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Best value for money
CM QuickFire Rapid
The QuickFire Rapid is the best choice for those want a quality product without spending too much. It has great build quality and a diverse selection of good mechanical switches, on top of being substantially cheaper than other high-end alternatives. It’s ideal for both beginners who are experimenting with mechanical keyboards, and for experienced users looking for a new, worthy product.
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 lbs (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.)
Some aspects of the key layout are inconvenient to use
This keyboard’s key layout could be better. For example, 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.
Best gaming keyboard
The Apex M800 is the most customisable mechanical keyboard with the best gaming-centered features. It offers fully customizable RGB backlighting and has a set of keys just for user-built macros. Its low-profile keys are great for fast typing and it’s designed for consistent and comfortable typing, perfect for long gaming sessions.
Macro keys fit your exact needs
Users can create macros tailored exactly to their gaming needs and assign them to each one of a set of 6 keys reserved for this purpose. Macro creation is done via the SteelSeries Engine 3 companion software and the editor options are impressive, allowing for nearly any combination that can be thought of. These keys are well positioned at the left side of the board, conveniently reachable but not too close that they can be pressed unintentionally.
Virtually limitless backlighting options
The M800 puts its impressive backlighting to practical use: each key’s LED is individually configurable with options like color, brightness or patterns, allowing users to do things like configure certain keys to be configured to light up when certain in-game commands are ready to be used. SteelSeries takes backlighting so seriously that the M800 even has a second processor just for handling lighting effects, while the main one deals exclusively with inputs.
Silent, low-profile mechanical switches
This keyboard uses QS1 mechanical switches, custom-made by SteelSeries. It’s one of the quieter mechanical switches currently on the market and they have a very low profile: the travel distance is 3 mm and the actuation distance is 1.5 mm (0.5 mm shorter than the most common Cherry MX switches), meaning the keys register earlier than on other keyboards, facilitating fast typing.
Functionality comes at a steep price
The M800 has a retail price of $199.99, which is more than twice the price of the QuickFire Rapid and even slightly more than the Das 4 Pro. This is by no means a low-cost keyboard, but the functionality it offers makes up for the steep price. For those looking for the most advanced gaming features, this is the best choice.
Other things to note
This keyboard’s space bar is much bigger than usual and has a slightly curved surface for quick and easy actuation. This makes sense for gaming, but for typing it can become inconvenient since it’s easy to press it unintentionally. The M800 has two USB 2.0 ports for external devices. Its layout can’t be changed at all, since alternative keycaps don’t exist.
Recently, I’ve finally decided to invest on a proper gaming keyboard, and the M800 was the one I chose. I was hesitant about spending this much on a keyboard but, alt the end of the day, I am very happy I did. It’s very comfortable and the large space bar is really convenient. The option to light up key blocs according to the current application is super useful, since a quick look directs us to the application-specific keys. This is all configurable using the SteelSeries Engine 3 software, which is really simple and intuitive. The only disadvantage I can point out is that the surface of the keyboard gets fingermarks and dust very easily.
Best premium keyboard
Das Keyboard 4
The Das Keyboard 4 Professional is the most durable and has the best build quality and feel, making it the best premium mechanical keyboard available. Sleek and professional-looking, it’s perfect for those looking for a lasting product that’s simply the best at fulfilling it’s purpose.
Solid and built to last
The Das 4 Pro is the most durable keyboard out there, built to last the longest. It uses the best available materials, having an aluminum top panel that’s feels terrific and provides a bend-resistant frame. It’s also much more resistant to fingerprints and other superficial damage than the film-protected plastic frequently found on other keyboards. The bottom casing is made of textured plastic and designed to be vibration-free.
First-class mechanical key switches
A premium keyboard asks for premium switches, and the Das 4 Pro features the reputable Cherry MX switches. You can choose between the clicky Cherry MX Blue and the quiet Cherry MX Brown switches.
This keyboard retails at $169, which is costly for a keyboard. Purchasing this keyboard should instead be seen as an investment, considering that this keyboard can withstand punishment and is built to last.
Other things to note
The Das 4 Pro has two USB 3.0 ports, a volume knob and unobtrusive media controls. At only 0.8’’ (20 mm) thick, this is one of the thinnest mechanical keyboards available. For extreme users that type without looking down, there’s an Ultimate version of this keyboard with blank keys. Unfortunately, the Das 4 Pro has no variant that comes with backlighting.
