Keywords: home, rant
I need a new keyboard. The one I have works perfectly fine, but as with all my keyboards the letters have begun to wear off over time and it's time for a replacement. My keyboard is a basic vanilla model that came with my system, which I like a lot less than the multimedia keyboard I had with the HP I used to own. (The craptacular software driving that keyboard is one of the reasons I will never buy an HP again, but the keyboard itself was great.) So it's time to upgrade.

My trip to Best Buy to find an off-the-shelf replacement was a disaster. I found maybe ten models of keyboards, too many of them with the same flaws, and none with what I really wanted. I have a specific list of dos and don'ts when it comes to keyboards, so this is what I need.

Must have: Regular-height keys, not those crappy short ones that are practically flush with the surface.

Must have: Full-size keys. I'm not using a frickin' laptop. I want a keyboard I can actually use. The standard key pitch on my current keyboard seems to be about 19mm, or about ¾".

Must have: A wired connection, USB or PS2 is fine. I don't like having to change batteries.

Must have: The Insert, Delete, Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys in the standard 3×2 layout. NOT the stupid 2×3 layout and especially not the kind where the insert key has been left out entirely in favor of an enlarged delete. Seriously, what the frell? I don't know who came up with either of these ideas but whenever I find out they're going on my List.

Must have: Arrow keys in the standard Tetris T configuration, NOT a diamond shape or anything else.

Must have: A numpad. Anything that tries to skimp on keyboard standards to save on size is right out.

Must have: Multimedia keys. I can get a vanilla keyboard anywhere. Well, anywhere but Best Buy, apparently. I want something I can use to control WinAmp. Configurability of these keys is also a must, but I'll settle for doing it with AutoHotKey if I can. The lower profile the software has, the better. Also, I saw an allegedly multimedia keyboard with only four extra keys, which is just a waste.

Must not have: Allegedly ergonomic design. Tried it, hated it, will not go back.

Must not have: International layout. If I want frickin' umlauts I'll use Alt and the numpad.

Must not have: Clicking, like from the frickin' 80s. Don't get me wrong, the '80s were great, but the keyboards sucked on toast. I also require that the keys not be overly noisy. My keyboard makes noise, but it doesn't make a ton of it. Mechanical switches are a plus because I don't want something too "soft", but clicking is a no-go.

Must not have: A mouse I don't need. And especially not a touchpad; gads I hate those things.

Must not have: Some kind of goofy wrist rest thing that just gets in the way. Many keyboards come with removable rests and that's fine, but if it's integrated, it's out.

Must not have: Special always-on highlights or different key color for "gaming" keys like WASD. I don't mind a gaming keyboard, but I'd mind this a lot. It's okay if the highlighting can be disabled though. Fortunately I haven't seen this on anything that was otherwise a serious contender.

Must not have: Oversized Enter and double-size backspace. I prefer just the latter; I can live with just the former. Cherry, who are one of the market leaders in high-quality key switches, makes several keyboards that have both, which is a darn shame because those keyboards look excellent in every other respect. Worse, their oversized Enter is not in the traditional reverse-L shape, but instead it takes the extra-width key where a backslash would normally go and puts a regular width below that, with the backslash key nestled in the crook. Good gads.

Those are the non-negotiables. These are the wish list:

Want: A volume knob. I miss my old one. Buttons aren't the same.

Want: Lighting. I think it's kinda cool. I'm not too picky about the color, but I do enjoy blue.

Want: Black. I don't really care to go with a light finish if I can help it, and that goes triple for beige.

Want: Tactile feedback instead of linear. The lack thereof is not necessarily so terrible.

I've found many keyboards that almost fit the bill, but fail in some crucial element. Particularly galling was the Logitech G110 gaming keyboard, which turned out to have smaller keys than standard (which wasn't clear from the initial specs). Logitech had a lot of close contenders actually, but they're all said to have smaller keys and Logitech seemingly goes out of their way not to publish their specs on key pitch. Logitechs also have a reputation for their keys wearing out. Too bad, because the G110 looked nice except for these issues, and the G19 looked even nicer. I have no use for the G19's built-in LCD but I like the highly customizable backlighting.

