Per-Key Quality Testing

In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyzer 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.

Content’s Brown switches are, in terms of specifications, a copy of OUTEMU’s Brown switch. We expected them to perform equally as well but the Content switches seem to be significantly less consistent. The disparity is ±10.89% across the main keys, one of the worst consistency figures we recorded to this date. The average force at the actuation point is just 41.5 cN. The force at the actuation point  naturally should be lower than the switch’s maximum force at the travel tipping point, yet this reading is exceedingly low for Brown switches, meaning that either the switches actuate lower than the expected travel point or they are produced to be a little softer than they should actually be.

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 50-100 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, meaning that the Content Brown switches should theoretically be ideal for my desktop.

Just as expected, I found the Content Brown switches to be comfortable for long-term typing. Their tactile feedback is very subtle and could easily be confused for Red type switches, yet their satisfactory travel and little resistance makes them easy on the fingers and significantly reduces fatigue. The keys are stable, with minimal wobbling. My only complaint would be the significant force difference between the keys – having used a great number of keyboards to date, I could notice the difference between keys with my fingers while I was paying attention. Most people should be unable to even tell the difference but I believe that the force disparity is excessively high.

For gaming, the Velocifire VM02WS is comfortable for long-term gaming sessions, but I believe that it is a keyboard only suitable for single-player games or casual gaming. First and foremost, the VM02WS lacks any kind of advanced programming. Most gamers would definitely like at least basic programmability features, even if limited to basic remapping and application launching. The other issue is the input lag that is most likely caused by its wireless transmitter. That lag should not be noticeable with the naked eye for any person, except perhaps by very few people with highly sharpened senses. However, it was easy to notice it using a 240 FPS camera, where it could be clearly seen that the keycap was bottoming down before there was a response on the screen. Of course, the key-to-screen lag is not the lag of the keyboard alone, but never before we managed to clearly record a lag using this camera. Considering that a 240 FPS camera is not even considered fast today, the lag must be dozens (if not hundreds) of milliseconds to be this obvious. Although it should be unnoticeable for casual gaming and single player games, it is clearly unsuitable for competitive online gaming.

On the plus side, the battery life of the VM02WS is excellent for a wireless mechanical keyboard. With the backlighting turned off, the VM02WS lasted for four days of everyday use. Turning the backlighting on limits the battery life of the VM02WS to about 9-10 hours, enough for a long living room gaming session before it requires recharging. So Velocifire doesn't completely overcome the inherient disadvantage of a wireless mechanical keyboard – a fully electronic keyboard would find its battery life measured in months – but the VM02WS is delivering days of battery life in a field that often only delivers a dozen or so hours.

Introduction, Packaging & Bundle Final Words and Conclusion
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  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - link

    they do:
  • Dug - Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - link

    Stop with the extra thick keyboards that require a wrist rest to even come close to being ergonomically correct. The 80's are over with. Why keep reviewing these pieces of crap?
  • The_Assimilator - Thursday, January 16, 2020 - link

    Because the manufacturers seem to think that everyone who wants a mech keyboard wants an IBM clone with RGB, and are willing to pay through the a** for it.
  • Lord of the Bored - Thursday, January 16, 2020 - link

    "So Velocifire doesn't completely overcome the inherient disadvantage of a wireless mechanical keyboard – a fully electronic keyboard would find its battery life measured in months – but the VM02WS is delivering days of battery life in a field that often only delivers a dozen or so hours."

    Why would a microswitched keyboard inherently have worse battery life than a silicone dome one? (they are both "fully electronic")
    I mean, I'd expect marginally BETTER battery life because the metal contacts in a microswitch have lower resistance than the carbon dot in a rubber dome.
  • E.Fyll - Thursday, January 16, 2020 - link

    This is a complicated topic, there are too many variables to discuss. One, for example, would be that the microprocessors used for mechanical keyboards consume much more energy. A more fundamental difference is that the controller is looking for many more inputs (per key) instead of an input from a group of keys. There are of course many more differences to discuss and all actually are subject to specific designs/models, but the general rule is that a mechanical keyboard requires about 4 to 10 times more energy than a classic membrane-based keyboard (without taking key lighting into account).

    And, assuming that all other parameters are ideally stable, lower resistance equals higher energy consumption (I = V / R, P = V^2 / R).
  • Lord of the Bored - Friday, January 17, 2020 - link

    So it is because microswitches are used in higher-end keyboards, basically? More inputs to avoid keyblocking issues and a more advanced processor to do keyboardier things = more power draw.

    I'd assumed that lower resistance would save energy because they don't need to drive as much current through the switches to generate usable logic signals on the other side. But I suppose that's far from a guaranteed design change.
  • Gonemad - Thursday, January 16, 2020 - link

    Having a backlit wireless keyboard is kinda self-defeating for me. I would either have it wireless with batteries that last the larger portion of a year and work anywhere at couch distance, or have it backlit, like my OG logitech G105.

    I still have the G105 because I was planning a quiet pc on my sleeping room... it still fits that purpose if I ever need it.
  • docbones - Friday, January 17, 2020 - link

    But will it work with a KVM switch?
  • Snowleopard3000 - Saturday, January 18, 2020 - link

    What are the suggestions on a MX Red silent Backlit wireless keyboard that will work in an office environment. I am tired of the response times from the $5 el cheapo wait 1 minute for the key stroke to show up on the screen keyboard they gave me in an office where we keep the lights off.
  • lmcd - Saturday, January 18, 2020 - link

    I wonder if a mechanical keyboard could be low enough power to fit within the power profile of the Logitech solar K750S

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