January 13, 2020 | 15:00
At CES this year, mechanical keyboard manufacturer, Cherry, has announced plans for a new low-cost form of mechanical keyboard switch.
Called Viola, the low-cost switches offer a spring and V-shape bronze contact system. Cherry's thinking is that it will replace more entry-level technologies such as rubber domes and membrane switches, while still keeping prices affordable for those that don't want to spend a fortune on a new mechanical keyboard.
Cherry has described such technology as a 'simple design' with 'a unique switching characteristic, and a new contact system'. The v-shape contact system uses a 'minimalist, solderless design', presumably in a bid to keep costs down. It's mostly made of plastic which also keeps costs low but it shouldn't feel cheap either.
That's reputedly because of Cherry's use of switches. Typically, Cherry switches are defined as either 'linear' or 'tactile' with the new Viola way of doing things introducing a new category - 'CrossLinear'. The new method offers a 45cN actuation for the first 2mm, which then goes up to 75cN with 4mm of total key travel.
If that doesn't make a huge amount of sense to you, don't worry about it. What it means in practice is a much comfier set of keys to tap while also feeling more responsive than a cheap solution. It should make a huge difference during extended use, providing it's implemented as well as it sounds.
Mechanical keyboards are usually more expensive due to having more moving parts, and requiring more precise engineering than typical rubber membrane keyboards. Viola looks to be a kind of middle ground while still offering the benefits that makes it worthwhile over a regular membrane-based keyboard. There's also the matter of longevity with mechanical switches lasting longer and actuating faster. Viola seems likely to offer similar benefits although Cherry hasn't provided details yet on its typical lifespan.
Oh, and in case you were worried that there might be something out there that doesn't light up, Viola will also offer full RGB support with the option for companies to mount LEDs directly on the circuit board if they so wish.
No prices have been unveiled by Cherry at this time and we'll have to wait and see what manufacturers adopt the switches, but it all seems rather promising for those keen to try a mechanical keyboard but are wary of the high prices involved.
July 1 2020 | 17:34