13 June 2018

Mechanical Keyboards: daskeyboard & DURGOD backlit

Recently, a couple of my keyboard's keys died. I tried the normal cleaning but they wouldn't work. They keyboard was a heavy HP keyboard and lasted more than a decade. I was not the original owner, so can't say how old it was. So, I was on the lookout for a new keyboard which would give me a feeling of proper keyboard and also last long enough. A few searches later, I noticed the mechanical keyboards. They have a proper mechanical switch rather than the standard rubber dome type contacts.

Switches for mechanical keyboards come in many different specifications and are usually defined by a colour. The most common and well respected brand for switches is Cherry MX. There are some other brands which maybe equivalent or just cheap knock-offs of the Cherry MX switches. Personally, I don't have any experience for non-Cherry MX switches for now.

For details on different type of Cherry MX switches, a good place to start is An Introduction to Cherry MX mechanical switches. Also, to read more about the manufacturer, see Wikipedia article.

After a few days of research, I went with the following:
  1. Home - DasKeyboard 4 Professional with Cherry MX Brown switches $150 USD
  2. Work - DURGOD Mechanical Keyboard (backlit) with Cherry MX Blue switches $129 CAD
 The DasKeyboard's Cherry MX brown switches (non-clicky, tactile) are smooth and don't require too much force to actuate, hence making it easy on the fingers. The Cherry MX Browns are rated at 50 million actuation, so will definitely last a long time. The build quality of the DasKeyboard 4 Professional is high quality too. It is relatively heavy due to the aluminum plate it supports - also helps it being more stable. Although the USB cable is not removable, it does support USB3.0 pass-through with two ports available on the keyboard for easy access. Last but not the least, the keyboard worked out of the box with a Debian/Unstable box including all multimedia buttons available on it.

Trying to keep the budget lower and also to try out the Cherry MX Blue switches (clicky, tactile), I went with a Chinese brand, DURGOD, model K320G87BL-LED. The blue switches are definitely clickety in nature and produce quite a bit of clicking sound which may annoy your coworkers. Hence the reason that people suggest not to use those in a open work environment. They keyboard is on the heavier side but a little lighter than the DasKeyboard 4 Professional. Its USB cable is removable and the connection type is USB-C! Can be used with modern Android smartphones too.

One thing common in both they keyboards is the typing experience. If you touch-type without looking at the keyboard, you will either see lesser mistakes while typing or a slight increase in speed. With practice, you can improve on both easily with a mechanical speed. The NKRO feature helps when you are typing really fast or playing a game. A traditional keyboard will not register the keys in correct order in these situations.

There is a whole world around mechanical keyboards. You can build your own by buying parts (frame, plate, circuit board, switches, etc.), or change the key caps with a coloured set or better quality plastic e.g. PBT or ABS. A good place to start, https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/ There are ton of  reviews of mechanical keyboards, sounds the switches make, etc. on Youtube.

If you have questions or comments about these two keyboards, post below.