Throughout my life, I have been a tech enthusiast. Starting from a young age I got experience in multiple fields including building PCs, programming, writing about computer peripherals, and more. I wish to spread knowledge about these different fields and provide information about different niches that may be popular but are not written about often.
The world of mechanical keyboards can be complex but can be very fun and satisfying. On keyboards, switches are attached to a PCB, printed circuit board. Switches can be attached in one of two configurations. This often causes confusion as people bring up terms like interference or switch orientation.
When looking to buy a mechanical keyboard, especially if you are looking to modify or build one, understanding what north-facing and south-facing switches are can be important to help you make the best decision for you.
Today we are going to clarify the difference between north-facing and south-facing switches and help you understand everything you need to know to make a better decision when buying your next mechanical keyboard.
North-Facing vs South-Facing Switches: What Are They?
Before we understand what north-facing and south-facing switches are we must first understand switch orientation. The term switch orientation refers to which direction a mechanical keyboard switch is placed on a PCB.
North-facing switches refer to when a switch’s LED hole faces toward the top of the keyboard while placed in the socket of the keyboard’s PCB. North-facing switches are typically seen in budget keyboards but are also seen in older custom keyboards.
South-facing switches refer to when a switch’s LED hole faces toward the bottom of the keyboard or where the user of the keyboard is while paced in the socket of the keyboard’s PCB. South-facing switches are typically seen in custom keyboards but due to consumer demand are starting to be put in some beginner kits and even a few prebuilts.
Typically we hear the terms north and south-facing the most but east and west-facing switches exist too. East and west-facing switches have the same pros and cons as south-facing switches. They are used very rarely and are usually only implemented in PCBs that support multiple layouts and must maximize all space on the PCB available.
Problem With North-Facing Switches: Interferance
The biggest problem that faces north-facing switches is keycap interference when using Cherry profile keycaps. On some rows of the keyboard, Cherry profile keycaps will come into contact with the top of the switches before the switch is able to bottom out. This will change both the sound and feel of the typing experience.
Although using Cherry profile keycaps are still usable, interference can remove a lot of the satisfaction from typing on a mechanical keyboard. Part of what makes this issue annoying is also that it affects certain rows of keys more than others so the feel becomes inconsistent between keys too. Some don’t face the issue while other rows do.
This makes north-facing switch orientations quite unpopular among keyboard enthusiasts who often use Cherry profile keycaps from high-end manufacturers.
Problem With South-Facing Switches: RGB Shine Through
Although south-facing PCBs are highly popular because they don’t face the issues of interference, they still have their own issues. South-facing switches have some issues for fans of RGB and shine through keycaps.
With north-facing PCBs the LEDs lie directly below the legends on the keycaps. This creates a brighter and more consistent look on the legend. With south-facing switches, the LEDs are on the bottom side of the keycaps. This means a lot of the light does not shine through the legend of shine through keycaps.
Note switch orientation has no effect on keyboard underglow or LEDs on the side of the keyboard.
This issue faces fewer enthusiasts because typically enthusiasts aren’t using shine through keycaps. On the other hand, because RGB is very popular for gaming keyboards we most likely will see large gaming brands continue to use north-facing switches in their keyboards.
Can You Change Switch Orientation On Your PCB?
So maybe you are really set on a keyboard or you have already bought a keyboard and now you want a different switch orientation to suit your preferences. The question becomes can you change switch orientation?
Unfortunately no, you cannot change the direction in which the switches are placed on the PCB. Holes were drilled in a specific way from the factory so the pins on the bottom of your switches only can fit in one direction.
There are a few solutions though. One thing you can do is get a totally new PCB. You can buy one that supports a different orientation and use that in your case instead. With this solution, not all cases accept all PCBs so you would need to research what PCBs your board supports. Some mechanical keyboards have a proprietary case design to the manufacturer or have such a unique design that it is very hard or even impossible to find a different PCB that fits the case. It is especially hard to find PCBs for high-end boards that feature north-facing sockets.
Buying a new PCB can also be very expensive so there are a few other options. If you are using a keyboard with north-facing switches but you would like to use Cherry profile keycaps you could get a few of the “box” switches that don’t face the issues of interference like Novelkey Box Cream switches. Another solution is to get special washers to raise up your keycaps so the keycaps don’t make contact with the top of the switches until the switch has been depressed all the way.
There are also switches advertised for having a long pole stem which may not have interference on some cherry profile keycaps. This is because the switches bottom out sooner so the keycap doesn’t come as close to the top of the switch. Some famous long pole stem switches include Drop Holy Pandas or Durock Pom Linears.
If you are looking for more light to shine through your keycaps and you have south-facing switches, then buying some transparent switches like some Aqua King V3 switches might give you a better experience.
Which One Is Better?
There is not necessarily a better option overall however depending on your situation, there is a better option for you.
In most cases, we would recommend keyboards with south-facing switches. The main instance that we would suggest a north-facing keyboard is if you plan to use shine-through keycaps. South-facing keycaps still allow RGB to pass through although just it doesn’t look as vibrant as it may look on a north-facing board.
If you start to get into custom keyboards odds are you will most likely use keycaps that are not shine through. There are also plenty of keyboards that have RGB underglow or on the side of the board and are south-facing.
In most cases, south-facing switches are better as they are more versatile but boards with north-facing switches still have a use case and north-facing switches aren’t the end of the world, especially if you don’t even plan to use Cherry profile keycaps.
There are two main types of switch orientation that can give you the best experience depending on what you are looking for. South-facing switches support more keycap profiles, especially ones that are popular among enthusiasts, while north-facing switches can provide the best experience for shine through keycaps.
Even if you have a keyboard where the switches are oriented in a way that doesn’t suit your preferences or inhibits your options, there are still some possible solutions like getting certain types of switches, changing your PCB, or adding washers that allow you to enjoy your keyboard as much as possible without needing to get a new keyboard.
As enthusiasts ourselves we would recommend buying a keyboard with south-facing switches unless you plan to use shine through keycaps.
If you spend a lot of time typing at your setup you may be looking to improve the ergonomics and comfort of your setup. One of the best ways to improve long-term comfort is by using an ergonomic keyboard.
Ergonomic keyboards position your hands and wrists better for a more comfortable experience and potentially better posture.
Many people consider ergonomic keyboards but understanding if getting one is worth it for you depends on your situation. Having good ergonomics is always a good thing but if you don’t spend much time typing or you spend most of your time gaming, investing in an ergonomic keyboard may not be the right option for you. In contrast, those that are at a computer typing throughout the day could definitely see comfort and even health benefits by using an ergonomic board.
So if you want to find out more and see if you could benefit from an ergonomic keyboard, keep reading to see if they are worth the investment.
Ergonomic vs Normal Keyboards
Ergonomic and normal keyboards definitely have their differences but both have their benefits. One isn’t better than another as it truly depends on your situation.
Size and Form Factors
There are a variety of sizes and form factors with keyboards. Normal keyboards have more layouts to choose from including 40%, 60%, 65%, 75%, TKL, and full-size boards. With ergonomic keyboards, it is a little more complicated.
It is important to note that there are two types of ergonomic keyboards, unibody and split. Unibody keyboards are an ergonomic keyboard in a single case. Split keyboards usually have two parts for each side of the keyboard. This allows you to use only one have of the split board for things like gaming to safe as much space as possible.
With split style boards, you can have any layout of a regular keyboard but with unibody style boards there are 2 popular layouts. The Arisu and Alice layouts. The Alice layout is most similar to a 60% keyboard with some macros on the left-hand side while the Arisu layout is most similar to a 65% keyboard.
In general normal keyboards are smaller for the same amount of functions and there are more layouts available for them but ergonomic boards also have some very unique layouts.
The biggest benefit of ergonomic keyboards is their improved comfort over regular boards. They were specifically designed to help you type over long periods.
While you are typing you won’t get pains or cramps in your hands, wrists, and arms.
Also, you may find that you have better posture or it is easier to keep good posture. This is because ergonomic keyboards support better hand and arm positioning to promote better posture. As a result, you will be more comfortable throughout your body and this is actually more healthy for you.
If you find that you game most of the time then this is one case where a regular keyboard may help you to be more comfortable. Since many gamers tilt their keyboards and you are interacting with both a mouse and a keyboard there are some reasons to go with a regular keyboard. A regular board will save space and will be just as comfortable as an ergonomic keyboard but will allow you to have more comfort with your hand using the mouse.
If you are looking for comfort but you don’t have the budget for a new keyboard then switching to a new keyboard layout could also help provide better comfort with no cost except the time to switch.
Arm and Wrist Pain
A problem that you may encounter when typing for long periods is that you may suffer from arm and wrist pains. Ergonomic keyboards are great for fixing these issues.
Since ergonomic keyboards are designed for optimal comfort and as a result they greatly reduce the effects of pains or the chance of getting them.
It is important to note that if you are considering an ergonomic board because you have some sort of arm, wrist, or hand problem then a new keyboard will not be a magical fix for you. You should notice benefits to all your problems won’t necessarily go away depending on the severity of the condition.
Ideally, your fastest typing speed should be similar between an ergonomic keyboard and a normal keyboard if you’re used to both types of keyboards.
This isn’t always the case. In my experience, I found that I can type fastest with a regular keyboard but I type faster for longer with my ergonomic board. Between ergonomic keyboards, you will typically type faster with a unibody board than a split alternative.
