OrthoMouse Ergonomic and Adjustable Mouse: hands-on review

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Today I’m looking at the OrthoMouse, an ergonomic and adjustable mouse that’s designed to keep your hand in a natural, comfortable position. Let’s take a look!

Unboxing

We’re looking today at the OrthoMouse Laser, although the wired optical variant is very similar in almost all respects. These differences are noted when applicable.

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The OrthoMouse comes in a simple cardboard box.

Inside, you’ll find the mouse itself wrapped in bubble wrap…

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…and a number of upper and rear sections that allow you to customise the shape to suit your hand and grip style.

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The upper sections are called “upper adapters” and the rear sections are called “prolongers”. The smaller upper adapter is pre-installed, with a larger one in the box. In terms of prolongers, the long version is installed and short and medium options are in the box.

You’ll also find a wireless adapter for the wireless model (as shown here). This is very short, so you can easily tuck it into the side of a laptop without it sticking out too much. The wireless adapter is actually inside the mouse when first unboxed, wrapped in bubble wrap inside the battery chamber.

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You’ll also note some small pieces of paper with various instructions are recommendations on them – including a note that the laser uses a wavelength outside visible light, so it’s normal not to be able to see the laser when it’s on. The OrthoMouse also has a nice document that outlines the idea behind the mouse, and provides suggestions on the correct posture, emphasising proper support for your arm. The manual (PDF) is also quite good for instruction on this point.

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Design

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The OrthoMouse has an interesting design which is immediately different from most mice. It’s contoured to fit your hand, with long left and right mouse buttons that sit directly underneath your first two fingers.

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The remaining buttons are on the left side. There’s one in the middle which acts as a middle click button, and buttons at the top and bottom which serve as a scroll wheel. Your thumb has to move only minimally to activate these controls.

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The upper section is replaceable as we discussed earlier, and sits higher or near equal to the side buttons.

The back of the model can also be replaced with differently sized alternatives; the default is quite long, with two progressively shorter options. The default should suit most users and prove the most ergonomic, but it’s nice to have these options.

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The wireless model requires two AA batteries (which are not included in the box), which are stored in a compartment underneath the prolonger. The wired model is identical, even including a (nonfunctional) AA compartment, allowing to be as balanced as the wireless model. The wired version, of course has a USB cable that attaches to the very front of the mouse.

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All in all, it’s a radical but sensible design. It won’t look out of place upon most desks thanks to its dark and textured matte finish, but should be noticed if anyone tries to use your PC.

Testing

In order to evaluate the OrthoMouse, I used it over a period of two weeks as my go-to mouse. I also used it intensively for a weekend, playing a few games and getting some Word and Photoshop work done too. Of course, there was also a lot of Twitter and Reddit surfing going on too.

Work & Web

The OrthoMouse is immediately different in terms of design, but that doesn’t translate into a long training period – you can become quite accurate and comfortable within the first few minutes of using the mouse.

My worry was that the mouse would have odd buttons or just feel weird, but everything was surprisingly natural. The buttons were easy to click, the sensor felt accurate, and of course the posture that the OrthoMouse inspires is quite comfortable.

It was a bit odd getting used to scrolling using two buttons instead of a wheel, but I can see the ergonomic benefits here. After a few articles, I was scrolling around like a pro.

I really noticed the difference after a long day working with the Orthomouse. Normally I have some aches and pains in my wrists and fingers, but I felt quite fresh with the Orthomouse. Adopting the correct posture seemed to work well for me, and working slightly more slower seemed to improve matters too. Overall, it was a highly comfortable mouse, and on a different level to the gaming mice I normally use.

Gaming

I’m a big fan of videogames, so I wanted to find out – is it possible to use this mouse for gaming too? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. I had no issues playing strategy and RPG games with the mouse, as it allowed for a comfortable position and reasonable accuracy, thanks to the 1600 DPI laser sensor. I even tried the mouse in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and it worked surprisingly well; I was able to place top three in a full deathmatch server. You’d probably still want a gaming mouse for competitive play, but for casual stuff the OrthoMouse works just fine – particularly if you go for a shorter prolonger.

Conclusion

All in all, the OrthoMouse surpassed my expectations, proving a comfortable mouse for gaming, work and web surfing over even long periods.

Availability

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There are two different varieties of the OrthoMouse available. One is a wireless laser mouse, and the other is a wired optical variant. The two are quite similar in price, so it’s largely down to your preference – would you prefer a wireless option that’s more convenient but requires batteries, or a wired version that goes without?

What do you think of the OrthoMouse? Let us know in the comments below, and feel free to use the links above to order an OrthoMouse of your very own!

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CM Novatouch TKL UK review

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Today I’m looking at one of most exciting keyboards of 2014: the Novatouch TKL. The Novatouch is a new keyboard from Cooler Master that combines the sublime feel of Topre electro-mechanical switches with ubiquitous Cherry MX keycaps. This hybrid design means that you’ll be able to fully customise your Novatouch with the same widely available Cherry keycaps that would normally be used on a Filco or Ducky. Let’s go on and find out how well the Novatouch works.

Unboxing & Specifications

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The Novatouch TKL comes in a durable black cardboard box, inscribed with the CM logo and wrapped in a sleeve that contains more information about the keyboard.

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You can see those purple-coloured Topre switches on the facing side of the sleeve, atop the ‘switch up your style’ tagline.

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Taking a closer look at the specifications, we can see the relevant data points:

  • Key switch: Hybrid capacitive switch
  • Key rollover: NKRO (Windows only)
  • Polling rate: 1000Hz / 1 ms
  • Interface: Micro USB 2.0, full speed
  • USB cable: 1.8m braided, 18K gold-plated and removable
  • Dimensions: 359 x 138 x 39mm (14.1 x 5.4 x 1.5 inches)
  • Weight: 895 grams (1.97 pounds)

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On the back we can see CM’s claims of ‘the ultimate typing experience’, which seems fair enough given the Topre switch’s legendary reputation.

