Keyboard Test Bench Update 1.0 RTINGS.com – Measuring Input Lag
. We started reviewing keyboards over a year ago, back in January of 2020 and have since reviewed over 110 of them with many more to come.. What you may not know is that we review products according to our test benches, which are iterations of testing methodologies. When we first launched keyboard reviews, we tested them according to our initial test bench 0.8.. This beta test bench set the groundwork for our keyboard reviews and, since its launch weve received feedback from users like you on how we can improve our testing and reviews. From this feedback. We developed keyboard test bench 1.0 and, like all of our test bench updates, it aims to improve our testing methodology to help you find the best product for your needs. Hi Im Brandon a test developer at rtings.com. And today Ill be discussing our Keyboard Test Bench 1.0. Update. Well look at the changes and improvements it brings over the previous methodology and what it means for our keyboard reviews moving forward., While youre here make sure you subscribe to our channel for the latest videos or check out our website for the full changelog Keyboard test. Bench 1.0 released in early February and so far weve retested 43 keyboards. With this newer methodology and plan to retest all of our keyboards in the near future. Test bench 1.0 brings many changes ranging from minor adjustments to much larger additions.. Well, first start by discussing some of these smaller changes and then move into the bigger stuff like the keystroke and latency testing.
. If you want to skip straight to a section, then checkout the timestamps below or use the Youtube chapters feature., Starting with the smaller things we now list, the keycap material in the review. Keycap material was something we always considered when analyzing the build quality, but it wasnt Always specified in the review. Now theres a comparison for it in the build quality box, so you can easily find this information and filter for it using our table tool.. We also made changes to some of the physical measurements we obtain.. We now include the depth of the keyboard with the wrist rest, which can be important for those working with limited space. For ergonomics. We now measure the minimum medium and maximum incline of the keyboard, which can vary greatly with products like the ErgoDox.. Another improvement we made is how we examine the keyboard backlighting.. We now take a close up shot of the keys to show how good the color, mixing and light distribution is. Color mixing is the ability of the RGB backlight to reproduce colors accurately, which is especially difficult for a color like white.. You can see an example here. The Redragon K552 RGB looks magenta, despite it trying to display an all white.. The razer Cynosa V2, on the other hand, has a much more true white.. We also show the keyboard at its maximum and minimum brightness in the dark. To give you an idea of how itll look. Another notable change is weve introduced a new usage score.
. This is the Entertainment, HTPC usage. HTPC stands for Home, Theater, Personal Computer and a good keyboard, for this is one that compliments a home, theater setup., Preferably a wireless keyboard that you can use from the comfort of your couch. That also has a built in trackpad. So you can easily maneuver an OS without needing a separate mouse.. You can check out the full breakdown of our usage scoring by hovering over the tool tip on our website.. As part of this new usage, weve added the trackpad and wheel comparison in the Extra Features Box. With the smaller stuff out of the way let’s move onto the bigger changes, starting with the keystrokes., Our keystroke testing, actually hasnt changed a whole lot compared to our previous Test bench, but it is something I want to touch on, as many of you may not be familiar with. It. Keyboards can come with a variety of switch types and the key switch dictates how it actually feels to press down on the key.. There are many switch types available, but it can be somewhat broken down into three main categories: linear tactile and clicky.. A linear switch feels very smooth to press down on and, as the name implies, the amount of force required to actuate. The key is linear through and through.. This type of switch is favoured by gamers, as many linear switches tend to actuate quickly, which helps with responsiveness in games.. Tactile switches have a notable bump when pressing down on them, which signifies the key, has been pressed.
. This type of switch is favoured by typist, who like having the physical feedback during touch typing, which gives them the confidence that a key has been pressed.. Lastly, there are clicky switches which are similar to tactile switches but have a loud, audible click when the key is pressed. Its good for those who like having that typewriter, feel in their keyboard, although it can be annoying to those around you.. Our keystroke testing uses a Mecmesin MultiTest. I force tester.. This machine can measure the amount of force required to press a key at a given distance.. This data can then be mapped to what we call a Feel Graph.. This graph shows that for a given distance, how much force is exerted by the switch. Using the force tester and some software we can find out exactly when the switch registers a press.. This point is referred to as the actuation point. The distance. The key needs to travel to reach. The actuation point is known as the pre travel and the amount of force required at the actuation point is known as the actuation force. You may notice. In our reviews, we also list an Operating Force, which is new for test bench 1.0.. The operating force is relevant for tactile and clicky switches.. As mentioned earlier. These switches have a bump in force that you need to overcome to reach the actuation point.. The peak of this bump is the tactile point, and the amount of force required at this point is what we refer to as the operating force.
. This is arguably more relevant for tactile and clicky switches as its the amount of force that you actually feel before. Actuating. The key. Before hand we tested the keystrokes of a keyboard using a single key.. Ideally this should be enough to interpret of how the rest of the keys feel, but this isnt always the case.. The key switches themselves have manufacturing tolerances, so they dont always feel exactly the same.. Even the position of key on the keyboard can affect its feel., So new for test bench 1.0. We now measure 8 of the alphabetic keys per keyboard and then average the results to get what you see in the review.. This gives a more accurate representation of what its like to type on the keyboard.. However, the graph presented in the box only uses data from one key, as averaging graphs can create a result, thats not representative of any of the data that makes it up. If youd like to learn more about keystrokes and how we measure them check out our learn. Article here. Now to the biggest addition to our keyboard test bench latency. Strictly speaking, latency is the amount of time it takes for something to happen. Its also referred to as input lag by many gamers., So keyboard latency is the amount of time it takes for your Keyboard to send a signal after a key has been pressed. In any PC setup. Every part of the system introduces latency as it takes time for data to process and transfer.
