Flat keyboard with the shortest travel distance and lowest actuation force possible

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I am looking for a qwerty, flat keyboard with the shortest travel distance and lowest actuation force possible. In other words, a keyboard that requires as little force as possible to type. The keyboard I'm looking for does not need to be mechanical, though.

Price and shipping locations are not an issue. (and it should be a keyboard, not a speech recognition software or some BCI device)


I know that the Cherry MX Red has 45 centinewton (cN) of actuation force but I find the travel distance to be too long (2mm to actuation, 4mm to bottom). I could customize the keyboard to be 2mm to bottom but that would be quite tedious, all the more so as I need more than one.

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All other Cherry MX have pretty much the same travel distance:

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(animated gifs from keyboardco, can be easily tried with a Cherry MX Switch Tester:

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)

A few more comparisons from http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/Mechanical-Keyboard-Switches-Explained-and-Compared:

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I am also aware of the Topre 30g switch (e.g. present in the Ducky 104UB Realforce Mechanical Keyboard and a few others), but it has a 4 mm travel distance.

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(they seem to mostly sell in Japan)

Some specifications regarding the Topre Realforce 104UB Silent:

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The Romer-G Mechanical Switches have a lower operating point (1.5 mm) and key travel (3 mm).

They are present in the Logitech G910 Orion Spark RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (920-006385)

In the following graph, the blue curve is a Romer-G Mechanical Switch, the white curve of is a typical mechanical switch:

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The newly released (June 2016) Tesoro’s Low-Profile 'Agile' Switches are quite interesting: the full travel of the switches is 3.5 mm. Unfortunately, they haven't announced the actuation force nor the operation point. video

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The ErgoDox EZ (open source, released in 2015) has a 35 cN key switch but the travel distance is still 2 mm:

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https://ergodox-ez.com/

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Lastly, I have run across the Comfort Keyboard Split Magic Keyboard USB1-2BLK, as well as its non-compact version the Soft Touch ErgoMagic Keyboard. It looks quite thin but According to one seller (Sam@fentek-ind.com, Monday-Friday 8a-4p Arizona MST, P: (928)639-0161 F: (928)639-0551) the key travel is 3.5 mm, and I don't want a split keyboard. (the seller also told me "we do not have a no split version of that keyboard and I do not have a plot of the key force and travel.")

There is a compact version:

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As well as a non-compact version:

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Franck Dernoncourt

Posted 2016-04-25T00:26:03.920

Reputation: 1 598

Answers

13

It's really hard to find exact data about keys travel distance and force needed to actuate. But I would recommend you some keyboards which are good choices in my opinion.

1st option:

We can start from Razer mechanical keyboards with orange switches they are a little better than Cherry switches if we talk about travel distance needed to actuation.

Razer orange switches

We can find 3 models on newegg.com which have this switches, it's always Razer Black Widow in different configurations. $80 - $100 on newegg.com . What is important about this keyboard is that it's not flat keyboard.

2nd option:

Flat membrane keyboards with scissor switches. Full travel distance ~2mm and force needed to full key press 40g-60g.

Scissor mechanism in membrane keyboards is mostly used in laptops but it is also used in slim/flat keyboards.

Scissor switch

The biggest downside of this mechanism is that it's easier to break this switches (than normal membrane keyboard switches) by hard hitting the keyboard or when it falls to the ground but how often your cable keyboard lands on the ground ?

When we look for good membrane keyboard with scissor switches I would recommend this keyboards:

3rd option:

Rapoo ultra slim keyboards - it's also scissor mechanism here but this keyboards are all wireless and ultra slim. I don't know exact values of travel distance and force needed to actuate but I assume that values are comparable to 2nd option.

I've put this keyboards in other option because they are ultra compact and wireless.

Conclusion:

It really depends what are your other preferences (spread of keys, cable/wireless, mechanical(longer full keypress)/membrane with scissor switches, additional features like: touchpad, backlight, additional keys etc.)

Personally I would choose mechanical keyboard (Razer orange switches or Cherry MX red) and use 0.4 mm o-rings (I'm not sure if they fit to Razer switches but if not Razer also has o-rings) to shorten the travel distance and make the keyboard more silent.

ivaan

Posted 2016-04-25T00:26:03.920

Reputation: 1 352

Thanks. Yes it's frustratingly hard to find data on keys travel distance and actuation force (let alone the entire curve), especially for non-mechanical keyboards :/ Actually the Arion Rapoo Black KX 5.8GHz Wireless Smart Backlight LED Built-in Lithium Battery Mechanical MX Keyboard - Black is mechanical, in addition to being flat (2mm travel distance, 50g actuation force). And they don't have any inclination, unlike too many other mechanical keyboards. I'm currently looking for the same version but noncompact

Franck Dernoncourt 2016-04-26T14:49:06.790

1

And I am also looking for similar mechanical flat keyboards with lower actuation force (e.g. using Cherry MX red)

Franck Dernoncourt 2016-04-26T14:59:58.097

6

Coincidentally, Cherry has just released a new switch, the MX Silver (a.k.a. MX Speed), which has a much lower actuation point:

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Unfortunately, the travel distance is too quite long, I'm not sure why (comments are welcome if you know). I also don't know how much mm of rings one can add to reduce the travel distance.

