A while ago something terrible happened to me: My beloved old keyboard reached it’s critical mass and gave up. A catastrophe for me, I always considered that keyboard as "just right" for me. Sure, the insides were corroded after all these years, the keys had lost their printing and you wouldn’t want to look into the thing because it was yuck… but it was "just right".
So I had to get a new keyboard. And not just any keyboard would do. I don’t fancy things like displays or buttloads of extra keys on my keyboard, for a very simple reason: First of all, they probably don’t work out of the box in Linux and even more important — I simply don’t use shit like that.
I spent some time doing research and came up with my two choices:
- Cherry eVolution STREAM
- Cherry G80-3000
Let’s take a look at each of the keyboards. You can find photos of the devices on my flickr account.
The Cherry eVolution STREAM is a very flat, notebook-like keyboard. It features 6 extra hotkeys (of which none work in Linux out-of-the-box). It isn’t as flat as Apple’s grotesque creation but way smaller than the G80-3000. Included is a PS/2 adapter so you can use your brand new USB keyboard on the good ol’ PS/2 port as well. Price was about 20 Euro.
Typing on the eVolution STREAM is a breeze for people who’re used to notebook keyboards. Personally I find it quite irritating that the Windows key is so big and the spacebar so small, but I’m probably just nitpicking. Really nasty and a showstopper is the fact that some keys start acting funny when you pour dirt and other stuff (i.e. salt) onto them, the keys get stuck, it’s a pain.
The keys have a hard, greasy feedback just as I’d expect it from something that resembles a notebook keyboard.
The Cherry G80-3000 is a monster. I decided to get it because it is the base for Das Keyboard II, a gadget I admire a lot but I’m too much of cheapskate to get it. I said it is a monster. If you take a look at the photos I uploaded you may get an idea of what dimensions this keyboard has. It is less of the width but more the height that make it so nice; the keyboard resembles the old IBM ones I always enjoyed typing on.
The G80-3000 does not have any fancy extra keys. Just as the eVolution STREAM it is a USB device and comes with a PS/2 adapter. Price hits the 50 Euro mark, so it is definetively in another league than the eVolution STREAM.
The special thing about this keyboard is that it uses gold-plated mechanical switches instead of your run-of-the-mill rubber plate thingy. Because of that the device is loud. Yes, a keyboard that is loud. If you enjoy placing baseball cards onto your bike, you’ll just love how loud it is. The tactile feedback from this keyboard is just great. The keys are "just right". It is hard to explain but if you’ve ever had the chance of typing on a IBM keyboard you’ll know what I mean.
The design and key layout is old-goes-well, no fancy experiments here. It is definetively for the better, why change something that works fine. It is virtually impossible to make the keys not work.
So, what kind of review is this? No comparison? Only a brief overview? Good lord, yes.
What can I say? I like both keyboards but I like the G80-3000 better. Sure, it costs more than twice as much as the eVolution STREAM but it pays: The STREAM feels a little cheapo, the keys won’t last for more than 4 years if you work with it extensively. The G80 on the other hand will last for about 10 years (according to the maker).
Gamers should stay away from both of these keyboards I guess. None of them are really "optimized" for playing your 233th installment of Counter-Halo or whatever. Gamers will also miss all the flashing lights, displays and extra keys. But to get work done (i.e. programming) both keyboards are fabulous. The G80 is still better though, the special characters are easier to reach thanks to a little more standard key placement and the different "levels" of the keys (I can’t get used to that on notebook keyboards, sorry).
So, are 50 Euros well spent on a keyboard? I sure think they are. It is a companion through your daily amount of work and when you get to know it better you’ll probably increase your characters per minute.
Is the 20 Euro eVolution STREAM bad, then? By all means, no. It is a stylish keyboard for people how enjoy typing on a flat device. I’m probably just not cut our for that and always prefer a "real" keyboard. The money is well spent, though, it works perfect as a second keyboard (for your notebook, i.e.) and should not be disregarded.
What is the conclusion then? I guess, Cherry makes good keyboards. There are better and cheaper ways to find this out but it has been a fun week and I’m happy to have great input devices en masse now. Just in case the G80 should fail me within the next 10 years 😉 .