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.

Meanwhile, regular readers who are familiar with our keyboard reviews will want to note that a few keys have been removed from our testing pattern, due to the different layout of the keyboard.

Omron’s B3K switches are clearly much different than Cherry’s MX switches and their clones. They are tactile but the bump is so subtle that it is almost impossible to notice it. Most users would actually compare the Romer-G to the Cherry MX Red switch, not to the Brown one.

The average actuation force is at 48.6 cN, slightly higher than the 45 cN rating of the switch, but the disparity over the main keys is only ± 5.75%. This indicates that Omron’s switches are of very good quality, with little inconsistencies between their products that cannot be perceived by human touch. It is worthwhile to mention that the operating force of the larger keys is similar to that of the main keys, even that of the huge Space Bar.

Logitech Gaming Software & ARX Control Application Final Words and Conclusion


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  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, October 6, 2016 - link

    I'd argue that no one is being ripped off. What you're seeing is a price the company believes the market is willing to endure. A lot of people believe they're reaping a benefit worth the cost when they pay $50-200 USD for a keyboard. What they get back is only emotional satisfaction as there's no evidence that a "gamer" keyboard makes your character run forward better when the W key is mashed over a membrane keyboard, but because the buyer believes they've reaped some sort of a reward, the purchase is made anyway. If you want to blame anyone for stupid keyboard prices, blame the ones who are buying these things. They created the market for them in the first place. Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Thursday, October 6, 2016 - link

    I would also add that the gaming specific market has driven prices up with products bearing a team name or the name of the guy who won the last tournament. Putting fancy colors on the product, standout packaging, and an endorsement from a "pro" gamer and you drive the price up. Like you said there are people buying these when the same functionality can be had elsewhere. Companies like Razer really take advantage of this consumer segment.

    It's really a combination of the two IMO. The companies marketing gear specific to gaming to "give you the winning edge", as well as the people buying it. All manner of parts and peripherals are like this. It's not just keyboards.
  • Murloc - Thursday, October 6, 2016 - link

    but it's not like the das keyboard which aims at being essential is cheap either. Reply
  • shabby - Thursday, October 6, 2016 - link

    Lets just hope these companies don't figure out that putting "tactical" will also increase sales and desirability. Reply
  • BurntMyBacon - Friday, October 7, 2016 - link

    Shoot me now. Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, October 6, 2016 - link

    Back in the day, those keyboards were cheap because they were mass produced, and they had no special features. These days, they are not mass produced in the quantities that they were back then. As production numbers go down, the price to produce goes up.

    But, I do think $180 is kind of steep. I paid $120 each for my Razer Black Widow Ultimates (both stealths), but I don't think I could justify $180.
  • DanNeely - Thursday, October 6, 2016 - link

    ...except they weren't. At its cheapest the IBM Model M's list price only approached $100 from the high side after launching for more than double that. And remember than inflation means that prices from 30 years ago are something like twice as expensive as the raw number suggests.
  • hansmuff - Saturday, October 8, 2016 - link

    I think the cost got passed down to customers, but expensive PCs are just no longer a reality. Dell used to ship awesome keyboards until the early 2000's, they had ALPS switches (like the AT-101 series.) But it was all cost of the parcel, and once PCs were a commodity the price had to come down, so here are your $10 rubber domes.

    I very well remember buying a 'Cherry Gold' keyboard for good money back in the 90's. It was about $80 then.
  • theduckofdeath - Sunday, October 9, 2016 - link

    Back in the days, a spare keyboard felt cheap because you'd just paid 5,000 bucks for a mid range PC. I can remember paying around $150 for a keyboard back in the days. Add inflation to that and you'll realise these keyboards today really aren't that expensive.
    Yes, there are a lot of $10 budget keyboards today but, you get what you pay for when buying those.
  • Beaver M. - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - link

    I remember very well paying 50 German Marks for different HP and Cherry mechanical keyboards (that I still have here). That would be about 25 Euro. So dont talk crap about them being expensive. Generally a set of mouse and keyboard with good quality would have been around 100 German Marks. Now its 100 Euro. Of course back then there was overpriced stuff too, but you were able to get high quality mechanical keyboards for MUCH MUCH less than today.
    I paid 80 Euro for my keyboard, and its still worse than the old mechanical ones from the ergonomics standpoint. It only has lighting and useless macros, which the old ones didnt have.

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