboards in case you want to play comfortable without any wires in the way.
Whatever keyboard you use, good luck in the battlefield (or in the field on the monthly reports in case you’re looking for a work keyboard)!