Keyboard love Part N, an update
OK, I can’t help it, I’ve been posting about keyboards for a while and I finally have the “entire” universe of keyboards particularly now that I’ve been using the Unicomp with the buckling spring (the old IBM PC keyboard). So if I were king for a day, here is what I would recommend for a great keyboard in priority order:
- The keyboard switch type: Cherry Blue MX. OK, after all of this, I finally have on my desk is in order of preference: Cherry Blue MX, buckling spring, and Gateron Blue. This is going to be highly personal, but for me, I like the tactile click and that feeling of certainty. But the net is that while the buckling spring is pretty cool, but I keep coming back to the Cherry Blue MX as the nicest keyboard for me. While lots of people like the Gateron Blue, for me at least the clickiness of the Cherry MX Blue leads me to that (see a comparison)
- The keyboard layout: 65% Keyboard with Arrow keys. But the basic choices in order, for me, are: a) 65% keyboard with arrows keys and that works for me since I don’t use function keys, b) TKL or 87-key is just a little bigger, c) Full-sized keyboards or 104 keys but these are really big and wide and d) 60% keyboard which lack the arrow keys I use all the time.
- Keycaps: PBT Keys. OK, this actually makes a difference to me, but my ABS keyboards are actually wearing out, so having PBT keys really is worth it, plus I like the grainy texture, it is less slippery.
- Keycaps Printing: Double Shot. Well, I’ve used all types but having the lettering actually injected into the keycaps means it will last longer.
- Keycaps Lighting: Pudding. Ok now we are getting deep, but pudding keys means that with a backlight, the light goes through the keys so you can see the letters and then out the sides so it looks amazingly cool.
- Wireless keyboard (with long battery life) ideally Bluetooth 5. OK, I added the last criteria. Before being wireless seemed like the right path, but there is a huge difference between an Apple wireless keyboard which lasts literally for months, and a Keychron which seems to last a week or so. If it is a week or so, then I find I treat it basically like a wired keyboard. This is probably because running a mechanical keyboard is takes more battery power than the dome switch of Apple. As an aside, Bluetooth 5 is really just for bragging rights, you probably don’t need your keyboard a football field away from you so Bluetooth 4.2 should work just fine. The main issue that I’ve had with the Keychron in particular is that the bluetooth will not connect or will keep repeating. Super annoying.
- Keycap Profile. OK, really nerdy, but this is the actual shape of the keys, there is OEM, but I realy like the Cherry profile ones, they are just a little bit
- Replaceable keyboard switches (without soldering). OK, this is a detail, but it is really nice if you can replace an entire key switch. But then when your preferences change then you can change
So given all this, what would I recommend as the “perfect keyboard” which doesn’t quite exist yet but Wirecutter did a decent review of wired choice, but the Qisan does come out pretty well and here are some choices for the ideal (next!):
- Qisan Magicforce 68 Cherry MX Blue MX This is an expensive $150 compared with the low-cost $70 wired one, but it checks all the boxes. This thing is really hard to find, but there is a perfect thing except that it is Bluetooth and not 5.0. (Drop had it probably for lower but it is out of stock). There is a $80 directly Qisan but it has Gateron Blue key switches and for $70, you can get the wired keyboard (which I have). And others like Wirecutter like it quite a bit which makes sense it even has PBT Keys and Pudding so the light looks great. And it’s not bad to try AliExpress but it doesn’t have the Cherry MX but the Axis switch.
- Keychron K2 v2 Hot Swappable and two Cherry MX Blue RGB Compatible switch sets. Ok, if you can’t find the Qisan which is pretty hard, then the next best choice is the special hot swappable keyboard where you can take the Gateron Blue that comes with it and substitute the Cherry MX Blue. As aside, it says it works for 72 hours of typing with the backlight on which should be about 9 days at 8 hours a day, in reality, I find myself recharging this thing pretty often, so that’s a drawback. And since there is no on screen notification of it’s power (you have to hit a key sequence), it is really annoying when it runs out. Technically, this is a double shot ABS key so not quite PBT, but it is double shot. I did find that the RGB lighting just to be kind of a gimmick and not really that bright. What would be really nice is to figure out a way to hook a Qi charger to it so that it would just charge on the pad. This is how the Corsair wireless mouse works and it is great. Also you need the RGB compatible switches. They need to be clear to allow the light to show.
- Keychron K3 Hot Swappable. This is a low profile travel keyboard for those of us who can’t stand typing on the MacBook Pro keyboard when working from home. It uses a low profile keyset and is a 75% keyboard so much more compact like the Qisan. The hot swappable only works with their optical switches so it’s a bit of a risk, but you can get Gateron Blues if you want the portability. Battery life is much shorter at 35 hours though, so you will be charging the thing alot.