Whats the best click for my clack?
October 26, 2011 5:50 PM   Subscribe

I want to get a new keyboard, and am looking at getting a mechnical keyboard.

- I am a full-time computer programmer, in an ops heavy job. I am on this keyboard typing constantly.

- I do not like erognomic/split keyboards

- I do a small amount of gaming, so extended media features are less important than build quality.

I was looking at the models by razor, and through the listings at newegg, but couldn't find a compelling reason why one would be preferable. I actually like the illumination of the razor, but am also wondering what else is out there.

- Can someone recommend a sturdy, no-frills mechanical keyboard?

- Are there extra options (like illumination) that you once thought frivolous, but can't live without?

- Is there any brand or model I should avoid?
posted by lkc to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (Budget preferably under $150, I'm not going optimus maximus, here)
posted by lkc at 5:51 PM on October 26, 2011

Best answer: Das Keyboard is in your budget, has mechanical keys, and comes with the (gimmicky IMHO) option of blank keys.

Otherwise, you can go for the venerated old model and find an IBM Model M with a USB adapter. Dan's Data goes into the details of using a legacy keyboard.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:55 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, caveat: IBM Model M keyboards, while quite well made, have no Windows key.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:56 PM on October 26, 2011

Unicomp are essentially IBM model M reproductions. No direct experience, but if they're like my 1986 Model M, you can't go wrong.

Filco are also nice. Make sure you learn the difference between the various Cherry switches. Figure out what kind of feedback you want from your switches- clicky, smooth with linear feedback, smooth with a "bump". I like clicky myself.
posted by supercres at 6:01 PM on October 26, 2011

Unicomp now makes the buckling spring keyboards that used to be made by IBM and Lexmark, such as the Model M. The Customizer 104/105 has a Windows logo key and an Application key. The Endurapro even has a built-in trackpoint.
posted by grouse at 6:02 PM on October 26, 2011

I would look very seriously at the keyboards available at Elite Keyboards. (I'm not affiliated with them but have been a customer in the past).

I have the Happy Hacking Pro Keyboard and l love it. They also have the Topre keyboards, which have the same keyswitches in a more conventional layout, and some other keyboards which use the much-loved Cherry switches (most people prefer the Cherry blues but you can read the descriptions and see what works best for you). The Leopold keyboards should be in your price range at $99-109.
posted by iamscott at 6:03 PM on October 26, 2011

Oh, and make sure you check out GeekHack. Start here.
posted by supercres at 6:04 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry; I just remembered that Elitekeyboards has a great breakdown of the full Cherry switch line.
posted by supercres at 6:12 PM on October 26, 2011

Supercres is the right. Geekhack is the place to geek out on this.

I've used a Filco with Cherry Blue switches. It's good, and would meet your requirements. I'm a Mac user and could never quite get comfortable with the Windows layout, but the reason I'm not using it is because it's loud and my wife, who shares an office with me, put her foot down. If you want it, let me know.
posted by adamrice at 6:22 PM on October 26, 2011

I recently bought an EnduraPro from UniComp. While I love it my wife can't handle the noise. The Spacesaver is the same keyboard without a trackpoint. These are made from the same basic design as the IBM Model M keyboards and using the same buckling spring keys.

EnduraPro Review: The keys feel like the old Model M keyboards. It's a pleasure to type on if you can handle the almost absurd racket it makes. The keyboard is weighty and feels solid. The trackpoint is not great. It is certainly not on par with the trackpoints used in Thinkpads since around 2006. The trackpoint has a great deal of travel and can't be tapped on to click. The mouse buttons just feel wrong; there is no satisfying click, it's more of a mush. The trackpoint is good enough for light use, but it won't replace my mouse (this is contrast to my Trackpoint model IV keyboard which had a great trackpoint until I dumped a shake over it).

The Mechanical Keyboard Guide at Overclock.net is where I started (and basically finished) while researching a replacement for the lovely buckling springs that I must give up.

I believe I will be getting the Leopard Tactile Touch keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches. Brown because I can't have the noise of the Cherry Blue and I don't care for the reset and activation point being so far apart.
posted by fief at 6:35 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Buy the serious, purpose-built tool designed for an era in which keyboard quality was vital.

There is no substitute for the IBM/Unicomp Model M series. It is excellent for prolonged typing, counterintuitively, because of the greater effort required to press keys. It provides unmistakeably positive feedback. I've used one for years and can type faster/longer on mine than on any othe keyboard. You can even disassemble and wash it.

Don't cheap out, but don't pay for flash. Avoid all non-mechanical switch-based keyboards.
posted by pandanom at 6:36 PM on October 26, 2011

I use two keyboards: ibm model m (that I've used for about 10 years now) and Xarmor with cherry brown keys and key highlight (when I need to be quiet).

I think if noise is not a problem for you, you might want to try to pick up an old ibm model M on ebay, I bought mine there for some ridiculous price like ~$9 with shipping (but that was 10 years ago, I don't know if people still sell them there, or if prices went up).

Nothing's better than model M's.. I think no windows key is a bonus, it makes it that much easier to bang on ctrl or alt key.

The Xarmor is pretty good too, I think it was around $120 or so, if you need a quiet mechanical keyboard I don't think you can do much better than that. Key highlight is nice too although I never really use it. However I had a bit of trouble remapping keys using xmodmap in linux, I usually swap esc and caps for vim use, but it didn't quite work on this keyboard, so I had to set Ins key to caps, and caps to Esc. I have no idea why swapping directly did not work, it does work on all other keyboards I used, but in the end it all worked out fine for my needs. The keyboard itself is very sturdy and all keys feel solid.
posted by rainy at 6:49 PM on October 26, 2011

As others have said, the IBM Type M. If you don't mind the clicking, they're perfect.
posted by roue at 6:58 PM on October 26, 2011

I've used many keyboards over the years, including an IBM Model M and a Noppoo Choc Mini with Cherry Brown switches. If you're in a quiet office environment, the clickyness of the Model M may drive your coworkers crazy. In that case I'd recommend something with Cherry Browns.
posted by zsazsa at 7:46 PM on October 26, 2011

The Unicomp Spacesaver linked above has a keypad -- it is not the same as the IBM Space Saver, which has 84 keys and no keypad. I use one at work and love that it leaves room for the trackball, but do note that it lacks any LEDs for caps/num/scroll-lock.
posted by autopilot at 8:06 PM on October 26, 2011

I have had an IBM Model M for years that I stick in the dishwasher every few months that is a champion of solid product design and function.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:39 PM on October 26, 2011

I bought a Customizer from Unicomp a couple of years ago and love it. After a while, you don't notice the noise.

If you're going down this road, get a decent keyboard tray, mouse or trackball, and chair. All four pieces will contribute to your health, comfort and productivity.
posted by quidividi at 6:04 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to have a clone? of one of those IBM keyboards, and it was pretty good. Now I am using I think the lowest model Razer (no backlighting). Works pretty good, and the customizable macro keys are cool, but I never use them.
posted by bitterkitten at 7:54 AM on October 27, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks folks,
I ordered a das keyboard because I like the simplicity.
posted by lkc at 12:27 AM on October 31, 2011

Good choice. The clicky ones have Cherry Blue switches. The key activation isn't as "heavy" as the Model M but it's still nice and clicky. The silent ones have Cherry Browns.
posted by zsazsa at 9:50 PM on October 31, 2011

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