I need a new keyboad, as it's dopping ah's and has a few othe issues
June 5, 2019 8:00 PM   Subscribe

My logitech K520r wireless keyboard is an odd, uncomfortable beast, lacks a NumLock light and is dropping r's increasingly often. I've neve had a wieless keyboard before and as I'm never moe than 2metes from my system box it doesn't give me any advantage. What are your favourite keyboards and why are they so good?

I don't touchtype and am not a gamer. I do CAD, GIS, image editing, write a lot and search a lot. My system is win10. I like gaming boards tho' with the ability to have different key sets for different programs, I think that'd get some use. And the weight of them is nice too - a more solid feel.

But what should I get (and what should I avoid)? I've looked at logitech's G512 Carbon and a few others but all the new key options is just confusing and it looks like hype. I don't like clattery keys altho' I do like to hear I'm doing something.

Brands here seem to be Asus, Razer, Corsair, logitech and an Adata Inferex which I'm a bit suspicious about.
posted by unearthed to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
WASD's Code Keyboard w/cherry clears (~$150) is what I use at work and at home. The clear switches are a compromise somewhere between browns (no click, quiet) and blues (lots of click, noisy). I like the design, which has white backlit keycaps and a white plate below the keys, and is very rigid.

I recently had a chance to type on a Topre RealForce, and .. well, I'm not about to buy one for home at $350, but I might see if work will spring for one.
posted by Alterscape at 8:38 PM on June 5, 2019

I've been using the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for several years and really like it. Several of my colleagues have seen mine and bought one for themselves, though I haven't asked to see if they like using it as well. The only downside is that it uses a tiny USB dongle for the wireless connection rather than standard Bluetooth, but maybe that improves reliability?
posted by stopgap at 10:06 PM on June 5, 2019

Seconding both WASD and the clears, but clears are a matter of taste so if you do go the mechanical route you may want to find a local shop that would let you try them out. They are unlikely to be so awful that you hate them, and I also have both brown and blue key keyboards as described above (excessive, I know) and will use either at a pinch. The blues are not a good choice if you have teleconferences, though.

I also like the older Mac chiclet keyboards with decent travel, if you can find one. They come (came?) in both wired and wireless. It's a very different style of keyboard but still comfortable to me.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 11:37 PM on June 5, 2019

My favourite keyboards are the $15 wired ones my local supermarket stocks. Totally generic, totally unremarkable, totally unsurprising, totally lacking in unpredictable failure modes, cheap enough to buy two so that when one does go the way of all keyboards I can just reach out and plug in the other one.

As for typing feel: fuck it, it's only a keyboard and I have used so many keyboards. If I tap a key and it reliably registers exactly one keypress, that's all I care about.
posted by flabdablet at 2:09 AM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also: wireless keyboards are all just bullshit. Every single one. I have never ever encountered a wireless keyboard that hasn't had its batteries run out or its pairing fail at the most irritating time conceivable.

You know where you are with a good solid chunk of copper.
posted by flabdablet at 2:13 AM on June 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Gigabyte do a really solid cheap(ish) wired mechanical keyboard - the Force K83. Comes with either Cherry Red or Blue switches. No lights, no gimmicks: just a keyboard. Can be had for ~$40 if you hunt around.
posted by pharm at 3:43 AM on June 6, 2019

If you're not going to go generic, don't half-ass it: go big, go loud.

Those keys don't clatter, they detonate.
posted by flabdablet at 11:06 AM on June 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a pair of Kinesis Advantage. I wouldn't recommend them for anyone - they're very expensive, there's a learning curve, take up a lot of space, and they're just kind of weird. But after I've gotten used to it, normal keyboards look and feel archaic.

But you're probably not ready for it.

Unless you're doing a lot of number crunching, I would recommend a "tenkeyless" or "compact" model - it doesn't have the number pad on the right side, but it does still have the inverted-t arrow keys and pageup/down cluster. This reduces the reach to get to your mouse or other pointing device on the right hand side.

Given how cheap mechanical keyboards are nowadays, I wouldn't get anything else. The patent for Cherry switches is expired and the market is flooded with equivalent clones. Mechanical switches don't degrade over time like membrane keyboards, and you won't be smashing keys in a year because it's less responsive.

The type of switch (often referred to as color) doesn't really matter that much, it's splitting hairs. You will probably get used to the feel of the switch no matter what you choose. Get something that's not marketed as "clicky" like Cherry Blues. If you think you have a heavier touch, maybe get a "linear". All of them will make more noise than a membrane keyboard.

I like backlit keyboards, but it's not a dealbreaker unless you're in a place with poor lighting.

You can get a lot of the programmability (and more) on a Windows system with Autohotkey, if you're willing to learn and struggle a bit. Programmability on the computer is more versatile than on the device, since the device can't figure out what apps are on the computer. If you don't want to go that way, the Logitech Gaming Software offers a decent amount of programming capability on Logitech devices (I use their mice).