The fastest typists in the world still use regular mechanical keyboards as their primary boards. Ultimately if you just are looking for that fastest peak time a regular board still may be the option for you but if you want to have a consistently fast speed all day then an ergonomic board is something you should consider.
So ergonomic keyboards have all these benefits but do they cost more as a result? For the same construction, sound, and feel, ergonomic keyboards are often priced quite well.
Ergonomic keyboards often are more expensive but that is because they are often higher-end keyboards. This is because many ergonomic keyboards are made by creators who also want premium build materials, a nice design, and a thoccy sound.
Although you can find some good value ergonomic boards, the cheapest boards that you will find are normal keyboards. Often you will pay a bit more for an ergo design compared to the regular designed counterparts, especially if looking at a membrane keyboard.
Modding and Accessories
One important factor for those building ergonomic mechanical keyboards, especially enthusiasts, is how easy ergonomic keyboards are to build, mod, and get parts for.
The difficulty of all keyboards vary but building an ergonomic keyboard should be no harder to build than a regular keyboard. Finding parts for modding ergo keyboards or parts may be harder because typically smaller manufactures make ergonomic keyboards but this is common across all limited run and high-end keyboards.
The main issue that you will run into if you are considering an ergonomic mechanical keyboard is access to compatible keycap sets.
All ergonomic keyboards have split spacebars. This means that if you are buying a keycap set you need to make sure that it supports the needed spacebars. Additionally some ergo boards also have an additional ‘B’ key or have macros on the left-hand side.
Overall it isn’t hard to find keycaps but it is an important thing to keep in mind.
Is An Ergonomic Keyboard Right For You?
Understanding how you use your computer will best help you understand if an ergonomic or regular keyboard is best for you.
Developers, writers, managers, and other people who spend some if not the whole workday typing can definitively benefit from an ergonomic keyboard. An ergonomic keyboard can reduce wrist problems in the future and provide better comfort throughout the day.
If you don’t really use a computer much or don’t use your computer for work then an ergonomic keyboard may not be the best for you. Taking the time to switch to an ergonomic keyboard is especially not worth it if you find that you game more than you work.
Ergonomic keyboards are bigger than regular size keyboards for having the same layout or amount of keys. Since having more mouse space is very important for gaming using a regular board that will help give you more mouse space.
The thing is this concept doesn’t apply to all ergonomic keyboards. Split ergonomic boards can be an interesting option to consider for some gamers. Since split keyboards have two parts of the board if you play FPS games you can use only one of the two parts and have a lot more mouse room. The extra investment is most likely not worth it but it can be an interesting option to consider.
Generally, ergonomic keyboards are better for productivity and regular boards are better for gaming or those who don’t use their computer that much.
Is It Difficult To Transition?
Depending on if you can get a split or unibody board it can take more or less time but will a unibody board will generally take less time. With split keyboards you not only need to get used to this new format but it may also take time to find the right placement for both halves of the board.
With a unibody board, it could take a few days to a couple of weeks while a split keyboard could take you a few weeks to even a month to get used to.
Since ergonomic boards have different hand placements it will feel like you are using a slightly different layout. Switching to an ergonomic keyboard isn’t very hard to get used to but time is the main issue with the transition process.
In general, you should not be worried about the difficulty in transitioning to an ergonomic keyboard as the end result will be well worth it.
Different Types Of Ergonomic Keyboards
If you are looking for an ergonomic keyboard, there are two options to consider. Unibody and split.
The first type of ergonomic keyboard is the Unibody style. Unibody boards are the easiest to get used to and typically the cheapest options.
A Unibody style board is just one board that is together, as the name suggests. This means that you can get an ergonomic experience without the complexity of a split keyboard. The ergonomics may not be as great as a split keyboard but they will still be superior to the comfort of just a standard keyboard.
If you want something clean and simple while still getting a comfortable experience then a unibody board is the option for you. Unibody boards are all in one package which means you don’t have to worry about cables between different parts.
The other style of ergonomic keyboards is the split layout. A split style keyboard has more customizability in the sense that you can move each side around but this comes at a cost. Typically split keyboards have another set of wires that you have to deal with between both halves. Also, split keyboards are often harder to get used to.
Some split-style keyboards can be combined back into one regular board but these often sacrifice on looks for this extra function.
In general, a split keyboard will sacrifice looks but will give maximum comfort. Since you can adjust a split keyboard to your liking, if you are looking for the best comfort then a split board will best suit you.
Switching to an ergonomic keyboard is a fantastic way to improve your comfort while working. They can solve pains, reduce the chance of long-term problems, and promote better posture. Problems such as carpal tunnel or RSI can be greatly reduced.
While ergonomic keyboards have these benefits, normal keyboards still allow for slightly faster typing speeds, are more available, support many more sizes and layouts.
There are a few different styles for ergonomic keyboards to choose from depending on what you do daily. With Unibody and Split keyboards and a few different layouts for each type of board, there is something that will suit you.
QWERTY, the common keyboard layout that everyone is used to. If you have grown an interest in keyboards then you may have heard about some other keyboard layouts such as Colemak or Dvorak.
Using any of these alternative keyboard layouts has a variety of upsides but is switching to something like Colemak, Dvorak, or any other layout worth taking the time and the struggle to rewrite your muscle memory?
Using an alternative layout can provide many benefits. By switching you could notice an increase in typing efficiency, comfort, and ergonomics. The time that it takes to switch can be especially beneficial if you spend a lot of time at a computer.
Today I will answer the question if alternative keyboard layouts are indeed worth it and add in a bit of my own personal experience trying one of these different keyboard layouts.
The History of QWERTY
When typewriters were created, the people designing them realized a problem. Typewriters would jam if the keys were in alphabetical order. The designer of the QWERTY layout, Christopher Sholes fixed this problem by splitting commonly used letter pairings, for example, ‘S’ and ‘T’.
This layout became the new standard and even as computers started to become popular, nobody questioned the layout that was in place. Everyone was already used to the layout and it wasn’t causing enough problems to make large corporations change their designs.
Some people tried different designed different keyboards but they never caught any traction.
Colemak, Dvorak, etc.
Although different variations of QWERTY were created for different languages like French or German, those edited layouts were still relatively the same.
Next comes the most popular alternative layouts being Dvorak, Colemak, and then Workman. There are many other layouts besides these three but these layouts have the biggest communities and are significantly more popular than many of the other layouts out there.
All three of these layouts were created to be more efficient, ergonomic, and comfortable to type on than QWERTY. Many people switch to these layouts for these benefits and can especially appreciate the comfort over the long term. Additionally, because these layouts are more efficient they should make it easier to type faster for longer. This isn’t necessarily true because most of the fastest typers still use QWERTY.
The Dvorak and Colemak were designed to make your fingers use the home row as much as possible and as a result, this means that your fingers do not need to dance around the keyboard as much. Workman takes a different approach as it works to balance the amount of use between both of your hands.
The goal of these layouts is to make your fingers only move as much as they need to and to minimize the time of travel from one keycap to the next. Theoretically using any of these layouts should be faster than typing on QWERTY with the same amount of experience but it is difficult to truly test this.
Is It Worth It To Switch?
Making the decision to switch from QWERTY entirely depends on you and your situation. For most people, you may find that you have no problems with typing and you see no need to make any changes. Others may be enticed by the improved efficiency and comfort. Trying out a different layout also makes for an interesting test.
Switching to something like Colemak could improve long-term comfort throughout the day and could help with faster-sustained typing speeds. This benefit could be worth it for those who spend a lot of time at a computer or typing but for the everyday person who only uses a computer for basic internet browsing, emails, or gaming changing will not be very beneficial.
All in all, you should do what is most comfortable for you and those who use their computers a lot will see the benefits over the long term.
Which One Is Right For You?
Dvorak, Colemak, and Workman all have the same objectives but some differentiating factors may help your decision.
Dvorak is often considered to be the most efficient of these layouts. Also because Dvorak is the most popular alternative to QWERTY it has built-in support in major operating systems like Windows and macOS.
With Colemak and Workman, you may still need to download them. If you use Windows for example you will need to download Colemak here and Workman here on their respective pages.
Colemak functions similarly to Dvorak by focusing on home row usage but is arguably the easiest to learn out of the three. Colemak is the most similar to QWERTY with a bottom row that is almost exactly the same. Additionally Colemak is great if you use functions like Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V. While Dvorak and Workman support these functions, the keys will be in different places and may feel less natural.
Finally, Workman focuses on evening usage by both hands. Workman fixes problems that even Colemak and Dvorak have of placing commonly used keys close together. Workman sacrifices a bit on efficiency to maximize comfort.
Ultimately all these layouts are good and there isn’t really a wrong decision.
What Do I Use?
In December of 2020, I decided to try using Colemak and I eventually made it my primary layout a few months later. Since then I have still continued to use QWERTY in some situations and I have experience using both layouts on all types of keyboards.
So why did I decide Colemak? Well, Colemak does provide some unique benefits over Workman and Dvorak. While all these layouts are more efficient and comfortable to use than QWERTY, Colemak keeps key functionality. With Colemak you are able to keep macros like Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V to copy and paste in the same place on your keyboard.
Additionally Colemak is most similar to QWERTY out of the three while still providing noticeable improvements. While switching to Colemak was difficult initially, I am very happy with my choice and it is a great option for those who use layered functions on their keyboards or want something that is a bit easier to transition to.