. Normally, these things happen so fast that we think of them as being instantaneous., But poor latency can result in a jarring and unresponsive experience, and it starts with the keyboard.. Since the keyboard is a device, you physically interact with its the first step in the latency chain of your setup and bad keyboard, latency will make everything feel unresponsive. Measuring keyboard. Latency was one of the most requested additions to our keyboard reviews and because of this we made it a high priority to add for test bench 1.0. Doing so without disassembling and possibly destroying each board proved difficult, but weve found a way that requires a lot of Tools and math so stick around. If you want to get into the nitty gritty., We start with an Alienware AW2521H connected to a PC with an RTX, 3080 Graphics Card.. We use this specific monitor as it features the Nvidia Reflex Latency Analyzer. When connected to a compatible mouse, which we use a SteelSeries Rival 3. The monitor can display various latencies of the system, including the mouse PC and the display., Using the game Valorant. We measure the system latency by firing a gun multiple times and then average the results.. This gives us our average system latency.. Next, we bind the firing action to a key on the keyboard., But since the Nvidia Reflex, Latency Analyzer cant measure the latency of a keyboard, we use a couple tools and some math to calculate the latency.. First, if applicable, we set the lowest debounce time and highest polling rate possible to minimize the keyboard latency.
. You can learn more about how those work in the learn article linked below.. Then we place a solenoid hooked up to an arduino just above our fire key.. This will be used to consistently press down on the key at a set speed. Afterwards, we point a high speed camera that records at 1000 fps towards the monitor and keyboard.. With the camera recording the solenoid presses down on the fire key 12 times.. We then shift through the captured footage frame by frame to find when the solenoid makes contact with the key and when the gun is fired on the display.. Since we record at 1000fps, the amount of frames between key contact and the gun firing is the initial measured keyboard latency in milliseconds., We average this latency across the 10 fastest presses of the total 12 recorded.. However, this number isnt the final value as we still need to account for the system and click latency. To do so. We first subtract the system latency from our initial measured keyboard. Latency.. Then we take the pre travel distance of switch, which is measured using our force. Tester, combined with the speed of our solenoid to calculate the click latency. Its a simple DRT equation.. This click latency is then also subtracted to get the final keyboard latency value.. This is the value you see in the review.. We repeat this process for the various types of connections. Each keyboard supports including wired wireless bluetooth and wireless with a receiver.
. We then upload a video of the fastest of these measurements to our review, which is a great way to visually differentiate, fast keyboards from slow ones.. As you can see, our test setup is quite complex, which seems unnecessary at first.. We initially considered other approaches, but each one had major downsides.. Here are some of the other methods we considered Wiring a key switch directly to an Arduino.. The arduino would send a signal to the key switch completing the circuit, which basically imitates a key press.. The keyboards output would be connected back to the arduino via USB, so the key press output is sent back to the arduino.. The difference in time between the arduino sending out the signal and the arduino receiving the signal would be the keyboard latency.. This works great because it greatly reduces the system latency and eliminates click latency, but it requires desoldering each keyboard., Since we dont want to risk breaking the keyboards we couldnt pursue this option.. We also considered connecting the keyboard to an arduino via USB.. The arduino would have an LED attached that lights up when it receives a signal.. We could then use a high speed camera to determine when key is pressed compared to when the LED lights up, which would be the keyboard latency.. This method works quite well, but its not entirely representative of real world usage.. This is because some keyboards may have driver optimizations via Windows that can affect their latency.
, So we decided to go with a methodology that included a keyboard connected to a PC to represent real world usage.. We ended on the solution we currently use now.. We decided on this method because it doesnt require modifying the keyboard and because its an accurate representation of real world use., The main downside is it includes the system and click latency, but as we showed, these can be accounted and subtracted for.. Initially, this method included flicking the testers finger to quickly press the key, but this was unreliable and difficult to calculate for.. Thus, the reason for the solenoid. For scoring the weighting is heavily favoured towards the wired and wireless receiver latency as those who care about latency are likely to use a connection other than bluetooth.. Since latency is especially important for gamers. It was added to our Gaming usage. Scoring., As expected, many of the gaming keyboards weve reviewed have very low latency as low as 1ms, which is virtually imperceptible., But some keyboards weve reviewed have latency as high as 25ms, which can feel unresponsive to some gamers and typist.. If input lag is important to you, then make sure to choose a keyboard with low latency.. So what do you think of the new test bench? Is there anything youd like to see further improved Were always looking for feedback from users like you on how we can improve our reviews.? Let us know any suggestions you have in the comments below or in the changelog page on our website.
Speaking of test benches. We just started testing cameras and our test bench 0.7 is rather simplistic.. If you have any suggestions on what to improve, let us know below. Also. We are currently hiring in our offices in Montreal for various positions.. So if you want to help people find the best product for their needs, have a look at our careers page.. You can check out all of our keyboard reviews on our website..