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Opening the box now, we can see the keyboard for the first time, safely ensconced in a thick layer of foam.

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Besides the keyboard itself and some literature, we have some accoutrements: a removable braided USB cable, a wire-and-plastic key puller and a set of o-rings. The o-rings are intended to offer further customisability, by dampening the actuation of the switch and making its operation quieter.

Now, let’s move onto the design of the keyboard itself!

Design & Physical Features

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Of course, the most important part of this keyboard is that unique switch: an electro-capacitive Topre switch with a Cherry-compatible stem. These particular Topre switches have a uniform 45 gram weighting, with a 1mm actuation point. The keyboard also support NKRO (N-key rollover) on Windows, meaning that there is no limit to the number of keys that can be pressed simultaneously while still being recognised.

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You can see a little of how the key works thanks to this nifty Topre keychain. There’s a conical spring at the base of the switch, sitting below a rubber dome. When the key is pressed down, a circuit is made and the keypress is registered. Then the key is rapidly returned to its starting position.

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So why are Topre switches so desirable? Well, the Topre is a very smooth switch, granting some tactile feedback and a quiet ‘thunk’ sound when pressed. The feel is somewhere between a rubber dome keyboard and a Cherry or Alps mechanical switch, with a soft landing but a fast reset. Typists tend to be quite fond of Topre switches because of their smooth feel, but they can be used for gaming and other tasks as well. For more on Topre, check out our review of the Topre Type Heaven keyboard.

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This is a TKL keyboard, so of course we have no number pad here. Instead, the keyboard stops after the cursor and navigational clusters. This design obviously makes for a smaller and lighter keyboard, but it’s also more comfortable. That’s because your mouse arm can lie more in-line with your body, so you don’t have to adopt a wide, bowed stance.

The Novatouch utilises a very standard layout, with the lone addition of a Function key amongst the modifiers on the right-hand side. This key activates additional functions along the top row. You can control your media, disable the windows key and adjust the volume. There’s even the ability to get multiple keystrokes from a single press, if you ever need to spam buttons in games for quick time events (QTEs) or for performing an attack as quickly as possible. This key repeat function can be set to 2x, 4x, 8x or 1x (back to normal) via the first four function keys.

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The keycaps provided with the Novatouch are made from ABS, standard for most keyboards, with a nicely legible font that resembles Futura or Spartan Classified. The keycaps aren’t bad by any means, but there is more of an expectation here than with other keyboards that you will swap the keycaps, so the originals are less important.

The default ABS keycaps, seen from a variety of angles

The default ABS keycaps, seen from a variety of angles

The back of the keyboard has its serial and model numbers; as you can see this is a model made in China for the UK market. It’s worth noting that there are no cable channels or DIP switches here, which can be found on some Topre models.

The back of the keyboard also has a simple single-stage leg, which feels quite sturdy and props up the keyboard at a higher angle.

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Finally, we can also see the reinforced micro USB port that you’ll use to connect your Novatouch to your PC (or smartphone / tablet via adapters). Combined with the right-angle cable, the connection should be quite durable.

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That’s all of the keyboard’s features covered, so let’s move onto the important part – how does it feel and how well does it work?

Impressions

Installing custom keycaps

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The biggest feature of the Novatouch is installing custom keycaps, so let’s go ahead and do that! I wanted to try some PBT caps, so I took some blank PBTs from a KBT Pure Pro I had lying around. This 60% size keyboard has fewer keys than the Novatouch (and is a US model), so I opted to only transplant the letters and number rows, leaving the modifiers intact.

Using the key puller provided, it took me about 10 minutes to take off the original keycaps and replace them. As promised, the Cherry MX keycaps from the Pure Pro fit perfectly onto the Novatouch. Once installed, the keyboard had a new two-tone look and PBT caps that more closely match Topre keyboards like the Realforce.

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Thanks to the standard layout of the Novatouch, most TKL sets should allow for a full swap, including longer keys that require stabilisers. I swapped on a Backspace key with Cherry-style stabiliser fittings, and it felt quite stable (and quiet) on the Novatouch. Two things to note are the 6.25x size spacebar and the four 1x right-size modifiers (Alt, Win, Fn, Ctrl). You’ll want to find a key set that includes these size keys to do a full swap… although keeping the default black spacebar works fine with most black keysets.

I tried a few keys from pretty much every set I had lying around, and everything fit well. With so many Cherry MX keycaps in circulation, the Novatouch definitely delivers on its promise of an easily customisable Topre!

Typing

The Novatouch is a keyboard built for typing. The smooth force feedback curve and deep, quiet thunk of the keycaps while typing makes for a blissful typing experience. The feel is a bit odd if you’re used to sharper Cherry MX keyboards, but the feeling is certainly one that will find many fans.

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Novatouch ABS keycap (left), a PBT keycap (mid) and a standard Topre PBT keycap (right).

With the standard keycaps, the Novatouch feels quite similar to the Topre Type Heaven. Replace the default ABS caps with PBT alternatives, and you get a feel that is much closer to a Realforce. It’s a little lighter than the Topre Realforce though, and you can feel a small difference side-by-side.

Regardless of the keycaps, you’ll find a nice typing experience that offers a good insight into why Topre keyboards are so prized.

Gaming

The Novatouch doesn’t immediately scream ‘gamer’, but it’s a surprisingly good piece of gaming kit. The keys feel a bit like a rubber dome on the way down, but they’re lighter and rebound quickly.

