mini-review: Cherry MX-Board 3.0 / Zowie Celeritas / CM QTK

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mini-review: Cherry MX-Board 3.0 / Zowie Celeritas / CM QTK

Unread post by shreebles » 24 Jul 2013, 16:32

PT 1: Zowie

Okay now. The Celeritas got here alright. It is a really good deal, like new condition, but so much cheaper than new. Comparing it to the Quickfire TK, it is excellently built. Heavy, stable, sleek. The keycaps are much thicker and rougher in texture which is pleasant. The printing is ok. I would be lying if I said the keycaps look better than the red LED keycaps on the QTK. But they feel a lot more solid. Ergonomics are fine. If you're a heavy typist I'd say get wrist rest, as the keys are quite high. But the angled edge helps and looks really good at the same time. But I'd say the QTK is better, ergonomically. The thin cheap keys have the advantage of being really light, and are easy to press, so definitely less tiring.

But now for the most important part: The switch!

Well I have to say I'm underwhelmed, this being my first time typing on browns. I have typed for a whole day on the Celeritas now and it still feels exactly like you said: Like grit stuck in my reds (you may say "told you so" if you like).

My colleagues agree, the tactility is really not very pronounced (one of them uses rubberdomes, the other has a G710+ at home which should in theory have the exact same switch, plus O-rings).

I'm sure it's something one can get used to well, and the build quality of the Zowie is definitely admirable. The cheap loud space bar on the QTK (despite O-rings) is just an entire level below the Zowies, and I paid more for it. In fact, if you avoid bottoming out all the time, the Celeritas is so quiet it doesn't need O-rings.

After a few days...: I was about ready to send this thing back but after using it for a while (and after comparing it to the MX-Board) it seems too hard not to keep. I will live with the discoloration (geekhack says rubbing alcohol helps) and probably live with the fact that I didn't love browns from the get-go. The more I type with it the more it feels like the tactility is there for a reason, and is fine the way it is. The less force you use pressing down the keys, the less it feels like something is wrong with it, or like something's stuck inside. I will still get the O-rings because they're not too expensive and are likely to improve my experience when I'm too busy to notice whether or not I'm bottoming out.

Excellent keyboard, if you definitely know you can live with browns, and don't mind a little discoloration of the laser printing. If you can get it at discounted price, like I did, it is an absolute steal and I doubt there is anything of the same quality in the <100€ price range.

PT 2: Cherry

The MX-Board 3.0 got here and I gave it a spin after lunch. I was disappointed by the cheap build quality which was apparent from the moment I unwrapped it. Even the keycaps on my Quickfire TK feel more solid, and trust me those are quite thin to begin with.
Out of fairness I still used it for a little over an hour but the quality of the housing and keycaps does not make the experience very enjoyable at all. In fact, it barely feels like you're even typing on a mechanical. I understand that the switches don't come cheap but there are rubberdomes that feel more solid at half the price. The spring feels much weaker than on the QTK, they have the same Cherry MX Red switch but I imagine that the caps, which are only half deep, are to blame for this impression since they reduce the travel.

The thin quality plastic, plate mounted switches and weak spring with short travel make the MX-Board a high-pitched clickety-clackety affair that can in no way stand its ground against the competition.

Now I know it's unfair to compare it to the Zowie, which originally had a retail price of 120€. The sad part is that my two cherry boards, that I got used for 1€, or 5€, respectively, feature better keycaps and a much more solid frame, of higher quality plastic.

I am not a keyboard snob. I have never typed on a Model M, Topre, Filco or even Ducky board. My benchmark of quality is currently the Zowie, but I think the Mx-Board 3.0 feels so cheap it doesn't warrant a recommendation.

In the end, I don't know who this is for.
Keyboard enthusiasts will definitely be disappointed. If you didn't know it had cherry switches and judged it only by look and feel, it seems like a POS board that came with your Mom's computer.

Beginners? They are much better off spending a lot less, with a used board with Mx Blacks. Or, spending around 50€, and picking from a selection of blue, clear or black switches on a new G80 3000. If the keycaps and frame are anything like the G80 1800, they are much better than that of the MX-board. Or, like me, they could try to look for a bargain with b-stock stuff, with only minor drawbacks.

It needs to be drastically cheaper to make any significant impact on the market in Europe. I imagine the situation is even more clear cut in the US and Asia, where you can get a lot of good boards for cheap.

original story below
Hi guys,
I'm a long time lurker, first time poster here. My interest in mechanicals has made me buy some 3-4 used G80-1800 boards, 2 of those USB, of these two I gave one to a friend, kept one. The PS2 models are not as good as the USB are, feel a lot more wobbly and worn out. So I've used the USB one for a year or so, mostly for gaming at home. I'd decided that I like mechanicals.

More recently, I wanted to get my first "proper" keyboard (home use only). Until then I had only spent 20€ total on all the keyboards before, so no regrets shelling out 85€ for my Quickfire TK (plus O-rings that bought for the G80), now I've decided that I absolutely love mechanicals and do not want to use rubberdomes ever again.

