Mechanical keyboards are awesome, but some gamers appreciate a little more bling in the form of full colour control of the backlight. In order to get that level of customisation they often turn to membrane-based designs and a distributed backlight system for even illumination and full RGB-space colours; unfortunately that means missing out on the myriad benefits of mechanical switches. But that won't be for much longer if Cherry have their way.
The industry gaming-grade standard , German-engineered Cherry MX switches are used in a huge range of keyboards from favourites such as Corsair, ROCCAT and CM Storm. In the last year the number of mechanical keyboards on the market has exploded, often using Cherry MX Red or Brown for a predictable linear response or tactile feedback. Almost invariably they also offer LED backlighting, perhaps most notably in the case of the Corsair Vengeance K70 and K95 which both offer lighting controllable on a per-key basis. As valuable as this feature is, they're still limited to the single fixed-colour LED built into every switch.
Cherry MX RGB is different. The new design eschews the black housing of a typical Cherry MX switch in favour of clear plastic, allowing light from the circuit board below to shine through. A specially crafted lens formed in the housing focuses the light through the keycap, improving overall brightness and keycap character clarity. Finally the circuit-board underpinning the switches will have one SMD-LED per switch, capable of the 16.7m colours in RGB-space.
Currently Corsair are listed as their only partner in this venture; it remains to be seen if other keyboard manufactures will get on board at a later date. The key uncertainties will be the brightness of each switch's LED and overall cost, but fans of Corsair products have been shown to be content with putting their hands in their pockets for high-end, high-quality PC components.
Cherry are only detailing an MX RGB Red switch on the official site at present, perhaps testing the waters to see how well it takes off. MX Red types, a liner switch with 45n actuation force, are the most mainstream switch due to how easy it is for gamers to transition to them from membrane keyboards. With any luck the MX RGB will prove popular enough for them to be seen in other variants.
CES 2014 runs from the 7th to the 10th January in Las Vegas, Nevada. Keep your eyes tuned to Corsair.com and Cherry's Official Site for more information in the run-up to the event.