The Novatouch also includes NKRO, so you can press as many buttons as you like simultaneously and have them all register. For example, in shooters you might want to move back and left (A+S) while walking (Shift), crouching (Ctrl) and swapping to your knife (Q). I played a few matches of competitive Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and I had no issues with the keyboard even in the most frantic of moments.

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CM are also claiming a more rapid debouncing time compared to Cherry MX switches. Debouncing is a mechanism that ensures a single keypress doesn’t register as multiple presses, which naturally occurs due to the tiny oscillating nature of the keypress. In theory, a shorter debounce time would minimise the time between a key press and its interpretation… but this hasn’t been a serious issue since the 80s, and I can’t tell the difference between the Novatouch (5-8ms) and an MX keyboard (19-25ms).

There are no LEDs or macro keys on the Novatouch, although you can disable the Windows key (which some gamers find quite useful to prevent accidental mid-game trips to the desktop). There’s also the option to have repeated keypresses, which was useful in games like Tomb Raider where you have to spam a key in Quick Time Events. Unfortunately, activating this function takes time so it’s not that convenient.

All in all then, this is a keyboard that you can certainly game with – it would be folly to think of this keyboard as for typing only.

Conclusion

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The Novatouch delivers on its promise of Topre switches on a keyboard that can be easily customised with the thousands of Cherry MX keycaps in circulation. This is the ultimate keyboard for enthusiasts who love to play with different keycaps in cool colours and different materials. It’s also a nice entry-point for Topre newcomers, so they can see what the fuss is all about. While some will find Cherry MX switches more to their tastes, typists and gamers alike can recognise the value of this unique keyboard.

Pros

  • As promised, the first easily customisable Topre keyboard
  • Standard layout and feature set
  • Durable construction for case and cable
  • Comes with key puller and o-rings for easy customisation

Cons

  • The unique switch isn’t to everyone’s tastes
  • Relatively boring ABS keycaps to start
  • No backlighting, macro keys or other gamer extras

Signing off

So that’s the Cooler Master Novatouch TKL, a unique keyboard that combines legendary Topre electro-capacitive switches with Cherry MX keycaps. To order the Novatouch TKL in a UK layout, please visit our website via the linke below:

Please let us know what you think of the keyboard and ask us questions below! You can also reach us on Twitter @keyboardco or on Facebook.

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KeyboardCo AMA: highlights from Bruce's Reddit interview session

We recently held an AMA interview session on Reddit, where we invited mechanical keyboard fans to ask our head honcho Bruce anything! Check out the highlights, all nicely organised, right here:

Questions about Bruce

What’s your daily driver?

A Filco, UK Layout Majestouch1 with Browns. It is the first UK one we had – sent as a sample, I put it on my desk and never let it go. I don’t know any better keyboard. I do swap it for a Matias Quiet PC (I love this if I’m doing accounts because of the TAB on the number pad) and A Topre Realforce from time to time for a change and I do love that ‘first day back’ feeling with another keyboard. The Matias is growing on me all the time, that Alps scrunch is really addictive.

What other keyboards do you own?

Those three above are my main drivers. I have a Filco TKL with Reds at home, but that is on the PC that is mostly used by my wife who gives it a proper hammering whilst playing Travian. I always have a bit of time with any new products and we keep a shelf in the office with a nice variety so that any visitors can have a look and a play. On there we have Matias Mini wireless – secure pro, Filco Minila, Unicomp, Max Blackbird, Truly Ergonomic, Matias Tactile Pro, Topre TKL, and a Cherry 3000.

Which keyboard do you personally consider the best?

The one on your PC…. ? My favourite is Filco – but you know I have an interest there…. But I am a ‘less is more’ kind of guy so I love their design and the lack of gizmo bits and they really are made to the highest standards. But keyboards are like shoes, we all have our favourites and we don’t all share the same opinion.

Favourite switch?

Tough question. Blues for typing, Browns for gaming and/or general purpose. Matias Quiet runs it close – and their Tactile switch is great too. I don’t like to look at the switch in isolation though. The characteristics of the switch have to be complimented by the chassis. We’ve seen mechs that have flex in them – so people tend to want a tougher, more tactile, switch to compensate. Then in a really rigid chassis Browns come alive when they would feel like mush in a soft chassis. It’s holistic.

Do you have a favourite 60% size mechanical keyboard?

I love them; we always just called it a mini, or laptop style. Back in 89 when I started here I used one of our Sejin 86 keys for years (like this). Not sure my favourite mechanical one though. I really like the Matias mini-pro. It has a little more room around it.

Do you have the time and inclination for gaming, and if so, what genre(s)?

Not so much these days. I was playing more when the first Doom came along and Duke Nukem. They were so good! I still enjoy a racer, Colin McRae rally has been played to death on our PSII.

Besides keyboards, what other hobbies or things you are interested in?

Being English, I love cricket. I played for a local village team for many years. These days I don’t get so much time as a cricket match can take all day – so now I play some squash to keep fit. I have a game tonight..

I also love a good book, anything really but especially those old historical novels about when knights were bold….

If you were going to be in a keyboard fight, which one would you choose?

My keyboards are all too beautiful to fight with so I’d grab an old Model M! Those things really are solid. You know we once took a pallet of them as scrap, I think I paid £50 for the lot. We tested them all and they all worked, even the ones that had so much crud under the keys that it was limiting the travel!

Bruce’s Past

What was your first mech keyboard?

Haha, I am of an age whereby I can remember good mechs from the first time around! We had things like Model M, Cherry, Fujitsu way back. Then it all died a bit of a death, and it was only Geekhack and some loons like Ripster who made one of the greatest examples of consumer power I know of to bring it to the fore again… The real answer is a Cherry 3000. Blues I think.

What is your career background? What ever gave you the idea to start a KEYBOARD company of all things?

