Thermaltake brings rubber domes back in style

Mechanical keyboards have seen something of a renaissance in recent years—especially in hardcore gaming circles, where keyboards based on Cherry’s MX black key switches are now de rigueur. Imagine our surprise, then, when we came across the Knucker while exploring Thermaltake’s CES suite today:

Thermaltake has an extensive line of Cherry MX-based keyboards. The Knucker is different, though. It’s based on the now-snubbed rubber-dome switch design, which uses rubber plungers to provide tactile resistance and feedback. Thermaltake says it strove to make the plungers feel just like mechanical key switches. While we could easily tell the difference, the Knucker did seem springier and crisper than many other rubber-dome keyboards. This puppy also has anti-ghosting technology, which enables up to 12 simultaneous keypresses "within the particular section of the keyboard," plus glowing key labels.

Of course, the rubber-dome design may result in reduced endurance compared to mechanical designs. Thermaltake says the Knucker can handle 15 million keystrokes over its lifetime. Cherry, meanwhile, rates its MX switches for 50 million actuations.

The Knucker does have a trump card—its price tag. Thermaltake expects to charge $39.99 for this keyboard when it launches in April, which is easily less than half the price of most mechanical keyboards, let alone fancy gaming models. Cash-strapped gamers will no doubt enjoy the option.

Comments closed
    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 8 years ago

    Why waste money on a keyboard that will malfunction as soon as you spill coffee on it? I used to have one of Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboards, but after one coffee incident I’m now using a cheap spill-proof keyboard. I don’t need fancy gimmicks, I need something that works and is reliable.

      • just brew it!
      • 8 years ago

      I agree spills can be an issue with mechanical keyboards. But how hard is it to set your coffee mug (or other drink) down far enough from the keyboard that if it gets knocked over it doesn’t go into the keys?

      I mean, a similar line of reasoning could be used to argue against a whole lot of different things. Why waste money on a smartphone that will malfunction as soon as you drop it in the toilet? Why waste money putting upgraded tires on your car that will go flat if you drive over a pile of rusty nails? And so on…

      People who care enough about a particular type of product to pay extra for a premium version will also tend to exercise reasonable care when using it.

        • squeeb
        • 8 years ago

        “People who care enough about a particular type of product to pay extra for a premium version will also tend to exercise reasonable care when using it.”

        This. Accidents do happen, but I’m willing to live with those chances.

          • l33t-g4m3r
          • 8 years ago

          “Accidents do happen” You cannot dismiss the possibility. I normally am very careful, and had my keyboard for over a year without trouble, but I had a freak accident and that’s all it takes. It pisses me off that $50+ keyboards do not account for spills. For what you pay for these extravagant monstrosities, spill resistance should be a given. I don’t need to spend that kind of money on a product that can’t withstand a single spill.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            I’ve ruined hard drives and motherboards due to freak accidents too. That doesn’t mean I always buy cheap Biostar motherboards and refurb hard drives on the off chance I’ll have another freak accident.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 8 years ago

            No, but if you have lots of black outs you buy a UPS.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            In other words… you take reasonable measures to protect your investment. Like not setting your drink right next to your keyboard!

            • jss21382
            • 8 years ago

            $50 is extravagant?

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            I suppose it would seem so, if you’re accustomed to using keyboards that sell for under $10.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 8 years ago

            conveniently ignoring the +? And yes, once you hit $50 you get diminishing returns on your investment, esp since it takes $100 to get a mechanical one, so that whole range 50-100 is just wasted money. If you want to get into the costs of mechanical keyboards, anything above the cheapest is a waste of money if it doesn’t have spill protection. Yeah, buy a $200 mechanical keyboard that lights up, and has a digital screen with no spill protection, then spill coffee on it while typing. BZZZZT!! You’re dead. Anyway, it’s not a product I would even remotely consider purchasing without spill protection.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            Nobody’s arguing that it isn’t a matter of diminishing (or in your case negative) returns for most people. But some people (mostly people who type for a living, I’ll wager) still consider those returns worthwhile.