The biggest issue about switching your layout is the time and difficulty to transition. I found that transitioning personally was very difficult for the first month or two so I only used Colemak during typing tests and times when I could type slower.
If you aren’t someone with much free time and are completely fine using QWERTY then there isn’t a very important need to switch. Otherwise trying out a new layout can not only be a fun test but you may actually find that you prefer it over QWERTY.
In my experience, I was able to switch to Colemak as my main layout after about three months but it took a bit more time to reach my previous typing speed.
The transition may take longer or shorter depending on how much you are willing to spend learning the layout and practicing. While learning the layout you may also not like the fact that the keys on your keyboard will not match your new layout. If you use a mechanical keyboard there are some keycap sets that you can buy that support Dvorak, Colemak, Workman, and a few other alternative layouts if this is a deal-breaker for you though.
Learning the layout without being able look at your keyboard is actually a good habit to start because you will learn touch typing and will be able to type faster in the long run.
After taking time to transition you will continue to build up muscle memory and confidence. Typing with the new layout will be totally normal and you may even be able to type with the layout without ever needing to look at your keyboard.
After about 6 months I was able to match my old typing speed with QWERTY (120-140WPM). I was able to type faster, for longer too, as my fingers would not get tired as quickly.
This actually more efficient because you are able to type faster for longer. I also noticed that using Colemak all day led me to know problems but using QWERTY all day would leave me typing a lot slower later in the day and some people may experience fatigue too.
Although it isn’t a must, switching to a new keyboard layout can have many benefits. While the change was not life-changing for me it has still allowed me to type faster for longer periods and has improved comfort over the day.
Trying out a new layout like Colemak or Dvorak can be a very interesting test and you may find that you like it for QWERTY. For those who are interested in keyboards or spend a lot of time typing, trying one out could definitely benefit you. Otherwise, for those who mostly game, check emails, or browse the web the QWERTY layout works perfectly fine, and transitioning may not be worth it.
I have never felt the need to go back to QWERTY and even when I needed to go back to it at times when using different keyboards or computers, I found that I noticed a lot more flaws in the layout than before using Colemak.
I hope this article was beneficial to you and if you want to see more keyboard content, check out our keyboard page. As always thanks for reading and have a great day!
As new hardware comes out, new graphics technologies develop. The newest leap is ray tracing, made mainstream by Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards.
Now that most modern GPUs are integrating the technology and games are starting to add support, let’s see if Ray Tracing is actuallyworth it.
Ray Tracing vs Rasterization
Ray tracing may be new and exciting but what came before it? Rasterization is the current norm for graphics in video games.
Rasterization creates a 3D environment by processing polygons. The polygons are then processed by a shader to make up a specific color and shade. These polygons get turned into pixels. All the colors and shades are decided by parameters that the game developer has set up.
Ray tracing on the other hand directs lines from the light source in the game and calculates how light bounces off objects or gets impedes by them to show where the lighting would go. This makes effects a lot more realistic.
While rasterization can look very good, there is a lot less potential. Ray tracing can portray how different objects affect lighting around a room but rasterization cannot. For example, with ray tracing, if you have a very reflective material, then the light will bounce off that material onto other things. In contrast with rasterization that material may look metallic but still will not have any effect on anything else in the environment.
Additionally, ray tracing requires fewer initial parameters to be set up by game developers. Ray tracing uses realistic lighting physics which means developers do not need to make many calculations to suit their specific game environment and physics can be more consistent across games.
Does Ray Tracing Improve Your Gaming Experience?
Although ray tracing does provide some eye candy, how much does it improve the gaming experience and will enabling it make you a better gamer?
The main takeaway about ray tracing is that it most likely will not make you a better gamer. The whole point of ray tracing is the improvement in graphics.
Real-time ray tracing provides no improvements in games like competitive shooters but in some games, the improvement in shadows and reflections may help you to see things that are off your screen.
Where ray tracing improves your experience is in the actual looks and immersion. Better graphics can help you get sucked into the game, especially when you are in a campaign or story game that gives you time to enjoy eye candy. You are able to appreciate your environment more as ray tracing makes games look more realistic.
A graphic increase is often able to transfer a game like Minecraft with RTX which keeps the same core concept and physics but the gameplay is altered.
If you do not care about graphics or only play online competitive shooters such as CS:GO or Valorant then ray tracing wont benefit you.
Too Early To Invest?
One of the biggest criticisms about ray tracing is the lack of games that support the feature. Currently, there are around 40 titles with 10 to 20 more that are said to release in 2021. All these titles fully support ray tracing with Nvidia’s RTX GPUs but the same cannot be said about AMD. AMD supports a decent amount of these games but the performance is not that good on most of them or the creators worked on DXR for AMD as an afterthought.
Some games that feature ray tracing are Battlefield V, Cyberpunk 2077, Fortnite, and Metro Exodus. If you want more information about different games that support ray tracing, check out this list from Wikipedia.
The experience with Nvidia’s graphics cards is pretty good, especially with their DLSS technology, which optimizes the onscreen image to look the same while putting less load on the GPU. You can get 60 fps at 1080p on any of Nvidia’s RTX cards but if you want to play at a higher resolution then you have to pay for a better RTX card.
The issue is that to get a quality high refresh experience, you still need to pay quite a bit of money if you want to play at any resolution higher than 1080p. This also assumes that you are able to even get a graphics card in this current climate.
We would not recommend waiting to get a graphics card just because you want an RTX card from Nvidia but in the coming years, many of the most popular games will support ray tracing. Getting a system with the hardware to support ray tracing is not necessary yet and we would not say that it is too early to invest, especially if some of your favorite titles do or will not gain support soon.
Ray tracing is a great feature for those who care about graphics. If you want to future proof then getting an RTX card or a next-gen console is your best bet.
Ray Tracing Beyond Gaming
Ray tracing is not just for gaming. Ray tracing has been used for years in professional situations. For example, many animated movies use ray tracing. It has especially gotten popular for 3D modeling, rendering, and movie animation in recent years.
As ray tracing has become more popular smaller creators and studios have been able to use ray tracing. This is causing it to continue to grow in the professional space. Not only will games start to look more realistic in forms of lighting and reflections but the same will also apply to animated movies and renders.
Additionally, ray tracing has grown very popular in the world of game development. Game engines like Unity or Unreal Engine are making it easier for smaller game developers to make games that have better-looking graphics.
Overall this all helps movie and game developing industries forward as smaller creators are starting to be able to work with ray tracing.
Although Nvidia started the movement towards real-time ray tracing, they now have other competitors. Aside from Nvidia’s 20 and 30 series GPUs, AMD has their 6000 series GPUs, and then the next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft also have their own implementations.
Nvidia has their RTX implementation that works with DLSS rather than AMD that uses the universal standard DXR. While both can look the same, Nvidia’s system works with more games and runs faster. This is partially due to the fact that DLSS improves the framerate of games.
Sony’s PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X also support ray tracing and due to great optimizations, the performance is pretty good for the price.
Overall Nvidia still does ray tracing the best.
Conclusion: Is Ray Tracing The Future?
To put it shortly, ray tracing is the future.
This is just the beginning of a new wave. The benefits to graphics are great for the consumer and with all this tech going mainstream it will only push forward innovation. Games will look a lot better in the future and with the easy access to enable it in game engines now, many indie games or titles may be able to have ray tracing.
It is important to understand that the tech is not perfect right now and it is not everywhere. Many games do not have all the elements of ray tracing as they may only support ray-traced shadows or reflections for example. Ray tracing is constantly improving to look and run better.
Over the next, five to ten years is when we could start to see ray tracing properly replace rasterization. During this time hardware will also improve greatly as companies like Nvidia have made large strides towards their RTX tech.
If you enjoyed this article and you want to talk more about tech then consider joining our Discord and as always thanks for reading!
If you have started learning more about audio and if you want to invest in a more premium audio setup, one of the things you have come across is headphone amps.
Headphone amps are one of the best ways to improve sound quality. In many cases, amps are required for specific headphones or speakers. Amps deliver extra power to your headphones or speaker, often helping to bring out sounds that were recessed and lacking before.
Let’s explore how amps benefit an audio setup and if getting one is a worthy investment for your headphones.
Do Headphone Amps Improve Sound Quality?
A headphone amp is a device that amplifies the volume of sound coming from a DAC, a component in all devices that processes the digital signal from a computer and converts it into an analog signal that headphones can use. An amp can take the form of either an external device or a part integrated into your computer. The addition of power that is also cleaner can improve the sound quality of your headphones.
Compared to an integrated solution, a dedicated amp provides more power so your headphones are able to work the best they can. Additionally, if you find that you are using most of the volume scale when listening to things then an amp will give you much more headroom, fixing this issue.
Amps do not do much to improve the clarity or accuracy of the sound but the additional power improves the quality of the sound in other ways. The extra power that an amp provides could help sounds that were once muffled or recessed to be able to reach their full potential.
Another issue that amps fix is distortion. The integrated audio solutions in computers or phones can cause distortion at high volumes. Since amps process sound better this is less of an issue.
It is important to understand that an amp will not always improve audio. If you are using a cheap pair of headphones then you will notice no improvement. On the flip side, some headphones need an amp to function properly. There are many headphones, often in the $100 to $300 range, that are efficient enough that they do not require an amp but could still see some gains.
