Quality Testing

In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyser that is programmed to measure and display the actuation force of the standard keyboard keys. By measuring the actuation force of every key, the quality and consistency of the keyboard can be quantified. It can also reveal design issues, such as the larger keys being far softer to press than the main keys of the keyboard. The actuation force is measured in Centinewton (cN). Some companies use another figure, gram-force (gf). The conversion formula is 1 cN = 1.02 gf (i.e. they are about the same). A high quality keyboard should be as consistent as possible, with an average actuation force as near to the manufacturer's specs as possible and a disparity of less than ±10%. Greater differences are likely to be perceptible by users.

The machine we use for our testing is accurate enough to provide readings with a resolution of 0.1 cN. For wider keys (e.g. Enter, Space Bar, etc.), the measurement is taking place at the center of the key, right above the switch. Note that large keys generally have a lower actuation force even if the actuation point is at the dead center of the key. This is natural, as the size and weight of the keycap reduces the required actuation force. For this reason, we do display the force required to actuate every key but we only use the results of the typical sized keys for our consistency calculations. Still, very low figures on medium sized keys, such as the Shift and Enter keys reveal design issues and can easily be perceptible by the user.

The quality testing of the Cherry MX Board 6.0 gave us unnaturally good results, smiting every other mechanical keyboard that we have tested to this date - including those made with Cherry's own switches. Our instruments recorded an average force of 43.5 cN, with a disparity of just ±1.61% for the main keys. Even the force of the larger keys is abnormally close to that of the smaller keys, as their force figures are usually significantly lower due to the size of the keycap.

Although this is just an assumption on our part, we believe that these abnormal figures are a product of more than just the lack of variability in Cherry's mechanical switches. Our testing equipment is set to hold the force value once a key has been actuated, but it can only realize that it has actually been actuated once the keyboard sends a signal to a computer. Inherently, this process has a latency of a few milliseconds, during which the analyzer keeps increasing the force. Cherry claims that with the Realkey technology of this keyboard, it can signal the system every single millisecond. Again, this is a mere educational guess on our part, but it may be that Cherry effectively minimized the latency of the keyboard, which is now signaling our test system to stop more consistently. This could explain the abnormal consistency of the results, as a latency of even a few ms would increase every recorded value slightly.

The Cherry MX Board 6.0 Keyboard Final Words & Conclusion
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  • baobrain - Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - link

    Wow, $200 for that keyboard.

    I'll probably get one when I have the money.... Aka I'll never get one
    Reply
  • Kyle Andrew Photography - Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - link

    It does seem like a lot eh? I really would make the switch to a mechanical keyboard, except for two reasons. 1. Almost all of my typing is done on my laptop because my cats are too annoying to work at home around and 2. I really really love the split keyboard layout of my MS Natural Keyboard. Still, I yearn for that mechanical feel that I had back in high school when I was learning how to type. Man, I wish I could just fine one of THOSE units and then reinforce my desk to support it! Reply
  • hansmuff - Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - link

    Unicomp makes buckling spring keyboards, which may be what you're referring to. Very loud but a joy to type on, and not all that expensive. http://www.pckeyboard.com/ Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - link

    Also note that Monoprice makes a mechanical board with Cherry MX blues or reds for the low, low price of $49.99. As you go up, they add backlights or multicolor, and they top out at $69.99.

    I still love Unicomp, and my IBM model Ms. Thouhg I got one of the Monoprice ones for my SO.
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Thursday, January 28, 2016 - link

    Not all that expensive? Their shipping prices are insane, almost as much as the keyboard itself. As a result, the cost to buy an Ultra Classic from them is $237 CAD shipped/delivered. My current keyboard cost $15 CAD. Reply
  • evilspoons - Thursday, January 28, 2016 - link

    Monoprice stuff gets expensive when shipping to us poor Canadians if it's anything larger than a few cables. You have to ship via USPS->Canada Post or the price gets away from you.

    As for buying $15 keyboards, I think I went through about six of them in the time my $100 (at the time) Das Keyboard has lasted. I later bought a $60 mechanical keyboard (Corsair Quickfire Rapid) and I have no reason to believe it won't outlast a $15 keyboard by five or ten times, so they're actually cheaper in the long run. Plus then you're not typing on crummy rubber dome switches.
    Reply
  • Refuge - Thursday, January 28, 2016 - link

    Had my first Das Keyboard for YEARS finally killed it with a shot or two of whiskey... I was heartbroken to go back to Membrane.

    Then I found a Refub Das Keyboard for $45 online special about a year ago! Its perfect! :D
    Reply
  • althaz - Sunday, January 31, 2016 - link

    My Das Keyboard (Pro S "Silent") is about four years old and is still as good as new - except for the RHS row of my numpad which is a bit sticky since I spilled some bourbon and coke on it (that was about four years ago :(). Reply
  • erple2 - Sunday, January 31, 2016 - link

    Meh. I spilled a mint julep on my unicomp during a heated discussion during the Derby. I just unplugged it, and ran it under the sink in warm water for a few minutes, and let it dry out completely before plugging it in. That was 4 years ago. No sticking. That's the beauty of this multiple pound metal beast. It could probably survive a trip through the dishwasher, too. Reply
  • Mangemongen - Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - link

    I wish they sold 60% keyboards, or at least tenkeyless. Are there buckling spring keyboards of smaller size? Reply

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