When You Want To Love Something, But Can’t

For a little while I’ve had a new mechanical keyboard around the office. By most standards, it’s an incredibly good keyboard. It looks good, has a spare USB port, lights up nicely, sounds good when you type on it, and it’s not difficult to clean.

But every time I try to switch, the end result is the same. I use it for an hour or two and then move it away, returning to my cheaper, trashier looking piece of equipment.

Every now and again a keyboard will come into the Kotaku and Gizmodo offices, and even before I started here I had plenty of mechanical keyboards at home. It wasn’t an investment I originally thought was worth making, but after hours and hours of lengthy StarCraft 2 sessions, you start to appreciate anything that relieves even a modicum of fatigue.

So we’ve tested plenty, from the affordable to the expensive, and every now and again we’ll develop a favourite. For a while, mine was the 10-keyless K65 RGB offering from Corsair. I’d gotten used to keyboards without a numpad after years of experience playing at LANs and netcafes: when you have little room to work with, and the numpad is rarely used, it makes sense to ditch it entirely.

As I’ve discovered, that comes at a cost. Whenever you have objects in your work environment that get used on a frequent basis, you become accustomed to the way things are positioned. The primary monitor is placed at a precise point in your eyeline. How far to the side of the keyboard is your mouse? Do you align the keyboard in the centre, or slightly off kilter?

The thing I didn’t properly pay attention to was how ingrained muscle memory becomes. You probably notice it yourself. There’s a particular way you like to sit when you concentrate on a game on the TV. There’s a way you like to sit when using a mouse and keyboard.

Any disruption to that is no small laughing matter. It’s almost absurd how many keystrokes you miss, how many icons and buttons on the desktop you mouse over. And that’s become the biggest stumbling block, going from the relatively miniscule iKBC F87 to the much longer, full size K95 RGB Platinum keyboard from Corsair.

A great example from yesterday: instead of deleting, I somehow managed to copy-pasta a bunch of Instagram tags into the header of an article yesterday. Everyone makes typos or slip-ups from time to time, especially if you work in the job long enough. But this time, it was an actual fumble: my fingers were used to keys being in a certain place, a place that had shifted to accommodate six macro keys, a full set of media volume keys, and a numpad to boot.

I’m not the only one who gets particular over placement, either. It wasn’t uncommon to see people being finnicky over the alignment of their mouse and keyboard at Counter-Strike LANs. Watch enough esports in 2017 and chances are you’ll see someone with a ruler or a sheet, making precise measurements.

And if anything is out of line? Nope. Not acceptable. It’s the kind of rage that bubbles in the mind, the one that becomes the reason behind every mistake, every misclick. And it’s a shame because, by most accounts, the Corsair K95 Platinum has way more bells and whistles than the stained, dinky off-white board I bash to pieces.

Retailing for $329 from most local outlets, the K95 ships with six contoured macro keys, 8MB of onboard memory for profile storage, and an aluminium frame for added sturdiness. The frame is improved from the last Corsair keyboards I tested. The edges are rounded off and not quite as sharp, which you’ll feel the benefit of if you’ve ever tried to do a 180 turn and accidentally swiped your hand into the side of the keyboard.

The K95 is a little easier to use than the K65 and K70 as well; the keys feel a fraction lower, so the travel distance isn’t quite as far when bottoming out (which I have a habit of doing, a lot). The K95 sent into the office has Cherry’s MX silver (or Speed) switches, which won’t be for most people. The actuation point for silver switches is almost half the distance of reds, browns or blue switches, but the amount of force required is the same and you end up bottoming out a lot more.

But it’s all much of a muchness. In the first few instances, I ended up making more typos, hitting keys by accident. But there’s always an adjustment period when it comes to new tech, especially when it’s something like a keyboard, mouse, controller, or any other device that you build up a huge amount of muscle memory with.

It’s not much of a comparison. The K95 RGB Platinum is a flashy, full-size keyboard with macros, volume controls, a chassis that isn’t made out of plastic, a board that’s easier to clean, and one that supports software with a low overhead that can download customised profiles for every game. My current model looks like the keyboard is out of shape, there’s dust all over it, and you have to hit a series of function keys to get anything to light it.

It’s cheaper, in every sense of the word. But it’s the perfect size for me and what I do, and I can’t let it go. So sorry, Corsair’s K95. You’re lovely. You’re just not the one for me.

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