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Best value for money
CM QuickFire Rapid
The QuickFire Rapid is a mechanical keyboard with great build quality, a diverse selection of good mechanical switches and a substantially lower retail price compared to other high-end alternatives. It's ideal for both beginners who are experimenting with mechanical keyboards, and for experienced programmers looking to optimize their coding sessions with a quality product without spending too much.
Long-lasting, well-built and portable
The QuickFire Rapid's solid physical design makes the keyboard feel sturdy and comfortable to use. This is true even after prolonged use, due to sturdy construction and soft coating that is pleasant to the touch and masks wear marks and small scratches. Even better, the Quickfire weighs only 2.1 pounds (0.95 kg), making it easily carriable in a bag. A micro-USB cable detachable at the base of the keyboard means less cable hassle as well.
High-quality mechanical key switches
The Cherry MX switch family, used on the QuickFire Rapid, have impressive levels of durability and consistently pass vigorous and demanding tests with flying colours. The keyboard has five different options of Cherry switches, including the light, rapid-actuating Red for fast paced gaming, and the tactile, non-clicky Brown for quiet typing.
Surprisingly low price for its quality
The QuickFire Rapid's selection of switches and resistant and long-lasting build gives it a competitive edge against more expensive keyboards, so it's also surprising to see it retailing at a price of $84.99 (depending on the switch option, prices may vary slightly).
Unfortunate key layout decisions
The dedicated Fn modifier key that activates the Fn keys' secondary features, like media control or display settings, is inconveniently placed next to the right Control key, making use inconvenient.
Other things to note
The QuickFire Rapid can be hard to use in the dark, since it has no backlighting. In addition, getting keycaps to swap to an alternate layout (like Dvorak) or to a macOS or Linux layout (the keyboard only comes with the Windows specific keys) is not as easy as with other keyboards because the manufacturer offers no spare parts at all. It would be more convenient to get both the keyboard and the extra keycaps from the same place. While the standard version has no number pad, an alternate version with a number pad is available as well.
I’m very happy with my recently purchased QuickFire Rapid. Small, compact, efficient and clearly well manufactured. The protection layer is very pleasant to touch. It’s hefty and therefore, stable. The MX Brown switches I selected are perfect, they don’t have the annoying loud clacking sound made by most mechanical switches. This is my second CM keyboard and I truly have nothing negative to say: they really make excellent keyboards that are quite reasonably priced given their quality.
The Kinesis Advantage2 is a uniquely-shaped ergonomic keyboard that is the best at preventing injuries associated with prolonged, incorrect hand posture and finger strain. The key layout is designed so that it can be used in the most optimal way possible, with a set of keys assigned to each finger. All these factors combine to make the Advantage2 the best option for enjoyable, rested and productive programming.
Revamped layout for healthy, enhanced typing
The Advantage2's layout helps prevent common computer-related ailments like Repetitive Strain Injury or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It features two concave key housings, for the pinky-to-index fingers, and two higher, smaller groups of keys for the thumbs. This creates a curvature that's more natural to the anatomy of the hand than the flatness of regular keyboards. It allows for typing with the hands mostly still (apart from finger movement), since placing several keys under the thumbs helps minimize movement. For example, the backspace key can be reached easily by the left thumb, rather than having to stretch the right pinky finger, as is the case on conventional keyboards.
Light and quiet typing with high quality switches
This mechanical keyboard uses a mix of Cherry ML and Cherry MX Brown switches, which provides for a smooth, tactile, non-clicky typing experience. Cherry switches are held to a high standard and are frequent favorites of mechanical keyboard enthusiasts.
Bulky, but light
With dimensions of 16.5" x 8" x 2.88" (420 mm x 203 mm x 73 mm), the Advantage2 is quite bulky. It can be difficult to integrate on one's desk or working environment. Especially if it's replacing a slim keyboard previously kept on a narrow tray. However, weighing only 2.2 pounds (1 kg), it's surprisingly light for its volume.
Proficiency means overcoming a learning curve
Becoming an expert at using the Advantage2's optimized design needs time and patience, since it aims to remove poor typing habits caused by using conventional keyboards. Aside from proper hand posture, the keyboard trains you (using a deactivatable key feedback) to press keys smoothly instead of smashing down, which further reduces hand strain. Some of its drastic layout changes can be disorienting at first. For example, the four arrow keys are separated: up and down on the right side; left and right on the left side. Usually, it takes between two to four weeks of regular use to feel completely comfortable at using this keyboard.
