After spending more than 40 hours testing 34 different mechanical keyboards, here are our top 5 picks for 2017.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Top 5 Mechanical Keyboards Of 2017
- 2 Why Buy A Mechanical Keyboard?
Top 5 Mechanical Keyboards Of 2017
|Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2||$$$||Razer Green/Orange/Yellow|
|Corsair STRAFE||$$||Cherry MX Red/Blue/Brown|
|Das Keyboard 4 Professional||$$$||Cherry MX Blue/Brown|
|Corsair K70 RAPIDFIRE||$$$||Cherry MX Speed|
|Logitech RGB G910 Orion Spark||$$||Romer-G|
1. Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2
Ever since 2010, Razer’s BlackWidow keyboards have been the go-to keyboards for professional gamers and entire eSports organizations everywhere. They’ve released several iterations and versions of the original BlackWidow over the past 7 years, with the most recent model being the BlackWidow Chroma V2.
Built with Razer’s proprietary Green Mechanical Switches, the Chroma V2 doesn’t have any major weaknesses. From a functional perspective, this thing’s an absolute beast:
- 10 key roll over ensures you’ll never experience key-press ghosting while gaming
- 50g actuation force on the Green Switches promises unparalleled speed and responsiveness, no matter the task at hand
- 80 million keystroke life span means you’ll be using (and loving) this keyboard for years to come
- 5 dedicated macro keys means the Chroma V2 is as customizable as they come
If you care about the aesthetics of the keyboard, fear not. The Chroma V2 has individually programmable backlit keys and offers 16.8 million different color options to choose from. The level of customization here is just absurd – you can cook up some truly awesome color profiles using Razer’s Synapse technology.
All in all, the Razer brand has become synonymous with professional gaming for a reason. Give the Chroma V2 a whirl and you’ll instantly see what you’ve been missing out on.
- Designed specifically for gaming, Razer Mechanical Switches actuate at an optimal distance, giving you speed and responsiveness like never before
- The Razer BlackWidow Chroma is manufactured in-house end to end, ensuring even stricter requirements are met for each switch produced, resulting in a life span of up to 80 million key strokes
- The Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 features individually programmable backlit keys with 16.8 million color options, all easily set through Razer Synapse
2. Corsair STRAFE
Corsair’s STRAFE is another flawless mechanical keyboard that’s used internationally by pros, casual gamers, and general computer enthusiasts alike.
The STRAFE makes use of 100% Cherry MX switches, which is what you’ll find in almost any mechanical keyboard worth its salt. These ever-lauded switches are German engineering at its finest, from their gold contacts and gold-plated enclosures to their pressure-resistant metal alloy springs.
If you’re not up to date on the mechanical keyboard jargon, all of that just means you end up with incredibly quick, precise keystrokes. If you opt for the Red switches, you can even cut down on the famous mechanical keyboard clicking and clacking that some find so endearing.
Corsair boasts an impressive 100% anti-ghosting rate thanks to a ridiculous 104 key rollover (on USB). If you play fast, then this is the keyboard for you.
On the design front, you’ll find fantastic RGB backlighting capabilities that offer nearly limitless customization, on a key by key basis.
- 100% Cherry MX gaming key switches - Unique gold-cross point contacts for incredible reliability, durability, and precision
- Cherry MX Red key switches - Extremely responsive, with a smooth, linear response and a wide actuation zone, and no audible click or tactile "bump"
- Multi-color dynamic backlighting - Brilliant RGB backlighting immerses you in the game with virtually unlimited lighting adjustability
3. Das Keyboard 4 Professional
Das Keyboard’s 4 Professional model is an astoundingly high-quality mechanical keyboard. There’s quite literally nothing wrong with it – the only downside is that it may be a bit too “plain” for some, as it lacks any sort of backlighting. Other than that, you’ll find yourself making excuses just to tap away on this awesome keyboard.
All the hallmarks of high quality are there:
- True German Cherry MX Switch technology with gold plating for unbeatable precision, feedback, and durability
- N-key rollover over USB – all keystrokes are scanned independently of one another, so you could literally hold down half of the keyboard and new keystrokes on the other side would still register just fine. Fantastic for quick typists and gamers alike
- “Anodized aluminum” top panel, which means this thing won’t be breaking or wearing down anytime soon
- Also serves as a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 hub for 5gb/s transfers between devices
- Dedicated media controls w/ oversized and stylish volume knob
Just like the name says, this is a very professional-looking mechanical keyboard. Unless the lack of backlighting is a complete dealbreaker for you, you will not be disappointed with this fantastic keyboard.