(If you do have a Logitech keyboard, do me a favor and measure from the center of the A key to the center of the ' key. Since that's 10 keys, divide that measurement by 10 and you have the key pitch. I'd like to know what the key pitch is for the various Logitech models.)

Another keyboard that looks really nice is the Deck Legend, which is built for durability and boasts excellent brightness in its backlighting--but it has no multimedia keys whatsoever. It commands a high price tag, putting it slightly below the Logitech G19. While you can tell they designed this thing for people who are serious about their keyboards, the lack of some critical bells and whistles makes it unacceptable unless I'm willing to settle, which I'm not. If Deck made a keyboard with multimedia capabilities I'd snatch it up in a heartbeat.

Overall I'm surprised by the lack of breadth in the market. There are a lot of choices, but so many of them suck it's ridiculous. Most brands actually had much better options five years ago. Dell in particular had a well-regarded keyboard that they have since discontinued in favor of a crappier model. That keyboard actually is available but there seems to be only one new one left on the planet (according to Amazon) and it's selling for a high price. I'm willing to live with the high price though and might just go for it, except I know if anything goes wrong I can't get another one just like it.

I'll grant that my standards here are pretty high, but it boils down to two aspects: Matters of preference, and STUPID STUPID STUPID. I will have none of the latter. Some people are okay with smaller keys and laptop-style chiclets, and that's fine--for them. That's preference. But some of the layout decisions that have been made by these companies--I mostly blame Microsoft--are downright unforgivable, and I won't for a second concede those to the preference category. I'm not the only person who types for a living, so making these radical changes is just not cool.
The Logitech G15 (the newer version) fits the bill on all of your points except a volume knob. (I'm not actually sure if I've actually seen a keyboard that has a knob on it). A better idea would be to use a sound system that has a volume knob and headphone jack input, which is what I use.
The G15 in particular is known for the keys wearing off though (althoguht hat might just be the first version), and I don't know what its key pitch is but my understanding is it's still small. If Logitech would just publish their specs that would help.

A knob isn't strictly necessary; some of the keyboards I saw had roll bars, which I think included Logitech's. But there should at least be volume buttons. As for a volume knob on the headphone jack, I've tried that but they flake out over time and start breaking connection.
If you do happen to find a keyboard with everything you want except normal, not laptop like keys, keep in mind that its not too difficult to get used to them. The keys on my laptop felt really weird when I first got it, but after a while, I got used to it.
I don't think the keys on my G15 can wear off, since they're back-lit (the key figures are transparent). The keys *might* be a bit smaller compared to some older keyboard I've used, but before this, I've been using generic no-name keyboards and didn't really notice a change in the size. I unfortunately don't have a ruler or measuring device, or I would have measured it for you. Perhaps you should try a G15 at a Best Buy to see for yourself?

As for the audio knob stuff, my Creative T7800 ( Creative20Inspire20T7800.jpg) has lasted me almost 5 years, and can be positioned right beside my mouse so I can always quickly change the volume on the fly.
This is what I use, I'm pretty sure it meets your qualifications. The black wrist rest is detachable, I removed mine a few years ago and haven't been able to find it since.

There's a high res picture here but it's in Japanese. Those buttons on the top left are volume/mute, to the right of that are for your media player. The silver buttons on the very top can be mapped to certain applications, ie: the 1 button will open Firefox. The black ones to the right open My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, email, home page, and messenger. To the far right, above the numpad are buttons for your calculator, logging off, and sleep mode.

The little black thing to the left of the capslock is a zoom switch...thing. Pressing up will increase the text size of whatever you're looking at, pushing it down will shrink the text.
2x3 Navigation keys.
Built-in palm rest
Comes with mouse.
Over $100.

This has been the most enjoying experience I've had in reading a blog post on for at least six months.

I'm not sure why.
Letters begin to wear off?

What the hell are you doing to your keyboard to make the letters wear off? I've had mine since middle school - I've dropped sunflower seeds on it, spilled kool-aid on it, typed on it using greasy fingers from fried chicken and a list of other unsanitary crap - and all the letters are in perfect condition.

Seriously, I don't get it. How do your letters wear off?
By having a job which requires a lot of typing, perhaps?
Lol, i've never seen someone so picky for a keyboard, not saying its a bad thing, but something I rarely ever see.
If you have 1,000 USD I can get a half-asian to sell you an awesome keyboard.
Iocamus wrote:
Lol, i've never seen someone so picky for a keyboard, not saying its a bad thing, but something I rarely ever see.

