back to article You can get a mechanical keyboard for £45. But should you? We pulled an Aukey KM-G6 out of the bargain bin

Mechanical keyboards were once a niche commodity owned primarily by enthusiasts who were all too happy to pay top dollar. Now it's possible to get one for as little as £25 on Amazon, thanks to China's prolific factories and the availability of cheap Cherry-clone key switches. The subject today is one such bargain-basement …

  1. andy 103 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A decent keyboard is a decent investment

    About 25 years ago - when I was still in high school - a friend of mine suggested I buy a Cherry "Click" mechanical keyboard. They were about £80 (then).

    "Why on earth would I spend that on a keyboard?" I asked.

    Only got rid of it a couple of years ago. That's why.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

      they cost a lot (which means you cry in frustration a lot, when something goes wrong and you find out that the seller / manufacturer is as shit about "customer service", as any other brand), you can't try them before you buy them, so for me they'll always remain that faintly amusing unnecessity, in league with, I dunno, h. miller chairs, and mac OS "experience".

      And I do value good keyboards, cause my job depends on them. For several years now I have used a very cheap (7 - 12 quid), and very comfortable and, for some part of their lives, very quiet, MS-branded, keyboards. And, since they decided to "improve" on their design (those fuckers) a couple of years ago, I purchased, just in time, 3 - 4 spare ones, nominally used, for less than a tenner each. The only complaint I have is that they're not serviceable, i.e. you can take them to pieces (for the usual reasons), you can put them back, but sometimes they fail to work after that operation (in my case twice). But at least, being cheap, I have this option (same with my computing, I have 3 x220s and one x230, even in times of the virus and kids working on them at home, one laptop is usually spare, and if something goes wrong with it, as it did last week, you just swap sdd and carry on working, and repair the one that's failed in the meantime. I wouldn't dare to try that with my preciousssss, 120 quid a pop, cherry.

      1. andy 103 Silver badge

        Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

        " I wouldn't dare to try that with my preciousssss, 120 quid a pop, cherry."

        I see it differently. My time is valuable. The Cherry keyboard I bought never needed "servicing". It worked flawlessly throughout it's nearly 25 year life.

        Conversely if I spent £7 - £12 on a keyboard, it's not even worth my time to "service" it, even if that was possible.

        As the article says you can get keyboards in Tesco for not much more than this. Ironically, that justifies buying a mechanical one even more.

        1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

          I've got a QPAD MK-80 which has been rock solid since I bought it (£20 with an AZERTY layout, but I'm a touch typer so key caps layout doesn't matter much). Only gripe is the silicone coating is looking tatty on the palm rest.

          Other than that I've got a 16 year old Apple Pro Bluetooth keyboard. Which I've bought spares for because my first one died after my workplace's air-con dripped on it.

          Surprisingly once you get used to how stiff the domes are in it, it's a very pleasant keyboard and each one of the domes is individual so can be replaced if required.

          That said I still regret not taking home an old dell Alps keyboard from my old place. That thing was truely built to last.

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

            once you get used to how stiff the domes are in it

            Ah, that reminds me of a customer repair job I had maaaany years ago - back when the standard (ADB) Apple keyboards were "reassuringly expensive". I forget the details now, but I recall one of the rubber bits that lifted the keys back up had been lost - but fear not, a look at Apple's spares list showed that the rubber bits were available in packs of 10 for very little. No problem, added them to my next spares order - they didn't arrive. Did this several times, and eventually got in touch to ask (I paraphrase in polite terms here) "excuse me Apple service, might you please give a reason why these parts haven't arrived ?".

            The answer came back that Apple UK don't sell them. They are in the parts book, but Apple UK don't sell them - WTF ? Of course, because we are in the UK, we were only allowed to get our parts from Apple UK. And their suggestion when I asked "so what do I tell the customer then ?" was - sell them a new keyboard, around £130 in 1980s money IIRC instead of a sub £1 part.

            I improvised with a piece cut from a large elastic band and a bit of superglue ! It made the key 'kin stiff (so swapped with the rubber bit from an infrequently used key), but after allowing for my time it saved the customer a good amount.

            I also did a trade in replacing the microswitch in the original ADB mice :-)

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

          The original IBM Model M that I'm typing this on has been used near daily since 1988 and has never been serviced (other than dusting/vacuuming/wiping with a damp cloth). It still works flawlessly.

          1. AJ MacLeod

            Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

            Mine is from 1986, made in Scotland and was rescued from a skip nearly 20 years ago. They really are pretty good...

            1. Dave559 Bronze badge

              Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

              "Mine is from 1986, made in Scotland and was rescued from a skip nearly 20 years ago. They really are pretty good..."

              Made in Scotland, from girders? That could explain a lot! I suspect that Irn-Bru could be missing a co-branding opportunity here… Bright orange keyboard, anyone?

        3. jeremylloyd

          Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

          Cherry clicky all the way for me. I have four here all going strong.

    2. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

      I have a feeling I'm sailing against the wind on this one, but in all fairness I've got a Microsoft branded keyboard that I bought for £12 from John Lewis somewhere between 10 and 15 years ago. I've gamed with it, written novels and done development work with it. It's still clean, doesn't have any issues (yet) and only gets minimum maintenance. Currently using it now.

      Treated right (or in this case just not abused), even a halfway-decent keyboard can last a fair while.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

        One thing Microsoft always did very well were keyboards and mice, so don't be put out.

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

        Oh, nobody is saying that cheap keyboards are unusable. They are certainly fit for purpose, but once you've got used to using something way better than just "fit for purpose" your not likely to go back to one willingly.

        1. Mongrel

          Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

          Yes, a confounding factor is people are unwilling to spend the cash buy an expensive keyboard that has unproven benefits to them.