Chequered might be a good description. I gained an interest in computing while working for a small computer builder called Interset in the West of England for a year after education, we built computers for the print trade to do typesetting. I remember the day the production Manager brought in a Mackintosh to have a look at – a half hour after booting it up – we realised we might well need new jobs soon. This was the 80s and everyone in UK was making money on property so against the advice of all sensible commentators I jacked and started a painting and decorating business. So I was running my own company in construction in and around London up until the late 90s. It was hard work but fun and rewarding. This doesn’t appear to be the best grounding for doing what I do now but construction is a tough trade and if you don’t do it right you don’t get paid. So I learned very valuable lessons about service and the importance of customer satisfaction which have served me well in the Tech Sector where these things are often ignored. I was about ready for a change when my Step Father, Geoff Thomas asked me to help out with The Keyboard Company. It was temporary at first but things went well and I took over as Managing Director after a short time and Geoff retired through illness.

How did you start your adventure with mechanical keyboards?

There was a time when Andy and I really ran the company and we both started to think that NOT all keyboards were made the same. We had Fujitsu models (FK4725??) that were so much nicer than others, we also had Cherry 3000 and Datalux and we noticed the difference. This would be early nineties but it was more a personal thing, the trade we were doing was different.. It was only when we were told about Diatec/Filco and Geekhack that it became something more than that.

The Future

What keyboards are you looking forward to?

There are two, The Matias Ergo Pro and Filco Convertible. Both of these break new ground – and will be popular.

Where do you see the state of the keyboard industry in five years?

I think (hope) we’ll see more smaller manufacturers and more variety. Manufacturing techniques will improve more and more and smaller batches won’t be so limiting. We’re seeing that already. The web helps there too. Some big companies are muscling in on mechanicals and seem to do OK selling keyboards that don’t really merit the cost of the switches but I think people will get wise to that.

What do you see as the future of mechanical keyboards?

I think the worm has most definitely turned and mechanicals have proven to us that we don’t have to accept a poor quality keyboard when we type at work for hours and then at leisure too. I think mechanicals will be with us until we decide we’re not going to use keyboards at all. I see the cheap and nasty stuff going down and down. I often think about the car business and how cars now are so good, feature wise, reliability, comfort, speed. I think that is a good analogy for keyboards and how we now, as mature users of computers want and expect something that is well built and as nice to use as is possible.

KeyboardCo Questions

How many people work at KeyboardCo?

There are seven including me.

Are you hiring now or in the foreseeable future?

We’re not right now. But I’m always happy to check out a CV and keep a name for the future.

Do you have any plans for keyboards parts for European DIY enthusiasts (plates, pcb, controller, springs, cases, etc)?

We have been doing more spares and accessories and I think it is needed. Not least we sell expensive keyboards and they are worth maintaining and repairing and that makes our proposition add up more. Some of the manufacturers we work with are great and will supply virtually all the component parts but that is not always possible. Then there is the third party upgrade stuff, like Pexon PCs, that is all really good too. I can’t honestly say how much it will grow, it needs to be a compliment to the existing sales that we do and It is really tough making any profit on small bits because fixed costs come into play. I’m not sure it’s our strong suite.

Do you plan on selling the Pok3r?

We think long and hard about new suppliers – we are only as good as our partners. As a company, we need to bring something to the party so if things are already up and running it tends to not suit us so well. We are at our best when we can enable a manufacturer in some way, usually by investing in some stock, making new layouts available and improving distribution and service. This all takes up resources so we have to find a balance between variety and making sure we do our job properly.

This is particularly pertinent at present – there is new stuff coming from those we already work with and there is so much happening in the market that it is hard to keep up. New makes, new switches, new gizmos.

I’m not sure what POK3R are up to or what plans they have for Europe but we are always happy to talk to people. Supply relationships are like any other relationships, sometimes it’s just not the right time and place, sometimes you just don’t seem to click, and other times you can’t find a room quick enough. Oh – and you can get in trouble for playing the field.

What was your oddest customer request?

There was one where we were asked to provide dummy keyboards, or dongles. We had a call from a UK supermarket who were installing till systems that were connected to PCs. It was never needed, but there was a PS2 keyboard port on the PCs and without a keyboard plugged in they would not boot. Behind the till there was no room for a keyboard so they wanted to use a dummy of some sort. Now I always suspected that this could be solved via the bios but who am I to question why? Also, doing it this way they could plug in a working keyboard if they needed to. Back then we dealt in surplus so we had a lot of keyboards that really had little or no value, I pulled one apart and cut out the PCB with the controller chip on it, plugged the lead back into it and taped it all up so that there was a small bundle of tape with 6” of lead and a PS2 connector. This we put into a BimBox so it looked tidy and sent to them. They tried it, liked it, and ordered 20-30 at a time steadily for years, each time they rolled out to another store. We made good money on it and they never had one fail.

Conclusion

Thanks to everyone who contributed questions, and to Bruce and John for contributing their time to answer questions and get things organised! If you have a question you’d like to ask Bruce or anyone else at KeyboardCo, feel free to leave it below.

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Cherry UK

cherry-logoIt is with some sadness that we heard this week the news that Cherry UK will be closing its doors at the end of 2015. ZF Friedrichshafen AG will be implementing a new business model which does not include boots on the ground in the UK.

I would like to take this opportunity to give thanks on behalf of The Keyboard Company to Mike Groom and his team in Luton. Steve, Carol and Robin have been fixtures in the keyboard business since the day I began and although I am sure they had easier customers, they have always been efficient, expert, calm and friendly. I shall miss them. Every Cherry keyboard sold in the UK in the last 20 years has been handled by them in one way or another.

I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing them all good luck in their future ventures. And maybe hoping that any money saved will be spent on new MX switch production by Cherry/ZF!

