So here it is - Cherry's latest keyboard using their MX switch technology. The G80-3800 was originally supposed to launch last December, but was delayed until March 2012. With the launch sometime earlier last week, the board officially known as "MX Board 2.0" marks the first new keyboard from Cherry to use the MX switch since over two decades. Yes, you read that right. The last Cherry MX based keyboard that Cherry introduced to the consumer market was the G80-3000, wich has been in production since at least 1988 with more or less no major design changes.
For now the keyboard seems to be exclusive to the Chinese market, but an international release is not too unlikely. The keyboard already features a multilingual packaging as well as a Euro symbol on the keycaps.
Retailing at 399RMB (around 45 Euros) for the cheapest model it is clear that the keyboard is aimed at an entry-level budget in the growing market for mechanical keyboards. Available with black, blue, brown and red MX switches, the red MX version still costs about 10 Euros more than the MX Black one, with the other switches costing something inbetween. Why do we still have to pay premium for a once rare switch type, when it is evidentally back in production since about a year? Why is the least favorite switch the cheapest and the most popular one the most expensive?
With those mysteries left behind, let's move on to unboxing this thing.First impressionPicture credit Yesky.com
The keyboard comes packaged in a very small cardboard box with a very simple design showing nothing but the Cherry logo on the front.
Compared to a classic Cherry box it is obvious how small this keyoard and the box are.
Taking the keyboard out of the box, the first thing you will notice is how light it is. At less than 900g you can't help but to feel that what you get what you paid for. The G80-3800 is cheap and it instantly shows when unboxing it. The plastic creeks and flexes to the touch. It feels like I could break the entire board in half with my bare hands.Design and Size
Once positioned on the desk things get a bit better. The keyboard is much smaller than most other mechanical keyboards and outright tiny compared to its predecessor the G80-3000. At only 445x150x25mm it will fit most desk setups just fine -- even those without much space.
The design here is a bit questionable and will highly depend on your personal opinion. Considering this was designed by Marcus Kuchler, a Industrial Designer who has worked with the likes of Leica, Porsche, Audi and BMW, I expected something a little more sleek.
We have the keyboard itself with a minimal bezel, the black ABS keycaps with minimal and simple legends and then the apparently useless stylistic bezels in the center and on the left above the number pad. What is their purpose? It's not deep enough to serve as a "dish" for small parts or a pen and all the lock-indicating LEDs are built into the keycaps directly. So... WHY IS THIS BEZEL THERE?Keycaps
As you may have already noticed at this point, the keycaps are of a much lower profile than what you are used to from other Cherry MX keyboards. Roughly measured they are about half the height of a regular Cherry MX F-key-row keycap. Another oddity with this keyboard is that all keycaps share the same profile across the entire board. While this sounds terrible, it is actually surprisingly comfortable to type on. This might also be interesting to those who prefer to type on a non-standard layout as they are free to swap the keycaps around without issues (apart from the F and J keycaps, which a dash as homerow indicator).
The keycaps are all standard sized and completely interchangeable with replacement keycaps. Cherry even decided not to use their non-center 6.25 spacebar and went with a more mainstream center-stemmed spacebar. This would all be nice and dandy if it wasn't for this:
As you can see the capslock key uses neither the old off-center stem, nor the standard center-stem mount, but instead uses a completely new variant with a mount slightly shifted to the left of the keycap. Some evil designer somewhere in the Cherry design team must really get a kick out of people having to glue new stems into their keycaps. I see no other reason not to adapt a standard center-stemmed capslock key here.Quality & Construction
While the initial impressions when unboxing the keyboard were not too great, it is not an entirely bad keyboard to type on.The same-profile keys are less frustrating than I imagined and I did not take long to adjust to typing on this keyboard. The keycaps are noticeably thicker than the current generation of Cherry keycaps used on their G80-3000 boards. The laser printing technology used to mark the legends seems to be the same that is used on other competing brands such as Leopold and Razer. It is therefore probably safe to assume that depending on your skin and sweat type legends will show some wear and end up looking brownish after a while.
The switches are PCB mounted and use the default Cherry stabilizers, as already found on their G80-3000 series. Everything is housed in an ABS case. Due to the lack of weight on the keyboard it feels very slippery on the desk. If you are a very fast typist or an avid gamer, you should probably place the keyboard on a no-slip surface, as the 2 rubber feet on their own do not provide nearly enough support to stop the keyboard from sliding around on my desk. Conclusion
So who is this keyboard for? Will the average keyboard enthusiast gain anything from this new product in the Cherry family? No, sadly not really. Considering the pricing, it is very obvious that this keyboard is aimed at newcomers to mechanical keyboards. At less than 50 Euros it provides an okay entry level board to jump into the world of mechanical keyboards.
Assuming the board would be readily available for the same price in the west, it would make a good keyboard to try out a switch you have not tried yet or to be used as a second keyboard in the office. I would even go as far and consider it as a decent switch donor for other projects.
In terms of quality it is a step down even from the modern variant of the G80-3000. For a few Euros more there are much higher quality boards available. Instead of trying to reduce costs more and more, maybe Cherry should have sticked with their original ideas of quality and longevity - But hey, who am I kidding?