Here we have the very slick looking Ducky Dragon, a high-end grade mechanical keyboard build from the ground up with the gamer in mind. With a price tag of around £130 dependant on what model you go for, it's certainly not kind to the wallet, especially with a decent non-mechanical keyboard clocking in at a more wallet friendly £30-50, so what exactly do you get for the extra money?
Well first lets talk about what a mechanical keyboard is. With a standard membrane keyboard, which is the technology normally used in less expensive keyboards, a key-press pushes down on a rubber membrane which usually covers the whole keyboard, that then squeezes the rubber button to make a connection with the button, which then registers the key stroke. A mechanical keyboard features individual switches that are often spring loaded, pushing a lever down that then clicks over a metal contact triggering the key press.
The benefit of this is that different types of mechanical keys can offer different amounts of feedback to your finger tips, the keys are also more resilient and in the case of the Dragon, should out last 5 million key strokes each.
The Dragon I have here features Cherry MX Red keys, which as far as mechanical keys go are very light weight to use, requiring very little force from your fingers to type and offer no "click" when used, this allows for a very fast typing action and if you’re a little clumsy with your fingers, a few extra typos too.
The keyboard came really well packaged in a stylish black box which slides out to reveal the main compartment. Inside we found the keyboard has been kept safe in a protective bag, this will be very handy to keep dirt out of the keyboard if you happen to take it travelling with you to LAN gaming events.
In the box we find that the Dragon comes equipped with a high quality braided USB cable, with a standard USB connection on one end and a mini-USB on the other, both ends are gold plated to ensure long life.
We also found there are eight extra key caps, four to replace the custom keys on the F, G, H and J keys as well as a red set of W, A, S and D keys to better highlight the movement keys used in most PC games. There is also a key cap puller to help you swap out any keys for both replacement and keyboard maintenance as well as a brief and simple instruction booklet should you need to read up on the basic features of the keyboard.
Each of the keys on the Ducky are laser etched with some really nice looking fonts for the lettering, as well as a few custom keys in the centre keys to really set of the overall design. The keys lettering is cut really thin too, while this doesn't effect durability's it does allow for a lot of extra light to shine through from the individual LEDs that are fitted to each switch. The keyboard is available in other colours but the one were looking at today is exclusively purple LEDs.
The overall style of the keyboard is clean and stylish too, with a high contrast black with white key lettering, of course these are back lit in purple once the device is powered. The keyboard isn't a full length board as it doesn't feature a number pad, making it a little impractical for a lot of day to day work applications (for me personally at least), it is however tuned more towards a pro gaming market and its compact size allows for easy transport and storage.
It's pretty heavy too, this goes a long way to preventing the board sliding around your desk when your in the heat of battle, it’s also a good sign of build quality and I have no doubt that this board would survive a fair few knocks and bumps, good news if your a little careless with your peripherals.
Around the back of the board we have a hidden away mini-USB port, complimented by a cut-in track for routing the cable under the keyboard. There are two firm rubber feet on the top right and left corners to help keep the keyboard in place when not using either of the plastic flip-out stands. Also in the bottom left we have some toggle switches, these are used to enable or disable features such as always on num-lock and the Windows hot key.
From the side profile of the Dragon we can see that its keys feature a slight curve in the middle, this offers up a good typing and gaming position in your fingers and generally makes for a more natural angle for each of the keys, especially if you're someone who touch types.
With the WASD key removed you can better see the Cherry MX switches on offer, with each keys LED being mounted just above the switch, this allows for even light distribution across the entire board. I only removed WASD for demonstration purposes, although all the keys can be removed for maintenance, customisation or to swap the letters around to confuse friends and spell silly words, it's really up to you.
There are several lighting options available from this keyboard, each offers a stunning display and it’s easy to find one that suits your preference. Add to this that each mode and brightness can be adjusted dependant on whether you want to be stunned visually or just enough to light them up in a dark room. The modes on offer are:
• All keys off
• Breath (slow pulse from dim to bright, then back again)
• WASD / Arrow keys only lit up
• All keys lit up
• Sequential lighting (light when pressed)
• Two storage banks for custom presets
General setup of the keyboard was very quick since the board doesn't need any special drivers to operate. Once removed from the box it only took a moment to connect the USB cable to both the keyboard and computer. Once connected windows (Win 7 64bit) installed the device drivers automatically and the keyboard lit up in all its glory.
Changing things like lighting pre-sets was very easy too thanks to the dragons special function key, holding this you can use the F-Keys to adjust the various modes and brightness of the keyboard to dial in your preferences, although personally I spent longer playing with the lights than I would like to admit.
Typing on the board was an absolute joy, it's generally a known thing that once you start using a mechanical keyboard you will not want to go back to a membrane keyboard. Of course a lot of this is down to preference on what kind of keys you like and there is much debate online as to which is best. The Cherry MX keys on this keyboard are fantastic if you have fast nimble fingers as they allow for slick touch typing and really fast actions when gaming, but some people will miss the pop / click that you get with a membrane keyboard or other kinds of switches.
Performance wise I was really impressed with the Dragon, its key response was absolutely faultless. I tried it out over a few of my favourite games, taking it for a spin in Battlefield 3 and Team Fortress 2. Its action was really easy on the fingers and definitely comfortable over long gaming sessions, although the light keys did cause me to strike a few wrong buttons, but this is something that became less of an issue as I got used to the lighter action keys.
It's hard for me to recommend this product out right, while it is a very solid product, with top of the line build quality and performance, it's all a matter of preference. It's not going to be suited to a day-to-day office keyboard, especially if you tend to use a number pad a lot. It's also not cheap which will put a lot of people off of a purchase. What you do get for your investment though is one seriously high performance gaming keyboard, if you're serious about your gaming, play in pro-gaming and eSports or just want the finest weapons for your single player games, then you need not look much further than the Ducky.