Computer Keyboards – 2

In Gadgets, General by JohnLeave a Comment

If you, like I used to, think that computer keyboards are not very interesting or exciting, take at look at the following video before you read any further.  Be sure to watch it full screen (pressing f on your keyboard should do it) and turn your stereo speakers up to a comfortable level:

And if you, like I did until a few days before writing this, think that gaming keyboards are only for gamers, then you might find they have features that can be useful for other purposes as well, such as seeing the keyboard keys in dim light (or even the dark) and creating macros to use where they can save keystrokes and time, and even add new shortcuts and keystrokes your keyboard.

I’ve only had my DasKeyboard 4 Professional for a week now and I have come to like it typing on it with those Cherry MX blue key switches, the quality look and feel of the keyboard itself, and the sleep key and rotary audio volume knob.  I’m surprised at how useful the volume knob has been for adjusting the volume of audio from various sources including iTunes, Presto Classical samples and YouTube videos.   It is without doubt the best and most enjoyable computer keyboard I’ve ever used.

However, as I mentioned in my last post, the characters on the keys are pale and I have trouble seeing them clearly during daylight hours, and at night it’s hopeless because of the reflection of the room light on the keys.  I spend a lot of time peering closely at the keyboard trying to make out the keys.

The problem seeing the keys has made it difficult for me to do any serious typing, so I decided that I would have to try a different keyboard.  What to choose?  There are a lot of choices out there including with mechanical keyboards.  And of course, what colour switch to get.  In my last post I included a link to a very good explanation by William Judd of the Cherry MX switch colours and differences between them.

After a lot of thought and reading keyboard reviews, including those by William at his site here, this afternoon I drove to Scorptec again and now have the Corsair Gaming K95 RGB mechanical keyboard with Cherry red switches.

Corsair-K95-RGB---DSCF1486

As you can see the keyboard is illuminated, and I can say that this really makes a big difference to my confidence and enjoyment when typing.  One of the useful features of the K95 is the level of control the user has over the colour of the keys.   On this, my first night, I created the colour scheme above, which I will try for a while.  The keys that I most use in typing, including the Shift key) are lit with white to make them very easy to see and stand out; the numeral and character keys above them are in blue; CTRL, ALT, Home, End etc are in red; the numeric keyboard is yellow, and so on.  The Caps Lock key and Tab key above it are in dark purple because they become unnoticeable and I am less likely to hit the Caps Lock key by mistake.  The 18 Macro keys are, at this stage, black – not lit at all – until I learn to use macros.

I did have a couple of attempts at creating on-the-fly macros, but all I succeeded in doing was create a perpetual loop of dsagfwqerp or whatever it was, that brought my computer to a halt and both times I had to use my wits to find a way to shut down the computer to end the loop.

I have read in many reviews and forums that the Corsair software for lighting and macros is very difficult to learn (and buggy as well, but hopefully that was in the months after its release).  I don’t know about that yet, but I can already say that the software screen and options are very difficult to see.  The creator is one of those people who thinks fine gray type on a black background is good design.

One of the reasons I chose the Corsair K95 was to get on-the-fly macros such as I had on our Wang computers back in the 1980’s.  Such macros were very useful and saved considerable time when I was faced with one-off large and repetitive tasks to perform on the computer.   I hope the K95 will do what I want once I become familiar with it.

Regarding my K95 there is a small fault I have noticed.  It’s not an issue, but on my first night I’m finding it a little annoying, because the Y looks as though it is going to slip off the top of the key cap.  You can see it in the photo above. That’s the sort of thing you soon forget about.

The other thing that will take time to get used to is the Cherry MX red key switches.   Some users refer to them as buttery smooth.  They are also regarded as very fast keys.  The young man in the video on my previous post states that he got his highest ever typing speed (words per minute) using Cherry red keys, but the most typing errors as well for reasons relating to the design (after using the blue keys, I would think). What I have noticed though is that if my fingers linger for a moment on any key, it actuates the key continuously until I release my finger fully.  A potential disaster when that key is the backspace.  Yes, I’ve done that already.  Perhaps as the young man in the video points out  – I’ve forgotten his exact words, but the gist of it – the Cherry MX red keys are very fast for accurate fingers.

I’ll write a third post about this in due course, with my opinion of the K95 and it’s macros and affect on my typing.  What I can say already, is that the K95 Cherry MX red keys have a quality feel, but its a very different feel to the DasKeyboard with its clicky Cherry MX blue keys.

My general opinion so far is that the reviews I’ve read are accurate.  And I love the Corsair volume control.  And I’ve already come to like the illuminated keyboard, especially the easy to read white keys of the main typing part of the keyboard, with the other keys in non-distracting colours.  It makes a difference to my typing, as my fingers tend to follow where my eyes are looking, including peripheral vision.  The only downside with the Corsair way of doing things is that while each key has its own diode, which is good in itself, their placement under the keys is off-centre and near the top edge of each key.  The result of this where keys have two characters – such as : and ” – the top characters are well lit but the bottom characters are difficult to make out.  At this stage I find it a bit of downer not being able to see all the punctuation keys.  I’ve noticed that at least one keyboard manufacturer with diodes under the front of each key gets around this issue by putting both characters alongside each other at the top of the keys concerned.

I suppose it’s good business for future sales, to build good products with room for future improvement.

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