ProsNo nonsense board focuses on performance, no flashy lights; ultra-fast gaming response; no software required for control of keys or lighting
ConsAstronomical price; Cherry MX Red switches are an odd choice for a keyboard aimed at professionals; overly-grippy wrist rest; so-so styling
After a long period of stagnation, where just about every keyboard manufacturer left the market, there's been a resurgence in the interest in keyboard tech over the past few years, thanks in no small part to Cherry, based in Germany. While Cherry manufactures a whole host of industrial and commercial products, in the PC world it's known for its class-leading MX switches, which literally give keyboards their spring. Unlike the typical rubber-dome switches in just about every mainstream keyboard on the market, Cherry's switches are mechanical, using an actual metal spring, which imparts a more robust feel to keyboards, making using them a more satisfying experience. So it's not too surprising that Cherry decided to try its hand at manufacturing an actual mechanical keyboard, rather than letting its PC industry partners Corsair, G.Skill, and the like have all the fun!
But is its first "enthusiast"-level keyboard, the MX Board 6.0, available for just under $200, more than the sum of its parts, or is it just a vehicle for the already great MX switches contained within? Read on for our full review, coming hot on the heels of our big PC peripherals shootout, in which an MX-equipped keyboard won handily!
We'd like to extend a special thank you to Cherry for providing this review sample.
Description and Features
First off, the MX Board, as we'll refer to it, retails for a price well above just about any likely competition. It's more expensive than Corsair's range-topping K95 RGB, which features Cherry MX Brown switches, full RGB lighting, and a huge assortment of macro keys, as well as G.Skill's very similar MX Brown-equipped KM780R RGB. So Cherry will have to prove itself worthy based on its technological merits, which can sometimes be hard to judge.
The MX Board does have one major factor in its favor: it's much more compact than the competition. Dropping the side-mounted macro keys, top-mounted shortcut keys, and USB and audio pass-throughs that are common on high-end gaming keyboards meant that Cherry could reduce overall size to 18" wide by 6" deep (sans wrist rest). The wrist rest, which attaches via an ultra-slick magnetic connector, adds another 3.5" in depth. By comparison, G.Skill's board, which won our recent gaming peripherals shootout, is about 20" wide and 6.5" deep without wrist rest.
Of course, the MX Board features Cherry switches, in this case MX Reds, and we'll discuss their relative merits on the next page. The switches feature full red backlighting, although no RGB functionality. Curiously, Cherry chose to endow a few of the keys, namely the caps lock, windows, function, and num-lock with alternative blue LEDs to show that they have been engaged. If Cherry could do this, it begs the question whether it should have just offered both blue and red LEDs for all keys. Furthermore, it leads to the unfortunate situation where in a typical setup, with num-lock set to operate the number keypad and the windows key set to operate the start menu, you have two oddly-positioned blue keys, in a sea of red keys. This disrupts the overall look, and we've got to wonder whether there was a better way to signify that these keys were engaged. At the minimum, it would have made sense for the default arrangement to have all red LEDs. Luckily, unlike its competition, the MX Board works without the need for any software, and while it doesn't have fancy light shows, it does at least remember its settings when the PC is off. Very bright! Or should we say, subdued, as that's how we like our LEDs when we boot up our PC!
Like many premium keyboards, including the aforementioned Corsair and G.Skill models, the MX Board is clad in brushed aluminum. But for whater reason, this particular aluminum does its best impersonation of plastic, perhaps due to the lighter color Cherry has chosen versus the competition. Of course, it's cold to the touch, which proves that it is indeed metal, but it doesn't quite look like it.
Finally, we come to that chunky wrist rest. We are huge fans of wrist rests, and are always surprised when high-end boards don't come with them in the box. Cherry was wise to include one here, and the magnetic connector is true genius. It's easy to attach and detach, yet never comes undone during use. Unfortunately, Cherry chose to go for the streamlined look, lining up the wrist rest with the keyboard, which nearly defeats the purpose of having the wrist rest at all. Unlike the samples from Corsair and G.Skill, there is no rise to the wrist rest, and so your wrists are not placed in the ergonomic raised position.
And there's yet another element of this wrist rest that puzzled us. It has an ultra-tacky surface, as if Cherry commissioned German tire giant Continental to provide the rubber cladding. This rubber has tons of grip, and it would be quite at home on the race track, but is that what you really want in a wrist rest? We found that the grip limited our wrist movement slightly, and also led to the wrist rest picking up lots of debris over just a few days of use, debris that was quite hard to remove once it adhered to the surface, by the way.