Designing the Ultimate Keyboard

I’ve posted a lot over the last month about mechanical keyboards. I’ve owned two buckling spring keyboards, a host of rubber dome keyboards, a Dell AT101W with Alps slider switches, and my latest keyboard, which uses Cherry MX Red switches. I think that it’s time that I evaluate what I’m looking for in a keyboard and give manufacturers something to base their next great keyboard design from.

First of all, the keyboards need to have a selection of switch types. WASD Keyboard gives you a lot of control over the type of switches they install on your customized keyboard. Props to them for this option. After evaluating many key switches, I want more. I want to try out Cherry MX Brown switches. I think that they would be perfect for my typing preferences. I like Cherry MX Blue switches but they are probably the loudest of the Cherry line. I’m not sure they are louder than my buckling spring keyboard, but they are still rather loud. My Corsair Vengeance K90 keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches is relatively quiet, but I still tend to bottom out on them since I’m used to the buckling spring.

So I think that the ultimate keyboard would come with Cherry MX Brown switches by default. These switches are best for typing. They have the tactile bump but no click. I would also prefer that the keys have o-ring dampeners to greatly reduce the noise level of bottoming out, but I think that the manufacturers should make all key switch combinations available as WASD does.

Secondly, macros are great for gaming in Windows but they are useless in other operating systems without software. Now, this doesn’t have to be the case. I remember working with old dummy terminals at one point and they had macro keys for storing repetitive keystrokes. This didn’t use a driver. The macro functionality was build into the keyboard and it saved all the macros in on board memory. It was OS independent. If manufacturers are going to put macro keys on a keyboard, they should make it self-contained. Recording macros and playing them back should be handled by the keyboard itself, not the operating system.

Thirdly, the ultimate keyboard would be built very well using good parts. The one thing I can positively say about the Corsair K90 is that it’s built very well. However, I think someone used the wrong keycap type on my “1” key (across the top row). At first, I wondered if this was an error or a feature. Looking at videos on Youtube, I found that the on most boards is exactly like the other number keys across the top row.

Fourthly, another good point to the K90 is in how the keys are raised off the brushed aluminum base. This will allow for easier cleaning. The K90’s volume drum is a great design. It would be even cooler if the grooves on the drum had holes in them that allowed light to show through. So build quality should be amazing on our hypothetical ultimate keyboard.

Also, NKRO (n-key rollover) over USB is a must. The Corsair Vengeance K90 has full anti-ghosting and 20 Key rollover over USB. There are very few keyboards that offer NKRO over USB. 20KRO is plenty enough for anyone.

Finally the keyboard should give the customization opens of WASD Keyboard. This includes laser etching of lettering and custom key caps. The ultimate keyboard could also use LED back lights like the K90.

So my ultimate keyboard would be a Corsair K90 with hardware set macros, custom key caps, Cherry MX Brown switches with o-ring dampeners. It should be fully mechanical (not a hybrid). Media keys are a waste since keyboard shortcuts can be created to handle the same functionality. I’m getting used to the rubber key cover on the K90 as well. I would include that in my ultimate keyboard.

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