I bought a $35 Reddragon Kumara on a whim from Amazon and it meets most (but not all, especially noisy switches) of the above criteria. It's actually a generic model that's rebranded, so you might see similar items with different brand names, backlighting, colors, or switches. But it works completely fine. (but I don't use it, because Kinesis Advantage)
posted by meowzilla at 11:08 AM on June 6, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks winterhill, the Logitech G610 and the G512 (altho' almost twice the price) both look great. What did you end up studying in the end, and which uni?

meozilla, that's hilaious - a kumara here is a wet potato. Thanks for breaking down clicky, linear and mechanical. I couldn't work with a tenkeyless.

I agree re wireless keyboards (a wireless mouse sees okay tho') flabdablet. "..it reliably registers exactly one keypress", my wire certainly does not do that regularly enough, started dropping p's yesterday!
posted by unearthed at 12:00 PM on June 6, 2019

Seconding Flabdablet's suggestion, the exact model I have is the EnduraPro Black (same keyblasts). I rarely use the trackpoint stick, but it's there when I do and it's not in the way when I don't; (on laptops I exclusively use the trackpoint and HATE HATE HATE it when there's only a touchpad). There's also a couple of Model M's in storage, but those are rather picky about the PS/2-USB converter they need.
posted by Stoneshop at 12:27 PM on June 6, 2019

There are three basic kinds of mechanical keyswitches in common use:
  • Linear switches have no tactile feedback at all. At some point as you press down, the switch will activate.
  • Tactile switches have a spring on the side that interacts with a bump on the shaft of the switch to give you “feel” for the point the switch activates.
  • Clicky switches are tactile switches that have a second spring that releases at the activation point, driving a plunger that makes noise.
Within those kinds there are differences in activation force. Basically you can ask yourself if you want light, medium, or heavy keys and tactile feedback, and then if you want tactile feedback you can also look into whether you want clicky switches or not.

Note: all keyswitches will make noise if you press so hard the switch bottoms out, and some tactile keyswitches are quieter than others. Mechanical keyboards are only truly silent when they’re not in use.
posted by fedward at 2:43 PM on June 6, 2019

The original IBM Model M clicky mechanism, as still used in the Unicomp keyboards I linked to above, doesn't have either a bump on the shaft for tactile feedback or a second spring for click. Instead, it uses a buckling spring between the keycap and the switch rocker to provide both.

The spring is a helical compression spring, quite long relative to its diameter, and supported only at the ends. There comes a point during compression of the spring where instead of continuing to compress end-to-end, the middle suddenly collapses out sideways. This collapse happens very suddenly because of positive feedbacks between the release of compression force along the length of the spring and the availability of extra end-to-end distance in its curved post-collapse shape, and this is what generates both the snap action for the contact rocker at the bottom of the spring and tactile feedback for the fingertip at the top.

Once the spring has collapsed, it won't straighten itself again until it's been allowed to relax back to an end-to-end length that's somewhat greater than the one at which it initially collapsed. This, combined with the snap-over-centre geometry of the contact rocker, means that there's no way for the operator to cause a half-hearted only-just-brushing contact: a property referred to as "non-teasible" in the surprisingly readable patent (PDF).

Such tactile feedback as the rubber dome springs in non-mechanical keyboards do offer happens in a closely related way: initially the dome simply begins to flatten as fingertip force is applied to it, but there is a critical level of force at which the top of the dome begins to turn inside out and collapse inwards. Once that happens, the dome actually assists the fingertip in slamming its central contact down onto the board below - no further force is required, only more travel.

However, the rubber dome doesn't do anywhere near as good a job as the mechanical rocker plus buckling spring at maintaining contact force as the fingertip recedes. A rubber dome's release stroke is much more teasible than a mechanical switch's, and this is what causes the keybounce issues commonly seen on rubber dome keyboards as they wear.

Nice rubber dome keyboards use capacitive sensors that are far less sensitive to wear than simple contacts, and these will perform reliably for a very long time. The one built into my cheap 2008-vintage HP laptop, for example, still feels fine and has no reliability issues.
posted by flabdablet at 8:13 PM on June 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: flabdablet all that about the spring deformation sounds like it'll feed in to an FPP I'm hoping to do on adaptive surfaces - certainly heps me thing about them anyway.

Thanks winterhill I ended up buying a logitech G610 with the quite clacky switches, it's quite a heavy beast and very solid - but I seem to make fewer spell errors.

When I went to the store they had the 610 @ half price so that was nice.
posted by unearthed at 8:04 PM on June 8, 2019

There are useful parallels between the geometry of a buckling spring and that of the force multiplier levers in a pair of vice-grip pliers, if you're looking for other things to think about.
posted by flabdablet at 8:15 PM on June 8, 2019

I use this Das Keyboard mechanical keyboard at work, and a very similar Das Keyboard model at home.

I love 'em. However, I'm a developer, and I type about eleven fucktrillion words per minute, and I literally don't understand how people do anything without touch-typing. So YMMV.

If you're interested in a mechanical board, then I've seen a few keycap samplers for sale, which help you figure out what kind of keycaps you prefer (in terms of noise level, throw distance, required pressure, etc.).

I forget what kind of keycaps I have at home, but they're pretty loud and clacky. The ones at work are significantly quieter.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:37 PM on July 8, 2019

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