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Cherry MX Board 6.0 hands-on review

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Today we’re taking a look at the latest keyboard from Cherry, the MX Board 6.0. When we last looked at a Cherry keyboard, it was the MX Board 3.0. We found that to be a nice keyboard with unusual low-profile keycaps, and so I’m excited to see what innovations Cherry have packed into the new model. Let’s get started!

Features & Specifications

  • Cherry MX red switches with NKRO
  • RealKey fully analogue signal processing
  • Red backlighting (100 brightness levels)
  • Media, backlighting adjust and Windows lock keys
  • Aluminium (sanded-finish) housing
  • Removable wrist rest
  • 2 metre textile-covered USB cable
  • 454 x 147 x 28.4 millimetres (keyboard only)
  • 1350 grams (wrist rest is 257 grams)

Unboxing

The MX Board 6.0 comes in a classy black cardboard box, with little more than Cherry’s logo and the MX Board 6.0 writing. On the back, you get the standard features and a photo of the keyboard.

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Let’s take the keyboard out of the box and discard the usual literature. The keyboard comes wrapped in this nice microfibre cloth, with the MX Board 6.0 logo imprinted upon it. Hang onto this – it’ll be great to use whenever you’re taking your keyboard to a LAN or leaving it unused for a long period of time, to prevent dust build-up.

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Now let’s take a look at the keyboard itself.

Design

The MX Board 6.0 lives up to its premium price point with a very swanky design. Sanded aluminium is used for the upper housing, with a grease-resistant coating that should keep it in good condition for a long time. The aluminium extends down the front and half of the sides, with sloped edges that remind me of the T-34. Like that mechanical marvel, this keyboard is an impressive bit of kit – and it gets more impressive when it lights up.

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At the heart of this keyboard are Cherry’s own MX Red switches. With many keyboards moving to competing switches, it’s nice to feel genuine Cherry switches once again.

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The MX Board 6.0 has fairly short ABS keycaps, lasered to allow the backlighting through.

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The keyboard includes red LEDs, with an unprecedented 100 levels of brightness. There are +/- 1% keys on F5 and F6, with +/- 10% keys on F7 and F8 to speed things up. There’s also an off setting, toggled with F9. The backlighting feels like a warmer red to me than other keyboards I’ve used, and I appreciate that.

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The layout is quite standard at this stage, with a few exceptions. There’s a function key in the lower section of the keyboard, which allows access to the volume and backlight controls. The upper right corner of the keyboard, where most keyboards have status LEDs, is instead filled with more keys: a Windows lock key and skip forward / play / skip back buttons. This is a useful use of this space, but it raises a question – how does the keyboard signal that Caps Lock is on?

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The MX Board 6.0 actually includes dual-colour LEDs for Caps Lock, Scroll Lock and Num Lock, plus Windows and the Win Lock key. That means these keys can glow blue instead of red when that particular function is active. Note that the backlight controls don’t affect these keys, so they will always be on quite a bright setting.

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The keyboard also comes with a rubber wrist rest.

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Turn over the keyboard, and you have the standard arrangement of rubber feet and a pair of flip-out plastic feet for getting a bit of tilt on. The keyboard also includes a magnetic connector for the wrist rest, making it easy to add or remove the rest as needed.

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Finally, the cable. This is a usual braided cable, ending in a gold connector. You have two metres to play with, which should be suitable for most all situations. The cable initially looks like it might be removable, but it is not – don’t tug on it!

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Impressions

Typing on the Cherry MX Board 6.0 feels great, with the light Red switches providing a calming report and just enough feedback to make high speed typing easy. While the keys are a little more tightly spaced than the average full-size keyboard, this kept the keyboard’s footprint at a manageable level and never caused issues. The low-profile ABS keycaps themselves are nice, with a very clear font used and no typographic oddities to be found. I’ve always been surprised that there are so few low-profile mechanical keyboards, so the MX Board 6.0 is a solid addition to that small pool.

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The wrist rest was another good inclusion, making typing for long periods more comfortable. The rubber coating feels a little sticky and is hard to clean, but it does look good if you can keep it spick and span.

The media keys were also quite useful, particularly the skip and pause keys in the upper right. Usually these are hidden in a function layer, so it was great to be able to hit just one key and get an instant result.

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The unique feature of this keyboard is the RealKey signal processing, an analogue system which Cherry hold reduces key input lag from 20ms to just 1ms. This sounds great, but ultimately it’s impossible to tell the difference between the MX Board 6.0 and another keyboard that lacks this technology. When the average human can only react to something in 200ms, reducing input lag by 19ms is largely irrelevant. I’d welcome a blind trial of the technology to prove its efficacy.

The red LEDs used on the MX Board 6.0 – and the 100 levels of brightness – are impressive and work well, ensuring you’ll always find a suitable level. I like the colour of these too, which seems a little warmer than most red LEDs I’ve seen.

It is vexing to see that the bright blue status LEDs cannot be turned down though. I never engage Windows lock as I use the key frequently, so I had to just deal with a very bright LED behind a large symbol, which was capable of leaving an after-image in my eye late at night. Not cool, Cherry.

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Conclusion

The MX Board 6.0 is a bold keyboard, with a stylish metal design, dependable Cherry switches and a few cool features. It’s hard to tell the impact of the RealKey analogue signal processing that Cherry have been so proud of, but the keyboard feels responsive and handles NKRO with ease. While there are a few niggling factors to be aware of, this is a solid premium keyboard and it’s definitely worth a try.

The MX Board 6.0 is available now at Keyboard Co right here.

Pros

  • Cherry MX switches feel as great as ever
  • Incredible range and precision for backlighting
  • Aluminium chassis provides a feeling of definite quality

Cons

  • Rubber-coated wrist rest picks up debris quickly and is sticky in hot weather
  • Blue status LEDs (Win / Num / Scroll) cannot be dimmed, clash with red LEDs
  • RealKey analogue signal processing is impossible to distinguish

 Link

Thanks for checking out the article. Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below!