          If you don't know how much better an experience it can be (IMO), it's a hard sell for a £100 plus accessory. That's why I like the cheaper switches, £30-£40 is easier to justify and at that price I'd tell a friend that I'd be willing to buy it off them if they don't like it after a few weeks (A spare keyboard is always handy).

          I got myself one of the Aukey KM-G9 for when I had to lug the laptop to the office and agree with the review, they keys are mostly consistent and sound louder than Cherry Blues I've used but that could also have been down to metal face & back plates used - al in all impressive for the price

    3. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: A decent keyboard is a decent investment

      On the other hand, a Cherry G80-3000 keyboard with MX switches that I bought a couple of years back doesn't really pass muster. Although mechanically superb, the white keycap print went dirty grey within a couple of months and can't be cleaned up.

      It turns out that instead of double shot moulding keycaps and then fitting them, they now fit blank keycaps and print them in situ with some kind of resin that stands proud of the key cap. Unfortunately, this resin seems to have a microporous surface that picks up grime irrevocably. maybe I should have gone for the grey keyboard with black print, but nobody pointed out the problem.

      Cherry don't supply replacement keycaps either, so for around £130 this keyboard was a bad bargain. Strangely though, the key caps of my other Cherry keyboards of about the same age have laser etched characters, so there seems to be no consistent rationale.

  2. Steven Raith

    I've got an Aukey KM-G8...

    ...and although I can be snobby about keyboards (with a pragmatic streak - a good £15 keyboard is always a nice surprise, thanks Logitech) it's really rather good. I've been using it constantly since working from home and now that I've become familiar with it again, it's great for typing, it's well enough built, and as it cost £40 a few years ago, if it dies in a few years time, I'll not feel as annoyed as if I'd spent £100 on a 'better' keyboard.

    You still need to go drag out a spare keyboard if the fancier one shits itself, and then diagnose the problem, order the replacement parts. I'd be fine getting another £40 keyboard, honestly.

    I've used better keyboards, but it's plenty close enough for the price.

    Steven "clicky clacky" R

    (the KM G8 is basically what was reviewed, but without the RGB stuff and a slightly more compact profile, as far as I can tell)

  3. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Whilst I understand they may be good for gaming, are these mechanical keyboards any good for actual work? Leaving aside the obvious problem of annoying your colleagues in an office, do they make your typing more precise? Is the build quality and reliability higher? Is it worth paying £45 for a wired keyboard?

    1. PerlyKing Silver badge

      Re: are these mechanical keyboards any good for actual work?

      It's very subjective of course, but I like the feel of mine (IBM Model M "borrowed" from a server which ended up in a rack :-) more than any other keyboard I've tried in the last 30 years or so. It is too loud for a crowded office but is getting a lot more use now than it has in the last few years!

      It's like using really good hand tools instead of cheap and cheerful - they both get the job done (usually) but one feels better than the other, and that makes the whole experience more enjoyable. I think it's well worth paying a premium for something that improves your life for eight hours a day or more.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: are these mechanical keyboards any good for actual work?

        >BM Model M "borrowed" from a server which ended up in a rack

        I use an IBM keboard. I have the cheap 'n cheerful ones on other systems but IBM's ergonomics are well thought out for people who like to touch type. The weight is useful as well since the thing stays where you put it.

    2. Jedit
      Coffee/keyboard

      "are these mechanical keyboards any good for actual work"

      Absolutely. Nothing will make your typing more precise, but a mechanical keyboard will make your typing more comfortable. The response from the keys is entirely different, although it's hard to quantify exactly how - you really need to try one. I'm currently working from home with my company laptop hooked up to my home setup, which includes a Mionix mechanical keyboard, and compared to my keyboard in the office it's night and day.

      1. Mongrel

        Re: "are these mechanical keyboards any good for actual work"

        "The response from the keys is entirely different, although it's hard to quantify exactly how"

        It's mostly the precision of the switches.

        You know where in the stroke it actuates and when it bottoms out, both of these are repeatable & predictable, cheaper keyboards can be more variable (like the godawful Dell cheapies at the office they feel like they have gummie bears as switches). Also build quality makes a big difference, if the keyboard flexes when you press on it that'll change the pressure needed to actuate.

    3. andy 103 Silver badge

      I do a lot of coding and terminal work. These are situations where characters you enter matter - your code won't run if there's a typo. Although nothing can make your code "more accurate" I have had situations where I've used cheaper, non-mechanical keyboards which have registered what I intended as a single keypress as multiple keypresses, or vice versa.

      There's something about the feedback of a mechanical keyboard which means you know when you've pressed a key, it's registered.

      I've already posted about build quality earlier. Yes, they are worth the money, IMO.

    4. Peter2 Silver badge

      For a Chinese thing? I will leave such questions to younger colleagues who have one.

      I would like to simply address a couple of your questions, namely "do they make your typing more precise? Is the build quality and reliability higher? Is it worth paying £45 for a wired keyboard?"

      I am typing this message on an IBM Model M Keyboard that was produced in August of 1989. It works just as typing this as it did 31 years ago when it was produced in Scotland. I challenge anybody to produce another example of a bit of IT equipment that's still in daily use 31 years later. I think this adequately answers any possible questions with relation to "reliability", and I can assure you that the build quality of an original IBM model M is utterly unassailable. The only thing modern keyboard reviewers fault it on is not having RGB backlights, which shows that it's still the standard that everything else is compared to after 35 years, and that the only improvement on has been faddy fashion statements, and not usability or ergonomics.

      Is it worth paying £45 or more for a wired keyboard? Well, I 'd say that the interfaces for my PC's are as important as the PC's themselves. People don't tend to quibble before spending a couple of hundred quid of screens, high DPI mice etc, but then stick a cheap and nasty keyboard on the box that they then use intensively.

      Given the amount of typing I do then personally I wouldn't even consider using a cheap and nasty keyboard and I would get myself another IBM model M if this one expired, which this shows no signs whatsoever of doing. Even if it cost me a hundred quid then over 30+ years use that's a trivial cost.

