The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard Review: A Truly Unique, Truly Expensive Keyboard for Prosby E. Fylladitakis on March 12, 2020 10:00 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.
Kailh’s switches are not quite the best in the market right now, but we usually get good quality figures when testing keyboards using them. Their switches may not be as good as original Cherry products, but they tend to perform well and are reliable. With an average force at the actuation point of 43.6 cN and a disparity of ±4.67% across the main keys, the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is no exception to that rule. The force at the actuation point is slightly lower than the switch’s tipping point force, so our figures are spot-on for Brown-type switches. The Space Bar is virtually no different than the rest of the keys, as its mass is much smaller than that of a typical keyboard.
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 50-100 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, meaning that the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard should be, as far as the switches are concerned, ideal for my needs.
While the switches were great, it took me days to get partially acclimated to the 60% layout, even though I had used other split keyboards in the past. As end up using more than three different keyboards each day, it was difficult for me to generate muscle memory specific for the non-standard layout of the UHK. Those who are using just one keyboard daily will surely learn how to use the UHK efficiently much faster. Once I was used to the layout, I could work with the UHK about just as fast as I would with any good keyboard, yet not faster.
The 60% layout is meant to minimize finger movements and increase productivity, but having to resort to multi-key combinations actually slowed me down. I probably could not go any faster because I needed to switch to other keyboards during the day, or just because I have not been using the UHK long enough. An expert IT professional who will tailor the keyboard to his/her work environment and needs will probably become measurably more productive using it over a standard layout keyboard.
When it comes to gaming, the UHK may not be the most sensible choice, yet it works surprisingly well. Advanced gamers can reprogram the keyboard’s layouts and layers to generate game-specific commands and macros, while the split layout is especially useful to FPS gamers who can get rid of the right half completely and maximize their mouse space. It is not a keyboard developed specifically for gaming but it could work for professionals who enjoy combining business with pleasure.