Cherry just announced RealKey, a new innovation in gaming keyboards that looks to cut the response time of key presses from around 20ms to just 1ms. In something of a first for the company, it’ll be bringing the technology to market with its own keyboard, the Cherry MX Board 6.0. We got our hands on one at CES 2015 to see what all the fuss was about.
The technology at the heart of the Cherry MX Board 6.0 is a new controller that takes a different approach to how key presses are registered. Normal keyboard controllers include what’s called a debounce time after each key press. This is the time allocated to allow for the physical bouncing of the contacts in the switch to stop, and so avoid accidentally registering more than one key press.
In conventional digital controllers this debounce time is around 20ms. However, RealKey instead uses an analogue controller to more accurately measure the voltage and predict a key press. This allows it to cut the response time to just 1ms, giving you one less excuse for not winning!
Although 20ms may not sound like a lot, just as with input lag on monitors or slow response from a mouse, it all adds up. It’s generally considered that a delay in response of around 100ms is what becomes perceptible, and about half of that is taken up by the sheer processing of whatever game it is you’re playing. This leaves around 50-60ms to play with before you might detect a problem. That’s why we always look for input lag of less than 40ms on monitors and TVs, and it’s why that 20ms of debounce could make all the difference.
Another advantage of this analogue system is that each key and combination of keys creates a unique analogue signal such that ghosting simply doesn’t exist, so you can press any number of keys at once safe in the knowledge it’ll register them correctly.
To showcase its RealKey technology, Cherry has created the MX Board 6.0, which for now will be the only keyboard that uses the technology.
For the most part it’s a fairly typical mechanical keyboard, but there are a couple of neat additions. It features the usual choice of Cherry MX switches, and adds red backlighting across the board, with the Windows keys and Lock keys also lighting up blue when activated.
The layout is totally standard, with no extra keys for macros or such like – multimedia functions are instead assigned to the F keys.
The extras, then, consist of an aluminium housing, which has been raised slightly so the keys are sunken into it. This both looks better and provides a bit of protection from knocks – the proud-standing keys of Corsair’s range are prone to getting snagged.
It also include a magnetically attached wrist rest that's not only impressively long but also features a rubber top surface. It still won’t match a dedicated squishy wrist rest, but it’s better than the token little hard plastic affairs that come with most keyboards.
Sadly the one thing we weren’t really able to discern form the short time we had with the MX Board 6.0 is just how much of a difference the lower response time makes. To really judge this we’ll have to wait until we can spend several hours gaming on it. When it does finally go on sale in spring it’s set to cost $219.
Although we’ve yet to judge whether there’s really an advantage in Cherry’s RealKey technology, we can certainly see the potential. What’s more, the company has done a good job of packaging the tech into a keyboard that looks and feels the part. All told, it’s definitely one to look out for when we post our full review later this year.