I started to work at an IT company recently and all they had was rubberdomes, so I got out the USB G80-1800 again and brought it to work. It worked fine for a month but recently the "e" key keeps getting stuck. Sometimes it doesn't register, and when I press the key again, it will send "ee" after a delay. Annoying, but I'm too lazy to fix it and it gives me a good excuse to buy another mechanical, just for work :evilgeek:

I could bring my quickfire in every day, but besides the fact that it would be inconvenient, I think it's really too gamey and not workplace appropriate. Also it would wear out the USB ports, either the ports on the computer (bad) or the mini-usb on the keyboard (worse!).

For work, I wanted a full size keyboard, with as close to standard layout as possible. The G80 1800 is ok, the QTK is lacking the context-menu key which I like. The disadvantage of switching every day is that I'm back to using the old kind of switch (MX black) most of the time and the better switch (imho, reds) only in the evenings, which leads to typos because I'm used to the heavier, black switches.

So the decision was to look for brown. Clears might be an alternative but they are also much heavier than reds so it won't help too much. The advantage of clears is that they are cheaper (G80 3000 LQCDE comes to mind).

Then I found a Zowie Celeritas for 69€ at Amazon (WHD) so I had to pull the trigger. Mostly standard layout, full size, brown switches, conservative look (LEDs off). Also, german layout (necessary at work).

It will arrive tomorrow, I was really happy until I read from other users that the laser infills on the nylon keys on the Celeritas will discolor and become grey after only 1-2 months. Given that I use it for 40 hours a week I'm sure it won't take long for mine.

So, WWDD? (what would deskthority do)

1. Keep the Celeritas, the discoloring doesn't matter, it is an awesome keyboard none the less and will still look good.

2. Get the LQCDE. It has all the features you want, except for the switches, which are clears not browns, and those are fine too. Switching from clears to reds in the evening will not be to difficult to adjust to every day.

3. Get something with the same switches as your home keyboard, for cheaper (I'm looking at you, MX-Board 3.0). If you love reds for gaming, you may also like them for typing. Browns are not necessary in the office.

4. Repair your trusty G80-1800
(like thats gonna happen) by keeping the housing and caps from the current one and using one of the older PS2 PCBs.

5. Something else entirely. Maybe some exotic models I haven't heard of. Keep in mind that I need a fullsize, with german layout in the same 70€ price range, which means I'm sticking to big name brands most of the time. So no KBC poker for me :roll:

Looking forward to hearing everyone's advice!
Last edited by shreebles on 29 Jul 2013, 15:34, edited 5 times in total.

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Unread post by Muirium » 24 Jul 2013, 16:44

All three four five options are reasonable. Just depends:

1.If the office is paying, what does discolouring matter? If you want a refund on the board though, better get it done quick.
2. Clears are my pick over browns any day. Their tactility is clear and present, unlike browns which just don't cut it for me: they're too light and indistinct.
3. But overall 3 asks the right question: why a tactile switch in the office anyway? Linear is just as good a way of life if you like it!

Edit: I took long enough writing my comment that you added a couple more. Well, repair is sensible too. Depends on how much you liked the keyboard versus the other options. But as for alternatives: beware! You're inviting the buckling spring brigade! (Hi.)

I'm biased because I like clicky switches. Linears feel like a sensible alternative, but quiet tactiles seem like clicky switches in denial! I'd say go red all round, ideally, but all these boards are better than the generic junk you were dealing with before so it's no sweat really.

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Unread post by shreebles » 24 Jul 2013, 16:57

Hi Muirium,
Thanks for taking the time. I have added more options in the meantime :lol:
Muirium wrote: 1.If the office is paying, what does discolouring matter? If you want a refund on the board though, better get it done quick.
Well the office will pay no matter what keyboard I'm using, they are all using crap all the time and nobody cares. :D
Refund's not a problem, as the Celeritas isn't even here yet. But I refuse to invest too much money in a product that will deteriorate quickly. Especially considering that one selling point for mechanicals is their longevity.
Muirium wrote: 2. Clears are my pick over browns any day. Their tactility is clear and present, unlike browns which just don't cut it for me: they're too light and indistinct.
Hhhm, what about reds? Are they too light for you as well?
Muirium wrote: 3. But overall 3 seems the right question: why a tactile switch in the office anyway? Linear is just as good a way of life if you like it!
I guess that's true, I really do like the light reds but I want to try tactiles, also because I think it will help me learn to stop bottoming out on the linear switches.
Muirium wrote: but quiet tactiles seem like clicky switches in denial!
But that's because they are :D It's a shared office, clicky switches are just not gonna fly with the two coworkers I share my office with.