- High Performance, mechanical Cherry MX Blue key switches with key inscriptions: German-engineered, gold-plated mechanical switches that create the distinct click of each keystroke and provide better tactile and audible feedback
- Over-sized volume knob and dedicated media controls to quickly adjust volume while on a Skype call, in a Google hangout or streaming online music
- SuperSpeed USB 30 hub provides a two-port 5Gb/s hub for faster high-resolution picture and video file transfers between USB devices. N-key rollover (NKRO) over USB for faster gaming, eliminating the need for a PS2 adapter, often required of older keyboards
4. Corsair K70 RAPIDFIRE
Aptly named, Corsair’s K70 RAPIDFIRE iteration is marketed as Corsair’s “fastest mechanical keyboard, ever.”
When you take a look at its specs, you can see why – the 100% Cherry MX switches feature rapid 1.2mm actuation with a 45g actuation force. The end result is lightning-fast keystrokes that maintain the precision and feedback expected of a Corsair keyboard. These switches are rather quiet as well, and the minimized actuation is perfect for anyone serious about FPS games especially.
The K70 RAPIDFIRE also features 100% anti-ghosting with full-key rollover on USB. This is definitely more necessary with the shortened actuation and less required actuation force, and ensures every single one of your key presses will be read every single time.
The body itself has some real heft to it, as it’s made with an aircraft-grade anodized brushed aluminum frame. Corsair definitely cares about the longevity of their products, and it really shows with the RAPIDFIRE’s heavy duty chassis.
As per usual, you can customize the backlighting on a per key basis thanks to Corsair’s powerful CUE customization software.
- Corsair's fastest mechanical keyboard, ever
- 100% anti-ghosting and full key rollover on USB / 100% Cherry MX Speed gaming key switches with ultra-fast 1.2mm actuation and light 45g force
- Aircraft-grade anodized brushed aluminum frame for superior durability / Advanced lighting control and large font keycaps deliver dynamic, vibrant backlighting
5. Logitech RGB G910 Orion Spark
Logitech’s claim to fame with the G910 Orion Spark is that it’s the “world’s fastest RGB mechanical gaming keyboard,” boasting up to 25% faster actuation.
This is due to the exclusive Romer-G switches Logitech opted to go with for the G910. Assuming a 300mm/second finger speed, you can achieve a 5ms actuation time with these Romer-G switches. They have an actuation distance of 1.5mm (slightly longer than Corsair’s RAPIDFIRE model) and require a lowly 45g of actuation force.
One of the coolest features of the Orion Spark is the 9 programmable G-keys that Logitech included in the keyboard. These are all customizable macro keys, affording you an expansive range of customization, automation, and efficiency.
Logitech’s RGB backlighting is no slouch either – you can customize your lighting on a key by key basis, selecting your colors from a 16 million color palette.
- World's fastest RGB mechanical gaming keyboard: Exclusive Romer-G Mechanical Switches with up to 25 percent faster actuation
- Customizable RGB illumination: Personalize individual key lighting from a palette of 16 million colors ; Cable Length (Power/Charging): 6 ft (1.8 m)
- Arx Control App and smartphone dock: Instantly access in-game data on your smartphone or tablet without interrupting the game
Why Buy A Mechanical Keyboard?
To the casual PC user, a keyboard is a keyboard. Typical users have no idea what kind of keyboard they have, as long as it works and does what it’s supposed to do. But to a seasoned gamer, programmer, or writer, the keyboard is more than just a device or peripheral you get to use – it has to suit your typing style, the strength of your keystrokes, and it has to perform well for years.
For the elite typist, who wants nothing but the best experience and comfort when working, a great keyboard could spell the difference between a productive work day and time wasted. Let’s take a look at how mechanical keyboards are different than the everyday variety keyboards generally used by most people today.
A Brief History
Let’s face it – all keyboards are “mechanical” in nature. But if you ask people in the know, there is a world of difference between a mechanical keyboard and a “normal” keyboard.
Back in the early 80’s, when Personal Computers were bulky, heavy and expensive, the keyboard was similar – big, heavy, and built to last. The biggest names in computer manufacturing at the time were brands like IBM and Northgate, who first introduced the mechanical keyboard as part of the system.
These keyboards were very popular back then because they were ergonomically designed, easy to use, and did not cause any undue strain on the typist.
Sadly, during the late 90s and early 2000’s, the mechanical keyboard became just a ‘niche’ product for the technologically apt. The mechanical switches were replaced by the much cheaper – and less durable – dome key switches, which are a staple in today’s computer hardware market. The silicone dome key-switches are much cheaper to manufacture, but also gets worn out much easier. In a few short years, mechanical keyboards were nothing but a distant memory.
