For those that remember using a 286/386/486 PC will all have probably started off with some drab grey/beige made by IBM and then later on something fancy from the likes of Logitech. If you consider that millions upon millions of people are using a keyboard in front of their PC at work or at home, most of the time it is one of the most overlooked PC peripheral. We type our documents with it, we game with, we mash the keys for stress relief, we use the keypad as a calculator.
In the last 6 months I have been on a crusade to find the right keyboard for me. After I had finally cleared away the mess from my desktop, I just wanted to reclaim more of the desktop space. I currently use a Thermaltake Poseidon RGB gaming keyboard, and whilst it is very useable, there has been this nagging at the back of my head that I need something more……..personalized. The Thermaltake Poseidon Z RGB full-sized keyboard is probably one of the smallest full-sized gaming keyboards around; there’s no media buttons at the top, there’s no smartphone holder, there’s no fancy knobs, and the bezel around the keys are as slim as it gets.
Firstly, I wanted to reduce the size of my keyboard. I’ve come to realise I hardly ever use my the keypad on my keyboard, and I don’t need any fancy control keys or knobs. In 3 months of research and testing I had a look at 60%, 70% and 80% keyboards from various manufacturers, weighing up the pros and cons of each. I did give the 40% Vortex Core a thorough workout, but there were too many keys that I needed which I had to do 3-button combinations to get. Next was a 60% keyboard.
Whilst a 60% keyboard would have definitely allowed me to reclaim my deskspace, and they look brilliant, I kept reaching for the cursor keys but they were not there, so I had grab the mouse and reposition the mouse cursor. So what about a 70% keyboard?
Hmmm….the layout is getting better. Better, but still not what I wanted. Now with cursor keys, they are positioned in the bottom right corner, hidden amongst the other nearby keys so I kept pressing the keys. Probably with extended use my muscles memory would get used to this cramped layout, but then I wanted the F keys……
So we reach the 80% keyboard, also known as various names such as TKL (Ten Key Less) or 87 keys. The easiest way to explain the layout of a TKL keyboard is that of a full size keyboard and you chop off the number pad. The cursor keys are separate from the other keys, you get the full F keys from F1 to F12 in a separate row above the number keys, and there the Ins, Home, PgUp, Pg,Dn, Del and End keys in their own separate part of the keyboard. After a weeks of testing with a TKL keyboard I knew this was the right size for me.
Next was the connection; wireless or wired. This was a simple decision. Used main with my Hackintosh, a wireless keyboard would only work once the system had booted into the operating system, so if I want to change anything prior to that, say in the BIOS, it wouldn’t work…..sometimes the simplest solution turns out to the be the only solution….
At this point I had subscribed to all sorts of online stores that sells keyboards and literally every single day I would get several emails about new keyboards for sale, or something like a Massdrop on an upcoming small keyboard…..
Now came the most difficult decision to make, what type of switches to have. My Thermaltake Poseidon Z RGB has Cherry MX blues…..boy are they clicky. Whilst they are decent in lightness when you press (50 cN), I wanted something a little lighter. So something less clicky and lighter than the Cherry MX blues…..my attention then turned to Cherry MX Reds and Browns; a choice between having a tactile bump or not. Whilst that small bump of a Cherry MX brown switch is quite satisfying, I wanted less ‘disturbance’ with my key press, an unadulterated key press……so Cherry MX red then.
Wait, I then happened upon the other multitude of colour switches from Cherry, and had a chance to play with Cherry MX silver switches, and my heart was set. Feeling exactly like Cherry MX reds, the silver switches have a shorter travel distance, which enables faster key presses and less finger travel distance. The problem then came to finding keyboards that come with Cherry MX silver switches, and they are harder to find.
One thing I realised whilst looking for smaller keyboards is that less keys does not mean lower costs….quite the contrary in fact as all these 60%, 70% and TKL keyboards come with a premium cost. I balked when I saw how much Vortex keyboards are. And then there’s the TADA68 which comes in either a DIY kit form or already assembled, not cheap for what looks like a hobbyist keyboard, but add in an aluminium casing and the price rockets. I went of Vamillos’ website and custom designed a TKL keyboard….it came to over USD$250!
In the end I finally settled on a blue/grey TKL version of a Ducky One keyboard, but nobody seems to sell it, except good old Taobao and now I’ve got my perfect keyboard ordered.
Finding the right keyboard for your needs and preference is like looking for a pair of sports shoes; there’s so much to choose from, and you really do need to start filtering out all the options until you find the right one for you. Sure, you could wear a pair of Yeezy’s to fo running in, you like the look but they’re just not designed for that function. Same with a keyboard, you use a generic one that comes packaged with a DELL computer, but it’s just not the right one for you.