Majestouch Tactile Click “Otaku” NKRO

After some convincing by Derek, I decided to bite the bullet and invest in a Filco Majestouch Tactile Click “Otaku” NKRO (Blue Switches).  Filco is a Japanese hardware manufacturer that produces  “high end” mechanical switch keyboards, like the one shown above.  After taxes and shipping the total cost of the keyboard came out to be ~$200 from www.elitekeyboards.com.

Now, some of you may be thinking to yourselves “goddamn that’s an expensive keyboard!”, and you’d be right!  A quick look on the Logitech website shows that even the most expensive keyboard+mouse combo, the Logitech Cordless Desktop MX 5500 Revolution, goes for $179.

So what’s so awesome about the Filco Majestouch, and does it justify the hefty price tag?

Its All About The Switches

Let’s step back for a second and take a look at the “everyday” keyboard.  If you pop off the keys and look under the hood, you’ll find something that looks like this:

The typical keyboard is a membrane keyboard.  The keys on your keyboard have little pegs underneath them so that when they are pressed, the peg slots into the membrane, completes a circuit, and sends a special key-code to your computer.  Neat, simple, and easy to manufacture.

There are a lot of problems with membrane keyboards, and they basically boil down to low reliability and lack of tactile feedback.  Membrane keyboards don’t last very long because the rubber membranes have a tendency to wear out.  Also, depending on the rubber membrane used in the keyboard, everything about the keyboard will change: the travel distance (how far you have to press the key down to get a “keypress”), the stiffness of the keys, the elasticity of the keys, etc.

Mechanical switches on the other hand are a lot more durable and complex; hence the high cost.  Underneath each key is a spring mechanism which detects key presses, like so:

Now, because each key has a mechanical switch underneath it, the keyboards themselves will be a lot more expensive.  However, there are many advantages to the mechanical switch system.  You get a lot more tactile feedback on each keypress and you also get an audible click (good for touch typing).

The selection of mechanical switches (brown, blue, black, etc.) can also change the overall “feel” of the keyboard as well.  Different styles of switches will change the audibility of the clicks and also the depth at which keystrokes will be generated.   I got my Filco keyboard with Blue switches, and they are supposedly great for typing.

For a more complete and un-butchered description of the differences, you read this well-written comparison here: http://www.ergocanada.com/ergo/keyboards/mechanical_vs_membrane_keyswitches.html

The Keyboard

The Filco Majestouch keyboard is a pretty standard 108-key keyboard.  It has blank keycaps for extra 1337-ness and n-key rollover for all you gamers.

Likes:

  • Good Layout: For the most part, the Filco is really well laid out; typing on it is pretty comfortable and touch-typing is a breeze.  I have some pretty big/wide hands, and I’ve had no problems with it so far.
  • Audible clicks: There is a very loud and distinctive ‘click’, and I love it.  As a touch typist you want to hear that satisfying ‘clickity click’ to know that you hit that key
  • You look like a total badass: while you hammer away at your blank-key Filco with a “click click click” soundtrack in the background.  If anyone asks, just tell them you’re hacking into the Pentagon.
  • Types like a dream:  And most importantly, it generally feels awesome to type on it.  I’ve been using the Flico keyboard for ~3 weeks now, and it certainly lives up to my initial expectationexpectations.  My fingers used to get sore when I used my old keyboard (a Logitech MX5500), but I’ve had no problems with the Filco.  If you like the keys on Lenovo Thinkpads, then you’ll absolutely love the Filco.

Dislikes (more like minor gripes):

  • No media controls: Coming from a Logitech keyboard with every media key imaginable, not being able to adjust the volume or control iTunes is a sorely missed feature
  • USB connection: The keyboard connects over USB, and if you want to use the n-key rollover then you have to connect over PS/2.  My mobo actually doesn’t have a PS/2 connector, so that feature was wasted on me.  Still, coming from a bluetooth keyboard, I miss the freedom of going sans-wires
  • Not great, but not terrible for gaming: The Filco isn’t really a gaming keyboard per se, but you can definitely use it for that purpose.  If you do get this keyboard for gaming, do what Derek did and go with Black switches (I’m rolling with Blues, but ideally you should go with Black).  If you’re playing games where you’re clicking lots of different keys (I’m thinking RTS, MMORPGs), then the Filco is great.  Me?  I’m more of an action gamer, so the Filco isn’t all that wonderful for twitch-based games (FPS, platformers).  For those games you want short keys with short travel distances (I’m thinking chiclet style keyboards).

Final Thoughts

So, is the Filco worth it?  I sure think it is.  You don’t get a lot of the multimedia keys that come with a lot of the higher-end keyboards, but that’s OK.  The ergonomics behind the keyboard and its ease-of-use justifies the Filco Majestouch as a good investment for the health of your hands.

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