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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  • bigboxes - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - link

    I love my G80-3000 keyboard. So much so that I have two. They have MX Blue switches and the noise doesn't bother me. That being said, I would to test drive one in person. I'm a minimalist. That is I love not having all the extra crap on my keyboard. Simple and reliable.
  • Lord of the Bored - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - link

    " What frustrated us is the extensive dead space inside the keyboard’s plastic body, which, in an example of just how far technology has progressed in the last couple of decades, is enough space to fit an entire modern low-power PC. "

    Can anyone say "next project"?
  • preamp - Friday, November 17, 2017 - link

    Been there, done that.
  • erple2 - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - link

    When did the first Cherry mechanical keyboard cone out? Was it before the original buckling spring patent was filed on Aug 30, 1977? The Model F keyboard was made from 1981 through 1984 (?), so I'm not sure who invented what in the mechanics keyboard world.
  • Findecanor - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - link

    Cherry made other mechanical key switches before 1977, yes.
    Cherry MX is from 1983 and is the successor to Cherry M9.
  • FunBunny2 - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - link

    -- Was it before the original buckling spring patent was filed on Aug 30, 1977?

    if you check the Wiki, you'll see that the IBM keyboard is not a mechanical switch keyboard, but a membrane keyboard with a novel actuation. nothing in common with Cherry or any other mechanical switch.
  • Findecanor - Saturday, September 23, 2017 - link

    The 1977 patent covers the switch design in the Model F, which has a buckling spring switch that uses capacitative sensing of a pivoting plate on a circuit board. The Model M has membranes.
    What constitutes "mechanical" can be, and has been, debated endlessly. I would say that "catastrophic buckling" combined with the pivot of the foot is a basic mechanism.
  • Beaver M. - Saturday, September 23, 2017 - link

    Would be interesting, if it had illumination. Cherry has always had quite an aversion against illuminated keys, except on their relatively new "gaming" models.
  • Zim - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    Problem: this looks like a $30 keyboard. Solution: add stupid looking back-lighting. Result: something that looks a $20 keyboard.
  • Beaver M. - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - link

    You seriously think back lighting is just for show?

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