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 Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent is remarkable, even for a keyboard with Cherry MX switches. With a disparity of only ± 1.93% across the main keys, the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent likely is the most consistent keyboard that we have ever tested and is a testament to Cherry’s quality control. The average actuation force is 58.5 cN, slightly lower than the 60 cN rating of the switches. This behavior is natural for linear switches such as these, where the operating force increases smoothly up to the actuation point, as even the weight of the keycap itself slightly lowers the switch’s specified operating force.

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. The MX Black switches that the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent is using are, in theory, the exact opposite of my preference - stiff and linear, with no tactile feedback at all. However, I personally found the Cherry MX Black Silent switches very comfortable to work with, as they are stiff enough to avoid the mushy feeling of the Cherry MX Red switch, yet not so stiff as to sacrifice long-term comfort. The Silent variant was especially helpful when I needed to work without bothering someone else in the vicinity. I should, however, stress that you should not expect miracles here - the Cherry MX Black Silent switch is much quieter than its regular variant but that alone cannot make any keyboard entirely silent. The Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent is much quieter than typical mechanical keyboards but it will still be audible.

For gaming, the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent works fine for gamers who aren't after advanced features such as macros. Gamers that usually stick with single-player action and adventure games are likely to be content with it. However, without any advanced features whatsoever, the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent is unsuitable for modern gaming, especially for MMO gamers that will sooner or later require advanced gameplay commands. As for me, with my favorite games being MMO RPGs, I quickly had to switch to my regular keyboard in order to avoid frustration.

The Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent Mechanical Keyboard Final Words
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  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - link

    I don't understand why keyboards don't put dedicated media controls on them anymore. The problem with keyboards now is that they try to condense them down. Being able to mute/turn volume up and down, skip tracks, etc is fantastic when doing other things in full screen apps.

    The way they put them on keyboards now is very cheap way about it, not only that but because of it you have to disable some keys to make them work, and windows won't recognize the media keys to even use them! For example i like my CMstorm keyboard, but its media keys won't work with web based apps like google play music. Or it won't detect some windows borderless games.

    However my old Logitech keyboard has no problem doing it. I mean come on, it can't cost much to put real media keys on keyboard, literally plenty of space to do so most mechanical keyboards have a huge height to them. You can put them on top/back and be easier to muscle memory remember location on top/back of them.

    Biggest pet peeve of mine with keyboards. :P
  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - link

    To clarify what i mean, if you are playing a game on my CMstorm for example, the F5-F11 keys are the media keys, but to use them you have to disable function button, then press them to use them. Being a gaming keyboard, people use those keys for other things in games. So its cumbersome to have to reach for two keytrokes back and forth to keep enabling/disabling them for each time you want to skip track, pause, etc.

    Given how many people play games with music you get how its annoying.
  • blackworx - Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - link

    Personally I'm glad the trend for media keys and replacing F keys' default function with media controls is on the wane. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. Gaming and media are both still vastly well catered for anyway. There's more choice than ever before, it's just that the rest of us are now less often forced to deal with keyboards that are half broken by default.
  • jimbo2779 - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - link

    I wouldn't really say that having dedicated media controls is a gamer keyboard thing, it is a convenience thing. Having the keys for things like media controls or calculator is just convenient.

    If you don't like these keys you don't need to use them but if they aren't there then the keyboard is missing something.
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - link

    Exactly, its silly spending as much for a one of these keyboards that is actually a regression in tech vs only membrane keyboards.
  • Findecanor - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - link

    Manufacturers have not settled on one consistent mapping on F-keys. They each have their own or sometimes a different mapping per keyboard model even.

    Personally, I use programs that put Skip<, Skip> and Play/Pause on PrtSrc, Scroll Lock and Pause. Those keys are on all keyboards and pretty much useless anyway.
  • ayabe - Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - link

    Good for what it is I guess, I think once you've laid your hands on a Topre switch keyboard, anything Cherry just feels terrible and chintzy by comparison.
  • achinhorn - Thursday, October 5, 2017 - link

    First time on a Cherry I dropped almost $200 for a das keyboard only to realize it was basically unusable. I mean really. It maybe that DAS keyboards are garbage but everything felt loose, and the sound, feel, and smoothness of the switches & my Topre were instantly missed. I often lug my Topre to and from the office and bench the Das it's that bad. I don't think I'll ever buy another switch.
  • ithehappy - Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - link

    I'm all in for simple keyboards always, but without any backlight it's impossible for someone like me to consider :(
  • grant3 - Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - link

    [X] Many pages of non-silence related critique
    [X] Detailed discussion of interior design of 'silent' keyboard
    [ ] Noise output measured on 'silent' keyboard
    ... -.- ...

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