The MX Silver is used in Corsair Rapidfire keyboard series, which contains both compact and complete versions:

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A few additional nice features (quote from gameranx):

Additionally, these mechanical keyboards come with a detachable wrist rest, key pullers with spare WASD and QWERDF key caps that are often used for first-person shooters along with MOBA’s. Furthermore, there is a USB 2.0 pass-through port in order to allow users to connect various USB devices such as headsets or a mouse.

As expected, the keyboards are overpriced:

  • Corsair Gaming K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE Mechanical Keyboard, Backlit RGB LED, Cherry MX Speed RGB(CH-9101014-NA) costs 170 USD in the US.
  • K65 RGB Rapidfire: $139.99
  • K70 Rapidfire is listed as $129.99.

Some images for the K70 rapidfire RGB:

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Some images for the K70 rapidfire:

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Some images for the K65 rapidfire RGB:

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Compatible o-rings (which can be quickly installed with a Keycap Puller Tool a.k.a. Key Cap Remover):

Note that you can stack o-ring dampeners (example).

O-ring hardness can be inferred from the model name (I took the slide from this great presentation):

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For further information regarding o-rings, this reddit page is a gold mine. Amongst other things, it points to:

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Regarding which thickness to choose, this webpage gives a good summary. Also, there is:

It simply depends on how the bottom of a keystroke is, e.g.:

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vs:

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Franck Dernoncourt

Posted 2016-04-25T00:26:03.920

Reputation: 1 598

1It's really nice information that Corsair started with new Cherry MX Speed switches. They signed six-month exclusive agreement with Cherry so I think that the prices will be lower when other companies show their products with Cherry MX Speed switches.ivaan 2016-04-27T12:39:09.010

4

Look no further. Optimus Tactus. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

Zero travel distance and mere touch to activate. Plus on-the-fly reconfiguration of the layout, even quite thorough, with arbitrary key shape changes.

I'm not entirely sure how practical it is for active use, but it definitely fits the bill.


Unfortunately, availability might be poor - I'm not sure if it ever entered trade. But another (inexpensive!) alternative is the Magic Box Laser Keyboard. (available e.g. on Ebay.)

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Again, zero key travel distance and no force required, plus a neat form factor for use in travel.

SF.

Posted 2016-04-25T00:26:03.920

Reputation: 292

3

The Arion Rapoo Black KX 5.8GHz Wireless Smart Backlight LED Built-in Lithium Battery Mechanical MX Keyboard - Black (85 USD) is mechanical, in addition to being flat (2mm travel distance, 50g actuation force). And they don't have any inclination, unlike too many other mechanical keyboards.

Full specifications:

  • Key Structure:Yellow mechanical key switches
  • Lifecycle: 60 Million Key-press Key press force:50 + / - 10g
  • Key press whole travel: 2.0mm + / - 0.6mm

Unfortunately, they use their own switch, which have a higher actuation force than the Cherry MX Reds. (I have read they feel similar as Cherry MX Blacks)

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I couldn't find any force vs travel plot nor a non-compact version of it. According to this message from the Amazon seller, they don't have any non-compact version of this keyboard.

The Amazon seller also sent me this table summarizing the properties of the Rapoo key switches:

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Franck Dernoncourt

Posted 2016-04-25T00:26:03.920

Reputation: 1 598

2

http://www.keyboardco.com/keyboard/cleankeys-glass-easy-clean-medical-wireless-keyboard.asp

Expensive, but:

  • Zero travel

  • Almost zero force

  • As a bonus, easy to clean (which is what it's marketed for)

  • Last but not least, it has the very important feature of actually being available for sale

rwallace

Posted 2016-04-25T00:26:03.920

Reputation: 121

1

Razer's "ultra-low-profile mechanical keyboard" (I don't see any model name) is the mechanical keyboard with the shortest travel distance I am aware of (without having to add o-rings). Unfortunately, the actuation force is high: 65g to the actuation point, 70g to bottom. It was announced on Thursday, 14 July 2016. The announced price is U.S. $169.99 / EU €189.99.

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Franck Dernoncourt

Posted 2016-04-25T00:26:03.920

Reputation: 1 598

0

The SteelSeries Apex M800 Customizable Mechanical Gaming Keyboard uses a QS1 Switch, and a low-profile layout. Around 180 USD.

  • Switch Type: Mechanical
  • Switch Name: SteelSeries QS1
  • Throw Depth: 3 mm
  • Actuation and Reset Depth: 1.5 mm
  • Actuation Force Needed: 45cN
  • 60 Million Click Lifetime

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Franck Dernoncourt

Posted 2016-04-25T00:26:03.920

Reputation: 1 598