By mid 2000’s, though, the mechanical keyboard made a comeback thanks to companies and peripheral producers pushing them out into the market. Companies like Corsair and Thermaltake entered the mechanical keyboard market, along with Logitech and other peripheral producing companies.
Today, mechanical keyboards are gaining popularity once again. This is thanks to the gaming industry, which took the lead in promoting and making the public aware that gamers and PC users have an alternative choice when it comes to keyboards.
What Makes Mechanical Keyboards Tick?
As mentioned earlier, all keyboards are generally the same. The mechanics are similar, if not identical. The only difference is the inner workings, or what goes on when you press a key on your keyboard. Silicone based domes use silicone or rubber domes underneath the keys, which are responsible for the resistance you feel when pressing a key on a typical keyboard.. This works fine, but if you’re relying heavily on your keyboard for extensive gaming, repeated key presses will wear out the silicone and dampen the sensitivity of the keys – you will need to put stronger pressure on the keys as they suffer from wear and abuse. This is something that rarely happens with a mechanical keyboard, which utilizes a metal spring instead of the silicone domes in order to effectively return keys into place as you tap away.
The average silicone-based key switch keyboard could handle 5 million keystrokes. In comparison, mechanical keyboards are built to last, as some can register over 50 million keystrokes before breaking down. In a way, think of buying a mechanical keyboard as you would a car -think of it as a long term investment. And as such investments go, they are usually pricier than the other choices. It pays off in the long run, though, as you won’t need to replace your mechanical keyboard for years to come.
The Basics of Mechanical Keyboards
In today’s setting, mechanical keyboards are classified into two major groups based on how they are being used. The first group is the productivity users who utilize office applications like word processors and spreadsheets. These users rely heavily on their keyboard for optimum input and minimal stress on their fingers, hands and arms.
The other group is gamers who also rely heavily on their keyboards to improve their game play and provide an advantage against their opponents. As an example, a good mechanical keyboard has a ‘quick’ response time – your character on screen shoots when you press a certain key, at the exact same time you press that ‘Shoot’ key. Not a split second sooner, not a split-second later.
The Inner Workings of a Mechanical Keyboard
There are many factors to consider when shopping for a new mechanical keyboard. You have to consider what type of switches are being used, whether the keyboard has auditory feedback (a ‘click’ you hear when a key is pressed) or whether it has a tactile response (a ‘bump’ you feel when you type on a keyboard, like it’s sort of pushing your finger back), and the amount of force it takes to engage the switches.
The most popular kind of switches available are Cherry MX switches. Cherry switches come in a variety of types, each with different levels of auditory and tactile feedback. Many even offer colour-coded faces to signify the type of switch underneath each key.
The most common are the blue Cherry MX keyboards, which are both tactile and ‘clicky’ so that you can feel and hear as you type. The actuation force is quite high for this type of switch at 50 centi-Newtons(cN), which is not ideal for gaming but perfect for office productivity. A downside is the clearly audible click, which could be annoying to some, especially if you’re sharing an office with others.
Cherry MX Black is another type of mechanical keyboard switch, which has an actuation force of 60cN. This is rather stiff for any gaming purpose, but is useful for entering mission-critical data, where utmost precision and accuracy is required. Black switches are neither tactile nor clicky.
Cherry MX Red switches are similar to Cherry MX Black switches as they are also neither tactile nor clicky. The main difference is the actuation force is much lower at 45cN, which is ideal for gaming, but not so much for precision as only a light touch could register as a double tap for one key. This type is excellent for gaming where repetitive commands need to be keyed in quick succession.
The Cherry MX Brown is similar to the Red variety in that it has the same actuation force of 45cN, but is not clicky. This makes it an excellent choice for gaming, especially in First Person Shooter (FPS) games.
Mechanical keyboards are must have devices for serious gamers, programmers, and writers. They offer a lot of advantages in terms of productivity and comfort while using the computer.
Although they are a bit pricier than the “non-mechanical” counterparts, the long term benefit will come from using the device for a much longer period of time. A good mechanical keyboard may outlive your present computer system, or even the next one you get after that. If you are looking for a durable, dependable and ergonomically efficient keyboard, a mechanical keyboard is the choice for you. If you decide on a cheap alternative, be prepared to replace it in the next couple of years, especially if you’re a power user.
Mechanical keyboards have a lot to offer – once you go mechanical, you’ll loathe using “normal” keyboards.