Per-Key Quality Testing

In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyser that is programmed to measure and display the actuation force of the standard keyboard keys. By measuring the actuation force of every key, the quality and consistency of the keyboard can be quantified. It can also reveal design issues, such as the larger keys being far softer to press than the main keys of the keyboard. The actuation force is measured in Centinewton (cN). Some companies use another figure, gram-force (gf). The conversion formula is 1 cN = 1.02 gf (i.e. they are about the same). A high-quality keyboard should be as consistent as possible, with an average actuation force as near to the manufacturer's specs as possible and a disparity of less than ±10%. Greater differences are likely to be perceptible by users. It is worth noting that there is typically variance among keyboards, although most keyboard companies will try and maintain consistency - as with other reviews, we're testing our sample only.

The machine we use for our testing is accurate enough to provide readings with a resolution of 0.1 cN. For wider keys (e.g. Enter, Space Bar, etc.), the measurement is taking place at the center of the key, right above the switch. Note that large keys generally have a lower actuation force even if the actuation point is at the dead center of the key. This is natural, as the size and weight of the keycap reduce the required actuation force. For this reason, we do display the force required to actuate every key but we only use the results of the typically sized keys for our consistency calculations. Still, very low figures on medium sized keys, such as the Shift and Enter keys reveal design issues and can easily be perceptible by the user.

The consistency of the G.Skill KM570 MX was right where we expected it to be for a keyboard with genuine Cherry MX switches. Our test results were excellent, with a disparity of just ± 2.99% across the main keys. The average actuation force is 46.1 cN. While the Cherry MX Brown switch specifications state that the force at the actuation point should be 45 cN, it is natural for our equipment to be reading a slightly higher figure due to the tactile nature of the switch, as the operating force is considerably higher than the force at the actuation point.

Hands-on Testing

I always try to use every keyboard that we review as my personal keyboard for at least a week. My typical weekly usage includes a lot of typing (about 100-150 pages), a few hours of gaming and some casual usage, such as internet browsing and messaging. I personally prefer Cherry MX Brown or similar (tactile) switches for such tasks and thus, in theory, the G.Skill KM570 MX should be a perfect match for my requirements. And that it was. Despite its thickness and lack of a wrist rest, the KM570 MX was almost perfect for long typing sessions. Its contoured design is very comfortable and the tactile feedback of the switches was excellent, all with minimal strain on muscles and tendons. What the KM570 MX is missing is a wrist rest, which I find to be a necessity for very long work sessions, and anyone with similar needs will have to resort to an aftermarket solution.

For gaming, I found the KM570 MX to be efficient enough as a typical keyboard and for casual gaming sessions. For MMOs and games that require complex commands however, the KM570 MX is less than ideal. It does support basic hardware macro programming, yet even then the user will have to overwrite the default function of a standard key. In order to get the standard key function back, the macros need to be deleted, meaning that they would have to be programmed again and again if the user needs the KM570 MX to function as a standard keyboard outside of gaming. The lack of a wrist rest on a keyboard this tall also is a problem for gamers, as most gamers have to rest their wrists down during long gaming sessions.  

The Keyboard Final Words & Conclusion
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