A Mechanical Keyboard for the Workplace
Cherry is one of the most well-known brands in the mechanical keyboard industry. The company, based in Germany, is best known for their MX key switches, which have become the gold standard in the premium keyboard market. As a result of their high standards, tight quality control, and even the occasional scarcity, “genuine Cherry key switches” has become a veritable marketing point on more than a few features lists.
Since they make their own switches, it should come as no surprise that Cherry also produces their own keyboards. Today, we’re looking at the G80-3494, a new entry in the G80-3000 line and one of the few keyboards in the United States to feature Cherry MX Silent Black key switches. Do their full-fledged boards live up to the lofty standards of their switches?
- MSRP: $149.99 (currently sale price: $111.56)
- Layout: ANSI, 104-key
- Key Switch: Cherry MX Silent Black (linear)
- Key Lifespan: 50M keystroke
- Actuation Force: 60cN
- N-Key Rollover: 14-key simultaneous
- Cable: 1.75m, non-detachable, PVC coated
- Dimensions: 470 x 195 x 44 mm
- Weight: 935g
First impressions of the G80 are underwhelming. This is a standard office keyboard, as expected, but the build quality leaves something to be desired. The footprint is large, featuring a wide frame that extends a full inch and a half above the function row. Below the keyset is a wrist-pleasing three quarters inch bezel, as well a full half-inch of framing on either side. The wide body lends the keyboard a retro look but I can’t help but wish the top at least were trimmed down to save desk space.
Taking it out of the box, this first thing you’ll notice is how light it is. The body is made entirely of plastic, which isn’t uncommon, but it a plastic mounting plate, which is. Most keyboards in this range use aluminum or steel plating, lending their boards a nice bit of heft. Taken as a whole, and excepting the mechanical switches, the G80 seems to have more in common with the build quality of a lower-end membrane keyboard than anything in the premium market.
As a result of the heavy use of plastic, the keyboard flexes and twists with little effort. In normal use, this isn’t an issue but it definitely falls short of the competition. Likewise, without the rubber grip of the flip-out tilt feet, the G80 has a tendency to slide around during normal use.
Also included in the box is a USB-to-PS2 adapter and some sparse documentation.
There is no included wrist rest but the sharper angle along the bottom mitigates that. The body also features a steeper angle than many keyboards, making it fairly comfortable to use without such wrist support.
With its naturally harder angle, the tilt feet can afford to be short, coming in at just over a quarter inch. Combined with the body, I found this to be about the perfect angle but your mileage may vary. The feet also feature rubberized grips, dramatically cutting down on that desk movement.
Around the rear we find the USB cable. It’s non-detachable and rubber-coated. It’s long enough to reach behind most setups, coming in at 60 inches. Since Cherry opted to include a USB-to-PS2 adapter, it’s also compatible with older or port constrained rigs.
The Cherry G80-3494 uses thick-walled ABS keycaps. Unlike many gaming keyboards, these caps have a slightly textured finish to provide a touch more traction for your fingertips. Interestingly, there is no physical bump on the home row keys; instead, Cherry opted to give these keys a sharper concave, naturally drawing your fingers into them. Like all ABS keycaps, those found here will shine over time but I suspect they’ll hold out longer due to the texturing. Cherry opted for pad-printed legends, which are common on non-backlit boards, but are also more likely to wear off in normal use.
Even though the printing and plastic seem cheaper than fits this price point, I was happy to see that they opted for nice thick walls on these keycaps; they seem to be approaching twice the thickness of standard ABS caps. Even though my fingers crave the much better PBT plastic on this type of keyboard, the added density definitely makes them feel better under the fingers and further cuts down on key noise.
What really makes this keyboard are the new MX Silent Black switches. The G80-3494 is one of the few keyboards available in the United States to feature Silent Blacks and they are great to type on. This was my first opportunity to use the new switch. After having enjoyed Silent Reds on the Vortex ViBE, and I am quite pleased with how satisfying they are to type on.
Unlike standard MX switches, Cherry’s “Silent” line includes internal dampening components designed to reduce the sound of bottom and top-outs. They also have a slightly shorter total travel distance of 3.7mm (down from 4mm) and an actuation point of 1.9mm (down from 2mm). As a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, I was hard-pressed to notice the travel difference; what I did notice, however, was how much quieter they are.
The internal dampening dramatically reduces the noise generated by these switches while sacrificing little in the way of “key feel.” Silent Blacks maintain the original 60cN actuation force and resistance curve of traditional MX Blacks without all the clack. I could successfully use these for gaming in the room next to my wife and at my day job without disturbing my students. Neither of those has been true for standard MX key switches (at least without a sigh and the volume on our TV going up at home). The higher force required to actuate these switches, 60cN vs 45cN on Silent Reds, also reduced typos and made it much easier not to bottom out in the first place.
How the dampening effects key feel is subtle but noticeable. It’s difficult to describe, but the keys feel almost pillowed. There is definitely a softness that’s separate from the mushiness commonly associated with rubber dome keyboards. It’s quite pleasant.
Nice typing experience aside, the Cherry G80-3494 MX Board Silent is a let down at this price point. The board is simply too lightweight and too flexible for what is being asked. Within the $150 price range, there are simply better made, more capable options out there, so long as you can live without the unique benefits of a Silent Black switch.
|Review Terms and Disclosure
All Information as of the Date of Publication
|How product was obtained:||The product is on loan from Cherry for the purpose of this review.|
|What happens to product after review:||The product remains the property of Cherry but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.|
|Company involvement:||Cherry had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.|
|PC Perspective Compensation:||Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Cherry for this review.|
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|Consulting Disclosure:||Cherry is not a current client of Shrout Research for products or services related to this review.|