An amp should not change the sound signature of your headphones but give them the power to have their correct sound signature. Tube amps or amps with EQing built in can make changes to the sound.
Overall amps do improve sound quality.
Is An Amp Necessary?
Headphone amps can improve your audio but in some situations, they are not a worthy investment. If you use headphones that do not need more power or cleaner power then an amp would just be a waste of money.
Something like a pair of cheap earbuds or bluetooth headphones will not see a benefit from the extra power. In contrast, if you use high-fidelity headphones, often costing anywhere from $200 to upwards of $1000, then you often need or will heavily benefit from an amp.
Some headphones do not need an amp but could see a slight benefit from one. In this case, we wouldn’t recommend getting an amp if you are on a tight budget although it could give you a slightly better experience.
To understand how efficient your headphones are there are two things you need to look at. First sensitivity, which shows how loud headphones can get with a certain amount of power. This is usually measured in dB/mW. Second impedance, which shows how much power the headphones need. It is typically measured in ohms.
Headphones with an impedance of 32 ohms or less and sensitivity of 100 dB or more usually do not need an amp. As you get to headphones that use 60-80 ohms or more and sensitivities of 95dB or less, you will notice that many of these headphones need an amp. It is important to look at both factors and read reviews as the necessity for an amp depends.
Another factor is about how much of your volume range you are using. If you need to turn up your volume to 70 to 100% volume, then an amp may benefit you. You will get more headroom for volume and an amp will take away most distortion that integrated audio solutions create at high volumes.
Most modern computers have a decent integrated sound card with an amp so getting a dedicated amp is only important if you are investing in premium headphones. If your current headphones will not see a benefit from getting an amp, then getting new headphones is usually the recommended option. A dedicated amp is just a recommended option if you need or want more power for your headphones.
How Does A Headphone Amp Work ?
An amp’s purpose is to take a very quiet, low-power audio signal from a DAC, and increase the volume of that signal. Then the headphones or speakers will be able to turn this information into sound waves.
Without an amp, either integrated into a computer or as an external device, your headphones would not be able to create any sound for you.
A dedicated amp will provide more power and volume for your headphones than integrated solutions. The better an amp the more power it will be able to provide. Additionally, better amps will give cleaner power to your headphones resulting in a cleaner sound. Cheap amps often have distortion in the sound at higher volumes.
Amps have three core parts to how they work. There is the input, the amplification components themselves, and finally the output. There are two ways that the amplification process works work.
Solid State/Transistor Amps: These amps use, as the name implies, transistors to amplify the signal given to them. Inside there will be multiple positively or negatively charged transistors that are calibrated to boost the sound in a way that is as clean and efficient as possible.
Tube Amps: Tube amps instead use vacuum tubes surrounded by glass. They function similarly to lightbulbs by burning electrons from a filament to instead of creating light, amplify sound. Tube amps can be compared to record players that provide a more fun sound that modern tracks on software or CDs replace with a very clean sound. There is a sort of warmth adding to the bass. As a downside sometimes the glass of the tubes can cause some negative effects on the sound if you are using more sensitive headphones with a less premium tube amp.
In the end, the function of an amp is to increase the volume of the information coming from your audio source, for example, an external DAC or your PC. It does not matter if it is a tube amp or solid-state amp, the end goal is the same.
Different Kinds Of Amps
Although amps can control the power in different ways, transistors or tubes, there are different kinds of amps to look at depending on your situation.
Regular Headphone Amp: This is the standard type of headphone amp.
Gaming Amp: Gaming amps function similarly to regular headphone amps but usually prioritize features that gamers would appreciate like a mic input and virtual surround sound.
Portable Amp: These are great for situations where you want to drive high-quality headphones on the go or if you want a powerful amp in a small package. Portable amps are often designed to fit in your pocket and are a great option for those who want to use premium IEMs while out or if you want an amp between your office and home.
Finding what is right for you is the most important thing in this case. For most people, a regular headphone amp will do the job. There are some cases where a gaming amp or portable option may suit your general needs more.
Amps are beneficial with trying to improve the sound quality of your headphones, IEMs, or speakers and in many cases, they are even necessary for them to run properly. Sounds that were previously recessed, distorted, or not even present will be more significant and apparent.
You should also consider if an amp is worth it in your situation. You will not notice a difference with an amp with a sub $100 pair of headphones or the cheap earbuds that came with your phone.
It is also important to note that most people will not notice a substantial difference by getting an amp. This is because most people do not use power-hungry headphones or are not very bothered by worse audio quality.
For those who want a more premium sound and may be using more powerful headphones, an amp is a more worthy investment for them.
You also do not need to spend alot of money on an amp. You can find options for about $100 that give great performance up until you are spending upwards of $500 on headphones. Just note that you should always prioritize the headphones in your budget but always consider an amp if your headphones need that extra kick.
Additionally, if you are creating a setup with high-quality headphones and you are getting a headphone amp, you may want to consider a DAC to provide a cleaner, more accurate sound that could also benefit your sound experience.
I hope you enjoyed and as always thanks for reading!
If you have any questions please join our discord and feel free to ask anything.
When looking for a new gaming mouse you may have been considering switching to a new wireless gaming mouse. The Logitech G703 Hero adds to Logitech’s extensive line of wireless gaming mice, providing performance striking above its price point.
Let’s dig in and see if the Logitech G703 Hero is the mouse for you.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Logitech G703 Hero is a wireless gaming mouse with excellent performance.
It improves over the previous version with the use of the accurate HERO sensor and it supports Logitech’s Lightspeed connectivity.
The G703 has an ergonomic shape with large buttons and comfortable rubber side grips. The mouse supports tons of grip styles and is very comfortable over long periods of use.
You also get a lot of in-depth functionality with the software. The G703 also supports a lot of different features like an adjustable weight, Powerplay compatibility, and onboard memory.
The only major downsides of the mouse are the outdated micro-USB connection and the software that could be a bit confusing to use at first. Additionally, the shape of the mouse applies to a specific niche but I found it quite easy to adjust to.
So if you are looking for a wireless mouse with a great sensor, decent lightweight, and solid build then the G703 is a fantastic option to consider.
In the box, you will find the mouse with all the essentials and some accessories.
Manual: There is a quick start guide to walk you through basic things like using and charging the mouse.
Cable: Logitech includes a braided USB-A (regular USB) to micro-USB cable to both charge the mouse or use the extender.
Dongle: This dongle allows for the mouse’s lightspeed wireless connection for very low latency.
Extender: If your mouse is far away from your computer or you are experiencing connection issues, an extender is included as a great solution to the issue.
Powerplay Puck: The puck is attached to the bottom of the mouse with magnets and is necessary for using the Powerplay feature.
Weight: Included is a 10g weight if you feel the mouse is too light.
Sticker: Logitech always throws in a sticker showing their blue G logo with their gaming products. It’s a nice touch.
The Logitech G703 is made from a mix of strong plastic and rubber. Rubber is used on the scroll wheel and on the sides for extra comfort and grip. Even at 95g, the G703 is quite robust.
The mouse looks all black with a translucent section for the G logo. The style obviously belongs to a gaming mouse but is not overly gamery.
The mouse feet on the bottom provide a smooth glide, allowing quick flicks and consistent travel. In my testing, they were not as good as the most premium mice like the Logitech G Pro Superlight or Razer Viper but they are better than many popular mice like the Logitech G203 or G502.
Overall the G703 has a fantastic build, especially for the price. My only disappointment with the design of the mouse is the use of micro-USB over USB-C. While this doesn’t affect the functionality, it’s nice to have.
Style and Comfort
Logitech’s G703 has an ergonomic design but is not super sculpted. The mouse is great for those who are right-handed but it doesn’t lock you into any position so it is comfortable with all mouse grip styles.
I had no issues using the G703 with a fingertip, claw, and palm grip. Some mice lock you into a palm grip or claw grip but the G703 provides flexibility in this field.
Many people don’t like the design but I found it very easy to get used to and very comfortable, even during multiple-hour gaming sessions. The rubber helps a lot over time and it makes the mouse very easy to grip and hold.
Additionally, the buttons are quite large so they are easy to find. Typically buttons are quite small on the side of the mouse but the G703 has the biggest side buttons on any mouse so you can easily rest your fingers on the side buttons.
Switches and Scroll Wheel
The Logitech G703 has 6 buttons in total. They all have satisfying clicks and are very responsive. The switches are from Omron and have eliminated the double-clicking issues that Logitech used to face. These switches are some of the best ones that I have used in any gaming mouse.
On the left side of the mouse are two side buttons. They are some of the biggest side buttons that I have seen on the mouse making them very easy to find. Additionally, the scroll wheel has nice tactile steps and feels very solid.
Sensor and Polling Rate
Logitech’s Hero sensor uses optical technology, which is the norm among modern gaming mice. It is one of the most accurate and efficient sensors in any mouse. Additionally, the sensor itself is quite lightweight which is why Logitech makes some of the lightest mice on the market.
The sensor goes up to 25.6K DPI and can be adjusted through the software in increments of 50. Most people opt for a DPI between 200 and 1200, but the high range shows the accuracy of this mouse.
This fantastic sensor goes along with the industry-standard 1000Hz polling rate.
If you want a wireless peripheral but the requirement to charge it is an issue for you, Logitech’s Powerplay could be the solution for you.
For this to work with the G703 you must purchase their Powerplay mousemat. This is an additional investment, but the mousemat will charge the mouse resulting in endless battery life.
