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.