      I'd also say that my colleagues haven't complained about the noise of my keyboard.

      1. Dom 3

        What are the chances? Just as I start my reply to say that this Model M is from *May* 1989 - it crashes.

        Anyway, as I often point out: a professional builder doesn't use a five quid hammer from B&Q.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          You turned the keyboard over to check the date and probably pulled it towards you. This momentarily disconnected the plug from the keyboard (it's replaceable on our models and so can disconnect and the keyboard end) because the curly cable is mostly stuck behind your the desk and the remaining bit of cable is relatively tight.

          I assume that it now works again, but if you pull the curly cord further up from the PC so that it's got more cable so you don't put as much tension on the cable when you turn it over and pull it around then it won't do that next time you have cause to look at the build date & QC sticker. ;)

          And there we go, good for another 30 years. ;)

          I wouldn't be at all surprised if this keyboard outlasts me.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Or ...

            He could just take a picture of the back of the keyboard and be done with it. Like trolls, the underside of the keyboard should never see daylight.

      2. oiseau Silver badge
        Facepalm

        ... on an IBM Model M Keyboard that was produced in August of 1989.

        Hmm ...

        Nice.

        But isn't that a PS/2 interface?

        What kit are you using it with?

        O.

        1. Jess--

          typing this on a 1987 model M, and also have a few 1988 & 1989 spares stashed away in case I ever manage to break this one (which is doubtful).

          still on a PS2 interface but there are some usb-ps2 converters around that can handle them.

          1. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: PS2 interface

            My Spanky new (built last week, manufactured Feb 2020) Strix B250H gaming motherboard has 2x USB and 1x PS/2 sockets for keyboard and mouse. Some things never change!

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          But isn't that a PS/2 interface?

          What kit are you using it with?

          One of these:-

          https://www.amazon.co.uk/Active-USB-to-PS2-Adapter/dp/B008J56RVY

          You can't just use any random PS/2 connector; the model M draws a little more power from the PS/2 keyboards than most modern ones do.

        3. Boothy Silver badge

          Some modern kit still come with PS/2.

          Asrock seems to like PS/2 for some of their motherboards, the X570 Taichi launched in July 2019, and has a single PS/2. MSI have a few motherboards as well.

          For a while PS/2 keyboards were considered faster (as in less lag) than USB keyboards, especially for competitive gaming. This is still the case for some USB keyboards (as in PS/2 has less lag), but many newer USB keyboards (and anything mid to high end like gaming keyboards) now usually have less lag than PS/2 (sometimes a lot less), as the updates to USB standards and interfaces has allowed for faster polling intervals on modern keyboards.

          PS/2 for mice hasn't really been a thing for a long time, as the polling speed for PS/2 mice is capped quite slow (really designed for ball mice, rather than modern optical based ones), so USB mice outperformed PS/2 mice (as in lag) basically as soon as USB mice came out.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Then you get edge cases like mine. I use a 20-year-old membrane keyboard from an old DEC Alpha workstation. It has a PS/2 plug and my motherboard has a PS/2 port, but my KVM only has USB ports, so I had to purchase a dongle to convert it.

        4. PerlyKing Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: What kit are you using it with?

          Mine is plugged into a MacBook Pro running Ubuntu, connected through Citrix to a Win10 machine at work %-}

          While we're talking about Model M keyboards, I turned mine over to see when it was made and it says "Date: 03-04-19". It has been in my possession since 1995 (or maybe 1996) so I can't make head or tail of this! Does anyone out there know what it means? Did an early Y2K issue truncate the year? Virtual pint for any help! -->

          1. jaydoubleyou

            Re: What kit are you using it with?

            That's very odd, all the labels I've seen online (and mine) have the date in yyyy-mm-dd format (mine is 1988-08-17). You might find out more by searching for part numbers, for instance mine has a large print 7 digit number, 1391406, and searching for this I found one made in 1989 (https://www.tavi.co.uk/ps2pages/modelm/index.html)

        5. jake Silver badge

          "But isn't that a PS/2 interface?"

          My collection of Model M keyboards came mostly with RJ49, DE9 and DB25 connectors. A couple have AT DIN plugs, and a couple more are PS/2. Some (military surplus) have odd-ball connectors for no apparent reason. Some have a permanently wired cord, others have an RJ on the keyboard itself, making switching cords easy. All are effectively so-called "serial port" devices. The ones that I have tried can all be used with USB if you have a suitable level converter, which can be found built into inexpensive adapters.

          I use 'em with all my kit. Thanks for asking :-)

          1. jake Silver badge

            I wrote: "Some have a permanently wired cord, others have an RJ on the keyboard itself, making switching cords easy."

            What I meant to type was "Some have a permanently wired cord, others have an RJ or SDL connecter on the keyboard itself, making switching cords easy."

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        >I am typing this message on an IBM Model M Keyboard that was produced in August of 1989.

        One of the unstated reasons why you are still able to use that keyboard is because the keycap legends were plastic inserts moulded int the keys, so don't disappear due to wear - as happens with all keyboards with printed legends - such as the KM-G6.

        1. Mystereed

          Not all have printed characters

          I have a similar keyboard to the one reviewed, branded TECKNET. The keys have translucent inserts for the characters - the led lights shine through them.

          The leds are the only bugbear on the keyboard. Who in their right mind wants flashing or strobing keyboards? When the key is accidently pressed to select a different lighting style (the ScrLK button), it takes 8 more presses to get back to the 'constantly on' option. Which I invariably overshoot because it has p'd me off and I'm bashing it :-)

          1. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: Not all have printed characters

            Who in their right mind wants flashing or strobing keyboards?

            Well, I do. But I do have to concede that I'm not in my right mind.

        2. jake Silver badge

          So?

          Who looks at keycaps?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: So?

