I am happy to report, that since the initial publishing of my "Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified" post, a number of the more obscure 'boards I mentioned in the piece have been made available right here in the good ol' U.S. of A, eliminating the need to import products like the Filco Majestouch, HHKB Pro, or the Topre Realforce. In addition to the newfound availability of the aforementioned products though, a handful of other companies have begun offering mechanical key switch keyboards in the US as well, like Gigabyte and i-Rocks for example.
I was recently given the opportunity to evaluate the i-Rocks KR-6230 Compact Mechanical Switch Keyboard, which is readily available at NewEgg for about a $100, and have to say that it is one heck of a nice product if you can live with some of its unique qualities.
The i-Rocks KR-6230 is built around the popular Cherry MX Brown mechanical key switch (tactile, non-clicky--and my favorite). And the switches are mounted to a heavy metal internal plate, which means there is virtually no flex in the board. The additional weight afforded by the metal plate compliments the rubber feet on the bottom of the board too--this puppy stays put when positioned on a flat surface. The i-Rocks KR-6230 also supports 16-key rollover over USB, which actually works, making the board well suited to gamers. And it didn't suffer from any key transposition issues when typing at high-speeds, like some other boards that supposedly support 16-key rollover with USB.
Other features of the i-Rocks KR-6230 include an integrated USB 2.0 hub, with two ports situated on the back of the board, and bright, blue indicator LEDs that are integrated into their specific keys--caps lock, scroll lock, and num lock. The integrated LEDs look very good in my opinion, and certainly add to the appeal of the board.
What really makes the i-Rocks KR-6230 stand out, however, is its overall layout. The keyboard has no Windows keys at all--which is something many gamers like, but not me. It also has an oversized left control key and a compact form factor. To accommodate the compact form factor, i-Rocks moved the Delete, Print Screen, Scroll Lock, and Pause keys to the upper right of the board, where the status indicator LEDs typically reside, eliminated the Page Up / Page Down block of keys, and integrated the arrow keys into the lower-right group of keys in a manner similar to many notebooks. Finally, the numeric keypad was shifted to the left. The end result is a keyboard that is about 2.5" to 3.5" thinner in width than most standard keyboards.
Other changes to the key layout include an oversized "L"-shaped enter key, and shrunken backspace and backslash keys. I would have preferred the more common rectangular enter key and full sized backspace keys typical of US keyboards myself, but getting used to the KR-6230's layout took no time at all.
Typing on the i-Rocks KR-6230 proved to be very pleasurable. The keys require a light touch thanks to the Cherry Brown switches, they provide a light, subdued tactile bump, and they make no noise, except when bottomed out. The space bar seemed to be the only key that was creaky, but it broke in over time. The KR-6230's keycaps also have a distinct texture that's held up well over the last few weeks, even though I've spent way more time that I should have killing zombies in L4D with this thing. There was no noticeable "shine" to the keys, which was a good sign as to their long term durability.
If you can live with its funky key placement and layout, the i-Rocks KR-6230 is a very nice, compact mechanical key switch keyboard. Its Cherry Brown switches are excellent, the pseudo-n-key rollover function works well, the board looks good, and it's built to last. I'd recommend checking it out if you're in the market for a quality, compact keyboard.