February 22nd, 2013
I don’t really buy two new bits of technology a day, it just feels that way sometimes…
As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool IBM Model M fan. I’m on my second (managed to kill the first with coke) and have a spare in the basement in case of any more unfortunate incidents. They are fantastic keyboards. Unfortunately, they are also incredibly loud.
Domestic harmony here at HA Towers is heavily threatened when I have to type a giant email at 9pm, with the machine-gun tones of the Model M rattling through our tiny apartment. So I have been prevailed upon to get an alternative keyboard. I pine – I pine, I tells ya! – for a Realforce Silent – with the currently highly-regarded Topre switches in their silenced form – but $280 is a bit steep for a keyboard even for someone as nutty as me. (Never mind the $400 Happy Hacking Pro 2 silent edition). So I settled for a more modestly priced alternative. I did a bit of research into the Cherry MX keyswitches – the most prevalent mechanical keyswitch design these days – and found that the brown version is generally regarded as the best option for someone who’s looking for a quiet action but still a decent typing experience (there’s apparently a sort of spectrum between ‘good for typing but loud’ and ‘quiet and also good for gaming, but not great for typing’). Leopold make a perfectly straightforward and decently-built keyboard in both full size and ‘tenkeyless’ (no numeric keypad) versions, and you can buy either version with any of the generally-available Cherry keyswitches; if you just want a decent keyboard with a given Cherry switch, it makes things nice and simple.
I’m typing (and unnecessarily prolonging!) this post on the keyboard to give it a bit of a workout, and it seems very nice. The construction is indeed solid, it has a removable cable (always nice), and the design and layout are sensible and no-nonsense. The layout and dimensions seem to be virtually identical to the Model M with the keypad lopped off and less of a ‘bezel’, which is perfect for my purposes (the bottom row is a bit different from my Model M with the addition of the Start keys, but it’s not a big issue, and the function row is somewhat closer to the number row, to save space). It makes switching between the two simple.
The keyswitches seem to do the job – the action is rather mushier than the Model M’s, inevitably, but it seems consistent and reliable between all the keys, there’s a good amount of travel, it still beats the living crap out of rubber dome switches, and it is indeed a hell of a lot quieter than the Model M. So I’d say ‘mission accomplished’ on this one. My desk looks a bit weird with two keyboards on it, but never mind!