This keyboard has been a learning experience for me. I have had to find out all about the different colours of Cherry MX keys as I thought I was given a typewriter to review! Initially I thought this was a noise maker but the more I found out about it, the more I started to understand and the more I started to give some serious time to it. I'll get to the key types in a minute, but for now, I want to explore the keyboards external features and its party piece.
This little Ducky is a mechanical keyboard using Cherry MX keys. I have the "blue" set with a blue backlit lighting option. These models do come in other colour keys and backlit options so if you are more of a "red" person then they will cater for you. When this is plugged in, it feels like any other mechanical keyboard, well built, sturdy and feels like it could take a good kicking.
However, what sets this apart is the vast array of lighting options available right off the bat with controls on the keyboard. By pressing the "Fn" key, you are able to cycle through the various models of "shine" as I will attempt to show you now.
This is the standard default setting and just illuminates our three favourite keys, NumLk, Caps and ScrLk should they be selected. Annoyingly, the keyboard doesn’t remember your last setting so, as inevitable as can be with a Windows machine, when you reboot, it’s back to “off” mode again.
This mode lights up the W, A, S and D keys, the arrow keys and the Esc key and the Ducky symbol on the edge of the space bar. The WASD keys shown below have been swapped with the red keys which are also supplied inside the box. These keys do have their respective characters printed on them which means you won't be able to use them elsewhere just in case WASD is not your first choice.
This illuminates the entire keyboard apart from the numeric keypad.
Selecting this mode now turns on the numeric keypad as well as all of the partial keys in the above setting.
This, rather odd setting, pulses the entire keyboard from level 1 low light to full intensity. I tried to type this paragraph with it on but my eyes have trouble focusing and I slowly stop typing!
There are 5 levels of intensity that you can set with the all of the above modes, apart from the pulse as this does it for you! To be honest, if you have the fully keyboard lit, you would only need level 1 intensity. Here are 5 side by side pictures but it is very difficult to see as my cameral auto adjusts for light but there is a difference between 1 and 5 that’s for sure!
About Cherry MX Keys then...
Here is a brief summary for you folks that weren't aware of the different types of keys available. I have kept this brief as there are many items on the internet and previous reviews that go into more details but this should cover the basics for you.
The “Black” variant was one of the first mechanical keyboard switches available to the general public. These “linear” or non-tactile switches produce no noise when depressed. These are preferred by gamers but generally not by others due to the lack of a bump when depressed. These require 60cN of force to operate.
Cherry Brown sits between gaming and typing due to these having the feedback that other non-gamers prefer. This means that it requires less force, 55cN, to actuate.
The blue version MX requires the same 60cN of force to operate but do produce a louder click than others. These MX switches have less tolerance for double clicks and could produce many mistakes if you are not familiar with the feedback you get from this board.
These clear versions are less common in keyboards. These require a tiny bit more force, 65cN, to operate than the Blacks but do not have the clicky noise of the Blues.
The final set, the Red MX switches, require only 45cN of force and are non-tactile like the Black MX keys. It is reported that many people don’t like these keys due to the accidental key presses that these can make and cause issues for gamers and typists alike. These are considered obsolete because not a lot of people like them.
My blue Ducky
As I said at the start of the review, this Ducky is a Cherry MX Blue based model, which provides the most feedback in terms of audible and tactile responses. It’s been a learning experience these last few days picking up on the differences between the many different MX switches available. It turns out that this “Blue” variant is ideal for top level word processors but do lead the unwary (including myself) to slap the same key again and again resulting in unwanted keystrokes. Luckily, there are Red and Black MX versions available which the Red is most recognised for gamers due to their nearly silent strokes and soft touch response. The Black MX version is a go between but depending on what you use the board for should see you typically choosing Red for gaming through to Blue for typing though it really is down to how you use the keyboard. For me however, with the Blue MX, I had a number of complaints on BF3 when using team chat as they could hear me clacking away!
The backlit feature makes gaming in the dark a bit more intense and moody but you can still see the keys! I really enjoyed using this keyboard in the end but what you may notice though on the pictures above, not all of the digits are lit on every key. As I am typing, still in a darkened room after taking the photos, I cannot see the symbols below the numbers on the top row and underneath the function keys. Not a big issue for gaming I suppose but there may be a time when you need to mute the volume and you have to search for it. When you eyes are as old as mine, you have to wait for them to refocus. As I say, it’s not an issue when gaming and it’s just something else I can blame when I get pwned. Which is regularly. I think I will blame my ultimate ‘pwnage’ on the Blue MX, yes, it was the Blue MX keys!
Wrapping it up
This particular model doesn't have any USB ports but you can get other boards with them on if you so desire. The keys are really easy to pull out using the supplied tool but you are limited to WASD only although this probably helps with the backlit feature. The package comes with a supplied USB to PS/2 converter so there shouldn't be any issues for you PS/2 lovers. The USB connector is gold plated and does offer some pretty impressive response time according to their website. The underneath has some welcome cable clips where you can route your cable out to the left, the right or straight out of the back. The other end of the cable does have a mini USB which is initially fiddly to put in but once it's in, doesn't cause you any problems. Also underneath the unit, there are 4 DIP switches that control some key features. As the slip of paper inside says “The DIP switches on the underside of the keyboard satisfy the user who requires more.” Not sure what this means, it only lets you change the function of the windows key to “Lock” or “Resume”, another one switches the CapsLock and Ctrl keys about and the third one switches the ALT and Windows Keys. The fourth one does nothing. This isn’t something I have seen on other boards, but I think there is a reason for that though.
The keyboard does have a very impressive backlit feature, definitely worthy of the best part of £100. The intensity control is handy as when it is on max brightness it is like looking into a laser pointer! If you have had Ducky before, this won't disappoint. A very capable blue MX board indeed and the quality should last you a fair number of years and BF3 matches.