If you want a slightly heavier mouse, you can utilize the 10g weight. Adding the weight will increase the overall weight to 105g. You can easily add the weight by pressing it into the slot on the bottom of the mouse.
Using the mouse with its stock weight was the best for me. The G703 felt balanced and it made me more consistent in shooters. I was able to land headshots more frequently, manage recoil more easily, and make more accurate flicks.
If you want to further lower the weight, taking off the Powerplay puck on the bottom is an easy way to shave off a few grams making the mouse about 92g. The difference isn’t huge but still noticeable.
Vibrant RGB Lighting
The Logitech G703 supports bright RGB lighting on the logo and scroll wheel. The lighting looks good at night and throughout the day. If RGB isn’t for you you can always turn it off or dim it.
You can control all the lighting with the G Hub software and you get a lot of functionality. You can have separate or synced lighting between the logo and wheel. Also, there are tons of colors and present affect to choose from.
You can also sync the lighting with a game or movie you are watching. For, example the color of your mouse will change because of the team you are on. This isn’t too crazy just on the mouse because you probably will be more focused on the game but if you have other Logitech products then you can sync this with them and the experience is quite unique.
Apart from the standard wired connection, the G703 also supports wireless connectivity via Logitech’s low latency Lightspeed technology.
The lightspeed connection via a dongle is about as fast as a wired connection. It is incredibly fast and reliable. If you ever have any issues like interference or you are just very far from your device you can also use the included extender. Without the extender, I was able to use my mouse over 20 feet away from my computer with no issues.
With wireless mice, battery life is always an important consideration. The battery is quite strong considering the mouse supports RGB lighting. You can get 35-60 hours of use off a single charge depending on how bright the lighting is and the polling rate. When you need more battery, you can completely charge the mouse in about 2 hours.
The mouse also has battery-saving methods. The lighting will dim after a minute of inactivity and the G703 goes to sleep after 5 minutes. Waking from sleep is essentially instant. Additionally, the lighting on the mouse will turn red if the battery goes below 15%. Overall the battery life is pretty good and the power-saving measures make it not a concern.
In-Depth G Hub Software
The Logitech G703 works with the G Hub software to control it. You can do basic things like change the lighting, sensitivity, remap buttons or do more complex things like control game integration.
Setting everything up isn’t too difficult once you have gotten used to the software. As soon as you open the Software you will be able to see the estimated battery life.
Although G Hub is very functional, it can be very confusing to those who are new to it. Pages like game integration are not the easiest to find and saving profiles and presets can be confusing.
Additionally, I have run into occasional bugs. Sometimes a different DPI than I wanted would become my default DPI for the onboard profile or not all my lighting presets would save. Logitech has fixed most of the bugs that I have faced but I still think the software has its issues.
Logitech’s G703 stores up to five onboard profiles. You can save your preferred sensitivity, button mappings, and lighting all to the mouse.
Onboard memory is helpful if use your mouse with different devices. Additionally, if you don’t like Logitech G Hub this is nice because you can quickly save your profiles, and then you won’t need the software anymore.
Conclusion: Is The Logitech G703 Hero Good For Gaming?
The Logitech G703 Hero delivers a great experience for gamers, even for pros, at a great value.
The G703 supports the Lightspeed connection that has equal latency to a wired connection but the lack of a wire means you don’t have to worry about your mouse getting caught on anything or drag. The need for a mouse bungee is not existent.
Inside the mouse, you get high-quality Omron switches and Logitech’s famous HERO sensor that is among the best on the market.
The shape may not be for everyone but most people can get used to it and the mouse supports a wide variety of grips. It also has a solid build while still maintaining a decently low weight.
Building a computer can be confusing, especially if you need to work out what parts you need to get. One component that you may be unsure about is a sound card.
In the past, dedicated sound cards were essential when building a computer because motherboards did not have any onboard audio solution. As motherboards started to get onboard sound cards people often still opted to get sound cards as it would give them more performance and onboard solutions at the time did not sound very good.
The main issue is if a sound card is still necessary today if you are building a computer.
In short, the answer is no, you do not need to purchase a dedicated sound card if you are building a computer. Almost all modern computers, motherboards, and other electronics will have an integrated sound card and most sound good enough for the vast majority of people.
If you want to learn more about sound cards, see how one could benefit you, or you want some recommendations, then we will cover it all here.
Dedicated Sound Card vs Integrated Sound Card
There are two different implementations of sound cards, integrated and dedicated solutions.
A dedicated sound card is a component that can be connected to the motherboard of a computer or can be plugged in via PCB. Many may add one while building a computer or upgrading the audio of an old motherboard if it doesn’t sound very good.
An integrated sound card is one that is built into a specific device, in this case, a computer. Most motherboards will have an integrated sound card built-in. You will find integrated solutions in phones, tablets, and most computers.
Integrated solutions provide a convenience factor as it is one less thing that people have to consider. In fact, the vast majority of people don’t even think about sound cards are even know what they are while buying electronics. This is due to dedicated solutions being so popular.
A dedicated sound card typically requires a PCIe slot on your motherboard. This could be an issue with ITX-specific motherboards since they have one PCIe slot. If you have a graphics card taking up the slot then you won’t be able to use a sound card.
USB sound cards also exist but often do not sound as good. They are commonly included with gaming headsets and they are great if you need a sound card but you don’t have space or don’t want to add a component to your computer.
Integrated sound cards may not have as good quality as dedicated cards, but they take up less space, are more convenient, and the sound quality is good enough for most people.
Benefits of A Sound Card
In the past, getting a dedicated card was essential. Computer processors weren’t powerful enough for integrated solutions at the time.
As processors became more powerful, integrated solutions came about, but they still weren’t that great. For users who used their PC for more than just browsing the web and emails, a sound card was necessary.
Integrated solutions have constantly been improving but haven’t been that great until the past 10 to 5 years. Motherboard audio now suits the needs of most people. The main reason to get a sound card now is if you are creating with a premium audio setup or you are upgrading an older system.
Regular headphones most likely won’t see a sound benefit from a sound card but higher-quality headphones could see a sound improvement in clarity and quality.
Some sound cards support both virtual and true surround setups. Some models support 5.1 surround sound and there are some gaming options that support 7.1 surround sound. They are great for those who are looking for an immersive speaker or headphone setup for music listening, gaming, or movie watching.
It is also worth noting that a sound card may give you a bit better PC performance by taking some of the load off of your processor but if that is your own priority it is better to just invest that money into a better processor.
Consider Getting An Amp & DAC Instead
Many people consider a sound card to not be a worthy investment when instead you can get an amp and DAC setup with better performance for the price. Creating a setup with both or just an amp is a great way to improve your setup and you can get past some of the issues that sound cards face.
Another way an amp and DAC setup can be better than a sound card is the space and looks. Sound cards will take up a slot on your computer’s motherboard and they often don’t look that great but amps and DACs often look a lot better and instead only take up space on your desk rather than in your PC.
Arguably the worst thing about sound cards and onboard audio is interference. Interference will negatively affect the sound that is outputted by your audio device and is caused by other electrical components. This issue is especially apparent with IEMs as they are very sensitive but can also affect headphones and speakers. Interference can be better or worse depending on the card but it is on all models.
With amps and DACs, you will find not only better audio performance but also more features. You can find gaming DACs such as the Sennheiser GSX 1000 that features virtual surround sound, a mic input, and much more. While there are sound cards with similar features you will find more interesting and useful features in the amp and DAC market.
Like sound cards, amps and DACs are only really needed for more powerful, high-performing headphones but an amp and DAC setup has more potential as there are many more options, especially at higher price ranges. Often an amp and DAC is the better way to go over a sound card.
Both are a step up from motherboard audio and provide plenty of outputs. Additionally, both these options have enough power for many high-quality speakers and headphones as they are able to supply up to 600 ohms of power.
Best Sound Card Recommendation
If you want a surround sound setup, especially for speakers, the Creative Sound Blaster AE-5 is fantastic. The AE-5 delivers excellent sound performance and is considered one of the best sound cards regardless of the price. It supports virtual 7.1 surround sound that is very accurate, providing great immersion in games.
This sound card not only has solid sound quality but also great looks. The card has a sleek black or white casing with RGB lighting.
This card is a great way to improve the looks of your PC. It delivers enough power and lots of clarity for all kinds of music and premium headphones.
Today you will not need a sound card if you are building a PC but if you plan to build a setup that will run premium audio equipment or you are upgrading an older setup then you could notice a benefit.
Although they aren’t necessary they do provide specific benefits for those who those who want to run a high-quality audio setup or want an audio setup that could provide a more immersive gaming experience.
If you are looking at a higher quality setup then you should definitely consider getting a DAC and amp. They share many of the benefits that you can get with a sound card but don’t face some issues that they have like audio interference from other components.
Overall there are many ways to improve your audio experience but most people will be perfectly fine with the audio performance of modern motherboards.
The Logitech MX Master 3 is a productivity mouse that is packed with features. The MX Master 3 comes with all the essentials that you will want like wireless connectivity along with other features that can optimize your workflow.
Let’s take a close look at the MX Master 3 and decide if Logitech’s third iteration is the right one for you.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Logitech’s MX Master 3 is a productivity mouse, packed with many features making it a great option for productivity and creative work. Its various features could improve the efficiency of your workflow.