I'd hazard a guess that lots of programmers all have their preferences when it comes to keyboards. Same can also be said for gamers.

At the moment I use a Gigabyte GK-K6150. A simple and comfortable keyboard. My brother uses a 1984 IBM Model M keyboard which he describes as "the keyboard you can beat someone to death with and then use to blog about the beating after" (which may or may not be taken from some kind of review).

Oh, and my abandoned Logitech MX5500 measures from the centre of the A to the centre of the ' key at 19.1cm.
Tiberath wrote:
Iocamus wrote:
Lol, i've never seen someone so picky for a keyboard, not saying its a bad thing, but something I rarely ever see.

I'd hazard a guess that lots of programmers all have their preferences when it comes to keyboards. Same can also be said for gamers.

At the moment I use a Gigabyte GK-K6150. A simple and comfortable keyboard. My brother uses a 1984 IBM Model M keyboard which he describes as "the keyboard you can beat someone to death with and then use to blog about the beating after" (which may or may not be taken from some kind of review).

(Any chance we can get a picture of your current keyboard (if it fits your desires), I keep forgetting the criteria =/)

Lol...I use a compaq laptop, nuff said. =P
I've got a G15. I've had it for about 3-4 years now and it shows no signs of ware. I could spend a little time polishing it up and it would look as good as new. The first run of the G15 did have some paint issues, but they were solved after a rev of the hardware(the fixed paint model looks identical, though). I have the old style G15 with the blue backlighting. If you want to get off a little cheaper, try the G11. The exact same as my model of G15 only without the screen. I loved my G11 until I spilled Dr. Pepper in it, I could just never get it clean again.

The pitch is .75 according to your formula.

The G15 doesn't have a volume knob, but it does have a volume wheel. You could, if you really want a knob, take some two sized tape and a generic knob from radio shack and fix it.

The G11/G15 seems to be almost exactly what you want. With the sole exception being the extra G keys on the side, but they are out of the way and can be safely ignored.
I would suggest looking into the Saitek Eclipse series (1-3). I own a Saitek Eclipse 2 and it's great and relatively inexpensive.
SuperAntx wrote:
Over $100.

Just to clarify, price isn't really that important (I was considering the Deck Legend and the Logitech G19 after all). I had seen the Optimus Maximus but the price on that borders on ridiculous (justifiably ridiculous due to its features, but still).

That Microsoft keyboard looks pretty good, although the limit of two simultaneous keys is kind of disturbing. It's probably no different from what I have now in that respect, but if I ever do decide to get into serious gaming I'll want something with more oomph. Definitely a contender though.

Danial.Beta wrote:
The pitch is .75 according to your formula.

I'd heard the new G15 was different from the old one in key size. Is the pitch you're referring to from the original G15 or from the G11? And are you aware of the key pitch on the G15 mark II?

I actually consider the presence of the G macro keys a plus.

Kai wrote:
I would suggest looking into the Saitek Eclipse series (1-3). I own a Saitek Eclipse 2 and it's great and relatively inexpensive.

According to a review I read on the Eclipse III, its extra keys are hardwired to certain functions and apps and can't be changed (or at least not much). If that's incorrect I think it's a good contender.
I use an Apple Keyboard with Numpad. I believe the only criteria it does not meet is the whole keys being thinner than normal. Now, they are not crazy thin-size, but they're big enough that you can physically feel a click, and I love that Apple's Caps Lock key will only trigger if you hold enough force to it. The keys I'm sure can be programmable through third party applications, but yar.

If you don't want to go Apple, though, try out a Das Keyboard.

Try an Apple one though. Any Apple Store will have plenty on display.
The keys being thinner is a deal-breaker, unless you're talking about height which might irritate me but wouldn't necessarily be a killer. (If they're in the laptop size range though, forget it.) I'm not sure I can bring myself to walk into the Apple store though, on principle.

Das is out of the question. It's comparable in price to the Deck Legend without some of the nice features like backlighting, but like Deck it also lacks multimedia keys.
Page: 1 2 3 4