With this update, we aim to improve how we evaluate backlighting, ergonomics, and switches. Several tests have been simplified, and new tests are more focused. Many of these changes make it easier for you to use the tools on our website to sort through and find the best keyboards for your needs.
Below is a summary of the changes we've made with this update. More detailed information is available after this chart, and smaller changes and other investigations are detailed at the end of this page.
Issues With Our Old Backlight Test
With our old backlighting test, we evaluated a keyboard's backlighting features and quality to determine our score, but this approach created scoring inconsistencies.
Keyboards with extensive backlight features but poor backlight clarity would receive a better score than those with limited features but good backlight clarity.
For example, the Keychron Q6 had a remarkable backlighting score, but you couldn't read any of the legends on the keys in a darkened room. This score was misleading if you were interested in buying a keyboard with legends you could see in a dark room.
We've decided to evaluate backlighting in two separate tests to fix this. The first one we're going to take a look at is Backlight Clarity.
This new test evaluates a keyboard's Backlight Clarity—or how well a keyboard's backlighting illuminates what you need to see on your keyboard.
If a keyboard can display white-only lighting, we ensure it's set to display white-only light for comparability. However, our score isn't influenced by the accuracy of the white lighting itself.
The score of this test is entirely determined by how clearly you can see the keys and the legends on the keys. This means a keyboard like the NXZT Function in the example above scores very well, although its white-only lighting is noticeably off-white. We know that white color accuracy is important to some people, so while it doesn't contribute to the score, it's something we note in the text.
The example above shows that the Keychron Q6 doesn't have shine-through keycaps like the NXZT Function.
In cases where the keycaps are removable and can be replaced, we'll provide an additional image with shine-through keycaps to provide as much information as possible that may be helpful for you when choosing which keyboard to buy. However, we still only score the keyboard in its stock configuration.
Another issue that community members pointed out was that our photographs weren't calibrated, which means they weren't helpful if you wanted to compare the brightness, color, and overall quality of backlighting between keyboards side-by-side.
We've made changes to our testing process to ensure backlight clarity photos are taken in a standardized way—with the same lighting conditions, camera settings, and white balancing for each photo. We've included a photo of our test setup on the right. Note that in this image, the door to the test room is open to provide enough light to show the setup, but during testing, the door is closed, and the room is dark.
While this is a new test, it's built on the foundation of our old Backlighting test. This test is now focused exclusively on evaluating a keyboard's backlighting features.
The question of what qualifies as an ergonomic keyboard is complex. Our previous testing methods didn't clearly recognize some of the major ergonomic features that are important to people.
We've added new tests for some of the most commonly requested ergonomic features. This makes filtering and sorting keyboards easier with our website's custom table tool. For example, you can create a personalized table to only display keyboards with columnar key alignment, split layouts, or between a minimum and maximum incline range.
The impact of this change may not be clear for the moment because we haven't tested many ergonomic keyboards with our newest test bench. But as more keyboards are tested and updated, the usefulness of this change will grow, and it will be easier to sort for keyboards according to the ergonomic features that interest you.
We've also added a new test that measures the height of a keyboard's home row since this indicates how steeply you need to angle your wrist upwards to reach all the keys and can be an important factor in determining if a keyboard is right for you.
When we began developing our tests, we considered using the height of the Spacebar instead. After investigating, we found that this measurement wasn't necessarily the best indicator of how steeply you need to angle your wrists to type on a particular keyboard.
Some keyboards may have similar spacebar heights but require you to angle your wrists more steeply than others.
We've included an image on the right with several examples. it's clear that while the Keychron Q6 and the GLORIOUS GMMK Pro have similar spacebar heights, the Keychron's home row height is noticeably taller, so you need to angle your wrists at a steeper angle to reach all the keys.
While a difference of only 3.5% may seem small, a few millimeters can make a significant ergonomic difference. They can be an important consideration when deciding whether to use a wrist rest with a particular keyboard.
We recognize it's unlikely that we can assign ergonomics scores that everyone will agree with because everyone has different ergonomic needs and expectations. Our aim with this test bench is to get close enough to provide adequate information if ergonomics are important to you.
As community members have pointed out, our old ergonomics testing unfairly penalized keyboards that didn't include wrist rests. On our previous test bench, Keyboards that came with integrated or detachable wrist rest received higher ergonomic scores, but this wasn't helpful if you already had a wrist rest you intended to use with a keyboard or intended to purchase a wrist rest separately.
Our old Keystrokes test evaluated the name, type, and feel of a keyboard's switches. It also included the keystroke force and travel measurements. Our new approach attempts to separate some of this information, provide better categorization, and a new video showing how much a switch wobbles on a given keyboard.
Our new Switch test includes basic information about a keyboard's switches, and information about a switch's force and travel measurements remain in the Keystroke test.
Our old Key Switches test was problematic because, in some cases, it identified switches by name and others by type.
We now have separate tests to identify the name and the type of the switch.
This means you can now use our table tool more effectively to sort for keyboards by switch name or switch type.
The changes we've explored above make up the bulk of this test bench update, but we also explored other concepts and made some additional minor changes that we've detailed below.
Early in our development for this test bench, we considered creating a test to evaluate how consistent all the switches are with each other on a keyboard. In other words, we wanted to determine whether the keys on a keyboard all feel and operate the same way.
We evaluated consistency across multiple metrics, including actuation force, tactile force, pre-travel, and total travel. Ultimately, we discovered that all switches were somewhat inconsistent, but there weren't clear and significant differences and conclusions to be drawn that would help make a buying decision. For example, we found that more expensive keyboards like the Keychron Q5 or the GMMK Pro using high-quality mechanical switches demonstrated similar standard deviation levels compared to much cheaper keyboards using rubber dome switches, like the Amazon Basics K4R. Based on these findings, we decided not to include this test in our reviews.
We've included a graph below showing data from some of the results of our investigation below. Note that the x-axis represents the actuation force variation from the mean.
Our previous test bench update introduced the Hardware Customization test. After receiving feedback, we've made a small change to this test. We now consider Cherry-style 3-pin, Cherry-style 5-pin, Other pinout, Soldered, and Non-customizable design results for our Switch PCB Socket test.
Additionally, while the Switch PCB Socket test wasn't weighted in our scoring when first introduced, it now contributes to the Hardware Customization score as penalizing keyboards that don't use standard sockets makes more sense.
Your feedback is instrumental in making improvements to our testing. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions about this or any future updates, reach out to us in the discussions.
We have retested popular models. The test results for the following models have been converted to the new testing methodology. However, the text might be inconsistent with the new results.