The little Cherry G84 just about warrants inclusion in the mechanical keyboard category. But unlike the majority of such keyboards that are fitted with one of the four types of Cherry MX switches, the G84-4100 has a special low-profile ML mechanical switch, to make what is a particularly small external keyboard.
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Small keyboards became all too familiar with the netbook fad of a few years ago, where the use of a 10in or smaller screen meant there was simply no space for a proper Qwerty keyboard on these mini laptops.
The justification for downsizing this keyboard may not be immediately apparent less – but there is still a need for a fully-featured PC keyboard in industrial applications, cramped server rooms, banks and medical installations. Or simply for small-fingered typists who want to downsize on a desk-hogging alphanumeric peripheral.
It’s a very lightweight design, just over 400g with its cable, and could even slip into am (admittedly large) coat pocket.
The Cherry G84-4100 comes in either old-school light grey or black. Construction quality could politely be described as adequate; die-casting sprue artefacts can be clearly seen on the rear of every low-profile key, and the actual all-important key action is a little jarring, at least when compared to keyboards using the company’s usual silky MX switchgear.
The pressure to actuate each switch feels slightly greater than usual, and the key travel is strangely frictional across most keys. It feels like it may even benefit from plenty of use, to let every key ‘bed in’ better; some keys were stickier than others.
To get plenty of use first requires mastering the layout. ZF Electronics, the company behind Cherry, has certainly crammed in an awful lot of keys into the limited 315 x 190mm plan of this baby keyboard, and that makes fast typing unquestionably a matter of practice, to relearn the miniature layout.
Along the bottom row, for example, we find Ctrl, Fn, Windows, Alt and backslash+ pipe keys, all to the left of the Spacebar alone; and Alt Gr, Windows, List, Ins, Del and the cursor keys are all to the right.
That’s a lot of keys, and to get that many in does mean the Spacebar has been shrunk to just 55mm wide, where regular keyboards are typically around twice that at 110mm.
There is an option to lose the Windows key, if your computer has no need of any Super/Meta key.
We didn’t find the foreshortened Spacebar an issue, but what did take some getting used to was the shrink job on the Backspace and Return keys, as well as the overall contraction that meant our hands were more furled, quite hamster-like, over the keyboard.
For the more rodent-pawed, the Cherry G84-8100 will make a great fit, but if your digits err more toward the concert pianist you will find this keyboard a little claustrophobic.
For those times when you demand a small form-factor keyboard that still sports all the main keys you’d need from an IBM PC, the Cherry G84-4100 will neatly fill the space. It’s rated well for industrial longevity at >20 million key strokes – just don’t expect high-end build quality or the usual Cherry precision-feel keys.