Know Your Type: Five Mechanical Gaming Keyboards Compared
Performance Summary & Conclusion
Performance Summary: This roundup further reinforced something we've known for a long time, which is that mechanical keyboards are the superior choice for both gaming and daily typing chores. That doesn't mean they're all created equal -- there are different key switches to choose from, and features vary from one plank to the next. Since choice of key switch is highly subjective, we won't attempt to rate one over the other, as it comes down to personal preference (*ahem* Blue! *ahem*). However, we can say that Cherry MX key switches are indeed of higher quality than knock-offs like the Kailh switch found in Tt eSports' Poseidon ZX. That's not to say Kailh switches are bad, just that you can discern a difference when going from one to the other.
So after all the hours of testing these planks by typing up documents and playing games, evaluating features, playing with settings, and examining build quality, we've arrived at the moment of truth. Ready for it? Here it is -- there isn't a clear winner among the bunch. Now before you close out this browser window and scurry away in a huff, let us elaborate.
There isn't a clear winner in terms of one plank being better than the rest across the board, though certain planks are better options for certain situations. We'll start with the budget category. For anyone wanting a relatively low cost entry into the realm of mechanical keyboards, the Tt eSports Poseidon ZX has your name written all over it, and not because it's the least expensive of the bunch. That wouldn't matter to us if the typing experience was terrible, but it isn't. It's quite good. Granted, the Kailh Blue switches aren't on par with Cherry MX Blues, and that's something to consider if you've owned a high quality mechanical keyboard before. But compared to membrane keyboards, they're in different worlds.
If the lack of a number pad is a deal killer, than it's a full-size plank you're after, and the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate gets our nod in terms of bang for the buck. At $130, it's the most affordable outside of the Poseidon ZX, and the least expensive full-size plank. It uses custom Razer Green switches that we suspect are based on Cherry MX Blues, and though the click action isn't quite as snappy as the keys on the Das Keyboard 4 (reviewed last year), it's a close second. Some may even prefer it. We also like the look and feel of the toxic green backlight, black keys, and rubber coated accents.
When price is no object and you simply want the most feature rich board available, Roccat's Ryos MK Pro is a great choice. At $170, it's the most expensive plank in this roundup, but also the most robust with a column of five dedicated macro keys on the left-hand side and three thumbster keys below the spacebar. That's a total of eight dedicated macro keys, and using the Easy-Shift[+] button, you can assign secondary functions to each one. Plus you can assign commands to any key you wish.
That leaves us with the Corsair Gaming K65 RGB and Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid-i, both of which are TKL planks priced at $150 MSRP. Starting with the former, the Corsair Gaming K65 RGB brings a highly customizable backlight to the party -- you can light up individual keys from a choice of up to 16.8 million colors. Combined with the available effects, personalization is off the charts. We also like how the keys appear to float above the keyboard from an angle, as well as the brushed aluminum design of its foundation. These help justify the price tag, though a lack of built-in ports and number pad may limit its appeal.
The Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid-i also sports a nice look with its white LED contrasting against the black keys, and you have a choice between Cherry MX Brown, Red, or Blue key switches. It also comes with a tool to remove key caps -- not a huge value add, but a nice inclusion nonetheless. That said, it doesn't really stand out from the competition in any single area, as there are no built-in ports or fancy features. In fact, it doesn't come with customization software or special drivers. That's a plus for the plug-it-in-and-forget-it crowd, but for gamers, it's feature-thin. However, it uses Cherry MX switches, is compact (if you're looking for that), and as pointed out, it has visual flair. Based on those merits, it's a solid offering, just priced a bit high compared to its competitors.
Roccat Ryos MK Pro
Corsair Gaming K65 RGB
| Razer BlackWidow Ultimate|
Tt eSports Poseidon Zx
Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid-i