IT’S A KEY­BOARD PARTY

THERE’S MORE TO ME­CHAN­I­CAL KEY­BOARD LIFE THAN RGB AND CHERRY SWITCHES. AS WE SAW. THE NUM­BER OF NEW KEY­BOARDS THIS YEAR NUM­BER IN THE HIGH DOZENS – LOW HUN­DREDS IF WE IN­CLUDE ALL THE MANY SMALLER CHI­NESE FAC­TORY DI­RECT STANDS TUCKED AWAY IN THE QUIET HALL

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KEY­BOARD TRENDS

Fight­ing through our jaded weari­ness about key­boards in gen­eral, some stuff worth talk­ing about ac­tu­ally hap­pened. For a start there’s a def­i­nite a shift away from stupidly over-stylised be­he­moths, to­wards sim­pler, aus­tere de­signs. You can thank Cooler Mas­ter and Log­itech for that, both com­pa­nies al­ways es­chewed the crazy teenage as­pi­rant progamer stuff and their el­e­gant de­signs seem to have fi­nally in­flu­enced the oth­ers. Also, if your key caps aren’t raised up high over a flat slab so when you hold the key­board up to your eyes you can see all the mech­a­nisms, you’re just not in the game.

KEY­BOARD SWITCH NEWS

In the pe­riod lead­ing up to last year’s Computex, Cherry switches were hard to get for many man­u­fac­tur­ers, with a few com­pa­nies like Cor­sair se­cur­ing en­tire pro­duc­tion runs. Now, ap­par­ently, the Cherry com­pany has its man­u­fac­tur­ing vol­ume sorted and now ev­ery­one has any­where be­tween two and twenty Cherry-based mod­els. Red and brown switches are by far the most com­mon.

De­spite a few nib­bles at the mem­brane cake last year from a cou­ple of com­pa­nies, those cheap­ies have al­most dis­ap­peared – in­clud­ing, thank­fully, the nasty and over­priced combo mem­brane and me­chan­i­cal de­vices. Good­bye. Don’t come back.

But! In more re­fresh­ing news we saw sev­eral en­tirely new switches. So there’s some­thing won­der­ful for key­board switch en­thu­si­asts. These were usu­ally from com­pa­nies that pre­vi­ously had no pres­ence in the key­board mar­ket, sug­gest­ing per­haps that many of these ‘new’ switches that were usu­ally claimed to have been de­vel­oped “in house [long pause, voice soft­ens] … in con­junc­tion with a part­ner” prob­a­bly came from one of the many Chi­nese Cherry clone fac­to­ries that have fi­nally caught up to the orig­i­nal brand. But se­ri­ously – how hard can mak­ing a key­board switch be? Two or three years to get a Cherry com­peti­tor to mar­ket just isn’t try­ing.

AN OBLIG­A­TORY WORD ON RGB

And, praise be, Tai­wan has fi­nally come to un­der­stand that there are other colours in the key­board rain­bow be­sides the usual 16.8 mil­lion colour spec­trum. Specif­i­cally – hav­ing just one colour. We saw a great many that had just red light­ing. Or blue. Or white. Mar­vel­lous to see, and they were all much nicer than full RGB and quite a bit cheaper. We ac­tu­ally had one com­pany rep tell us that they think “not ev­ery­one wants RGB”. In­cred­i­ble. This is very pos­i­tive progress.

COOLEST KEY­BOARD EVER

Ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing at the Varmilo key­board stand was beau­ti­ful and won­der­ful, like the panda-themed key­board with raised panda foot­prints on the keys and the lovely bam­boo font. They also score our Coolest Key­board Ever Award for a cus­tom milled ti­ta­nium key­board base that weighed 4kg and ap­par­ently took three weeks to make. There is but one in the world, and you can’t buy it.

Varmilo’s Panda set has a bambo font

FROM TOP LEFT: Raised keys on a flat slab is the 2018 key­board fash­ion; A Varmilo World Cup theme; Cooler Mas­ter’s new switch

More Varmilo beau­ties

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