            I asked "Who looks at keycaps?"

            In reality we all do. Regrettably. They are a part of the furniture. So why not make 'em look better than an ugly lump of plastic ... or worse, a gaudy disco? The answer, of course, is Steampunk.

            http://steampunkworkshop.com/keyboard-shtml/

            I've been telling myself that I should build one similar to this for about ten years now. Perhaps this'll give me the nudge to get off my arse and actually do it.

            1. Nifty Bronze badge

              Re: So?

              In the comments under that steampunk keyboard article is a ref to a replica that can supposedly be bought on Amazon.

              You can spend an amusing half hour just reading the reviews on Amazon. Some of them are priceless. Seems Amazon isn't always po-faced.

              http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MJ3M91E?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B00MJ3M91E&linkCode=xm2&tag=thesteawork-20

              1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

                Re: So?

                I hope that steampunk keyboard is coffee-proof. Because it's going to need it when you open your credit card bill.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: So?

                  You don't purchase such a keybr0ad, Grasshopper. The true value is the process of making it for yourself.

        3. DiViDeD Silver badge

          plastic inserts moulded int the keys

          Only one of the reasons I use the Razer BlackWidow. I've had so many keyboards have the letters wear off in no time at all (Yes, Dell, I'm looking at you)!

          My old Cynosa Chroma has the same arrangement, and it means I can always see the keys clearly.

          Of course, the Chroma used to flash every time the PC made a sound and then blank out the lights for a second or two, thus making the letters completely invisible until the lights came on, but lets not quibble, eh?

      4. Captain Obvious

        I loved those IBM keyboards

        Although they had a PS/2 connector on the back. I got rid of mine at the time where there were no USB to PS/2 cable adapters. I do miss them!

    5. Cuddles Silver badge

      "Is it worth paying £45 for a wired keyboard?"

      In general, yes. People can be a bit funny about things like keyboards just because it's possible to get very cheap ones, but it's important to remember that your keyboard is one of the few ways you actually interact with your computer (mouse, display and maybe speakers being the others). If you use your keyboard 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, all year, for many years, buying the cheapest thing available simply because it is available doesn't make a lot of sense. You might be spending several thousand pounds on the gubbins inside the box, but then begrudge £50 or so for the part you actually use the most, and which has by far the most bearing on your comfort and even health?

      Of course this is not restricted to just computers. With cars, for example, people almost always go for cheap tyres because why bother with something expensive that does the same job, right? Except that your tyres are your only point of contact with the world and therefore pretty much the most important part of the car. Again, there's no point spending thousands on advanced safety systems, but then skimping on a few quid in tyres that actually make you less safe overall.

      So yes, not only is it worth spending a bit more on a keyboard, but it's always worth having a good think about what parts of things are actually important. If you use a keyboard as a daily tool, you want something that is good quality and comfortable. That doesn't necessarily mean an expensive mechanical keyboard, but it probably means spending more than the cheapest thing you can find. Even if you think you're happy with whatever basic thing came with your PC, you might find big benefits from trying out a variety of others.

    6. Dave K Silver badge

      I have a Ducky Shine 2 mechanical keyboard with Cherry Brown switches. As I work from home, it is used both for personal use/gaming as well as for work during the day (connected into a KVM so I can switch it over to my laptop dock for work).

      Personally I find it excellent for working on and I can type very quickly and accurately with it. The only issue at all is that you have to mute yourself if you're on a conference call and need to type anything otherwise there will be complaints from other people on the call about the loud clatter of keys.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        It appears the Zoom teleconferencing software can partially remove the sound of typing on mechanical keys.

        https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2018/08/21/zoom-adds-noise-cancellation-to-our-top-notch-audio/

        The natural evolution of this concept might be to place microphones inside the keyboard to give the noise cancelling software more data to better do its job.

        I imagine that online gamers might value this, if they wish to hear their team mates voices and at the same time listen out for a virtual twig snapping betraying the presence of a virtual assassin.

        1. I am the liquor Bronze badge

          That sounds like a great feature. It's so embarrassing when you forget to mute your mic and your colleagues realise you're doing work instead paying attention to their time-wasting teleconference.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            It’s not just the teleconferencing though, a room full of clickety clickers, or even worse one clickety clicker in a room of quiets. Can be a bit irritating.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Sounds like ...

              ... first world problems to me.

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: Sounds like ...

                Problems are problems.

                A bit of consideration goes a long way.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Sounds like ...

                  Consideration goes both ways.

                  If you don't like noise, don't get a job in a quarry. And if you choose to do so anyway, don't bitch at me because it's loud. You chose your job, not me.

      2. The Central Scrutinizer

        Ducky Zero with the red switches here. I thought the blue ones were the really loud ones?

    7. chrisf1

      Very much so. Have used and discarded no end of 'ergonomic' keyboards. Some years ago my previous favourite died (an MS ergonomic one) and the replacement (same item just 5 years later) was much worse both quality and tactile feel. I moved to a basic one with cherry mx brown switches. Best decision ever although I would look for quieter switches next time - simplay as typing on speakerphone is no possible. Responsive and tactile, typing is much easier on the hands.

    8. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      I find they are really good, except those used to a quiet office will claim you are deliberatly pressing your keys to hard.

    9. james_smith Silver badge

      I use a Filco with a specific type of Cherry mechanical keys that feel as good as the ones on my old Unicomp Model M but without the racket. I was "encouraged" to buy it by my manager when a graphic designer mentioned in his exit interview that the noise of my keyboard was a factor in him leaving the company!

    10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      In response to your questions, I can only give you my personal experience. I have a Logitech G15 gamer keyboard. I've had it for years now, and it works flawlessly. I use it for gaming, but I also use it for programming, typing reports, and posting on forums. It is not loud, the keys have an agreeable response threshold and the backlighting, although not RGB and just plain amber, is pure gold as far as usefulness is concerned.