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Black Friday Deals 2015

Black Friday is kicking off soon, on the 27th of November. We’ll be offering a range of Black Friday deals to celebrate the start of the Christmas shopping season, including 25% off on some of our favourite keyboards, mice and accessories.

keyboard-layoutWe’ll reveal one new deal per day in the run-up to Black Friday, and on the 27th all the deals will begin! Of course, these deals are only good while stocks last, so be sure to get your order in as soon as we flip that switch!


Deal #1: 25% off the Matias Tactile Pro for PC in UK, German and Nordic layouts! This keyboard’s loud tactile sound evokes the old Model M, with proper crunchy feedback that makes you feel alive. You can read more about the Tactile Pro in our hands-on review here.

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Deal #2: 25% off the Trackbar Emotion. This ergonomic mouse replacement sits just below your keyboard, allowing you to adopt a more natural posture and helping to prevent the onset of RSI and related disorders.

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Deal #3: 25% off two SealShield peripherals: the SealShield 208 Washable Keyboard and the Washable Storm Mouse. Both are great for use in environments where cleanliness is key, or just in places where you’re likely to get your keyboard and mouse dirty on the regular.

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Deal #4: 25% off two ShortBoard keyboards: the Shortboard Universal and the Shortboard Plus Universal. If you’re looking for something with the small size of a TKL or 60% size keyboard, but you don’t want to spend extra on mechanical switches, this is a great choice. The Universal is in white, the Plus Universal is in black.

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Deal #5: 25% off  the Max Keyboard BlackBird and all keycap sets and samplers. The keyboard comes with a UK TKL layout with Cherry MX Brown switches and cool blue backlighting! This is my all-time favourite keyboard (and the one I’m using for these very words); check out my early review here.

Also included are a range of Max Keyboard keycaps, keysets and samplers:

universal_cherry_mx_clear_black_keycap_set_largeKeycap sets with legends

cherry_mx_switch_pro_sampler_largeBlank, translucent black keycap sets

Cherry MX switch samplers


Deal #6: 25% off the Filco MiniLa 60% size mechanical keyboard! This is a UK (ISO) model with Black switches, and it’s the wired model (not the Bluetooth Air). This is one of our most-requested items for a Black Friday deal, so I hope you like it! You can read more about the MiniLa in our review here.

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Stay tuned for all of our Black Friday deals on mechanical keyboards, ergonomic mice and much more. We’ll update on Twitter and Facebook as each deal is posted, so follow us for the latest news!

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KBP V60 Mini review (MX Clear, Matias Quiet Click & Matias Click)

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We recently added a trio of 60% size compact mechanical keyboards to our shelves. These are the KB Paradise V60 Minis, available with three different switches in the USA layout. You have a choice of the rare Cherry MX Clears, stealthy Matias Quiet Click or retro Matias Click switches. I was lucky enough to be able to try all three, so here are my impressions!

Features

  • 60% size keyboard (289 x 100 x 42mm, 800g)
  • Cherry MX Clear, Matias Quiet Click or Matias Click switches
  • N-Key rollover, plug ‘n play, upgradeable firmware
  • Blue or Red LED backlighting (on MX Clear model)
  • DIP switches, keycaps and key puller for custom layouts
  • Detachable Mini USB cable

Design

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The KB Paradise V60 is a simple but attractive compact keyboard, one that drew a cute chorus of ‘aww!’ when it was pulled from its equally tiny cardboard box. It measures a little under 30 centimetres across, 10 centimetres down and 4 centimetres deep.

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Compared to a normal keyboard, there are no dedicated F keys (F1 – F12), arrow keys or navigation keys (Ins/Del/etc). Instead, these are accessible via a Fn layer; the top row becomes the F keys, arrow keys are on “WASD” and the navigation keys are on the right side of the keyboard. The Fn layer also contains media keys, allowing you to adjust the volume or change tracks. The manual provided (JPG) with the keyboard has a full list of the various Fn key combinations, and these are also printed on the keys themselves.

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Apart from the keyboard and manual, you’ll also get a Mini USB cable, a key puller, and a selection of alternate keycaps.

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The keyboard has six DIP switches on the bottom right side, allowing you to swap the position of various modifier keys like Fn, Ctrl, Win, Alt, Tab and more. You can use these to mimic that of native Mac or *nix keyboard layouts and more easily access the Fn layer.

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The bottom of the keyboard also has some rubbery feet which anchor it very well to the desk, given its size.

Switch comparison

The first keyboard I tried was the MX Clear version, as it was my first encounter with the switch. The MX Clear switch is essentially a more forceful MX Brown, a tactile switch that actuates at around 55 cN of force compared to 45 cN on the Brown. The real advantage of these switches is that they make it harder to bottom out, allowing you to adopt a less tiring and more efficient typing style. While it takes more force to press down, the switches also return to their original position faster. It’s an interesting feeling for sure, and one that I’d definitely recommend as a trial for anyone that is a fan of the more common Brown switches. The dual-colour backlighting of the MX Clear model also looked awesome, and definitely proved its worth during late night writing.

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While I’ve used the Matias Click and Quiet Click on Matias’ own keyboards, this was the first time I’d used them on a 60% size keyboard. I found their inclusion to be absolutely excellent, with the same feeling of tactile response as Matias’ own keyboards. The Quiet Click switches were dutifully quiet and worked well for working in public, while the Click switches were brilliant for clacking loudly and proudly at home. Given the portable nature of the V60 I think the Quiet Click switches make the most sense, but all three are viable options.

