I type so much on the computer, I should probably get a keyboard that I really like. I used to have a Model M keyboard, but the days of PS/2 are (happily) gone and besides the noise of that keyboard was bothering my flatmates (and neighbors, eventually).

  1. keyboard
  2. Requirements
    1. Layout
    2. No numpad
    3. Tactile feel
  3. Nice to have
    1. Low latency
    2. Open firmware
  4. Keyboard models
    1. WASD
    2. CODE
    3. Happy Hacker Keyboard
    4. Das Keyboard
    5. Filco
    6. Cherry
    7. Rosewill
    8. Truly ergonomic
    9. Ergodox
    10. Keyboard for life
    11. Ultimate hacking keyboard
    12. Keyboard.io

Update: I ended up buying a Rosewill RK-9000 with, I believe, Cherry MX blue keys. That turned out to be too noisy, even with my roommates being in the next room, so I do not use the keyboard except as a spare now (!).

Requirements

Layout

I like the ANSI layout, QWERTY of course. Ideally, I would like to have an ANSI keyboard with the «» key added, but this doesn't seem to actually exist, and I don't like the oversized ISO enter key, as I used backslash a lot.

No numpad

I would like to have an external numeric keypad. This means less traveling between the keyboard and the mouse, which I still use more often than the keypad. I would need to get an external keypad, but that's easy to solve - even if it takes an extra USB port.

That's called a "80%", "TKL" ("tenkey-less") or "88" or "87 keys" keyboard. Those articles help me figure out the different layouts:

Tactile feel

I liked the clikety feeling of the Model M, but not the sound. Ideally, it would have the same feeling, but less loud. The MX brown seems to have that characteristic, but I am worried it will loose the clikety feeling. The Cherry MX clear may be a good compromise.

Nice to have

Low latency

As discussed in monitor and my terminal emulators review, we have very little wiggle room for latency in the various I/O component of the computer. In theory, we can get sub 30ms latency in the entire chain, and keyboards take up almost half of that (14ms). So it would be nice to have keyboards with lower latency than this.

Open firmware

We now live in a world where every device has its own little computer, a controller that parses the electric output of switches and turn that into a meaningful data stream, usually over USB, to the main computer. Most keyboards, in that sense, are proprietary, but there are nice efforts like the TMK and QMK firmware projects that attempt to reverse-engineer and replace the existing firmwares.

Having support for an open firmware would be a plus, and would possibly allow us to reduce the keyboard latency by changing or removing the debouncing algorithm.

Keyboard models

So here is inventory of the (surprisingly) expensive alternatives...

WASD

The WASD family has interesting model. The WASD V2 87-Key Custom Mechanical Keyboard has the interesting feature of not having a numpad at all and customizable everything.

Update:

CODE

The CODE keyboard is also made by WASD but has special specs.

Happy Hacker Keyboard

The HHKB is interesting because it goes back to the old "Sun type 3" keyboard layout, where the control key is next to the A key, in place of caps lock. I found this through the TMK keyboard firmware project, which features open source firmware for a bunch of keyboards, including the HHKB (which, out of the box, is unfortunately not open).

Their keyboards have weird features like variable actuation points and "capacitive switches".

260$USD.

Das Keyboard

I had the privilege of using that keyboard for a week. I like the sound, layout and general design of the keyboard. I found it a bit annoying to not have any labels on the keys: even if I am a good touch typist, sometimes for typing passwords, especially with digits in them, it can be difficilt to find the keys... But they have an alternative with labels on the key, at no extra cost.

I am not sure which kind of keyboard I have tried, actually, because there are 3 different levels of 'clicketyness' to those keyboards. The model number was DASK3 CST-105-DAS-B and I have asked the company for more information... we'll see! I like the sound of it, but it may have been a little loud at times and can wake up a person sleeping in the same room. Update: the keys were blue, so I assume those are Cherry MX Blue keys.

I think I would get a Model S professsionnal, so with the key labels.

See also Das Keyboard.

Filco

This company also produces cherry switches keyboards. The majestouch is interesting:

The ninja version has key labels in front.

Cherry

The company that makes those famous switches also actually make keyboards. Ncix sell this one for 70$. It seems it's a cheaper design than the other ones.

The G80-3000, manufactured since 1988, is still in production, and probably a better alternative, yet it is more expensive - from 85 to 100$.

Rosewill

The Rosewill is Newegg's branded Filco keyboard. It's the equivalent of the Majestouch.

This one is illuminated and 120$ for cherry blue keys...

Truly ergonomic

This keyboard is different from all the other and I'll take it as the flagship of "ergonomic" keyboards (aka "split" keyboards):

https://www.trulyergonomic.com/store/index.php

Ergodox

Another split keyboard, but this one you get to build yourself: http://ergodox.org/

Good luck with the soldering. If you fail, you get to start over with a new kit too, yaaay.

Keyboard for life

15$. Spill-proof. Lifetime warranty. Next keyboard?

http://www.kensington.com/us/us/4489/k64370a/keyboard-for-life#.VsjA1j9Xbec

Ultimate hacking keyboard

"Built to last", "split keyboard" and all sorts of buzzwords...

https://www.crowdsupply.com/ugl/ultimate-hacking-keyboard

https://ultimatehackingkeyboard.com/

Downsides:

Keyboard.io

Keyboard.io is an open hardware keyboard that comes with "source code and a screwdriver". It comes fully assembled, that said. It has a peculiar split layout with columned keys and weird key arrangement. I had to spend almost a minute to find the "space" key in their drawings (hint: it's a single, normal key that you hit with your thumb, between control, alt and shift). There are also "palm" keys that act as Fn keys. All this is probably totally alien and too weird for my poor old fingers to adapt to, but it does look gorgeous.

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