      I hope that it will last for many years to come, because apparently Logitech does not make it any more. It will be a nuisance to find another keyboard with so much functionality that works so well and is so pleasing to work with.

    11. hoola Bronze badge

      In large open-plan office clacky keyboards are just that, a substantial source of noise. This becomes a particular issue if you wear hearing aids. Funky hearing aids can be programmed to do things with different bandwidths but the is something about sharp clicks that makes them very difficult to filter. The same is true for people who hammer the keys through the desk on an ordinary keyboard.

      I have had to retrain myself to be more gentle with the keys for this very reason. As a recent hearing aid user I did not realise how much of the high frequency I had lost. I can add programs to mine and spent some time experimenting with this and you just cannot filter keyboard type clicks. These clicks can appear harmless to most people (and everyone loses high frequency perception with age) but can be a real issue to those of us with aids.

  4. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Go Cherry or Go Home.

  5. TheSkunkyMonk

    What is its key rollover like? Biggest problem with you asda special is you normally can't push all the keys you need to at the same time. For example with the cheap ONN keyboards you cant push w,a,shift and jump at the same time. can be a bit of a problem at times.

  6. Tom 38 Silver badge

    I've got an Outemu Brown based keyboard, a Drevo Tyrfing v2 tenkeyless keyboard. It was a discount from Amazon, very happy with it. Its a bit basic, but the action is pretty nice, keycaps are all replaceable and cherry compatible, switches are replaceable and it came with both a keycap and switch puller, and some replacement switches. Brown switches so I don't get murdered by my beloved during lockdown. NKRO, and you can configure how annoying the LEDs are, all the way to off. I currently have them lit blue, but going a random colour when pressed, which is quite nice.

    Its not as good as the model M that it replaced, but its significantly cheaper than a Unicomp.

  7. ibmalone Silver badge

    I'm always entertained that the more you spend on a keyboard, the more idiosyncratic it gets. Keys light up different colours? No thanks. With a programmable light sequence? I'll be fine without. Multi-coloured keycaps? Bit 80s retro. No key tray, so keys inexplicably stand above the board? It's a pass. No numpad? Maybe for a laptop.

    By coincidence (and partly after having to stare at my home keyboard for longer than is healthy over recent weeks), I finally got around to thoroughly cleaning the keyboard that came with my 1999/2000 eMachines desktop. For, ah, the first time. This was a low end brand, and yet, mechanical keys all still clacking nicely, seemingly dye-infused keycaps (so no worries soaking them in soapy water and giving them a rub-down), every key (including spacebar) came off and went back on nicely. I can't imagine it was a particularly expensive example when it was made. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QDcKzuU-HeiZyY55kS_PbGvvojTdHSnn/view?usp=sharing is the after-cleaning shot with the keys going back on... I'm not sharing the before shot!

  8. The Central Scrutinizer

    I wouldn't be without my mechanical keyboard. The thing is built like a battleship and the typing experience is great. It's black, it sits on my desk and just works. No stupid gaudy lighting nonsense or anything like that. It's probably hard to explain to someone who's never used one, but if you type a lot, then they are definitely worth the extra cash.

  9. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    What's he opposite of a "mechanical" keyboard? On-screen? Telepathic?

    That said, the best keyboard I ever used was the Atari ST. Not because of the keys, particularly, but because a small application used the ST's sound chip to replace the synthesised keyclick with the .wav files of your choice, and as a result my ST sounded like a 1933 Remington Imperial typewriter, including the whizz-bang-cling of a carriage return.

    For the past twenty years I have been using IBM trackpoint keyboards, of which I have a stock, since they only last about eight to ten years.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      The mechanical ones are so called because they actually have a "proper" mechanical switch in them. This explains all of the different types of technology in keyboards.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_technology

      Basically, really cheap jobs have basically a rubber dome over a bit of wire. Pressing the key down pushes the wire down to make an electrical contact and then pops back up when the key is released. These are cheap and tacky, and tend to last tens of thousand key presses before you start getting "dodgy" keys that you have to bang hand to make them work before finally it stops working.

      Mechanical switches are generally rated for a few million keypresses on each individual key; ie (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckling_spring)

  10. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    Had a Logitech G810 for a few years now. Fully programmable RGB key illumination and it's a heavy beast so it doesn't move when typing. Only issue so far is slight wear on a few keys (A, left CTRL, left arrow). A bit pricey but for my work well worth the investment.

  11. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Cheap Mechanical Keyboards

    I am not convinced, basically because I got an Element Gaming keyboard from EBuyer for £50, appeared to rip off a Corsair design, enter key failed after 3 months and EBuyer were worse than useless. Its their own brand but still you have to contact them, all well and good except they never responded to support requests.

    After explaining to EBuyer got no-where, hugely annoying as from what I have seen its their own company.

    Replaced the switch myself with a Cherry Red switch but that died a week later.

    Gave up and went for a Corsair K70, its been perfect ever since.

    Previous keyboard from that was a Rokkat's Avro I did like until the paint from the letters came off.

    1. Amentheist
      Coat

      Re: Cheap Mechanical Keyboards

      and went for a Corsair K70

      For that kind of money you could've bought a real keyboard, a leopold, varmilo or something that offers choice (of caps and switches) and actual build quality with none of the faf.

      Mine's the one with the mx clear vortex race 3 in the pocket.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: Cheap Mechanical Keyboards

        All very well but as its for my home machine I wanted multimedia keys (I admit I mostly use for volume and mute), a keypad and a wrist rest. Just checked and been using this for 4 years and 4 months, build quality is fine for me and have been using the included USB mouse when I went back to a wired mouse.

        Havent seen Varmilo, very few places in the UK sell them, looking at the Leopold FC980M is has that annoying layout where they squash the arrow keys and move the right shift and ctrl in which is an instant no.