Overall impressions

The keyboards themselves were very fun to use, not even considering the relatively uncommon switches inside each. The keyboards worked great for games, providing plenty of space for the mouse and its mat, and the backlighting of the MX Clear model was useful too. The V60 was a little less ideal for programming and writing, thanks to the movement of the cursor keys to the Fn layer. (This is why Matias are making their own 60% that does include arrow keys in the right place!)

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The DIP switches allowed me to get another Fn key on the never-used Caps Lock, and that made accessing the arrow keys and media controls much easier. The other keys – F1 to F12 and the navigation cluster – were used less frequently and I didn’t mind their move to the Fn layer. When moving to a Mac, I also appreciated the rapid switch to Mac-style modifiers with just the flick of a switch.

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The small size and low weight of the V60 Minis made them easily portable, and excellent companions to tablets or even smartphones via a USB OTG cable. The keyboard was also great for LAN parties, taking up minimal space and weight in my bag yet delivering all of the keys necessary for games like Counter-Strike, Civilization V and Rocket League. The choice of Red or Blue backlighting on the MX version was also a useful addition for late-night gaming.

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If you’re looking for a low-cost keyboard for taking with you to work – or on holiday! – the the V60 Mini is an awesome choice that provides all of the fun of a full-size mechanical keyboard but in a much more portable package. Heavy writers or number crunchers will probably want a TKL or full-size keyboard as their primary, but as a cute secondary the V60 is so much fun.

Links

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Conclusion

Thanks for checking out the article. Be sure to let us know what you think on the comments below, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook!

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Matias update: linear switches & 60% size keyboard

Matias are well known for their classic Mac-style keyboards, but they’re also innovators – Edgar Matias made his name with a one-handed keyboard, and recently the company developed a Quiet Click switch that has been used to great effect in its recent keyboards. It’s no surprise then, that Matias have a few more projects in the works. Today we’re going to introduce two:  their redesigned linear switch and a 60% size keyboard.

Matias Quiet Linear switches

Matias linear switches were developed for the Open Stenography project as an improvement over Cherry’s Red and Black linear switches.

KS102Q - Matias Quiet Linear Key Switch ModuleThey boast a smoother and more stable feel thanks to an internal leaf spring that tries to keep resistance at the same level throughout a key press. They’re also quieter than Cherry switches (and even quieter than Matias’ Quiet Click switches), making them ideal for office use or late night gaming. Finally, the switch housing is transparent, making them compatible with (RGB) backlighting.

Of course, the new switches also have the traditional advantages of Matias mechanical switches. That includes N-Key Rollover (NKRO) so you can press as many keys down as you like and have them all register correctly, and a rated lifespan of 50 million presses.

We’re stocking the switches, and you can purchase as many as you’d like right here if you’d like to include them in a custom keyboard (or replace the switches in your existing keyboard). The switches are also available from Matias themselves for North American customers.

Matias Quiet Linear Switches - click for larger images

Of course, you might think – hey! I want to try these new switches in an actual keyboard that I can just buy. And that’s totally valid – so have a look at Matias’ 60% size keyboard, which will include the new soft linear switches.

Why linear switches? Well, clicky or tactile switches are great for pressing a large amount of different keys thanks to their aural and tactile feedback; it’s no surprise that they tend to be slightly favoured for writing and RTS games. For other games like FPS though, where you’re pressing a small number of keys repeatedly, then the softer, smoother action of a linear switch can be better.

Choosing a switch is a very personal experience of course, so we encourage you to try the different options available to you rather than feel there’s only one viable option for your activity of choice! Read more about different Cherry MX switches here; we’ll have a guide to different Matias switches up soon.

Matias 60% keyboard

For years, fans have been asking for a more compact Matias keyboard. Matias heard their cries and started work on their simply titled 60% keyboard – a keyboard that is about 60% the size of a normal full keyboard.

This portable option frees up space on your desk, is better for traveling with and lets you move your mouse into a more comfortable position. Lots of people use keyboards of this size with tablets or laptops, as they’re small enough to sit below the display and don’t add too much to your baggage.

The Matias 60% is even thinner and smaller than a TKL (tenkeyless) keyboard, as it omits the Function row and the numberpad. In addition, everything that normally sits to the right of the Enter key (the arrow keys and the navigation cluster) have been moved into the bottom right of the keyboard, where the secondary modifiers (Right Alt, Right Ctrl, etc.) usually sit. The result is what Matias call “the power of a full keyboard in the smallest usable size.”

Matias 60% Keyboard - click for larger images

Matias are even offering two different versions for Windows and Mac users. Windows users get the navigation cluster and arrow keys, while Mac users get Option and Fn plus arrow keys. You can see the Windows layout on the left and the Mac layout on the right. Best of all, you can change between Windows and Mac layouts with a DIP switch setting, so you can easily use the keyboard with both operating systems.

Nav Key Cluster    Arrow Key Cluster

There’s a Group Buy going on right now for the Matias 60%, so if you want to be one of the first to get your hands on one then head over to the 60% page on Matias’ site. There’s a choice of Matias Click, Quiet Click and the new Quiet Linear switches – or you might prefer to buy one without switches, and add in your own Matias or Cherry MX switches. Finally, you can even choose to buy a Matias 60% with a unibody aluminium shell, adding a little weight but providing better durability and an awesome look.

Black and Aluminum Cases

If you’d prefer to wait and see how they turn out, then you’ll be able to buy one from us once everything is finished. We’ll update our blog once we have a confirmed date for this, which should be quite some time in the future.

Conclusion

So there we have it – two cool new efforts from Matias.

It’s important to note that both projects are still in their early stages, so this information can (and probably will) change. We’ll take a closer look at these projects as they progress.

We welcome your feedback as always, and we’ll forward on any particularly interesting comments or questions to Matias themselves. Thanks for reading our Matias update!

