I've got myself a new toy - a mechanical keyboard. More specifically it is a 69-key Magicforce Smart, with Gateron MX Brown switches. I choose for a few reasons:
I've fancied a mechanical keyboard for a while, but could never really justify it. For work I always took what I was given as long as it was QWERTY, and for home I did not use it enough to justify spending the money. However, since I work from home for Oxalide they give me a monthly budget to spend on these things, so I decided to use it.
The Magicforce is made in China and gets sold under many names I believe. Amazon describe mine as Qisan for what that is worth.
I've blabbered on a bit without explaining what this actually is. Most budget keyboards use what is interchangably called rubber-dome or membrane-switch, which are inexpensive to build and easy to design. These need a fairly large force to activate and tend to have a slightly "mushy" feel. They also have a limited lifespan - many will not outlive the computer itself.
By contrast, a mechanical keyboard activates real, physical switches. Underneath each key you have something like this:
There are a few different types of switch, most by Cherry:
Plus a few more, but those are the major ones.
This being a 69 key (or 65%) keyboard it is lacking a few things. There is no
numberpad and the Fn keys are hidden behind the, err,
fn key. What does have
though is Gateron MX Browns. These are a copy of the Cherry MX Browns but a bit
cheaper. Personally I cannot really feel any difference, so I think it is worth
the money saved.
It is also fully backlit which means you can do this:
I definitely like the 65% layout. There are some terminal snobs, with much longer beards than mine, who totally shun the mouse. I am not among them, so I do use the mouse. Having no numberpad means that the mouse is close to my hands. I have definitely noticed an improvement in my comfort using the mouse. It also makes it quite compact, so it will happily fit in my back pack alongside my laptop - pretty cool because I like to go to a co-working from time to time and I can take it with me when I go to Paris.
There are couple of issues I have with the layout. While I spend most of my
vi, it is certainly not 100%. This means I do use the
end keys fairly regularly. Both of these are hidden behind the
fn key which
bugs me a little. Also, the ` is over on the far right; I keep wanting it to
be where the
esc key is - especially as I switch
caps lock to be
There is a small amount of instability in the spacebar, but not enough to
really trouble me.
Balanced against this is the fact that is is UK layout. Thus
in the right place (for me) and I have a proper
Aesthetically, I think it looks great in white. I have a colleague who bought it in black, and I personally prefer the white. I was expecting it to look cool and retro, but it is more clean and functional. It is definitely white, not the beige of my chldhood/early career.
Ergo-wise, the feel is excellent. I have tried real Cherry Browns, and I cannot feel the difference with the Gaterons, so I am happy to have saved that money. I do have 1 slight critism though. Because of the extra height of the switches compared to a rubber-dome, you need a wrist rest in my opinion. For now I use a mole-skin note-book. I am thinking I may make myself something out of wood - or perhaps throw money at the problem.
Another thing I do not like (or perhaps love, I am not sure) is that this has now opened me out to the wider mechanical keyboards community. Add this to my minor razor obsession, cycling and my wife's photography and I do wonder how we will eat.
The Magicforce 69 feels great, albeit not perfect. For the price, I would not expect perfection and it is is genuinely excellent value. It has a really nice touch and feels like it will last a lifetime. To someone who types all day it is worth every penny. The 65% layout may get some getting used to. I am already considering getting a tenkeyleys board, as an addition not as a replacement.
Or perhaps build an ergo