  12. John Sturdy
    Thumb Up

    I splashed out on a Keyboardio, and love it

    When my previous split keyboard (membrane inside, although a reasonable feel) wore out from full-time use, I treated myself to a Keyboardio Model 1 (the production run has now sold out, but they're building up to a run of a new model: https://shop.keyboard.io/). The design, and the build quality, are both excellent. The layout takes a bit of getting used to, but it is very comfortable to use. The firmware is open-source (the hardware is Arduino-compatible); I haven't tweaked mine yet but I probably will sometime.

    My favourite keyboard feel of all time was probably an old IBM29C cardpunch in the back room of the computer lab (in the 1980s) which I used a few times when the university computer's interactive response got too slow: shortish but decisive key travel --- and if you made an error that it could detect (I can't remember what those were) it would lock the key travel mechanically so you could feel it wasn't accepting keystrokes.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I splashed out on a Keyboardio, and love it

      When I read this, I was quite excited as I have recently been attempting to find a keyboard that has a programmable firmware layer (as in I can write code in a complete programming language to run on it natively*). This sounded perfect. Then, I went to the site and read this:

      "The default layer is where you'll find your letters and most of your standard punctuation. Tap or hold the Fun key and your Atreus will shift to the Fun (Function) layer, where you'll find numbers, arrow keys, and the rest of your symbols. From there, press the Upper key to get to the Upper layer, where you'll find media keys, F keys, and other similar stuff."

      Uh, no thank you. I'm out. I want my arrows and numbers right where they were before, because I'm planning to write things like "for (int i=0; i<10; i++) {" a lot. Then, press shortcuts using the function keys to run the build scripts. The search continues.

      *I want to run a complete program on a keyboard because I'd like to have it read certain series of keystrokes and pass characters along, but not on a one-to-one relationship. For example, intercepting certain strings and replacing them with characters less traditionally found on keyboards. A macro keyboard can do that, but in a less convenient manner than can one where I can upload and run Turing-complete firmware.

  13. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Cables usually fail at one or the other - rarely in the middle - so winding a piece of self-amalgamating tape to relieve any strain in these areas is cheap, quick and easy enough to do as a matter of course - and it may save you a fiddly soldering job.

    Self-amalgamating tape comes in two flavours, butyl and the pricier high temperature resistant silicone variety - the cheaper butyl type is easier to fashion into cable glands.

  14. Dave 126 Silver badge

    I've never quite grokked how gamers specifically choose a piece of equipment that is near identical to that chosen by typists - I'd have expected that their needs would vary enough that some redesign or fine tuning would benefit them - and that devices such as Logitech's Nostromo would have a bigger slice of the market.

    Edit: I know even less: Belkin made the Nostromo gaming keypad thing, Logitech's equivalent was called the G13 and had an LCD display

    Well, that shows what I know! (Not a lot, evidently!)

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Gamers might choose something different if they are full time gamers. Most however use their PC also for other pursuits and might therefore need something suitable for normal applications too.

  15. IanTP
    Thumb Up

    Just checked the link on the Outemu Blue-equipped and it's back to £60, never mind, I am now seriously looking for a new keyboard, so may give the Aukey KM-G6 a try.

    Current keyboard is a MS 200 wired one, which is not bad i have to say.

    Thanks for the article.

  16. Amentheist
    Stop

    ABS keycaps, blue switch, numpad. No. Just no.

  17. Zarno Bronze badge
    Thumb Up

    I bought a black Unicomp EnduraPro at the tail end of 2017 for work. Remake of the IBM M13 with the Trackpoint in it.

    Sounds like an ammo dump cooking off when I get typing, but it's just so darn comfy and the integrated mouse is perfect for quick stuff.

    Gaming on it is strictly hilarious for the noise (Rip and Tear on lunch hour), and only slightly hindered by the hysteresis of the spring resetting.

    Someplace I have an old AT Model M, but it's been hiding so I don't press it into service at home.

    I've been tempted to get a new style mechanical keyboard, but the reality is I'd slowly end up spending way too much time making custom ones once I pop that genie bottle cork.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Bronze badge

      I think you might mean Model F, not M.

      Our first family PC was a clone that looked like an XT but ran like an AT. The keyboard was a Model F 'AT' clone, and the only thing different was that all the F# keys were the same color instead of bicolor. I thought it was a little tough to work with, but I was under 10 at the time.

      Later on, my dad "borrowed" PS/1s or PS/2s from work with Model M keyboards. I had one of my own with an old PS/2 from 2000 to 2005; I could have saved the keyboard, but those don't matter to me as much as trackballs over mice. (I'll just stop before I sound like an advert for Logitech again.)

      From that old Model F, I do miss having F# keys to the side rather than on top. I'd gladly buy an add-on for those if I had the spare cash. For work, a mechanical numerical add-on would be good too; numbers are more important than general typing, and the accuracy would be WAY improved over this laptop, but I need a KVM for all this working from home first due to sharing my main monitor and trackball.

      1. Zarno Bronze badge

        It could have been an F, but I don't remember it having the function row on the left side or the ears for the feet.

        M's could have either PS/2 or AT cables, and I distinctly remember this one having a detachable AT cable. Seems 1993 was the cutoff year for them to be detachable.

        As far as mice, I'm completely hooked on the MX Master 3 right now.

        Trackballs are good, but my environment at work would kill them rather quickly due to particulate and oil. They're also a wee bit hard for me to game on.

        I don't see the need for touchpads. I'd gladly trade that useless square/rectangle for a Wacom pen digitizer in the screen and a less compressed laptop keyboard layout.

        I need to go hunting for that keyboard when I get a good weekend at home.

        Maybe I should use membrane domes and a copy of DOS on 5.25" as bait for the trap?