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Cleankeys CK3-17 medical keyboard hands-on review

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The Cleankeys CK3-17 is a glass keyboard, designed for industrial and medical settings where keeping equipment clean is essential. Here’s our hands-on review.

Features & software

The keyboard is coated with Gorilla Glass, you can clean the keyboard as you would any other piece of glass – with a cloth and a suitable spray of cleaning solution. This is faster and easier than washing a keyboard in a dishwasher or with cotton swabs, and because it’s a flat, uniform surface there’s no place for germs to hide. The keyboard can also be cleaned while it’s plugged in, saving further time.

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Note: The model shown in this photo is the CK3-15 wireless version, which also adds a unique integrated touchpad. Please see the CK3-15 product page for more information.

The Cleankeys comes with special CleanSweep software, which monitors the cleanliness of the keyboard. You’ll set a policy for regular cleaning, and the software will enforce that policy through reminders. The software is surprisingly precise, showing you how much of the keyboard you’ve cleaned in real time. That ensures that you never miss a spot, and the Cleankeys will become clean and sterile every time.

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Whoops, looks like I missed a few spots

The Cleankeys works out of the box with no software required, and runs happily on Windows, Mac and Linux. Sensitivity and volume control keys allow you to change these settings on the fly, while a Pause key lets you clean the keyboard without activating any keys. If you do decide you want to install some software, you’ll be able to implement cleaning regimes, use the TouchTap software and monitor the cleanliness of the keyboard.

Physical Features

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The Cleankeys is a gorgeous full-size keyboard, in a suitably clean-looking white colour. Beneath the flat glass surface, keys are laid out with thin grey outlines, with large easy-to-read legends and secondary functions marked in green. The polycarbonate chassis is easy to grip.

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LED indicators are provided for power, caps lock, scroll lock and number lock. LEDs also light up when the volume or sensitivity of the keyboard are adjusted; this is achieved through a Function layer and the pressing of F9 through F12. The Function layer also works with F1 to Pause inputs to the keyboard for cleaning; this also lights an LED.

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On the underside of the keyboard, we have the manufacturer and regulatory information and some rubber feet. The USB cable is sealed upon entry to the keyboard, allowing the keyboard to resist water ingress. It is rated IP65 for water and dust ingress, and the keyboard can operate in temperatures between 5 and 32 degrees celsius.

Typing

Typing on the Cleankeys is just like using a smartphone – you’re tapping on glass, with an optional beep providing feedback on each key press. Unlike a smartphone though, you’re typing on a full-size keyboard, making it easier to type quickly and accurately. I generally found that I typed at about 30~ words per minute using the Cleankeys. That’s slower than I can manage on my daily mechanical keyboard, but much faster than I am typing on a smartphone or tablet.

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I was more accurate when tapping (with two fingers and looking at the keys), but faster when I was touch-typing as normal (with all fingers and looking at the screen). The keyboard includes a special TouchTap mode which allows you to rest your fingers on the keys without registering a keypress and cleverly selects the most likely key if your fingers land between two. You can set the sensitivity of the keyboard and the loudness of the aural feedback as well, allowing you to maximise your speed and accuracy. The sensitivity setting also allows gloves to be used while typing.

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Of course, the Cleankeys CK3-17 could still be improved. Smartphone style shortcuts and auto-correction, particularly the ability to double tap the space bar to insert a space and period, would be most welcome. With these in place, I feel I could type even more rapidly and accurately, maybe even past the level of a good mechanical keyboard.

Conclusion

Overall, I was impressed with the Cleankeys keyboard. It fulfills its promise of being the most easily cleaned keyboard in the world, and offers surprisingly good typing action as well thanks to its intelligent software and helpful aural feedback. The keyboard makes a lot of sense for medical and industrial settings, and I’m curious to see what innovations the company is able to come up with in the future.

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Red, Blue & Black O-Rings arrive at Keyboard Co

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One of the easiest ways to modify the feel of your keyboard is to add o-rings around the stem of each keycap. These provide a softer landing for each key, reducing the travel distance and muffling the ‘clack’ sound that happens when you bottom out.

There are a couple of key attributes of each o-ring: thickness and hardness. In general:

  • A thicker ring will reduce key travel more than a thinner ring.
  • A softer ring will make a switch quiet more effectively than a harder ring.

We’ve recently added three o-ring sets to our store. Each set comes with 125 o-rings, allowing you to outfit a full keyboard and have a few spares left over as well. Let’s take a closer look at each:

Red O-Rings

This set of red o-rings is made from silicone and has a hardness value of 40A on the Shore durometer. Each o-ring is 1.5mm thick and has an internal diameter of 5mm. These o-rings provide a standard amount of noise and travel reduction, and therefore are a good choice if you’re not sure which variety to choose from.

Blue O-Rings

These blue o-rings are made from EP (ethylene propylene), which is more durable than silicone. These o-rings are also thicker than the red or black varieties, at 1.78mm, with a slightly smaller internal diameter. This means that key travel is reduced more than on the thinner red or black o-rings. The hardness value remains the same at 40A on the Shore durometer, so the amount of noise reduction should be about the same. If reducing key travel is your goal, then these blue o-rings are a good option.

Black O-Rings

Our final set of o-rings are black. They’re similar to the red o-rings, being made of silicone and with a 1.5mm thickness, but they have a hardness rating of 50A on the Shore durometer. That means they’re made of harder rubber, which should make for a more crisp landing and less noise reduction. If you’re looking to reduce key travel distance and not affect the sound of the switch as much, these are a good choice.

o-rings

For more details or to order your o-rings, visit the relevant link below:

Thanks for checking out the article, and be sure to let us know what you think of these o-rings on Twitter @keyboardco, on Facebook or in the comments below. Thanks again and have a great week!

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