The MX Master 3 packs great performance with a high-quality sensor and a fantastic build. It delivers innovative features such as a horizontal scroll wheel, the MagSpeed scroll wheel, app presets, and much more to help you get more done, faster.
Things like the in-depth software help you get much more out of the mouse. Wireless connectivity, a USB-C port, and fast charging provide a nice user experience too.
Unless you are on a budget or game the majority of the time this mouse is a great option, especially if you do creative work. Its price is a bit hefty at around the $100 mark but it definitely is worth it.
If you think the MX Master 3 is for you, check it out on Amazon.
Inside the box, Logitech gives you everything that you need to use the mouse.
Cable: You get a high-quality rubber USB-A to USB-C cable. It supports fast charging and also allows you to use the mouse wired.
Wireless Dongle: The mouse does support Bluetooth but if you want a more stable connection that is also a bit faster, Logitech gives you a 2.4ghz dongle that is plug and play.
Paperwork: There is some paperwork inside the box but all the useful instructions are on Logitech’s product page.
The MX Master 3 has fantastic build quality.
The mouse is definitely one of the heaviest mice I have used at 141g. Although the weight may not be ideal for gaming, it feels quite hefty and it is not an issue because this mouse is not designed for gaming.
The MX Master is made of plastic, rubber, and metal. The core build is made from sturdy plastic with metal scroll wheels, and rubber where your palm and thumb rest.
The scroll wheels have no wobble and provide a texturized grip. The main scroll wheel has sharp, tactile steps while the secondary wheel is buttery smooth. All the buttons on the MX Master feel snappy and sound quite good. Omron switches are used for peak reliability, especially in the long term.
You can find the mouse in both a graphite gray color and a black color too. The cable is a dark gray for both versions.
Overall, the MX Master 3 has a nice feel and the materials used give you confidence in the product.
Shape and Comfort
The MX Master 3 has an ergonomic shape. It fits the mold of your hand and the buttons are perfectly in reach. This makes the mouse very comfortable to hold, especially for long periods.
Besides the 2 main buttons, the buttons that you will be pressing the most are all controlled with your thumb which maintains the user’s comfort.
If you use a palm grip with your mice then this mouse will be fantastic for you. Using the mouse with other grips is possible but it is not nearly as comfortable. The mouse is fairly large but if you have small or big hands then this mouse will be comfortable for you so that is not a concern.
On top of the ergonomic design, the fact that they use rubber where the pam and thumb rest makes the mouse a lot more comfortable.
Overall this is one of the best mice that I have ever used for comfort and it is obvious that Logitech put a lot of work into the design of this mouse. The MX Master 3 is comfortable and does not look out of place compared to other ergonomic mice.
Buttons and Scroll Wheels
On the MX Master 3, you get physical buttons. All have a solid, tactile feel with a pleasant sound. All these buttons can be remapped.
Along with the buttons, you get aluminum scroll wheels. Both have a texture to them to make them easier to find.
The main scroll wheel supports a very unique feature that is one of the main changes from the previous from previous versions of the mouse. It functions similarly to Logitech’s Hyperscroll.
You can scroll through 1000 lines of code or over 100 pages in a PDF in just a second. This makes this mouse very useful when scrolling between different parts of a project. I also found it very useful in daily tasks like scrolling back to the top of a news article or quickly scrolling to a different part of a music playlist.
Initially, the scroll wheel will function like a regular mouse wheel with tactile steps. As you try to spin the scroll wheel faster, it will automatically move into a freespin mode. In this mode, the wheel will glide smoothly and quietly.
This system uniquely utilizes electromagnets. The wheel is electronically powered, allowing the user to have more accuracy and control.
Horizontal Scroll Wheel
One of the most unique features about the MX Master is its second scroll wheel that is horizontal.
Most mice only have a vertical scroll wheel to move up and down but with a horizontal scroll wheel, you can maneuver from side to side.
Logitech supports many app presets that make the horizontal wheel have different functions. In editing apps you can use the wheel to scroll through a timeline, drawing apps will change the size of the brush, and in zoom or teams, it will change the volume.
A horizontal wheel is a great way to improve the speed and efficiency of your workflow.
The Sensor and Buttons
Logitech’s MX Master 3 uses their Darkfield laser sensor. Logitech is renowned for making some of the best performing sensors and the Darkfield is no different.
The Darkfield laser sensor can track on almost any surface, including glass. This means that you don’t need a mousepad for good accuracy.
This sensor goes up to 4,000 DPI, which can be adjusted through the software. This sensor may not be suitable for gaming but from my testing, it performed quite well.
In addition to a wired connection, you can also connect the MX Master 3 either with a 2.4ghz USB dongle or via Bluetooth.
The dongle will have less latency than Bluetooth and it is plug and play. If you wish to use the mouse with multiple devices then Bluetooth will be needed though.
You can connect to up to 3 devices via Bluetooth and then 1 with the dongle. This great if you want to use the mouse with multiple devices and it enables the Logitech Flow feature to work.
To change between the devices there is a button on the bottom of the mouse that you can press to change between any of the three devices.
Battery Life and Quick Charge
The battery one of the best things about this mouse. It lasts for up to 70 days, supports fast charging, and has battery-saving measures.
I rarely need to charge the mouse and when it reaches low battery the light on the side of the mouse will light up red. That means that I need to plug it in at the end of the day and then I will have battery for another 2-3 months.
After owning the mouse for almost 6 months I have only needed to charge it twice.
If you are out of charge, a single minute will give you a couple hours of use and 3 minutes can get you through the day.
When you stop using the mouse it will go into a power-saving mode but will automatically wake up when you need to use it again.
In-depth Logitech Options Software
The MX Master 3 is supported by the Logitech Options software. It gives you a lot of in-depth control over different parts of the mouse so you can be more productive and efficient with your workflow.
You have control over basic things like changing the mouse sensitivity, checking mouse battery, remapping buttons, and much more.
You can also control more specific things like gestures or control button mappings for specific apps.
App Specific Presets
You have the option to enable or disable different preset options for some popular apps with the MX Master 3. These presets can also be edited. This allows the buttons on your mouse to have specific functions only in specific apps.
There are presets for Microsoft Teams, Zoom, the Microsoft Office Suite, the Adobe Suite, different web browsers, and more.
For example, in Microsoft Word, the horizontal wheel will be used to zoom in and the side buttons are used for undo and redo.
Where you rest your thumb there is a gesture button. In total, you can make up to 5 gestures.
You enact these gestures by either pressing down the button or pressing down the button and then moving the mouse up, down, left, or right. With each of these movements, you can apply custom presets to execute functions more quickly.
One very useful gesture is after pressing the gesture button you can move the mouse left or right to skip or go back to a previous song.
Logitech Flow is arguably one of the coolest features of this mouse.
Logitech Flow is unique because it allows you to use one mouse with multiple systems easily. You can work on two devices at once or you can even transfer files between the two systems.
For this to function, you need to connect to devices via Bluetooth connectivity on this mouse, and then connect to the computers in your network. This allows you to use multiple systems and even transfer files between them over the air.
The ability to transfer files quickly and easily between two systems can be very helpful. This removes the need for a flash drive and the process is also much faster.
The Keychron K6 is a mechanical keyboard that is absolutely packed with features such as Bluetooth connectivity and RGB lighting.
In a compact and efficient 65% layout, the K6 delivers many features that make it a great option for anyone who needs a solid keyboard for a good price.
Let’s dive in and take a deeper look at the Keychron K6.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The Keychron K6 is 65% that delivers backlighting, macOS support, and the option to get a hotswappable PCB.
In addition to that, the board features wireless connectivity with Bluetooth 5.1 with an 80-hour battery life.
You get a solid case with an adjustable height and if you are willing to pay about 10 dollars more you can get aluminum bezels.
Keychron gives you a ton of customization on what features you want, obviously at an increased cost, to get an aluminum case, hotswap PCB, and RGB lighting. You are also given the option to choose the three main kinds of switch, clicky, tactile, and linear.
If you want a board with a ton of features and great value all with a compact layout, the Keychron K6 is a great option. It’s not only a great value offering but the K6 also makes for a great travel board.
In the box, the K6 comes with several items that will help you get up and running as well as some extras to improve your experience with the board. In the box you will find:
USB-C Power Cable: You get a nice braided cable that is USB-C and has a 90-degree angle because the port is on the side. No kinks developed after months of use.
Warranty and Information: Keychron gives you all the essential information on how to use the board with clear instructions along with a pamphlet for warranty information.
Extra Keycaps: You get additional keycaps to add orange accents and for better support for both Windows and macOS. There are modifier keys for Windows and macOS-specific keys.
Keycap Puller: A wire puller is included which makes the process of taking off keycaps very easy while not scratching your keycaps like with cheaper plastic pullers.
Key Switch Puller: If you get the hotswap version of the board then a metal switch puller is included. It is not amazing but it does the job.
Overall it is great that you get so many things in the box and the extras really tie in the experience.
The Keychron K6 has two case designs. Plastic and aluminum. The majority of the case is made from plastic aside from the aluminum top plate. If you do opt for the aluminum version there will be aluminum bezels around the sides for a more hefty feel and premium look.
There is little flex to the board and it feels quite sturdy, especially if you get the aluminum version.
There are 3 levels of height adjustment to the board with a flat typing angle, 6-degree angle, and 10-degree angle. On the bottom of the board, you will also find for moderately size rubber feet to keep the board from sliding around.