Throughout the years, I’ve tried different kinds of keyboard: membrane, virtual, mechanical, etc. and this is, without a doubt, the best keyboard I’ve ever used. It offers unmatchable comfort and writing speeds, looks very classy and it’s amazingly resistant. I’m not exactly the most careful person with keyboards (i.e., they suffer from frequent damage and chronic dirtiness on my hands), but the Das 4 Pro has withstood this harsh treatment with no damage. It’s pricey, but worth it.
What others are saying
How they compare
This keyboard is outstandingly stable due to its robust build and the materials it’s composed of, that include aluminum.
The Das 4 Pro uses Cherry MX switches, with a possible choice between the Brown (for quiet typing) or Blue (for clicky typing) versions. Typing with these switches is very enjoyable and allows for fast, unrestrained typing.
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 are easy on the hands and fingers. With five different kinds of switches to choose from, you can easily select the switch that most suits your needs.
The M800 remains stable during frantic gaming, maintaining a good hold on the desk thanks to its hefty build and removable rubber feet.
The QS1 switches, manufactured by SteelSeries for exclusive use on their keyboards, perform remarkably well and create a very nice typing feel.
The Das 4 Pro is exceptionally durable, thanks mainly to the inclusion of an aluminum top panel. This panel makes the keyboard very resistant not only to structural damage, but also to fingerprints and other kinds of surface damage.
The non-aluminum parts also withstand damage very well, since they’re made of resistant, textured plastic.
- Even though it’s made entirely from plastic, the QuickFire Rapid is not flimsy at all and it’s clearly made to last long. The plastic surface has a pleasant to touch, smooth coating that protects from superficial damage.
The overall build quality of the M800 is decent, but it isn’t as solid or well-built as its price tag might suggest. The plastic keycaps feel somewhat cheap and easily breakable.
Except for the keycaps, the M800’s plastic surface is uncoated, so it gets a dirtied look really quickly.
The Quickfire Rapid is easily carriable inside an everyday backpack. It’s small and light, weighing only 2.1 lbs (0.95 kg) and has dimensions of 14.1’’ x 5.4’’ x 1.5’’ (359 mm x 138 mm x 39 mm),
This keyboard’s cable is detachable from the board end, minimizing cable hassle while carrying around.
The M800 isn’t a very portable keyboard, since it’s neither light nor compact: it weighs 3 lbs (1.4 kg) and its dimensions are 20.1’’ x 6.8’’ x 1.6’’ (511 mm x 173 mm x 41 mm).
It doesn’t have a detachable cable.
The Das 4 Pro is the slimmest mechanical keyboard on the market, with a maximum height of only 0.8’’ (20.3 mm). Despite this, it isn’t very portable at all since it’s width and length of 18’’ (457 mm) and 6.8’’ (173 mm) and weight of 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg) makes it not an easy keyboard to carry around.
Its USB cable is not detachable from the keyboard body.
The M800 backlighting features are highly customizable. Users can tweak individual key settings like color, brightness or patterns.
Key functionality is highly adjustable in this keyboard. For example, you can alter key mapping to various commands including mouse functions or media controls. Not only that, complex macros can be created and assigned to dedicated macro keys. This is useful for gaming as well as simplifying repetitive tasks.
- Key layout can’t be altered, since there aren’t any alternative keycaps.
You can choose from a set of five different types of switches from the Cherry MX family, each with their own functionality to suit your needs and preferences.
There are alternate versions of the Quickfire Rapid that offer options the original version doesn’t have, like backlighting, number pads or media function keys.
- The manufacturer doesn’t offer any spare parts or keycaps sets, so if you want to switch to an alternate layout, you have to secure components from a third party.
Buyers have two switch choices: they can select either the clicky Cherry MX Blue or the silent Cherry MX Brown.
The Das 4 also comes in an Ultimate version with blank keys, for those that don’t need/want to look at the keyboard while they type.
Some alternate keycaps for key customization can be bought from Das.
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 kinds of 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 are the advantages and disadvantages of mechanical switch keyboards?
Most of the advantages and disadvantages of mechanical keyboards are subjective, depending on people’s taste and on how they like to use keyboards. The notable exception is price: overall, mechanical keyboards are objectively more expensive. Advantages commonly mentioned are that they are more accurate, allow for faster typing, are more comfortable and provide a pleasant acoustic feedback. Besides cost, detractors of mechanical keyboards usually mention the noise they create and their general lack of portability (there are exceptions, of course) as important disadvantages.