EDIT: I also took long enough to notice your edit. TBH I don't like the 1800 much at all anymore. Black seems to me like the most boring switch in the world, and the 1800 is just fugly, I've done a poor job of improving its looks using black plastic film, still ugly though

EDIT2: This being on a keyboard enthusiast forum, I really didn't expect you suggesting the "sensible" option :lol:

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Unread post by Muirium » 24 Jul 2013, 17:40

I usually just suggest Topre to everyone who turns up! But you'd need a bigger budget. Much bigger…

Reds are very nice switches. Difficult to impossible to stop from bottoming out, mind. They feel so completely different to blues and my beloved buckling springs that I don't even try to compare them. Browns, though … nah. Browns are like reds with some grit stuck inside. Not enough bump to be tactile. At least clears try!

If browns were as tactile as they should be, there's a chance that I'd love them. (That's what ergo clears are all about, of course.) But the only light switch I've ever tried that gets tactility right is Topre.

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Unread post by shreebles » 24 Jul 2013, 20:20

Hhhm... I'm unsure now. Back home, using the quickfire TK again, it feels good, decently well built and all, but typing all day on the blacks gives me lotsa mistypes on the reds. Probably if I were to type on the reds for an hour or so it would go away, but who has time for that?

I will get the Zowie tomorrow and see how I like the browns. I have to instantly fall in love with it, or I'll force myself to return it.
If they are close enough to reds, and I actually like the tactile bump, I'll keep the Zowie. After reading your posts and several others I fear that the mx-brown tactile bump might have unpleasant friction.

If the Zowie is not it, maybe I can just get the 3850 (MX-Board) and use reds all the time, and one day get to touch typing heaven :D

BUT if I still feel an itch to scratch I might just get the LQCDE. It lacks any multimedia keys, is pretty bulky and not exactly pretty, but if the clear switch is really good that might make up for it. That way I will have tested all the switches I care about (sorry, clickers!) AND can afford in the near future.

I like the idea of ergo clears. But who has the money to buy two boards and transplant all the springs? Since there's really no other cheap way to get them...

Well, maybe that could be me, in 10 years. Might as well get a Topre. When I'm rich. In ten years. Tops.

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Unread post by Muirium » 24 Jul 2013, 20:27

Well, as you asked about switches: 7bit has them for a good price here: ... t2760.html

And as he says:
Yes, the housing (the 2 black plastic parts of the switches) is identical, so you can do any change you want. The only exception is the MXLOCK.
So there are ways to get switches without buying whole keyboards. Mixing and matching their springs and stems is what switch modding is all about. Ergo clear = clear stem plus red or blue or brown spring (if I remember) inside any switch body.

Definitely try the browns. They deserve a fair test. Only then will you know which way to go, if anywhere!

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Unread post by shreebles » 24 Jul 2013, 20:50

The thing is, shipment doesn't take place until september. And at 56€, you might as well get an MX-Board (60€ shipped in Germany), get it immediately, and have a spare keyboard to boot. The only thing you will save is the labor of taking all the caps off. You still have to take apart the switch itself.

PS: quick question: can I take off the stems from the clears and switch them for red stems? To have a tactile feel on a board with reds...
Last edited by shreebles on 24 Jul 2013, 20:57, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread post by Muirium » 24 Jul 2013, 20:55

Perhaps. I'm used to more expensive keyboards and shipping out here. 7bit's group buy is the way my custom 60% is getting its switches in the first place! Greens, of course…


Unread post by JBert » 24 Jul 2013, 21:06

shreebles wrote:PS: quick question: can I take off the stems from the clears and switch them for red stems? To have a tactile feel on a board with reds...
I don't know where you want to go with that...

The springs of red, brown and blue are more or less the same (they're light) and the stem is what makes the difference between them. Putting clear stems on top of red springs would thus also result in ergo clears.

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Unread post by shreebles » 24 Jul 2013, 22:00

You are right, it's essentially the same, my thinking was kind of backwards.

Anyways, I just got out one of the PS2 boards and it worked, but feels a lot less smooth than the USB one does. The enter key showed the same issue as the "E" key on my other 1800. I am surprised to see that some keys seem to fail after a few years on the cherrys, I can hardly imagine them having seen several million keystrokes executed in their time.

With nothing to lose, on this 1€ + shipping keyboard, I ripped apart the switch using the crudest tools available, getting the Enter key back to normal behavior, but damaging the little metal leaves in the process.

Alas, the enter key is now clicky! Isn't that satisfying :lol:

Now that I know how not to do it, I could carefully take apart the "e" key at work tomorrow and 'fix' that as well.
But first I will check out the Celeritas. I will probably bring my QTK as well, for comparison's sake.

Thanks for your input, guys!

EDIT: I carefully repaired the stuck key on my work keyboard. It was just a bit of dust stuck between the metal prongs.

The Zowie arrived, and it is really very well built, I just need one or two more days to figure out whether I like the switch or not. So far, it seems everyone was right about the 'grit' feel...

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Unread post by shreebles » 29 Jul 2013, 15:35

Mini-review added.

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