Other things to note
The Advantage2 comes with a set of macOS specific keycaps and a keycap puller tool, so switching from the Windows layout is really easy. Kinesis also sells other keycap sets, like seven different colored ones or one for a Dvorak layout. The keyboard has pre-programmed onboard shortcuts to configure it to correspond to whichever physical layout it’s using in any given moment. There's also a connector that can be used to integrate the keyboard with optional, programmable foot pedals, also sold by Kinesis.
Given the extended amount of time I spend on the computer, I decided to get rid of my standard keyboard and try an ergonomic one. I went for the Advantage2. After I got it, changing the keycaps and configuring for macOS was child’s play. Once I started using it, the first impression was that it was very comfortable, but it felt a little awkward. It took some time of use to really be completely at ease. It’s a very good ergonomic keyboard and I’m highly satisfied with it. My only complaint is that it’s quite big and oddly shaped, so I don’t find it easy to carry around for laptop use.
Best high-end keyboard
The CODE is a mechanical keyboard of remarkable worth, with a build quality that rivals that of other premium keyboards. It combines premium switches, good design quality, impressive attention to detail and so many extra features useful for programmers, such as backlighting or DIP switches that enable users to quickly disable or swap certain keys or completely change to an alternate layout.
Well-built and very durable
This keyboard is designed to be sturdy and long-lasting. It's built on a rigid steel backplate that creates enough weight on the keyboard's body to keep it stable. It resists damage and wear marks very well, since its surface is covered with a textured finish coating that resists superficial abuse like fingerprints or scratches. The overall appearance is appealing and minimalistic, having no visible stickers or logos.
Typing in the dark made easy with backlighting
The CODE comes with LED backlighting, making coding in the dark easy and enjoyable, something particularly useful for those working long nights. The only available color is a clean white, but seven brightness levels can be chosen and onboard memory saves the lighting preferences. The backlighting can also easily be turned off. To increase light scattering, the steel backplate below the keys is painted white and each key is aligned so that its symbol is lit by a LED.
First-class mechanical key switches
The CODE uses Cherry MX mechanical key switches, regarded as top-quality switches that have impressive levels of durability and consistently pass, with high marks, all the performance tests they are subjected to. Users can choose from several models of the Cherry MX family, including rarely found options, such as the quiet MX Clears, with medium stiffness and a tactile response, or the MX Greens, clicky and with a high actuation force of 80cN.
Depending on switch and key number choices, the CODE costs between $130 and $165, so it's by no means an economical keyboard. For many users, this keyboard's features are not worth the high price. However, for those looking for a high-end keyboard and willing to spend this amount on it, the CODE is certainly the best option.
Other things to note
On the back of the CODE, there's a row of 6 DIP switches that can be used to perform several configuration changes on the keyboard layout, such as swapping to Dvorak or implementing a macOS layout. Key combos can be configured, supporting combinations of up to six keys, not counting Ctrl, Alt and Shift, meaning that, if these keys are used, the combo key limit becomes nine.
I’m a programmer and I recently decided to invest some money on a premium mechanical keyboard. I went for the CODE and don’t regret it a bit. It’s designed extremely well, the attention to details is remarkable and it has several interesting (and easy to use) features, like the its DIP switches or configurable shortcuts. It’s a little heavy, and not very portable, but that’s great for coders and gamers that don’t want the keyboard sliding along the desk. The only downside is its high price, but if you can spend this amount on a keyboard, you will not be disappointed.
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How they compare
The Advantage2 is one of the most ergonomic keyboards available, given its double-cavity design, optimized for human hands. This mitigates the harmful effects of typing for long periods of time.
The smooth and tactile Cherry MX Brown mechanical switches create a pleasant typing experience.
Because of its size, this keyboard is robust, eliminating unwanted movements during use.
CM QuickFire Rapid
The Quickfire Rapid doesn’t move or shake at all, even under intense, fast typing thanks to solid build quality and anti-slip rubber feet.
The Cherry MX mechanical switches are very comfortable to type with and easy on the hands and fingers. With five different kinds of switches of this family to choose from, users can select the switch that suits them best.
- This keyboard’s standard QWERTY layout doesn’t reflect any special concern for ergonomics, and it isn’t even easy to change to alternate layouts such as Dvorak.
This keyboard’s Cherry MX mechanical switches minimize hand strain, making typing much more pleasurable. There’s also a good selection of other Cherry MX switches available for users to choose from.
Because of the rigid steel backplate it’s built on, the CODE is a solid keyboard that doesn’t budge with keystrokes.
