Quality Testing

In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyser that is programmed to measure and display the actuation force of the standard keyboard keys. By measuring the actuation force of every key, the quality and consistency of the keyboard can be quantified. It can also reveal design issues, such as the larger keys being far softer to press than the main keys of the keyboard. The actuation force is measured in Centinewton (cN). Some companies use another figure, gram-force (gf). The conversion formula is 1 cN = 1.02 gf (i.e. they are about the same). A high quality keyboard should be as consistent as possible, with an average actuation force as near to the manufacturer's specs as possible and a disparity of less than ±10%. Greater differences are likely to be perceptible by users.

The machine we use for our testing is accurate enough to provide readings with a resolution of 0.1 cN. For wider keys (e.g. Enter, Space Bar, etc.), the measurement is taking place at the center of the key, right above the switch. Note that large keys generally have a lower actuation force even if the actuation point is at the dead center of the key. This is natural, as the size and weight of the keycap reduces the required actuation force. For this reason, we do display the force required to actuate every key but we only use the results of the typical sized keys for our consistency calculations. Still, very low figures on medium sized keys, such as the Shift and Enter keys reveal design issues and can easily be perceptible by the user.

The quality testing of the Zalman ZM-K700M gave us the expected results for a keyboard based on Cherry's MX switches. The actuation force is very consistent, with a disparity of just ±3.77%, which is imperceptible by touch. Furthermore, the actuation force of the larger keys, and especially that of the Space Bar key, is not much lower than that of the main keys, despite their size. Cherry's cross stabilizers balance the actuation force of the larger keys, bringing it closer to that of the main keys, enhancing the overall feeling of the keyboard.

The Zalman Z-Machine ZM-K700M Mechanical Keyboard Final Words & Conclusion
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  • zeeBomb - Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - link

    Good mechanical keyboard under $100?
  • megadirk - Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - link

    The Logitech G710+ Regularly goes on sale for less than $100, I think just yesterday it was in an Amazon deal.
  • Sttm - Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - link

    Thats my pick, as the G710+ has actual media keys which lets you control volume or a skip a track without having to use a stupid modifier key like most of these lazy gaming keyboards.
  • Margalus - Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - link

    Yup. I got my G710+ with Cherry MX Browns for $79 on Amazon
  • cblakely - Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - link

    Cooler Master Storm series - a range of switch & lighting options, usually in the $70-100 range. The "rapid" version without the 10-key or back lighting is regularly seen for $70 or so. Also if you're patient and want a more boutique keyboard, check out massdrop - lots of good options there though the price range does vary greatly (hence the patience bit hehe).
  • Samus - Thursday, February 4, 2016 - link

    I have 3 CM Storms, one on each computer. One is the shorty without the number pad, and another is full sized, and finally a full size with back lighting. All have cherry brown's and I put orings in one. Phenomenal keyboards for $50-$70.
  • SteelRing - Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - link

    Rosewill is not bad either. I'm typing on Brown Rosewill now for 50 bux after rebate. Of course this is plain vanilla keyboard, whereas most of these recent mech keys were labeled as "gaming" keyboards. Personally I could only care about mechanical switches if it's for typing.
  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - link

    Cooler Master makes good stuff.

    I'm typing on a $60 CM keyboard with MX browns. I have a quickfire rapid and I love it. It looks so plain and classy and it feels sturdy as hell (pretty heavy).
  • althaz - Thursday, February 4, 2016 - link

    Ducky's whole range is well under USD$100 and they make pretty good keyboards. My main PC's keyboard is a Das Keyboard from before everybody started making mechanical keyboards, but for every other machine (including my work PC) I use Ducky mech keyboards with brown switches.
  • Azune - Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - link

    Actually the repeat feature is probably a relic that was once useful for some MMO's.

    Skills the character used weren't queued on the server, but server would rather tell the client when new commands would be accepted. So pressing the button as often as possible would allow to better hit the start of the "can do something again" interval. That way you could fit more abilities into the same timeframe.

    Nowadays its kinda useless, since most modern MMO's have an Ability Queue that lets you queue up skills before the global cooldown is finished. But it can be still be nice for "spammy" abilites that you use consecutively, since you just need to hold the button down instead of pressing it repeatedly.

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