The front height was a common complaint with older Keychron boards but while it is still not ideal it is a bit better with the K6. I am able to comfortably type without my wrist rest.
On the left side of the board, you will find a USB-C port along with two buttons. The first button allows you to switch between Windows/Android and macOS/iOS. The other button allows you to switch between Bluetooth, wired, and off.
This is quite a convenient spot for the buttons as it is not in the way and easy to reach but it is not the nicest spot for the cable. It makes cable managing your keyboard cable a lot harder if you are using it in wired and removes the possibility to use custom cables.
For most people, this won’t be too much of an issue, especially if you plan to use the board with Bluetooth.
The K6 comes with a set of ABS keycaps in the OEM profile with doubleshot, shine-through legends. Included are some alternate keycaps including some mac keys and accent keys if you want to add an orange accent to the light or escape keys.
Since the keycaps are made of ABS they will develop shine over time but since the set is pretty good quality for a prebuilt board, it will take at least a month for it to show up. This shine will come from the natural greases and oils from your hands.
The OEM profile is the standard among pre-built mechanical keyboards. The keycaps are contoured to match the shape of your hands. Since this is similar to most pre-built mechanical keyboards, if you have used another in the past it will be very easy to get used to.
Since the keycaps use the doubleshot method for the main legends this means that the legends are reliable and won’t fade away. Although the main legends are shine through there are some printed sub legends to show extra functions that work with the fn1 and fn2 keys.
The keycaps, aside from the orange accent keys, have a gray theme with the use of both light and dark gray. They have a very smooth feel too. The legends on the modifiers look modern and simplistic which is very nice in comparison to other pre-built boards that have aggressive-looking legends.
Underneath the keycaps, Keychron gives you 3 switch options. You get a clicky, tactile, and linear switch from Gateron.
A light linear switch with a smooth travel
A medium weight tactile switch with a light tactile bump
A medium weight clicky switch. It has a loud sound and sharp tactility
Gateron provides some great switches for pre-built boards. All these switches are good options but if you get the hotswappable version of the board, you can replace the stock switches with any option of your choosing.
Gateron’s switches have a durability of 50 million keystrokes which just means that these switches will last a very long time and will probably last longer than the majority of other components on the board.
Stabilizers often have a big effect on how a keyboard sounds and Keychron’s stabilizers are some of the better ones that I have tried on a prebuilt keyboard. Keychron has opted to use Cherry Style plate mount stabs that are factory lubed for a better sound and feel.
The sound and feel will also change based on what switches you use. Clicky switches will block out any rattle from the stabilizers while linear switches could make rattle or ping more obvious.
Overall the stabs are not perfect but they are much better than the stabilizers on most gaming keyboards. If you are coming from a Corsair, Razer, or similar keyboards these stabilizers will be an upgrade. If you get hotswap version of the board then you can easily mod the spacebar to sound and feel even better by lubing it and clipping it yourself.
Software (or Lack Thereof)
Unfortunately, Keychron has no official software or firmware for any of their keyboards.
Keychron has rumored that they are making a software of some sort but little details are known about it and its release date.
Luckily there are some options that Keychron suggests for you to use. On Windows, they recommend that you use Sharpkeys and Karabiner for MacOS (Note: Karabiner won’t work on Linux and GNU based systems). Both softwares work by remapping the buttons of the keyboard input at a low level in the operating system.
This means that all these changes will not actually save to the board so if you move the board to another device none of your mappings will be there. This also means that if you plan to use any other board with your computer that the mappings will be changed because of these softwares.
If you choose to pay extra, you can get a K6 with a hotswappable PCB. This means that you can change the switches without needing to desolder anything. This process takes a few seconds just to take out or put in a switch.
The board supports both 3 and 5 pin switches and it is north-facing. This means that the keyboard supports switches from most switch manufactures including Kailh, Cherry, Drop, and much more. The fact that the sockets are north-facing means that there could be interference between the switch and the keycap with high-end GMK keycap sets but it does allow more of the lighting to get through. This will not be an issue for most people that are in the market for this board though.
A PCB with hotswap sockets is a very useful feature and it makes this board great for those who want to get into the mechanical keyboard hobby but if you just want a keyboard to type on then there is no need to spend the extra money.
One feature that makes the Keychron K6 such a great option is the fact that you can connect the board to three devices with Bluetooth 5.1. This is very useful for those who may use multiple devices or want to travel with the keyboard.
The Bluetooth works with Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
The board supports a 4000maH rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The battery is rated for 80 hours or 10 days with 8 hours of usage, while backlighting is on. This was consistent with my testing. After about 5 minutes of inactivity, the board will go into a low power mode turning off the LEDs. The only complaint you may have is that it takes a few seconds for the board to turn back on.
The latency with Bluetooth actually is not bad. Although I would not recommend it for gaming it is not a terrible experience. Depending on the game, it was not even noticeable that I was still on Bluetooth.
It is worth mentioning that I did have some connectivity issues when I first got the board. At first, the board would not go into pairing mode. I fixed this issue by leaving the board to charge for a few hours and then it worked. Ever since I have never had any issues with Bluetooth.
A very nice feature about all Keychron boards is MacOS support. Many boards only officially support Windows so some boards either won’t work or some of the modifier keys may have no functionality.
On the side of the K6 is a button to change between Windows/Android or Mac/IOS. This is complemented nicely by the Apple-specific keycaps.
This feature is very nice because it means you can use this keyboard no matter what operating system you plan to use. If you are primarily a Mac user then this is one of the best boards that you can get.
The Keychron K6 features either white or RGB backlighting the RGB option will cost a bit more. The RGB lighting is not as bright as gaming keyboards that I have tried from Corsair, Logitech, or Razer. It is not very bright but is still noticeable.
RGB lighting is always nice to have to add to a desk theme and the white blends well in an office environment.
The LEDs along with the modern font of the keycaps are not obtrusive and don’t make the board look overly gamery. The LEDs are versatile for any situation.
Due to the keyboard having no dedicated software currently, all the effects are on the board. There are a variety of effects from static colors to type lighting. With the white LED models you won’t have nearly as many lighting effects.
You can also easily turn on and off the LEDs by pressing either fn1 or fn2 and the light button.
The sub $100 price range is very competitive but the Keychron K6 emerges as a great option with great performance and features.
It delivers tons of utility with a nice-looking case. You get Bluetooth, macOS support, backlighting, and the chance to get a hotswappable PCB. You get all the utility that you need while in a compact 65% layout.
The wireless connectivity helps this board be very portable and it allows you to have a clean setup.
The board is quite sturdy with minimal flex and a decent weight for its size.
The only major drawbacks of the board are the fact that the USB-C port is on the side limiting your options for custom cables and cable management options as well as potential Bluetooth connectivity issues. Luckily the connection issue that I faced had a simple fix but, unfortunately, these issues are common.
If you are interested in checking out this board then you can see the Keychron K6 on Amazon.
The Surface Headphones 2 are a pair of headphones for enjoying music especially while on the go.
Microsoft positions the pair in a highly competitive market of Bluetooth, ANC headphones with an interesting twist on having a more unique interface and look.
Let’s dive in and take a look and see how they compete.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
If you want an excellent pair of headphones that has Bluetooth, ANC, and a solid build, the Microsoft Surface Headphones are a great option to consider. They are a great option for music listening at home or on the go.
If you want everything that the top Bluetooth headphones deliver at a slightly cheaper price this is a great option. Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 are still very competitive but have a better value over some of the more expensive offerings on the market.
The Surface Headphones 2 are often compared to more expensive options like Sony’s XM4s or Bose NC700s. Although the Surface Headphones are 100 or more dollars less expensive, they compete very closely with these options and are often compared to both.
The build is strong along with a comfortable design that makes these a great option no matter where you are. You can use them throughout the day. Along with this, you get similar sound quality as other premium Bluetooth headphones.
The interface is one of the most unique things about this pair and the inclusion of dials makes interacting with the device very easy while still having a lot of functionality.
Additionally, there is support from many other features like a carrying case, software support, fast charging, ANC, and ambient sound.
If your main priority is having the best sound quality then there are other options to consider but for a Bluetooth pair, this is excellent.
Everything is packaged very nicely. In the box you will find the headphones and some accessories.
Carrying Case: A carrying case holds almost everything that you will need to use the headphones, including the pair themselves. It is a well-made, hard case with fabric.
Headphones: Inside the carrying case are the headphones with some protective paper that you can peel off.
USB-A to USB-C: You get a rubberized cable for fast charging the device at 4.1ft (1.5m) .
3.5mm to 3.5mm adapter: If you want to use the pair wired, you get a 3.1 ft (1.2m) long cable.
Instructions: In the case, by the cables, you will find the instructions on how to use the buttons and gestures.
Manual: You will also get a manual that covers everything that you may need to know like contacts and support.
Drivers: 40mm Dynamic Drivers
Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
Sensitivity(Sound output): 115dB with cable or Bluetooth
Noise cancellation: Up to 30dB for active, up to 40dB for passive
Inputs: USB-C, 3.5mm
Weight: 0.64lbs (290g)
The build of the Surface Headphones is quite good. You have good use of aluminum, plastic, fabric, and pleather. Plastic is used for most of the design with aluminum for the frame. You can also see aluminum connecting the earcups to the headband. The earcups and top of the headband use pleather with fabric inside the earcups.