            We get it already… you spill stuff a lot. So don’t get a mechanical keyboard. 😉

      • barich
      • 8 years ago

      I have never in the entire time I’ve been using computers spilled a beverage on my keyboard. Why would I buy a keyboard based on the remote possibility of that happening instead of how well it works in day-to-day use?

        • just brew it!
        • 8 years ago

        I spilled a drink on a keyboard once, many (20+) years ago. I’ve actually spilled a drink on a *motherboard* much more recently than that!

    • just brew it!
    • 8 years ago

    Y’know… the bit about it being “springier and crisper” than most other rubber dome keyboards makes me think Thermaltake may have managed to re-invent the only rubber dome keyboard I ever really liked. It was made by Keytronic about 15 years ago, and I used mine until it died. And yes, in spite of it being a rubber dome keyboard, the keys had a pronounced “snap” to them — more like the tactile click of a buckling spring or Cherry MX blue (though much less noisy, obviously).

    When that keyboard died, I ordered a new one direct from Keytronic… only to be sorely disappointed. While still better than most other rubber dome keyboards, it didn’t have that “snap” any more. After that, I went through a number of other rubber dome units from various manufacturers in rapid succession, and was never satisfied with any of them.

    I eventually settled on a Unicomp buckling spring (Model M clone) keyboard, which I used for a number of years until the Rosewill RK-9000 came out… at which point Cherry-based keyboards finally dropped to a price I was willing to pay.

    • squeeb
    • 8 years ago

    I use a Das Keyboard S at work, and a Logitech G19 at home. I like them both.

    Is that weird?

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Very interesting, especially the price tag. I can actually recommend this to people over the typical keyboard. Keyboards are one of the last areas that I really have nothing to recommend as mechanicals are well out of the basic price range and pretty much every other keyboard works fine.

    Remarkably, or not so much, this sounds a lot like a topre switch design, although a bit cheaper. They’re supposed to be the best of both worlds and the best overall, but they’re extraordinarily rare.

    [url<]http://www.overclock.net/t/491752/mechanical-keyboard-guide[/url<]

    • ludi
    • 8 years ago

    I see an oversized Enter key living in harmony with a double-width backspace key, a conventional layout around the insert key, and requisite narrow bezel top, left, and right.

    Somebody [i<]gets[/i<] it!

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    having worn through my share of premium dome keyboards this doesn’t appeal to me.

    • clone
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve got an MS ergo keyboard I bought for $5.99 on special something like 7 years ago or more and I bought it only because my previous boards were beige and didn’t match my mouse or display, the letters are wearing off but all the keys work….. why would I spend more than $30 on a keyboard?

      • hansmuff
      • 8 years ago

      You would if you type all day and a mechanical board appeals to you. I type faster and more accurately on a good mechanical keyboard. And since it is my tool I use for work 40 hours a week, I don’t mind spending $100 or even $150 on it.

      For a casual user, it may not make as much sense.

    • flip-mode
    • 8 years ago

    I’m becoming anti-mechanical keyboard. Too expensive. Lots of fanboyism. And – 50 million cycles – I have absolutely no desire to keep a keyboard that long. Shocking as it seems, I don’t mind getting a new keyboard every 5 years.

    Really I’m not anit-mechanical keyboard, but they are just too expensive and the entry level models often don’t have any USB ports. And the rubber-dome haters are annoying. Hey, flip-mode, welcome to the internet.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 8 years ago

      I sort of agree. I’ve gone through 3 mechanicals so far and I’ve come to the conclusion that theres no discernible difference (for me) between them and the various generic rubber dome models I’ve used (mainly generic Dell and HP keyboards) in terms of typing speed and accuracy. HOWEVER, when I switch back to rubber dome I find myself ‘missing’ the feeling of typing on a mechanical after a while. I guess its just a comfort thing. After a while of typing on a rubber dome I get the impression that something is missing, which goes away when I jump to a mechanical.

      Now, is that feeling worth the $100+ that mechanical keyboard makers usually ask for? Especially in light of that the fact that rubber dome models typically have more features for less? Probably not, but it depends on who you ask.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 8 years ago

      I’d prefer the more prevalent manufacturers keep playing with different key shapes and layouts that might be more comfortable. Everybody is different and they sure as hell have not found the ideal one for each person between the 2-3 different varieties you tend to find from name brands in stores.