      2. james_smith Silver badge

        I've got a Model F (clone of the IBM with the brand "Senco" on it), mid 1980s vintage and still going strong. If I didn't have a couple of Unicomp and Filco keyboards with USB plugs then I'd invest in one of these:

        https://www.tinkerboy.xyz/product/tinkerboy-xt-at-usb-converter-with-soarers-converter-firmware/

  18. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Macintosh Extended Keyboard II or GTFO

    Nothing to beat it IMO. Still usable with a suitable adaptor like: https://www.bigmessowires.com/usb-wombat/

  19. 3Sails

    Ducky Shine 7!

    You'll have to prise it out from under my cold dead hand.

    Seriously, the amount of time we all spend keyboard bashing it's amazing how we put up with flyweight crap.

  20. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Cheaper keyboards

    You can get new keyboards for £5.99 from Currys (Advent K112 - price includes shipping) - no need to pay as much as a tenner for a basic keyboard.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Cheaper keyboards

      Yes. And you could buy a second hand Raspberry Pi to replace your PC with too.

      Of course, that'd be low performing, just about adequate but slightly slow unpleasant to use unlike a decent bit of equipment, just like a £6 keyboard that from experience deploying these sort of keyboards at work won't actually last a year before the legs have snapped off and the keys have lost the lettering.

      Unlike the IBM Model M sitting on my desk working as well today as it did 31 years ago.

  21. GrahamRJ

    I rescued an IBM mechanical keyboard out of the scrap bin at our local tip, about 1999. It was in a horrendous state - the tipper had no doubt looked at the accumulated crud everywhere and said "sod that". I dismantled it, and all the bits went in a sink of water, including (briefly) the PCB, to shift the crud. It lasted for 10 years until a couple of keyswitches died and a couple more were flaky, and I finally retired it. Best keyboard I've ever owned, and the cheapest too!

  22. The Dogs Meevonks

    I bought a cheap Mechanical KB once

    I bought a Tecknet mechanical keyboard a couple of years ago after my corsair LED (non mechanical) one developed a dodgy space bar... It worked but it was so loud that it was annoying... and the LED's were single colour and different for each row... which was equally annoying... and that allowed them to 'deceive' buyers by claiming it to be an RGB KB... because it has different colours... the fact that they can't be changed was strangely omitted from the blurb.

    But it was cheap... and it did make me realise that I do prefer mechanical ones to membrane... So last year I replaced it with a Corsair Straife... simply because I already had a Corsair H115i AIO and a Corsair Glaive mouse and didn't want any product that would require any other kind of software for lighting... It's also the reason that the new gaming rig I'm currently building is also mostly corsair products (case, ram, fans) because I am finally falling into the RGB trap after years of resisting it. I've always said it's a waste of time and money should be spent on performance... unless you have spare money left over... and this time... I have some spare money left over. So upgraded to the corsair Crystal 680X case, RGB Vengeance 3600mhz memory and a few extra RGB fans for the case.

    But back on topic... you get what you pay for... and cheap keyboards are cheap for a reason.

  23. Flicker

    Rescued three Model M's from the eWaste bin at work a few years back, typing on one now with the rest as spares or to leave to the children in my will...

    Some tips - take a photo of the layout and then pull off all the keycaps, place in one of those muslin zipped bags for washing tights etc. and place in the dishwasher on a full cycle. Vacuum out all the accumulated crud that's settled between the keys and replace the now-sparkling keycaps for a good-as-new keyboard.

    One of the techs at work said that they used to put complete IBM keyboards into the dishwasher and after draining they came out working just fine, but haven't had the courage to try this yet! If you feel the need to dismantle completely then save youself a lot of anguish and get one of these:

    https://www.axminstertools.com/wiha-t-handle-nut-driver-5-5mm-223034

    which fit the very tight screw recesses perfectly...

  24. Dr Paul Taylor

    Sun4

    I rather liked the Sun 4 keyboards, with function keys on the left, right and top (and arrow keys in an actual diamond). I rescued three of them from a skip, but they don't have connectors that are compatible with anything else. Anyone know how to re-wire them?

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Sun4

      There's a pinout diagram here: http://www.kbdbabel.org/conn/kbd_connector_sun456.png

      IBM PS/2 pinout for comparison: http://www.kbdbabel.org/conn/kbd_connector_ps2.png

      It was linked from a Sun 5 adaptor Github page, if it helps: https://github.com/benr/SunType5_ArduinoAdapter

      There's also this: https://github.com/xelalexv/suniversal

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Sun4

        The type 4 on my SPARCStation 2s are indeed nice keyboards ... but remember, some of those function keys are SPARC only. Stop+A, for example, wont work on a PC for somewhat obvious reasons. And some of the other key placement is non-standard in today's world. Yes, you can remap the thing to suit yourself (and I have over the years), but you'll probably find that after using it for awhile, moving back to a "standard" 101+ key keyboard is a bit of a pain. And vice-versa, of course.

        I'm not suggesting you don't use the thing, far from it. Just pointing out a couple of the pitfalls you'll probably run into. Have fun! :-)

        1. Down not across

          Re: Sun4

          There are only two keyboards I have found comfortable to type so that I don't need to look at them at all and they are Model M (I really need to check why they occasionally lock up and need a reset (unplug and reseat cable at keyboard end) ..could be bit flaky connection I guess) and Sun Type 5. Sun Type 4 is not too bad either. Nor is LK201 come to think of it.

  25. jake Silver badge

    Every now and then ...

    ... I read an article like this one and think to myself "I've been using this keyboard for 30+ years, maybe I should drop a few hundred bucks and see what's new in the world".

    And then SWMBO reminds me that I still have a dozen original[0], unused, still in the factory sealed packaging IBM Model Ms waiting, should this one die. So I don't bother. However, I do bookmark the article. Thank you :-)

    [0] I had been collecting Model Ms for about ten years when I ran across a pallet load of mostly amber screen IBM 5152s with model M keyboards at Weirdstuff Warehouse. All were new old stock, still in the factory shrinkwrap. I bid $25 on the lot, and to my surprise I won the auction ... probably because nobody likes the 5152. Me, I don't mind them, especially the amber ones.

