Developer's Best Friend
Published on Monday, February 18, 2013 6:57:00 PM UTC in Tools
No matter how much touch and gestures talk is around, the keyboard likely will continue to stay developer's best friend for a long time. My personal companion for serveral years has been the Logitech UltraX keyboard . It sure isn't a high-end or premium model, but it suited my style of typing extremely well. It's not particularly durable either, at least not for someone who's using it several hours a day and likes to write both texts and code - in the last years I have worn out approximately one every year. They start to turn ugly quickly, because the silver color is rubbed off in only few months if not weeks, but technically they're robust enough to see all four seasons. At a price of less than 20€ this is something I was willing to accept.
Time for a replacement? You tell me :)
When my current piece started to act up on me some time ago (usually it starts with subtly missing key strokes), my usual ritual of ordering a replacement was interrupted by the fact that apparently the model went out of production. Do'h! Time to move on and find a new best friend.
I've tried and looked at several other keyboards, and surprisingly enough it's quite hard to find a good one that satisfies my needs:
- All I want is a plain keyboard. I couldn't care less for multi-media features and extras like integrated touch pads, side-kick screens or cigar lighters. This is something I don't want to pay for and - more importantly - I don't want a bloated device that takes away precious real estate on my desk just because it thinks it's the next Optimus Prime.
- I need a standard 104/105 keyboard layout (formerly known as 101/102 layout :-)). I have to struggle enough getting used to ever changing keyboard layouts on new laptops every few years, so I don't need another set of layouts on my desktop machines in addition to that. It's amazing how many manufacturer think it's cool to move around the arrow keys, rotate the home/end key block by 90 degrees, completely remove keys altogether (like insert), or to experiment with sizing single keys up or down. It's a strong word, but I do hate that.
- I am a fast typer. I cannot use a keyboard where each key stroke requires you to push down an inch. My keyboards need a small key drop, like laptop keyboards, while preserving a clear pressure point.
- Noise also is an important issues. I know that getting one of the classic monsters with micro switches would be a great choice for someone who types a lot. They often also are quite massive which also would be a potential advantage in case of the zombie apocalypse. But I simply can't stand the klickediklack noise a whole day long.
- It should be chorded. I have no need for wireless to bridge a feet from the keyboard to the edge of the desk, and I don't need another extra device on the desk (wireless receiver) either.
All this criteria doesn't leave much options. In the end, I decided to buy a Cherry G85-23100 ("eVolution STREAM XT") . In my tests, its keys seemed to jam less often than with other keyboards, for example when you tilt-hit a key.
After writing a whole Windows Phone 8 article (due tomorrow), half a specification for a UI concept, some code and several emails on it in just a couple of days, here's my first thoughts:
- The key sizing is different in small details. I didn't notice this in my tests, but when I tried to blindly hit certain characters I had a few problems at first. Also, some of my weird custom shortcuts (like Ctrl+Shift+Alt+X) require a bit of a different hand position. All in all nothing I didn't get used to within a day.
- The keys are much harder to press than with the Logitech. I noticed this during my tests, but I didn't think of it as a big deal - until I wrote for several hours. I have to see how this will turn out in the long run.
- It's sooo quiet! If you know the UltraX and think it's quiet, then you'll be surprised too how quiet you actually can type on this thing. Amazing.
- The overall feeling of typing on the Cherry is different in a way that is hard to describe. It's more of a bouncy feeling, something that the rather static Logitech was very different in. I can't tell if I like or dislike it though, I'm quite neutral regarding this at the moment :).
- Typing speed is at least on par with the UltraX. After getting used to the differences I started spitting out paragraph after paragraph just like before.
One negative thing I noticed is that some keys not only make different noises (very little as I said, but still), they also have a slightly different feeling to them. For example, "4" is different from the key "5" next to it. I tried to record it if you're interested.
I guess this is the price for such a cheap keyboard (haha), because it's hardly more expensive than the UltraX. Dear manufacturers: I would pay double that amount if you decided to create a plain yet really high quality keyboard.
I hope this rather unusual post will be of any value to my readers if they are looking for keyboards and have the same preferences as I do.