I have accidentally dropped the pair and they have been fine. Through regular use, you should have no issues. You get the standard build with other headphones premium ANC headphones.
There is no sweat rating on the Surface Headphones but I had no issues with regular use or exercise. I wouldn’t want to risk anything with more premium headphones but I have taken the pair on runs and to the gym and had zero problems. They are fine from my testing but there is no official rating to back it up. I would also not recommend using the pair in the rain as there is a high risk of damage.
After using the pair for about a year, there are some sweat stains on the inside but it is nothing too bad and there is no effect on the performance of the device.
To back up the build of the device is a 1 year warranty.
The pair feels well build and nice to the touch. I have no complaints.
Style and Comfort
You have two color options with the Surface Headphones 2. You can get a matte black or a light gray. Both look quite nice and are resistant to scratches and other cosmetic issues.
There Microsoft logo is on the lower part of the headband on both sides. It is a reflective material that is consistent with the logos on the other Surface line’s products. Overall this style looks quite nice, especially if you own other Surface products.
The comfort of the Surface Headphones 2 is pretty good and it is among the best for Bluetooth headphones. There is a decent amount of cushioning on both the headband and earcups so there are never pressure points. I only found that there would be too much pressure if you are using the headphones for extended periods of time of two or more hours.
Using glasses with this pair is not as good as some other headphones that I have tried but it is pretty good.
Although there isn’t too much pressure, the Surface Headphones stay on your head really well even if you are running or jumping. The Surface headphones are a decent option for working out but they don’t support any official sweat rating so use them at your own risk. I have not had any issues with my pair and I have had them since they came out, using them for everything from working to going to the gym.
The earpads use of pleather makes them very comfortable but if your ears get hot easily then you could run to comfort issues. My ears get hot no matter what headphones I use. With the Surface Headphones, my ears get uncomfortably hot after about 45 minutes of usage. For most people, you could probably use the pair for upwards of two hours.
Another potential issue you may encounter with the Surface Headphones is that your ears may touch the drivers. The material on the inside is some sort of soft fabric so it doesn’t get uncomfortable.
Most people will not have an issue with the size of these headphones unless you have a very small head. Most small heads will fit well but children may encounter problems.
The headphones are quite light at 290g or 0.64lbs. This helps them not feel heavy on your head even after long periods of time. The low weight also makes the headphones very portable.
The Surface Headphones have a more “appealing” and “fun” sound signature that is mainstream among Bluetooth headphones. There is more of a V curve meaning there is more of a boost in bass and some of the vocals.
The bass hits quite nicely and vocals don’t sound harsh but unfortunately, the mid-range controlling most instruments is a bit recessed.
Although these headphones have the same sound profile as many consumer headphones there are some other factors considered like the clarity of the sound and separation between different sounds.
I would say that you get what you pay for. The sound quality is better than most of the cheaper offerings and even options at the same price range. The quality is quite good but not as good as maybe the Sony XM4s, although they are more expensive.
I noticed that the quality of the sound was the same between wired and Bluetooth. This is also due to the fact that most audio platforms, like Spotify or Apple music, only playback audio at a quality of 320kbps. The amount of information in the music would have to be much different to notice much of a difference between wired and wireless.
Overall the sound is quite good and unless you are used to very premium headphones or audiophile quality pairs the sound is amazing for most. The only issues I felt were that the mid-range instruments were not as present as I hoped and although there is quite a lot of bass and it is able to hit hard, it was not necessarily always clean. This is common among popular noise-canceling headphones.
That being said, this is a deep-level analysis from someone who has tried more premium sounding headphones so the sound signature and quality will be great for most people in the market for Bluetooth headphones.
One of the most unique aspects of the Surface Headphones is the interface. Most high-end Bluetooth headphones will support gestures to skip songs or change the volume but Microsoft takes it a step further.
Microsoft uses two dials, two buttons, and both earcups are touch capacitive.
One button is used to turn on and off the device and the other button is used to activate either Cortana or your device’s virtual assistant. This makes communication with Google Assistant or Siri very easy, even if you don’t have your phone is in another room.
The controls on the earcups allow you to skip or go back to a track as well as pause and play. It doesn’t matter which earcup you use because the controls work on both.
Finally, arguably the most unique thing about the Surface Headphones, the dials. These dials are smooth and continuous. On the edge of the earcups are two dials. The left one controls the level of ANC as the dial on the right controls the volume.
The control that is given to you from the dials makes the Surface Headphones very easy to use and the interface is one of the best on any headphone. It is very easy to use and you have a lot of functionality without needing your phone.
Software is always a great thing to go alongside a pair of headphones. With the Surface Headphones, Microsoft has their Surface Audio app both on the PC and phone.
The software allows you to monitor important things like battery or volume and gives you access to in-depth functionality.
With the software you can change the name, edit EQs, change language, and update the device.
Over the air updates can improve things like battery life and even sound quality.
Cortana and Voice Assistants
One interesting feature of the Surface Headphones is the inclusion of a voice assistant, Cortana. You can use Cortana to do things like read emails to you or interact with any Microsoft app.
Ultimately I don’t find Cortana to be useful but you can still use the headphones with the virtual assistant of your device. To interact with the assistant of your device, simply long-press the side of either earcup.
The Surface Headphones support the industry standard Bluetooth 5.0.
I was able to go about 100 feet (30.5 meters) away from my computer or phone with obstacles in the way before the audio started to cut out. Without walls or other obstacles, you can probably be over 200 feet (61 meters) away from your device without it cutting out.
You could leave your device and walk anywhere around most apartments and even many homes without the audio cutting out. At the gym, you could potentially leave your phone in a locker if it is close enough to you.
Pairing the device is also easy. Simply press the power button and then press again and hold for about five seconds until you hear, “You’re ready to pair”. Whenever you turn on the device it will automatically connect to paired devices.
You can pair with multiple devices for seamless switching from a phone and computer with audio plays from a different device.
Overall this is standard Bluetooth performance with options from the likes of Sony and Bose but it is still quite good and works with few issues.
You can also use the Surface Headphones wired if you want via the 3.5mm cable.
Battery and Charging
The battery and charging are not as good as some of the industry leaders but the performance is still quite good, especially for the price.
Microsoft’s Surface headphones can charge to 100% in under two hours and get an hour of playtime after 5 minutes of charging. Sony has a charging speed with their XM3s of five hours in just 10 minutes.
As for the battery, you can get about 20 hours of music playback while using Bluetooth and ANC. I found that this was enough to last me over a week with two to three hours of daily usage. While using them at work, they can last me a few days if using them for the majority of the day.
In order to have noise cancellation, the headphones need multiple mics. As a result, the Surface Headphones have a better mic than most headphones I have tried and on par with more premium Bluetooth Headphones.
They are better than the mics of AirPods but still worse than a dedicated microphone.
The sound is good enough for calling but I would not recommend using Surface Headphones for any recording.
ANC and Ambient Sound
One of the defining features of the Surface Headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation alongside an ambient sound mode.
In total, you have 13 levels of ANC adjustment from amplified ambient sound to full noise cancellation.
The ANC performance is not the best but it can block out the surroundings while in a bus and remove a lot of the sound of a plane or vacuum. It is pretty good and definitely one of the best options but still trails the likes of Bose and Sony with their flagships.
As for the ambient sound, it is quite clean sounding. It sounds as if you were hearing all the sounds around you with your own ears.
There is an amplified ambient sound mode. This makes everything louder than it actually is. I found it very useful to listen to people talking to me from another room and it helps you to hear your surroundings while still listening to music.
Many of the alternatives to the Surface Headphones are at higher price points but they are still able to compete in many areas.
The Sony WH-1000XM4s is arguably one of the best headphones in this category of Bluetooth, ANC headphones. Compared to the Surface Headphones 2 they can’t compete with the dials and the build is very similar. They both share many features like being able to connect to different devices, fast charging, and more.
The XM4s do perform better in multiple fields though. Sound, ANC, and Battery are all a bit better with the Sonys. The performance is not huge but the XM4s deliver some of the best performance in these fields for Bluetooth headphones. You get 30 hours of battery life, a cleaner sound, and arguably the best ANC in any headphones.
It is important to mention that the XM4s are often $100 more than the Surface Headphones 2 and understanding if spending the extra money is worth it is essential to understanding which one is best for you.
Bose NC 700
The Bose NC 700s are another fantastic option that is positioned often at a higher price point than even the XM4s. They deliver a minimalistic look, a similar design concept to the clean look of the Surface Headphones.
They have similar build quality, comfort, Bluetooth performance, and battery life. Where the Bose NC 700s pull ahead is in cleaner sound and some of the best ANC. The ANC is better at blocking out consistent sounds like an airplane and sudden sounds like a door closing.
Again the Bose NC700s are also, usually, over $100 more than the Surface Headphones 2. They may have less value but then looks, and improved ANC and sound quality may make it worth it for them.
Competing with the best Bluetooth headphones, the Surface Headphones 2 delivers great value and performance competing heavily with the top options.
They are a great option to use both while you work and while you work out and they can get you through the day with long battery life. Microsoft delivers on giving a solid build with great sound quality and ANC.
All this is supported by the abundance of other features like fast charging, a carrying case, software support, and the interface with dials. The interface itself makes the headphones such a great option along with everything else.
The Surface Headphones 2 are well rounded and will deliver everything most people need at a price that is cheaper than its competitors