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The Perfect Keyboard

Posted 08-07-2011 at 12:31 PM by Anenome

This keyboard is amazing, and look at my opening blurb, that might be the most poetically balanced thing I've ever written :P

Originally Posted by Anenome View Post
...I have found it.

Behold and gaze upon yonder splendor in abject wonder and be amazed!:

XArmor U9BL-S LED Backlit Mechanical Switch Gaming Keyboard (Cherry MX Brown)

What makes this the best keyboard I've EVER SEEN?
Glad you asked:

- Backlit keys!
Each key has a blue LED underneath and a clear-molded letter running through the key. The letter cannot be worn off. Ever.

Usually keyboards designed for enthusiasts -never- have a backlight, but this is starting to change very recently! And this keyboard is the king of them. I sometimes have to type or even game(!) with a small light on to make sure I find my keys. With a backlit keyboard this problem is annihilated. (This keyboard even comes with four replacement bright-orange keys which can be switched in to the WASD keys, or w/e you like, tho I wouldn't do that myself).

- Cherry MX Brown switches!
(seen here with LED, not all Cherry MX Switches have LEDs)

A typist's dream and not as loud as the Cherry Blue. Chances are you've never typed on a real keyboard, chances are you've grown up using cheap and silly "rubber-dome" key contacts. Compared to that, this is typing nirvana. And what's more, this keyboard makes gaming better and easier.

Not only does it have full N-key rollover, meaning that if you press 50 keys at once it registers all 50 strokes (cheap keyboards mostly max out around 3 simultaneous key presses and often having ghosting issues), but the Cherry MX Brown switches have tactile and audible response--you don't need to press the key all the way down to register a response, yet you can feel exactly where it does. This means the keys are both more responsive and more accurate, for you know by touch when a key has 'missed', as opposed to rubber dome keys which must be hit home every time to register.

Here's an in-depth Guide to mechanical keyboards and switch-types for those interested.
- Integrated Media Keys
Full range of media keys along the top row, integrated into the F-keys. Often, real typist's keyboards seldom have media functionality built in. This is one of the major reasons this keyboard rocks.
- Soft Durable Key Coating
The whole keyboard is covered in the kind of soft rubber that won't wear to a shine which you may have felt on the latest Logitech mice (know what I mean?).
- Removable wrist-rest, naturally.

- Four brightness levels on the backlight, including the ability to turn it off (as seen in the video above).

- 2 USB ports on the keyboard itself (top right) along with headphone and mic jacks!

- Can use either PS/2 port or USB adapter.

- Still not convinced? Check out the glowing 5-star reviews on the Amazon page.

So, after all that, are there any cons?

Sure, just one. They're sold out! (tho I didn't check Ebay, have fun! :P). This keyboard has been rated in the top five of 2011.

Let's say you want to be a competitive SC2 player, something like that. Any game where actions-per-minute is a good indicator of skill. You're going to need a keyboard that excels far beyond the rest. Pro-SC2 gamers naturally invest in better keyboards, looking especially for N-key rollover and no ghosting problems. At equal skill level, a player with a better keyboard wins. Simple as that.

The backlight is obvious. Lets you game in the dark easily, finally. No more losing your place or wasting vital seconds trying to let your eyes adjust to make out a letter.

In short, it's the best keyboard I've ever seen, as someone who is both a writer and a gamer--it serves both needs well.

If you would never dream of dropping more than $20 on a KB, this isn't for you, clearly. But I'll say this: enjoy your ignorance, because in your case it's bliss. If you try a real keyboard, like this one, you will be utterly spoiled and unable to return to that cheap plastic roadkill you call a keyboard :P

Here's a quick primer on Cherry MX switch types I found useful. I've blacked it out in spoilers below since it's adjunct to the review:

I had tried a keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches, specifically the Razer BlackWidow and absolutely loved the feel of the keys for typing. In fact, if you're looking for a keyboard just purely for typing, Cherry MX Blue is arguably the best option aside from possibly Buckling Spring (IBM Model M) or Topre switches which I haven't had the opportunity to try. Topre switches are basically a hybrid mechanical & rubber dome switch, which provide a nice mechanical feel while being much quieter then Cherry MX switches. However, they're also very expensive.

Getting back to Cherry switches, here's a basic overview of the most common varieties:

Cherry MX Blue (Tactile & Clicky): The one negative (or positive) for many people with Cherry MX Blue switches is the distinct clicking noise they make. For some, the noise alone is a deal breaker as it can be annoying to you or the people around you. On the other hand, the light tactile feel and sound of the switches can actually make you a faster typist and improve accuracy. The original XARMOR-U9BL Backlit Keyboard Illuminated Mechanical Keyboard uses Blue switches as does the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Cherry MX Black (Non-Tactile & Non-Clicky): If you're looking for a keyboard purely for gaming, these switches are commonly considered the best option since they're linear without any tactile feedback until you bottom out. If you want to try these out look for the Steelseries 6Gv2 Gaming Keyboard which you may also be able to test at a local retailer. Note that they still actuate half-way down but there isn't any tactile feedback at the half-way mark.

Cherry MX Brown (Tactile & Non-Clicky): These are the switches used in the U9BL-S. They're considered a good middle-ground between Blue & Black switches. Due to the tactile feel, you can actually type very lightly without the need to "bottom out". You can feel the keys actuate half-way down, thereby eliminating the need to press them all the way down. This does take a little time to get used to but I've been typing on them regularly for almost two weeks now and at first I would always bottom out since I was used to typing on traditional rubber dome keyboards. Adjusting to the feel of the keyboard will actually result in quieter typing when you're not bottoming out.
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