It’s not really a secret among my friends that I frequent the best subreddit in existence: /r/pcmasterrace. I’m a computer nerd at heart and though I appreciate a good exclusive Xbox One or PS4 title I firmly believe that a gaming PC is the ultimate way to experience a game. But PC gaming doesn’t come without its drawbacks, chief among them: price. While browsing the PCMR Reddit today I came across a post about mechanical keyboards by /u/Firmament1 in which he sheds light on the problem with “name brand” keyboards pricing v. build quality and alternatives that are just as good or even better for a lower price. Firmament1 was kind enough to allow me to use his hard work, which you will find paraphrased below. You can check out the original post here.
The information below applies mainly to US and Canada.
Mechanical keyboards are a staple to the serious PC gamers among us. For the longest time I didn’t use one – I didn’t see what the fuss was about – but after typing on one for the first time I was instantly sold. They’re nice to type on, the build quality is superior to standard keyboards, there are tons of options for switches that change the actuation and feel of typing: MX silents for quiet typing, BOX Royals for a click-clack extravaganza, MX Blues for a nice crisp click, etc, etc.
Most people you ask will be able to name just a few brands of Mechanical Keyboards – your main players: Corsair, Razer, Logitech, and ASUS. These companies have the most popular boards available and are well known in the PC Gaming community. They’re also very, very expensive. Most of us have accepted this as a reality but /u/Firmament1 says this isn’t the case: mechanical keyboards don’t have to be expensive. These brands are reportedly held in disdain by serious Mechanical Keyboard enthusiasts for the following reasons:
- Build Quality
- Proprietary Switches (namely Razer and Logitech)
- Non-Standard bottom row
NOTE: The following subheadings were taken word for word from /u/Firmament1’s post. He explained it the best way possible and I didn’t see a reason to muddle the message being conveyed.
This is even a problem with Corsair boards, despite their build quality being frequently advertised. “But Corsair has an aluminum backplate! It’s sturdy, and feels nice, and is tough!” Here’s the problem: Many mechanical keyboards, particularly enthusiast grade ones, have this sort of material for their backplates. Plus, underneath that backplate is just plastic. Meanwhile, some Mechanical Keyboards that are far cheaper than Corsair have full metal backplates, and top plates, top to bottom. For example, the Redragon Kumara, a Keyboard that is $30! A $30 keyboard has just as, possibly even better build quality than the K95, Corsair’s flagship keyboard, which is $200. This whole problem of build quality not only applies to Corsair, but also Razer, ASUS, and to a significantly smaller extent, Logitech. To sum it up, Corsair’s build quality isn’t necessarily BAD, it’s just that you could get so much better for the price.
Another problem with the build quality is the keycaps. All four of these brands use thin, Laser-Etched ABS Plastic. Meanwhile, brands like Ducky, Varmilo, or Pok3r use either doubleshot ABS keycaps or PBT Keycaps, the latter being the best material for keycaps, because of the fact it is resistant to “shine” that happens on ABS. Corsair does offer keycaps, but they are $50. Razer and ASUS don’t offer anything. Logitech just offers the same, stock keycaps that are pretty much the same quality as what you got out of the box. The worst offender of the keycap issue belongs to Logitech, due to the proprietary switch design, meaning that you cannot get keycaps from anywhere else, EXCEPT Logitech. The keycaps will come to play later, so please, keep reading.
Corsair, Razer, Logitech, and ASUS charge you a fair bit for their keyboards. Razer’s cheapest board sets you back about $70. ASUS’s cheapest board is $140. Logitech has a more reasonable price: $60, and it’s a decent board. That is an exception. However, in many cases with these brands, there is a better built, higher quality alternative. For Example, let’s take RGB Boards from the biggest brands, and look at alternatives:
Logitech G410: $75. Not bad.
Razer Blackwidow Chroma BO3 edition: $85
K65 RGB: $90
ASUS Rog Claymore Core: $140
Now let’s look at some others:
G.Skill KM570: $80
Redragon K551: $45
Redragon K556: $60
As you can see, most are cheaper than that of the mainstream brands. They have a standard bottom row, good build quality, and aren’t too expensive. In essence, you are not always paying for better build quality. You are paying for the lighting and the brand name.
This applies to Logitech and Razer. Personally, I don’t think I can do a very good job of explaining it, so here’s a quote from u/LifelongCaboose.
People’s biggest issue with Razer mechs is there Razer branded switches which were first made by Kailh and are now made by Greetech and most people consider them some of the worst quality MX clones. They’re not terrible but they’re for sure not great. This is mainly an issue because a Razer mech is priced high but has cheap budget switches. People also have a lot of issues with there software.
The Logitech hate is mostly towards there Romer G switch because it has a very mushy feeling bottom and it reminds people more of a Rubber dome switch (Editor’s Note: I COMPLETELY disagree with this point but do note that Romer G switches are some of the most decisive out there) . Aside from that I don’t mind Logitech boards there new mechs are well built and decent quality over all, the Romer G switch and non standard bottom row just kills it and there super low quality keycaps. This premium is because of a lot of reasons, brands like these do a lot more marketing and sponsorships they have to factor this into the price of there products too make the money back.
Non-Standard Bottom Row
Every single one of these brands that I listed has what is known as a Non-Standard bottom row. Let me explain what this is.
A standard bottom row has the windows key, the ALT key, the CTRL key, and every single key that isn’t space is of equal size. 1.25x that of a normal keycap for letters. However, to those that are typing on a Corsair, or Razer board, look at your bottom rows. Are the CTRL key, Windows key, or ALT key equal in size? You will notice that, no, they are not. Now let’s see the problem this poses in this picture. As you can see here, the keycaps do not fit, This is because the switches on the board are differently positioned. As a result, you have to dig much deeper for keycaps (With Logitech, you cannot even FIND any third-party keycaps), and you have locked yourself into these brands overpriced ecosystem. This is exactly what happens, when you buy a console, for example.
All this may seem like the goal is to trash popular keyboard and gaming manufacturers, but that’s not the case. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these mechanical keyboards outside the fact that they are overpriced for the materials you get sitting on your desk. There’s a lot of different brands out there, including building your own keyboard, that provide a better typing experience and the wider variety of options for customizing your keyboard. Afterall, aside from the mouse they keyboard is the main tool for interacting with your computer – it makes sense that it should be the best quality you can get.
If you’re in the market for a new keyboard you owe it to yourself to take a look at some of the following brands:
- Cooler Master
- Royal Kludge
The best places to buy: