I’m not exactly obsessed with mechanical keyboards, but I do know that I love a great computer experience, so I’m attempting to make my home computer the best it can be. That does include having decent peripherals.
After I built my computer I was using a MS Natural keyboard that I’d had from about 3 computers ago. I liked it, but I wanted something better, so I “upgraded” to the newest version of the MS Natural. These are decent enough keyboards but they’re hard to game on. They’re great for typing and keep your arms at a comfortable angle and whatnot but I wanted something better.
I went to Microcenter and found a Razer BlackWidow on sale for $75. Granted, this is much more than I’ve ever spent on a keyboard (I usually used the ones I got for free with a PC purchase or the aforementioned MS Natural that was cheap). The BlackWidow has Cherry MX Blue switches and it’s quite heavy. It typed fairly well though, so I was happy. Or so I thought.
I started hanging out on Reddit quite a bit more and found a community for people who tweak their workstations called “/r/battlestations”. I looked over it quite a bit and I noticed a lot of people had mechanical keyboards and there were quite a few cross posts to another community called “r/MechanicalKeyboards”. So I started hanging out over there and reading reviews and recommendations and discussion. I noticed that the community didn’t have a lot of respect for Razer (I didn’t know why then but I do now) and I started reading more and more reviews. I figured I wanted to try a different switch as well as get a smaller keyboard.
I agonized over this decision. I read review after review and decided that I wanted a Ducky Shine 3 TKL with Cherry MX Browns. I could not find it anywhere.
I also looked at customizing a WASD board but they had no backlighting and I figured I might as well get something with backlighting so I can use it more in the dark. Besides, I think backlighting looks cool. Well, their CODE keyboard had backlighting but not the switches I wanted, plus it was sold out.
So I started looking for alternatives and stumbled upon MaxKeyboards. They have a limited selection of switches (blue and brown for the board I was interested in) but the biggest plus for me was the fact that they didn’t have any software needed for their boards. The Razer needed their Synapse software drivers to work and it was becoming beyond annoying to deal with that updating all the time. I needed a board that would work with no problems in both Linux and Windows.
So I looked through the choices and picked out the Blackbird. I’d never tried Brown switches before but I’d read about them and they were close to the Blues I’d been using but with a less audible click, more of a bump.
Anyway, I ordered it from Amazon and it finally arrived up at my mom’s house and I was able to pick it up this past weekend. I’ve been using it a couple days now and let me say… Wow.
Well, before I get more into the review, how about a picture or a few?
Here is the box and what comes in the box. As you can see, it’s a really simple affair, with the keyboard, the wrist rest, and a info sheet about all the lighting options.
The lighting options are easy to understand and most are activated by hitting the function button and then the page up or down button (to change brightness), the insert or delete button (to light certain buttons like WASD and the arrow keys during a game), and the escape button to change the lighting timer on the board.
There are also some other options to control volume and whatnot that are activated by hitting the function button and F1 through F6. This is great if you don’t have easy access to your speakers. I do, so I don’t think I’ll be using them much.
Anyway, how about a quick compare between the Razer and the Max?
The Razer is on top and the Max is underneath. The Max is much smaller than the Razer and I can easily hold my arms in front of me to type instead of having them off to the left a little bit. This will hopefully help my shoulders and back and arms to not get fatigued while using the computer.
These next photos show the board on my desk. Also, my shoe is there for Reddit and keyboard SCIENCE.
Anyway, you can see how it sits on my desk and how it’s directly in front of the chair.
Typing on this board is a dream. It’s easy to actuate the keys and not totally bottom them. Well I usually do bottom but I don’t have to thwack them as hard as I do a membrane board like the one I have at work.
There’s not a satisfying click-CLACK like there is with the blues, but I’m very happy with the browns. I love the sound they make and they’re not mushy at all. Also, it’s quieter than my other board. I’m not sure if my upstairs neighbor could hear me (I hope not) but if they could I’m sure they’re happy that I’ve switched boards.
I’m not really missing the keypad on the right; it makes for a quick switch to the mouse when I need it. The only issue I will find is when doing something with numbers, but I have the Razer that has a keypad on it so I can use that for that application.
Now I want to get a Ducky for work. I want the Shine 3 but if I can’t find that, I’ll settle for a Zero. I should also look into getting either Blacks or Browns and putting O-rings on the keys so they’re not as loud.
Anyway, I love this board and it’s a 5/5 for me. No extra crap, no special drivers, works in Linux and Windows (and Mac for that matter), and it’s small and backlit. Everything I need. Nothing I don’t.
Oh, and regarding the non-love for Razer that I mentioned above… I see why many people don’t like them as a company because their boards are… somewhat gaudy and light-covered. Mine was not, but it was HUGE and I’m glad to have more desk space with the smaller board. Also, some have had quality issues with their boards. I’m glad I’ve not, but it’s always a possibility. Oh, and they market to “gamers” so their boards are a bit pricier than they should be as well as having the lower quality. So that’s a problem. I still like my Razer DeathAdder mouse; it works well and I’ll be keeping it for awhile.