The CODE isn’t a keyboard made with ergonomics in mind. It’s conventionally shaped and uses a QWERTY layout. However, its DIP switches make switching to other layouts quite easy.
- The design's focus on palm grips means claw and fingertip grips won't be as comfortable in this mouse.
CM QuickFire Rapid
Small and light, with 2.1 pounds (0.95 kg) and dimensions of 14.1’’ x 5.4’’ x 1.5’’ (359 mm x 138 mm x 39 mm), the Quickfire Rapid is easily carriable inside an everyday backpack.
This keyboard’s cable is detachable from the board end, minimizing cable hassle while carrying around,
The CODE’s dimensions are 4.3’’ x 5.6’’ x 1.2’’ ( 363 mm x 142 mm x 30 mm ), making it extremely easy to carry around.
It only weighs 2 pounds (0.9 kg).
The CODE’s cable is a standard micro-USB cable detachable from the keyboard, facilitating portability.
- Despite being rather ample, the Advantage2 weighs 2.2 pounds (1 kg), which is light for its volume.
As a direct consequence of its unconventional ergonomic shape, the Advantage2 is quite bulky: it’s dimensions are 16.5’’ x 8’’ x 2.88’’ ( 419 mm x 203 mm x 73 mm).
The cable is not detachable from the keyboard.
The CODE can be shipped with one set of switches from a wide set of available Cherry switches, including some uncommon options.
This keyboard has 6 DIP switches for selecting alternate preconfigured layouts, like Dvorak or macOS.
The CODE has a quite powerful key combo feature, that can used to create shortcuts of up to six keys, not counting Ctrl, Alt and Shift, which means that, if these keys are used, the key limit is actually nine.
- The manufacturer doesn’t sell spare parts or keycaps sets, so if users want to change the layout, they have to get these components from a third party.
CM QuickFire Rapid
Users can select from a set of five different types of switches from the Cherry MX family.
There are alternate versions of the Quickfire Rapid that offer options the original version doesn’t have, like backlighting, numbers pads or media function keys.
- The manufacturer doesn’t offer any spare parts or keycaps sets, so if an alternate layout is prefered, these components have to be secured from a third party.
Kinesis sells several keycap sets, so changing key colors or even entire layouts (like Dvorak) is easy. The keyboard layout configuration can also be conveniently switched, via shortcuts, to several pre-programmed layouts.
The keyboard can be integrated easily with Kinesis’ programmable foot pedals.
- There are no pre-sale customization choices for the Advantage2.
Ease of use
CM QuickFire Rapid
Overall, the QuickFire Rapid’s overall layout isn’t very different from what most people are used to. Some people accustomed to larger keyboards may struggle getting used to its small size.
Secondary features are difficult to use, since the Fn modifier key is inconveniently placed next to the right Control key.
- The CODE‘s layout is mostly standard, but its small size may prove difficult for some people to get accustomed to.
- The Advantage2’s optimized ergonomic layout allows for maximum efficiency, but becoming proficient at using it can take between two to four weeks of regular use.
What are keyboard switches?
Keyboard switches are devices lodged under each individual key that are responsible for sending the data to the computer with each key press. There are different switch families whose actuation mechanisms work differently and have different characteristics, like the audible feedback they create, the force needed to activate them or their tactile feedback while being pressed.
What switch families exist?
Several families exist, but some major ones are rubber dome switches, membrane switches and mechanical switches. Some switches can be hybrids merging technologies from different families. On rubber dome switches, each key is place above a rubber dome that, when the key is pressed, deforms and touches the board below, closing the circuit and registering the signal. Membrane switch keyboards typically have two membrane sheets placed over each other and the signals are sent when they come in contact wich each other on certain points: this contact is caused by the pressed key’s pressure. Mechanical switches are individually composed by a housing that lodges a stem, a spring and contact points. When the keys are pressed, the stem comes down and allows the contact points to contact each other, sending the signal. Note that this mechanism means that the key doesn’t need to be pressed all the way down to register. This allows typing to be less tiresome and more agile, fast and reliable. For this reason, many people prefer mechanical switches over the alternatives.
What keyboard layouts exist?
Most people don’t spend much time thinking about keyboard layouts: they simply use the QWERTY layout, the most commonly used nowadays. This layout is a legacy from typewriter keyboards, designed to minimize the probability of two keys next to each other being pressed one after the other (this frequently caused jams). In modern times, this reason doesn’t make sense anymore, so several others have been proposed, aiming to allow for a more efficient and ergonomic use. The most well-known non-QWERTY layout for Latin scripts is Dvorak, and most keyboards and systems allow to implement this layout fairly easily.