  26. VicMortimer
    Coffee/keyboard

    My favorite keyboards are the Apple MB110LL/A wired keyboards. The key travel is perfect, they're quiet, and unless you spill something on them they last pretty much forever. And in a pinch, you can do some serious damage to somebody with that sturdy aluminum if you swing it right.

    My second favorite keyboard is the Apple Extended Keyboard II. For years I used them with an ADB > USB adapter, I've got several that still work beautifully today. They're not horrifically loud like the garbage IBM M, the key travel is fine for a traditional keyboard, but I've really gotten addicted to the shorter travel of the newer keyboard.

    I'm not a fan of Apple's latest keyboards. I've got a few of the "Magic" series, but the key travel is just too short. They're fine for TV remotes, but I don't want to type on them.

    Oh, and those awful clicky mechanical keyboards? Particularly the IBM M? They're great - for beating the user with. They've got enough weight to do some serious damage to the stupid motherf**ker who thinks loud keyclicks are even remotely acceptable around other humans. Other than that, they need to be sent to an industrial shredder for destruction.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Loud?

      A Model M ain't loud.

      Loud is a 1402 in full song.

  27. Rattus
    Coffee/keyboard

    Secondery reson for a good solid keyboard

    As already pointed out by the vast majority of positive responses to a good, precise keyboard these are something that once you have you will never go back (pretty much the same for a decent mouse as well - spot the embedded engineer - I need to type AND I need to pointy clicky).

    However there is a secondary function of a good keyboard - it should be heavy enough and solid enough to bludgeon 'collogues' about the head without breaking, it should be robust enough to place in the autoclave to sterilise afterwords....

    ... Just saying :-)

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Secondery reson for a good solid keyboard

      Ah, you've got a model M with the 2 kilogram steel backing plate in then?

      They certainly don't build them like they used to!

  28. Fury556

    For what it's worth, I got an Element Gaming Beryllium keyboard about 5 years ago for £50 - still clacking away happily. Supposedly has red switches. The only "fault" is that the blue LED behind the "V" key has died. To me it feels an awful lot nicer than any membrane keyboard I've ever used

  29. Andy Denton

    Another FNatic fan here

    I have the FNatic Mini Streak (Tenkeyless form factor) with Cherry MX Browns and it's utterly superb. Fantastic build quality and feels like it will go on forever. It's so good even my wife wanted one when she tried it. Hers has Cherry silent keys. I also have a Cherry MX Board 3.0 that gets regular use and I used to think it was brilliant until I got the FNatic. Now, I just think it's OK.

    I do miss the Model M that I started my career with over 30 years ago, but they're not really usable in an open office unless you want your colleagues to beat you to death with it.

  30. TechHeadToo

    And the reason IBM made great keyboards

    Ask anyone who used typewriters. IBM keyboards date from the days when millions of professional typists (and no one else) used the mechanical typewriter keyboard. IBM spent millions on developing the 'touch' for keys, and this store of knowledge and ability came through when they made keyboards for these new boxes. Ah, the electric typewriter ! Then the breakthrough idea of those tiny golfball print mechanisms - no type keys. How can they make that work?

    Ah, those were the days.

    And now we have to suffer the 'cheap' keyboard. We're spoilt. this MacBook has a great keyboard, almost the right feel on the key travel. A suitable click, backlight when needed. Engraved symbols.

    Unlike the cheapy Acer laptop, or not quite so cheap HP laptop in the household. No backlighting (You don't know how good it is until it isn't there. The key symbols wearing off already after less than a year.

    But then. 'most' people don't care, don't even conceptualise that there can be 'better' than the stuff they complain about.

    1. AJ MacLeod

      Re: Backlighting

      It's one of the first things I always turn off on every laptop so equipped. Why on earth would I want light glaring from anywhere other than the screen? It's also a significant battery drain.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    KM-G9 here.

    Bought it a few years ago for £22.99, which was a bargain amongst bargains.

    It seems to be almost the same as the reviewed G6 but the aukey logo on the right hand side is moved down and it doesn't have RGB backlights (like I cared about that). I'm a fan of losing the keypad and that's actually one of the main reasons I bought this particular keyboard because it brings the mouse closer to the right hand side of the main keyboard area and reduces required movement.

  32. bladernr

    I had a real IBM Model M for over 10 years before it finally gave up the ghost, and it was already at least 20 years old when I bought it. From there, I've had THREE of the Unicomp Model Ms mentioned in the article. Their quality is crap. All three crapped out just after the warranty was up. I finally found a NOS real IBM Model M on ebay, and gladly shelled out over $100 for it plus a USB cable made for Model M keyboards. This one, being essentially brand new, will likely be useful long after I'm dead and buried. No one has ever come close to the build quality and longevity of the old IBM/Lexmark Model Ms.

  33. John PM Chappell

    SteelSeries Apex here. No complaints, and if it ever dies, I'll be looking to replace it with essentially the same model, as far as possible.

    That said, I had an IBM Model M back in the UK, that was my "daily driver" keyboard and long outlived the 286-AT it came with. The only reason it did not make it across the Atlantic was that I left the PC it was attached to there, and at the time couldn't see a good reason to ship it over. I'm sure it's still being used by my parents.

  34. airbrush

    Keyboard Layout Creator

    Compact keyboards seem to have a fairly random idea of what keys to include, who needs a shortcut to your email program when it doesn't provide a forward slash for example! I only mention it as my cheap mechanical Zalman keyboard lacked quite a few useful keys, Microsoft provide a key mapper that actually creates a keyboard driver with the mappings you specify so far better than other solutions and is fairly easy to use, hopefully they'll continue to support it!

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