The Filco Majestouch Mechanical Keyboard

I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about mechanical keyboards over the last few months. So I decided to take the plunge and after a lot of research my Filco Majestouch Linear Action Keyboard with Cherry MX Black switches has arrived (that’s a big description for just a keyboard). I am typing this on it right now and am loving hitting every single key!

A Filco mechanical keyboard

The difference between mechanical keyboards and every other keyboard I have used in my life is sooo huge that I cannot put it into words, but I will try. It’s like the first time you saw GLQuake or Unreal with a 3dfx graphic card as opposed to running in software mode. It’s like when you first switched from a 56k modem to isdn or broadband and hit a quake server with a low ping. The instant WOW factor just hits you and your brain records a memory that you will never forget, stacked up with all the other ‘first time’ experiences that may or may not be PC related 🙂

StarCraft is the link that got me into these mechanical keyboards. Its common knowledge that all the pro StarCraft players use a mechanical keyboard, and if you delve deeper you can even find out which brand and which switch type your favourite player uses. But WTF is a mechanical keyboard? A mechanical keyboard has mechanical key switches under each key (in this case, Cherry MX Black switches) as opposed to the cheap rubber dome crap that you find on the majority of keyboards out there, EVEN a lot of overpriced so called ‘gaming’ keyboards covered in gamer crap like LCD’s. I am no expert on the technical workings so for more guidance on mechanical keyboards just read this excellent in depth guide.

Choosing a brand is difficult as there is actually quite a bit of choice now, even from major gaming brands like SteelSeries and Razer. I decided on the Filco Majestouch for two main reasons. Firstly it has the simplest layout, no extras, no weird keys in the wrong place, no 3.5mm jacks for headphones or USB hubs. Just a basic UK keyboard with the standard 105 key layout that most keyboards take and then modify with back lights and volume controls and all sorts of other nonsense. Also it has no extra dead space, like the DAS Keyboard which has a huge extra piece of plastic at the top right for no reason. It is just a plain old simple keyboard, black with all the basic keys. My second reason was the Filco is sold in the UK by a small UK company called ‘The Keyboard Company‘ and I like to support British businesses where I can.

The next choice to make is which mechanical switch to go for. The three main choices are Cherry MX brown, blue and black. The Cherry MX Blue’s are the most noisy being tactile and clicky so I steered clear of those. The Cherry MX Brown switches have a tactile feel half way through the key press and a lot of StarCraft players use these, they have no click so they are slightly quieter. The Cherry MX Black switches have no click and no tactile feel, just a linear key which is good for all sorts of gaming, especially FPS. As I was brought up on FPS I figured this would be best for me, as I am used to bottoming out the key (hitting it so hard it hits the table). For a more technical explanation check out this guide on switches. Also the Filco I went for with Cherry MX Black switches comes with red LED’s, I love red stuff. It’s worth noting the red LED’s are extremely bright when viewed direct on.

Bright red LED's! Blinding

Another cool feature with these keyboards is the ability to buy custom color key caps. The Keyboard Company sell ESC and WASD keycaps in red or blue. As I dont use WASD I use arrow keys, I have had to order some red keycaps from Hong Kong on ebay, they come as a pack with all the letters so I can swop out some of my favourite StarCraft keys like ‘A’ for marines with a red key.

Red keycaps for your most used HOT keys, like A for marines in SC2 ;O) Marines are OP!

Another cool function which has prevented me from changing keyboards over the last decade is N-key Rollover. I use an odd combination of keys, that just so happens to be on the same membrane on all but one 10yr old Dell Keyboard. Which means if i try to press my ‘gaming keys’ all at the same time, they dont work on most keyboards. NKR (N-key Rollover) allows you to hit any combination of keys all at the same time, providing you use the PS2 port not the USB port. Thats right, PS2 > USB for keyboards anyway, as per the super Mechanical Keyboard Guide

PS/2 or USB?
PS/2 wins on three fronts: First, it supports full n-key rollover. Second, PS/2 keyboards aren’t polled, but are completely interrupt based. And third, it is impossible for it to be delayed by the USB bus being used by other devices. There are two types of USB transfer modes – the interrupt transfer mode (USB polls keyboard, when key is sensed the USB controller sends the interrupt to the CPU), and the isochronous transfer mode, which reserves a certain amount of bandwidth for the keyboard with a guaranteed latency on the bus. Unfortunately, there are absolutely no keyboards made that use the latter, because special controllers would have to be used, thus making it cost prohibitive. So if your keyboard supports both PS/2 and USB, and your PC has a PS/2 port, there’s no reason not to use it.

And that is that, I think I have convinced every one of you to go out there and blow £120 inc VAT on a mechanical keyboard? Yes I left the price till last as they are expensive, but they are worth it. No doubt this will last you a life time. Take my word for it, if not, take my fellow StarCrafter’s word for it on his excellent Keyboard Quest post. See you on Bnet newbz, hitting high APM’s like a BOSS!

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