Per-Key Quality Testing

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

As expected from a keyboard with genuine Cherry MX switches, the HyperX Alloy Elite displays exceptional consistency. The disparity across the main keys is merely ± 3.1%, a figure that we have not yet seen on any keyboard that is not using Cherry’s mechanical switches. The average actuation force is 45.3 cN, which is a bit higher than the rated 45 cN, yet the difference is very small and reasonable considering the manufacturing tolerances.

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 100-150 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, but I am also well accustomed to the quietness and linearity of the Cherry MX Red switch. The Red switches are relatively comfortable for long typing sessions but have a bit of a learning curve, as their low travel force makes it very easy to bottom the key down. Bottoming keys down while typing places stress on the tendons and can become a significant health problem in the long term. As the Red switch lacks tactile feedback, it can even take an experienced typist a while to get accustomed to them. They are however very quiet, especially when the user learns to use them without bottoming them down, making them a much more reasonable choice when other people will be in the immediate vicinity of the user.

For gaming, the HyperX Alloy Elite left me with mixed feelings. It is a high quality, responsive, precise keyboard and the Cherry MX Red switches make it very comfortable over long gaming sessions. However, without the ability to program macros or issue any kind of advanced commands, the HyperX Alloy Elite cannot really be of any help to advanced gamers, especially in MMO and MOBA games. Which is not a problem, per-se, however from a competitive standpoint it feels like we're seeing fewer high-end keyboards come without programming options.

Meanwhile, Kingston does not openly market it as such, but the lighting profiles and extra keycaps of the Alloy Elite suggest that it is trying to lure FPS gamers. For most FPS games, the HyperX Alloy Elite will be a responsive, trusty companion, as long as the player does not need to issue advanced commands or automate chat responses. 

The Keyboard Final Words & Conclusion
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  • Pinkynator - Monday, July 17, 2017 - link

    I'm honestly wondering if I'll ever be able to buy a mechanical keyboard. They all have the US layout, making them utterly worthless for a very, very large part of the world. Reply
  • philehidiot - Monday, July 17, 2017 - link

    I got a UK layout one without any issue from Amazon. Getting it to work was however an issue due to Razor screwing it up but hey. 3 or so years after buying it, the bugger finally works properly. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, July 17, 2017 - link

    The US layout ones might have an overwhelming advantage in sending product to international review sites. A quick check on Amazon.co.uk shows a number of UK layout ones though. Google shows at least a few French/German layout ones as well. If you're looking for specific advanced features, you might not be able to find one directly; but (assuming I can trust wikipedia anyway) the physical layouts for both are the same as for the UK. That means you should just need to buy replacement key caps and tell the OS to treat it as your native layout.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_16?url...
    Reply
  • Pinkynator - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - link

    My problem is that I'd have to get something imported... Customs, taxes, shipping, just awful. I drooled over WASD, but in the end, I realized it would probably cost over $400 (converted) to buy one of those. And that still leaves the keycap issue - I have small and big family members needing to use that keyboard, and they can't do it if it's not fully localized. Reply
  • mr_tawan - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - link

    If you're in the area that people use ISO layout (says ... Canada), you should have no problem getting one without importing.

    If you're in the USA, where people use ANSI layout, then you might have to import.
    Reply
  • wsjudd - Monday, July 17, 2017 - link

    There are plenty of rest-of-world models available. These are called ISO, so if you search 'mechanical keyboard ISO' or 'mechanical keyboard UK' then you should find a lot of examples on Google, Amazon, eBay, KeyboardCo, etc. Reply
  • andychow - Monday, July 17, 2017 - link

    What are you talking about? All mechanical keyboards have that tool, pictured in this article and talked about, that you can use to remove the key-caps and arrange them however way you want. If you're talking about the "missing" key next to the left shift, it's above the enter key. Doesn't make it utterly worthless at all. Reply
  • Calin - Monday, July 17, 2017 - link

    Good luck then moving your keycaps to show on the same keycap both ; and , (as on German keyboards) Reply
  • andychow - Monday, July 17, 2017 - link

    Do you even look at your keyboard when typing? And if you do, you can buy custom keycaps, and just the individual ones you want for any language. Reply
  • Pinkynator - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - link

    There actually *IS* a missing key. Don't put it under quotes. The US keyboard has 104 keys, but normal keyboards have 105. Reply

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