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.

We tested the EpicGear Defiant with its stock EG Purple switches. The performance of EpicGear’s switches looks close to Kailh’s, but there is a significant difference - the variation is not evenly distributed. EpicGear’s Purple switches tend to have a lower actuation force than the rated 50 cN, which can be seen by the average of 47.9 cN that we had over the main keys. The disparity away from this average is high, reaching ±9.97%. Due to the high disparity and the low average, we have keys with readings over 10% lower than the manufacturer’s 50 cN specification. The difference is not dramatic and it is unlikely that a person can discern it by touch, but we would definitely prefer to see Cherry MX consistency figures for those that demand a finely tuned package.

Software

The software package of the Defiant is relatively simple and easy to use. It is divided into three tabs but most of the options can be found in the first tab, called “Key Management”. From this tab, the user can individually program every key of the keyboard and up to four different keyboard profiles. The keys can be reprogrammed to execute simple keystrokes, multimedia functions, macros or launch external applications.

The ability to launch external applications will be very useful for gamers, as the macro recording capabilities of the software are basic. Macros can be programmed via the second tab of the software, but the software supports only keyboard keystrokes. There are no options to add any kind of mouse movements or clicks. At least the software allows some basic editing of the Macros after they have been created (unlike some other bundled keyboard macro software), but we suspect that the majority of advanced gamers who require complex macros will be forced to use third party software.

The “Support” Tab of the software is the most basic, linking to the company’s website and allowing the user to check for software and firmware updates.

The EpicGear Defiant Mechanical Gaming Keyboard EpicGear EG MMS Switches
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  • qlum - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    So judging from the article they basically went with a unknown oem to produce them inexpensive mechanical keys which may perform a little less consistent but allows them to include some spare switches while also keeping the price down.

    Interesting enough to see. I think we may see more of those in the future driving down the price of mechanical keyboards as a whole.
    Reply
  • Samus - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    I agree. Cherry switches are overpriced as hell, and this keyboard is proof of that. The hype surrounding Cherry and their, what is it, 8 different tactile strengths, and the fact they are "German" just goes to show the need for other generic competitive mechanical switches.

    This keyboard is mostly interesting because of its price. But overall it looks like a decent keyboard that should last quite a few years.
    Reply
  • althaz - Thursday, May 12, 2016 - link

    Are they overpriced though? They are only a little better, but they *are* better and this keyboard isn't cheaper than alternatives from more recogniseable brands.

    There are some cheaper mech keyboards out there - they are about half the price of this board, but they are also very inconsistent (a nice way of saying "shithouse").
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, May 12, 2016 - link

    Yeah, silly thing for people impressed by gimmicks Reply
  • Zaggulor - Friday, May 13, 2016 - link

    The clones do vary in quality and feel. Different factories have altered the design a bit.
    Gateron branded ones are supposedly smoother and nicer than Cherries in linear types. Greetech Green switches have also gotten praise (basically comparable to Cherry MX browns).
    Kaihl Black switches have been described to be bit more pleasant than Cherry Blacks by some people as well.

    And I also haven´t really heard THAT much negative about other brands in general, besides some users reporting more variance in switch resistance than they have had with Cherries.

    Then we also have clones of Topre switches that are used in Royal Kludge RC930 keyboard.(awesome brand name, btw). These are apparently very competent switches, but with somewhat different feel than the original and come with shock absorber bands installed straight out of the factory. It´s roughly 50% of the price of Topre Realforce boards, so it should be a good deal for many who aren´t necessarily crazy about Cherry type switches. Here is a review: https://www.keychatter.com/2015/03/12/review-royal...

    Interesting thing about this Epicgear board are not really the switches themselves, but the ease of changing the switches without having to open the keyboard casing. But there are other boards out there that offer this option too:

    "Teamwolf" brand has similar capability and they have also multiple color leds lights to go with that. http://www.amazon.com/Teamwolf-Zhuque-Mechanical-K...

    In general, you can now get perfectly adequate mechanical keyboard for 40 bucks. With most of the "bells and whistles" you can get from more expensive brands. Only thing you really give up are the actual Cherry switches and not getting thick doubleshot ABS or PBT keycaps out of the box... and perhaps the control software is not quite so polished.
    Reply
  • Ogewo - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    How about testing some ergo? Once you go ergo you never go backo. Kinesis, Matias, etc. Reply
  • Zan Lynx - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    I went back. I found flat keyboards felt better, years ago. I'm going to give it another shot with the Keyboardio though. Reply
  • Ogewo - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    Keyboardio certainly looks nice. I wonder how stable the "tent" orientation is, though. I like lots of curve\vertical orientation. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    I went back too after going through several ergonomic keyboards. I gave several models a few months each, but always found the experience pretty miserable if not worse for my wrists and the tendons in my hands that move my fingers.

    What I would like to see is some AT testing of a few inexpensive membrane keyboards because I have a sneaking suspicion that they'd be competitive despite costing 1/10th to 1/20th of the price if you take into account the loss of programmable macros and RGB lighting. However, I realize that doing so may cast the mechanical keyboards in a bad light and generate some vendor animosity which would might cause problems getting flagship product samples in for review.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    I think they've tested some membrane boards in the past... What you're suggesting might hold true as far as features, but it doesn't change the fact that membrane boards *require* you to bottom out on each and every key press which is ultimately more tiring for anyone that has weaned himself off that. Reply

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