      • Vasilyfav
      • 8 years ago

      I got my ABS M1 with simplified black switches for 20$ off Newegg.

      But in general, I agree, there’s no reason to spend more than 50$ on a peripheral, except probably headphones.
      Reliability is not a drawback though as you make it seem.

      • dashbarron
      • 8 years ago

      My sentiments exactly. Sometimes taking keys off to clean the sludge, remove hair and…stuff from underneath the keys gets tiring. New can be good every half a decade or so.

      • ChronoReverse
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, I only got mine because it was $80 (which is still expensive IMO). Still, touch-typing on these Cherry Red switches is very comfortable.

      • hansmuff
      • 8 years ago

      I don’t really see many robber-dome ‘haters’. It’s a fairly simple and personal choice to make. Each have their own reasons to pick one over the other and none of those two markets are growing extinct. Seems like a decent situation to me.

        • flip-mode
        • 8 years ago

        Never heard of a robber-dome hater either. If you’re looking for a rubber-dome hater, see Captain Ned’s post.

        As I said, I’m not anti-mechanical keyboard. I just want one for $25 with a USB port.

          • just brew it!
          • 8 years ago

          …and if such a thing is ever produced, it will likely suck because they’d have to use mechanical key switches that cost on the order of 10 cents each to sell the keyboard at a profit. I doubt it is possible to manufacture a consistently high quality mechanical key switch for 10 cents.

          I’m not anti-rubber-dome per se; in fact one of my favorite keyboards was a Keytronic rubber dome model. But after that one died, I went through something like a half-dozen other ones — none of which I was happy with — before finally giving in and buying a mechanical.

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      This is EXACTLY what I said last time when I told I’m having a hard time justifying the erroneous price tags for the things, and I was downvoted. More power to you, flip-mode.

        • just brew it!
        • 8 years ago

        As I’ve noted in another post, it’s not “erroneous”… it’s a natural consequence of the cost of individual switch mechanisms for each key instead of a rubber sheet. You (and flip-mode, and many others) don’t think they’re worth the added price, while some people do. I don’t see what the problem is.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 8 years ago

          What about scissor switch keyboards? Are companies paying 100 bucks to put those on laptops?

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            Scissor switch keyboards are still rubber dome keyboards internally. The keys themselves are somewhat more complicated (more moving parts) than the ones on a standard desktop rubber dome keyboard, but the overall mechanism is still simpler/cheaper than a buckling spring or individual mechanical switch keyboard.

      • TakinYourPoints
      • 8 years ago

      I can’t go back to rubber domes again.

      People are free to skimp on physical interfaces and get cheap TN monitors, membrane keyboards, etc, that’s totally cool, everyone has a budget. That said, to discount tangible advantages of more expensive and superior devices is ridiculous IMHO, especially considering that some of these same people don’t think twice about spending loads on the latest i5 or i7 CPUs and $250+ video cards.

        • Meadows
        • 8 years ago

        Probably because I see the benefit from a new CPU or GPU, whereas I don’t see the benefits of an expensive keyboard – because here I am, touch-typing this opinion from a rubber dome thing that cost downwards of $15, with no complaints whatsoever. (If anything, it’s better because typing feels relaxed.)

    • Captain Ned
    • 8 years ago

    “Improving” a rubber-dome keyboard. Makes about as much sense as turbocharging a Yugo.

    Live 1391401 or die!!

      • Peldor
      • 8 years ago

      You get a lot more bang for your buck on the low-end than the high-end in virtually any endeavor.

        • pikaporeon
        • 8 years ago

        eh, I’ll foot twice the cost for 3.3 times the lifespan.

        • bthylafh
        • 8 years ago

        Wrong. Buy the absolute best you can reasonably afford now and then drive it into the ground; you’ll save money in the long run and waste less.

      • hansmuff
      • 8 years ago

      Car analogies are just always so spot-on and applicable, it’s amazing!

      And if you knew anything about keyboard switches, you’d know that the very expensive and renowned Topre switches are a mix of rubber dome and mechanical, and they’re highly regarded.

