It’s hard to define what it is about mechanical keyboards that make them so appealing. Try convincing someone that spending upwards of Rs 10,000 on a keyboard will be worth their while and you will fail. Give them a mechanical keyboard, however, and they’ll wonder how they ever survived without one.
Mechanical keyboards differ from regular keyboards in that there’s an articulating mechanism for registering a keystroke. A regular keyboard simply features a rubber dome over a button. A rubber dome key feels mushy. The feedback isn’t as precise and the response isn’t linear. A mechanical switch, on the other hand, will always offer precise, consistent and linear feedback.
Another aspect of a mechanical keyboard is that it’ll last forever. You’ll spend a lot, but you can also hand that keyboard down to your grand kids.
The cheapest form of entry to mechanical keyboard land is via the legendary TVS Gold mechanical keyboard. It’s a bare-bones mechanical keyboard that you can get for about Rs 2,000. It’s the same keyboard that you’ll find in railway stations and various government offices.
It’s not a great keyboard — it’s large, noisy and is devoid of any features such as USB passthrough and backlighting — but it’s a mechanical keyboard, feels great to use and will last you a lifetime.
That keyboard is a bit too plain for a gamer though. While we don’t all like flashing lights and blingy colours, we do appreciate some amount of bling, and the backlight is essential if you’re a late-night gamer.
The cheapest backlit mechanical keyboards we’ve seen so far, however, are expensive.
Enter the Zebronics Max Pro: A solid, heavily-built mechanical keyboard with RGB backlit keys, braided USB cables and at Rs 3,999, won’t break the bank.
Build and Design: 8.5/10
The keyboard is very plainly built. It’s black, covered in plastic and includes a braided USB cable. There is a metal frame underneath and the plastic is very sturdy, making the device heavy to handle. In fact, the keyboard weighs 1.3 kg, more than a MacBook Pro. This also, incidentally, gives it greater stability on slippery surfaces. A boon for a gamer.
You get a standard 104-key layout with all 12 function keys pulling double duty as multimedia and shortcut keys.
The keys themselves are not the hallowed Cherry MX keys that connoisseurs of mechanical keyboards lust after, but they’re a good enough analogue of the Cherry MX Blue. I say good enough only because they still don’t have the feel of a real MX Blue switch.
To those not in the know, MX Blue switches are apparently the most typist-friendly ones, offering audible feedback — a click — when a key is actuated.
Personally, I don’t like the MX Blue precisely because it’s noisy. If you don’t mind them, and your co-workers don’t mind hearing you battering away at your keyboard for 8 hours a day, they’re an excellent choice.
As far as features are concerned, the Max Pro can boast of a decent enough collection for a device at this price. For a start, the keys are individually backlit with RGB lighting. This lighting is also customisable, giving users 18 different lighting modes to choose from.
The polling rate is set at 1000 Hz, keys have a rated life of 50 million keystrokes and have a travel of 4 mm. Key pressure is rated at 55 g.
The single USB cable is braided.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the LEDs are simply not as bright as I would like. They’re good when you’re playing in the dark, but if you bought this keyboard for its bling, you’ll be disappointed. In even halfway decent lighting, the keyboard backlight is just dim.
I’m also disappointed that USB passthrough is missing.
I used the keyboard as my primary one for several weeks and typed several thousand words with it. I also spent several hours gaming with it. Despite the daily abuse, the keyboard held up very well. The keys still feel the same as the day I started using it and there’s no squeak from any of the springs. The space bar key is prone to failure on most keyboards, but not on this one. It responds uniformly to a keypress regardless of whether I tap it in the centre or on a corner.
I’ve used some very expensive keyboards over the years and with that experience to fall back on, I can tell you that the Max Pro certainly doesn’t have that premium feel to it. There’s a certain hollowness to the sound. But that’s just me being picky, and anyway, if you could spend Rs 12,000+ on a keyboard, you wouldn’t be looking at the Max Pro to begin with.
Compared to the TVS Gold keyboard, the Max Pro is in a league of its own, and it’s certainly worth the asking price.
Verdict and Price in India
If it’s an initiation into the world of the mechanical keyboards that you seek, and you’re on a budget, look no further than the Zebronics Max Pro.
As a value-for-money proposition, I think it’s unbeatable. And anyway, Rs 3,999 is a small price to pay for a great keyboard that could last you decades.