We’ve made quite a song-and-dance about mechanical keyboards here at MakeUseOf, and now that more and more manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon they’re no longer specialised bits of kit reserved for the upper echelons of PC gaming.
If you’re wondering what the fuss is about you might want to read our relevant Technology Explained feature and if you’re still not convinced then we’ve considered the benefits your investment will return too. Now it’s time to highlight some of the hardiest, boldest and most expensive peripherals to ever sit on a desk. Credit cards at the ready…
Designed from the ground up for those who are serious about first-person shooters, the Corsair Vengeance K60 is a mechanical keyboard with a featherlight touch. This touch is delivered via the low-sensitivity, linear feedback Cherry MX Red keyboard switches employed which are perfect for fast-paced games where quick reactions are key (excuse the pun).
One thing to remember is that these Red switches require far less pressure to activate than the similar Cherry MX Black switches (45g actuation, instead of 60g) often preferred by gamers. It’s always best to try out the keyboard before dipping into your pocket, or at the very least be prepared to return it if you find the keys “too squishy”.
The keyboard itself is not built for typing but takes gaming very seriously. The extra-grippy rubberised WSAD and 1-6 number keys in dashing red will ensure schoolboy errors are a thing of the past. In addition to the lightweight, stylish design the Vengeance K60 can register 20 simultaneous key-presses and above all take more of a pounding than conventional keyboards.
PC gaming isn’t quite what it used to be, and back in the days of Quake III Arena, Counter-Strike 1.6 and the original Team Fortress Classic, Razer were one of the few companies manufacturing very high-quality peripherals and accessories. They’re still in the game, and the BlackWidow Ultimate is their current trophy piece (with the Stealth Edition costing $10 more).
The main difference between the Ultimate editions and lower down standard editions is the anti-ghosting technology that improves multiple keypress detection. Add this to ultra-light keys with the same 45g actuation seen on the Vengeance K60 above and you’ve got a hardy and responsive input device that will last years.
The BlackWidow Ultimate also looks the part, with a sleek black finish punctuated by adjustable LED-lit keys that are perfect for late-night sessions. The keyboard also comes with 2 USB passthrough ports and a headphone port.
CM Storm QuickFire Rapid – Around $100
If you find most gaming keyboards to be too large, and hate wasting precious desk space then you might want to consider the CM Storm Quickfire Rapid from CoolerMaster. Not usually a name associated with keyboards (or any peripheral for that matter), CM Storm is CoolerMaster’s range of high performance gaming gear and the QuickFire Rapid is one of two flagship keyboards.
A variety of Cherry MX switches in different flavours (Black, Blue and Brown) are present on the Quickfire Rapid, though which version you get depends on where you live. Black is often considered the “best” for gamers, with Blue offering a toss-up between typing and gaming (though your own preferences will probably vary).
The CM Storm QuickFire Rapid comes in at around $100, though if you like the look of Cherry MX Red switches (ultra-light actuation) then there’s a Red Switch edition available too.
AZiO Levetron Mech4 – $109.99 [No Longer Available]
For a company whose motto is “Everyday Technology” the AZiO Levetron Mech4 doesn’t look particularly “Everyday”. Of course this might change depending on how many keyboards you get through in a year, as this is a rugged spill-proof device with fabled Cherry MX Black switches in place.
The keyboard is modular by design, and comes in 3 parts – the keyboard itself, a number pad which can be mounted on either side and a 6-button macro controller which sits on a rail above the function keys to provide an incredible variety of control layouts.
The Mech4 also comes with the usual features you’d expect from a keyboard at this price, including anti-ghosting, drainage gutters for spilled drinks (!), user-programmable keys, a chunky volume knob and the ability to quickly disable the Windows key during gaming sessions.
Razer Star Wars: The Old Republic Gaming Keyboard – $249 [No Longer Available]
Instantly reduce any Star Wars fan to fits of jealous rage with your very own Star Wars: The Old Republic gaming keyboard from Razer. Ok, so it might be a tad expensive and unnecessary – but look at it!
Starting with low-travel keys and a 1ms response time the keyboard packs in the features. There’s Arabesh and the standard alphabet printed on each key, what Razer has deemed “extreme” anti-ghosting (for mashing multiple buttons), a multi-touch full-colour LCD trackpad and 10 dynamic macro keys to ensure your best moves are close at all times.
It might be expensive, but it sure is beautiful.
Despite the initial expense, mechanical keyboards aren’t necessarily bad value for money. If you’re coming from a non-mechanical model then you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised by the feel of the keys, especially a few years down the line when your keyboard still works like a charm!
If you’ve bought a mechanical keyboard, have done some research or are thinking of buying one have a say in our comments, below.