        • just brew it!
        • 8 years ago

        Not to mention, his beloved Model M keys actually use a membrane sheet underneath the buckling spring mechanism, just like rubber dome keyboards do. The cost of new buckling spring keyboards reflects this — they’re intermediate in price between rubber dome and Cherry-based keyboards.

    • rechicero
    • 8 years ago

    Is there anything equivalent to the Microsoft Office Keyboard?(http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-E17-00002-Office-Keyboard/dp/B00005NVBO). The best keyboard I’ve ever seen… but the PS/2 port will disappear sometime and all the fancy hotkeys macros I use instead of the drivers will stop working (thanks MS for not offering drivers for Vista-7).

    This? Yet another keyboard with nothing new to offer. There are a lot of gaming keyboards, multimedia keyboards, glowing, with LCD screens… You can find any kind of keyboard but optimized for just working 🙁

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      My computer doesn’t have ANY legacy ports, including PCI. All PCIe/USB/Firewire

        • Farting Bob
        • 8 years ago

        No legacy ports? Firewire?

          • bcronce
          • 8 years ago

          har har har. Firewire is still better than USB.. just not SUPER USB!.. ’cause it’s super.

    • cjb110
    • 8 years ago

    I also like the lack of bling too, no extra keys on the top or worse the left edge. This just increases the size and worse hampers blind typing, the bottom left key *has* to be ctrl, top left is esc, etc.

    Also owners of said keyboards, do you actually bother using the (often garish) software to program macros’s for your games? If I only played one game then maybe I could see it being worth the effort, but in general its not worth it.

      • silentbrains
      • 8 years ago

      Macro keys on the left edge can be gotten used to, just need to train yourself. It took me about a month. Of course, the question is whether you’d ever want/need to, and maybe I should have spent the time learning dvorak instead…

      Honestly, for macros Autohotkey is probably all you’d ever need. The macro editing software for both the MS Sidewinder X6 and the Razer Blackwidow are limited and painful to work with. Also, both force recording of timing if you make a macro outside of the macro software, too, so you’ll end up deleting hundreds of 157ms delay markers. Nevertheless, they can be useful for repetitive tasks (like sending video links to Keepvid) and having separate macro keys is nice if you don’t want to remember yet another combination of ctrl+alt+shift+tab+lctrl+lalt+lshift+???, which is nice for Photoshop where nearly everything is already bound to some action.

    • just brew it!
    • 8 years ago

    I wonder if the local CompUSA will get these. I’d kind of like to feel the keys myself before buying or recommending it to anyone. Not that I really need one… I already use a keyboard that has Cherry MX blue switches, and my son (the primary gamer in the family) has one with MX blacks.

    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    I have a tool on my work PC that tracks my mouse clicks and keyboard usage. I average 10,000 keyboard buttons strokes a day. So 15 million = 1500 days / (5 * 48 = 240) = 6.25 yrs

    As a home PC this keyboard could be good though as I wouldn’t hit 10k keystrokes.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 8 years ago

      Are you pressing the [b<]same[/b<] key 10,000 times per day?

        • just brew it!
        • 8 years ago

        Even if he is, 6 years is a long time for any keyboard that doesn’t use mechanical switches.

          • Decelerate
          • 8 years ago

          But then 6 years is 1.5 – 2 computers for many.

            • Arclight
            • 8 years ago

            It was two computers for me and i still use the orginal A4Tech keyboard.

            Well, to be frank i bought a new one like a year ago and i used it for a month or so before going back to the old one. I did so because i was greatly disappointed by the short key stroke and feel of the keys of the new one.

            The old keyboard is still going strong, and i noticed something, it has a steel sheet base compared to all the new keyboards i’ve seen which are made completely out of plastic.

            But then again i don’t spend more than $20-30 bucks on a keyboard.

            Edit: Oh and mostly i have used WASD, R, left CTRL, left Shift, F1 and Space bar keys….. 🙂

      • dmjifn
      • 8 years ago

      Assuming you installed it yourself instead of it being provided by the Ergo Police, care to share it?

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