Model: Cherry Corporation, ML-4100
Mechanism: Cherry ML switch.
Cost: Loaner
Updated: May 22, 2006
A salesman for Cherry products actually lent this one to Edward to play with, so I borrowed it from him and hooked it up to my work PC.
h3. Key switches
I’ve typed on it for about half a day, and I conclude that the feel of the ML switches is very nice. They are light — at least lighter than your average keyboard — and surely lighter than the linear MX switch. They have a nice tactile feel, without being too loud. The pressure needed to over come the small ‘tactile’ part of the force curve is less than that of the iceKey, so it does really feel like I can just flick my fingers at keys most of the time.
Cherry ML switches have:

  • 3mm key travel depth instead of the 4mm standard for Cherry MX switches.
  • From the force curve diagrams on Cherry’s site, it looks like they are somewhat close to the ‘ergonomic’ version of the MX switches.
  • Same gold cross-bar contacts as the MX switches.

h3. Layout and Looks
This keyboard has a reduced footprint and rather compressed layout. This makes for somewhat of an annoying experience. Small tradeoffs are always made with these designs (except, perhaps the Happy Hacking Keyboard series), like having small backspace and enter keys, or having keys that are right to the right of the return key. The biggest annoyance with this keyboard, however, is the fact that the key-spacing is compressed, so the relative distance between keys is shorter and thus for hands that are used to a normal keyboard. For touch typists, this can mean hours and hours of frustration before the new distances are learned. The compressed overall size also leads to more ergonomic problems, such as even more wrist bending required to line up your fingers in the home position.
Appearance-wise, nothing special here. It’s not the ugly beige of really old keyboards, but it’s a dark grayish-purplish color that isn’t exactly inspiring either. The only really salient feature of its appearance is its small size.
h3. In conclusion
If it weren’t for the compressed layout and the small keys, this keyboard would be a candidate for everyday mult-hour use. It just doesn’t seem like the layout of this keyboard was designed for the average computer user in mind. For now, the MS natural is just more comfortable.

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