Per-Key Quality Testing

In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyser that is programmed to measure and display the actuation force of the standard keyboard keys. By measuring the actuation force of every key, the quality and consistency of the keyboard can be quantified. It can also reveal design issues, such as the larger keys being far softer to press than the main keys of the keyboard. The actuation force is measured in Centinewton (cN). Some companies use another figure, gram-force (gf). The conversion formula is 1 cN = 1.02 gf (i.e. they are about the same). A high quality keyboard should be as consistent as possible, with an average actuation force as near to the manufacturer's specs as possible and a disparity of less than ±10%. Greater differences are likely to be perceptible by users. It is worth noting that there is typically variance among keyboards, although most keyboard companies will try and maintain consistency - as with other reviews, we're testing our sample only.

The machine we use for our testing is accurate enough to provide readings with a resolution of 0.1 cN. For wider keys (e.g. Enter, Space Bar, etc.), the measurement is taking place at the center of the key, right above the switch. Note that large keys generally have a lower actuation force even if the actuation point is at the dead center of the key. This is natural, as the size and weight of the keycap reduces the required actuation force. For this reason, we do display the force required to actuate every key but we only use the results of the typical sized keys for our consistency calculations. Still, very low figures on medium sized keys, such as the Shift and Enter keys reveal design issues and can easily be perceptible by the user.

Cherry’s MX switches are of excellent quality and very consistent. We always had great lab results with them and the MX Brown switches that Cooler Master is using on the Master Keys Pro L keyboard are no exception, with an imperceptible disparity of just ± 3.04% across the main keys. The average actuation force is 46.5 cN, just a little higher than the rated 45 cN. This difference is very small and reasonable with tactile switches that have a significantly stiffer pressure point.

Examining the Keyboard Final Words and Conclusion
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  • JoeyJoJo123 - Friday, October 21, 2016 - link

    CODE keyboards are sold with Brown and Green switches also, at least on Massdrop. I got a CODE tenkeyless with browns there for ~$133.74 after shipping not too long ago.

    I would've gotten a Cooler Master Master keys if it was available in tenkeyless form factor when I was looking for a somewhat portable 2nd mechanical keyboard to put in my LAN PC peripherals backpack. The full 104-keys is a bit too tall to comfortably zip up on my backpack, and I don't think I quite need the numpad when I'd likely just use the WASD keys 90% of the time.
    Reply
  • pierrot - Friday, October 21, 2016 - link

    Definitely reminds me of the CODE, and its cheaper too. There might be cheaper options out there but they dont have the minimal style. I wish this was out back when I was shopping for a kb Reply
  • l8gravely - Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - link

    I've got two CODE keyboards, so I was interested in seeing this review, but I feel it left of some important details.

    1. Can I re-program the damn caps lock to be a Control key in hardware? I *never* need to use CAPSLOCK in my life, so putting the Control key back on the home row for this die hard emacs user is a key (sorry for the pun!) feature.

    How durable will the key caps be? My CODEs are already showing wear on the keys, to the point that the A key isn't much more than a blob of white surrounded by black.

    I do like the cheaper price and I might think about getting one of these down the line.

    It is nice seeing that people are starting to realize that good keyboards are well worth the investment, esp for those who use them day in and day out.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Friday, October 21, 2016 - link

    Dear E. Fylladitakis, I'd appreciate your keyboard reviews even if more you had some spec sheet on the first page, like in other reviews. Switch type and price should be in this list (plus whatever you think is relevant). With that I could take a quick look an judge whether it's worth reading the review. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Friday, October 21, 2016 - link

    Sorry: "even if more you" -> "even more if you" Reply
  • mobutu - Friday, October 21, 2016 - link

    Finally, a simple solid product without big bullshit logos and stupid colours and rgb lighting. Just simple discrete aspect with white light. Excellent. Reply
  • DanaGoyette - Sunday, October 23, 2016 - link

    Keyboard replaces the context-menu key with FN, while leaving two Windows keys... fail!

    When I bought my most recent keyboard, "doesn't throw away the context-menu key" was one of my criteria.

    I'll admit that I don't use that key as often as I did in the past, but I still consider the key rather important.
    Reply
  • asfletch - Sunday, October 23, 2016 - link

    A counterpoint to the conclusion - there is no way in a million years I would have the 'Cougar Attack X3' on my office desk, whereas the CoolerMaster is close to the ideal candidate. As such, I don't see the Cougar as a direct competitor. If anything, this is up against Code, Ducky et al IMHO, and is accordingly priced just fine. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Monday, October 24, 2016 - link

    I don't care much for mechanical keyboards. The IBM Model M was a good board, but modern mechanical switches are pretty horrible for typing comfort compared to pretty much any decent membrane board. The price premium is pretty much unjustifiable and espoused durability is a checkbox feature rather than representative of reality. In 30 years of computing, I've only seen two keyboards die...the Model M and one cheap Gateway branded membrane board so saying they last longer is, in my opinion, delusional fantasy presented by manufacturers to help justify higher margins in conjunction with clueless computer users looking for a way to make themselves feel better about being willingly taken in by the features list.

    However, if I had to use a mechanical keyboard, the Cooler Master in this review is one of the very few AT has looked at that I'd consider putting on my desk because this particular version doesn't waste its time with a lot of no-value-added macros and rainbow lighting. Still, I'd firstly stick with the keyboard built into my laptop before resorting to something like one of these. It'd be an absolute last resort.
    Reply
  • nikon133 - Monday, October 24, 2016 - link

    I have found my perfect keyboard in Logitech Orion 610 with Brown switches. I'm leftie, so macro keys usually don't mean much to me. On the other hand, I prefer small footstep keyboards but full-size layout with volume and basic media keys included.

    This looks quite a bit like Orion 610, only without media keys.
    Reply

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