The Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent Mechanical Keyboard Review: Updating a PC Classicby E. Fylladitakis on September 20, 2017 8:00 AM EST
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 reduce 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 typically 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.
The consistency of the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent is remarkable, even for a keyboard with Cherry MX switches. With a disparity of only ± 1.93% across the main keys, the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent likely is the most consistent keyboard that we have ever tested and is a testament to Cherry’s quality control. The average actuation force is 58.5 cN, slightly lower than the 60 cN rating of the switches. This behavior is natural for linear switches such as these, where the operating force increases smoothly up to the actuation point, as even the weight of the keycap itself slightly lowers the switch’s specified operating force.
I always try to use every keyboard that we review as my personal keyboard for at least a week. My typical weekly usage includes a lot of typing (about 100-150 pages), a few hours of gaming and some casual usage, such as internet browsing and messaging. I personally prefer Cherry MX Brown or similar (tactile) switches for such tasks. The MX Black switches that the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent is using are, in theory, the exact opposite of my preference - stiff and linear, with no tactile feedback at all. However, I personally found the Cherry MX Black Silent switches very comfortable to work with, as they are stiff enough to avoid the mushy feeling of the Cherry MX Red switch, yet not so stiff as to sacrifice long-term comfort. The Silent variant was especially helpful when I needed to work without bothering someone else in the vicinity. I should, however, stress that you should not expect miracles here - the Cherry MX Black Silent switch is much quieter than its regular variant but that alone cannot make any keyboard entirely silent. The Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent is much quieter than typical mechanical keyboards but it will still be audible.
For gaming, the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent works fine for gamers who aren't after advanced features such as macros. Gamers that usually stick with single-player action and adventure games are likely to be content with it. However, without any advanced features whatsoever, the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent is unsuitable for modern gaming, especially for MMO gamers that will sooner or later require advanced gameplay commands. As for me, with my favorite games being MMO RPGs, I quickly had to switch to my regular keyboard in order to avoid frustration.