Performance Summary And Conclusion
Performance Summary: The four mechanical keyboards in this roundup bring the total number we've formally evaluated in the past couple of years to around a dozen, which doesn't include the ones we've typed on but haven't formally evaluated. Heck, our Managing Editor has been singing the praises of mechanical keyboards for years -- well before any mainstream manufacturer jumped on the bandwagon. Most of the keyboards we've looked at use various flavors of Cherry MX key switches, though some venture off the beaten path with key switches from other manufacturers, while others, like Logitech, went and designed their own. The one constant between all the keyboards is that the typing experience is superior to that of squishy membrane and dome switches in our opinion. That said, not all mechanical keyboards are constructed the same.
In our last roundup of mechanical keyboards, we determined there wasn't a clear winner out of the bunch, and while that's mostly true this time around, there is one that we favor above the rest. That one is G.Skill's Ripjaws KM780 RGB. It's the most balanced of the bunch in terms of features and build quality, the latter of which is a step above the competition with its stylish and sturdy brushed aluminum body that's reinforced with bars on both sides and the back. We also like how the design gives the illusion of floating keys, which themselves light up in whatever color you choose on a per key basis.
As far as usability goes, G.Skill offers a choice between Cherry MX Blue, Brown, and Red key switches, giving you a variety of feedback options. It also has dedicated media keys, on-the-fly macro recording capability, a set of alternative keycaps for the most commonly used keys in games (along with a key puller tool), USB 2.0 pass-through and audio ports, and a nifty volume roller with an equally groovy volume display. Simply put, it's the most fleshed out package all around.
The other three contenders each stand out in their own way and are also deserving of consideration. Starting with the AORUS Thunder K7, the detachable number pad alone is reason enough for some to consider it as the top choice. We don't like that AORUS didn't use a stronger magnet or locking mechanism to hold it in place, but otherwise it's a fantastic and clever convenience that gives you a great deal of flexibility in how you game. There are some titles where you might not need the number pad, which gives you more desk real estate to slide your mouse. Likewise, if your daily typing chores don't include data entry, you can set the number aside for a more compact tenkeyless layout—this is the only keyboard of the bunch with that kind of optional configuration.
The limiting factor here is the type of key switch offered. AORUS opted to run with Cherry MX Red as the sole option, and in doing so it's dismissing gamers who prefer a different feel. To the company's credit, Cherry MX Red are popular among gamers, but limiting choice ultimately limits the keyboard's appeal. If you happen to prefer Cherry MX Red, however, there's more upside here than downside. That includes the price—at $149.99, it's the least expensive of the bunch.
If it's choice you're after, the ASUS Strix Tactic Pro is the only keyboard in this roundup to offer all four major Cherry MX key switches, those being Blue, Red, Black, and Brown (Cherry MX makes other flavors as well, but those four are the most popular). It's a safe route to include all four options, and that design philosophy also comes through in the keyboard's layout. How so?
There are two rows of dedicated macro keys on the left side of the keyboard labeled M1 through M10. ASUS could have stopped there and it would have been fine, but lest anyone complain there aren't enough macro keys, it also include three thumb keys below the spacebar labeled M11 through M13, and then made the F1 through F8 keys serve double duty as M14 through M21 macro keys. With three profiles to cycle through, that's a total of 63 macros at your disposable without having to resort to a monstrous sized plank.
We ran into some initial issues getting the macros recognized in Windows 10 (things eventually worked out) and the single color backlight (orange) is a bummer. But those complaints aside, this is yet another solid choice.
Finally, we have Logitech's G910 Orion Spark. Rather than go the safe route, Logitech gambled that gamers would fall in love with its custom Romer-G key switches (built by Omron) and angled keycap design. It was a risky move because if either one fell flat, so too would the keyboard as a whole.
Luckily for Logitech, that isn't the case. We can't say that our typing was any more accurate on the angled keycaps compared to other keyboards, but it wasn't worse, either. It simply takes some getting used to, and if you're looking for a new type of feel, this keyboard delivers it.
It also provides easy-to-use yet robust macro creation software, and if that isn't enough, there's a pull-out dock for your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet to use as a secondary display through its Arx Control software. Such things risk being gimmicky, though it also sets the keyboard apart and has the capability of doing some interesting things, provided developers take advantage of it (Logitech offers a free downloadable SDK).
The lighting on the G910 Orion Spark is the most uniform among all the keyboards too, and like G.Skill's entry, it supports RGB lighting. It's an overall excellent set of features, and had Logitech gone with a more sturdy design and premium feel, it would sit next to G.Skill in the Editor's Choice circle. It's omission doesn't mean you shouldn't consider it, there's just a noticeable difference between the G910 Orion Spark and more premium feeling keyboards.
G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 RGB
| AORUS Thunder K7
ASUS Strix Tactic Pro
Logitech G910 Orion Spark