Cherry MX Clear keyboards are among the rarest of rare types to find, and assuming you can find one, then you can forget about any extra features or functionality. In recent months, even those that feature Cherry MX Green keys have become easier to find by comparison, which is particularly odd considering that Green switches were originally designed only for spacebar use. Jeff Atwood and Weyman Kwong (of WASD Keyboards) apparently agreed, and set out to design a keyboard that not just used Cherry MX Clear keys but one that met the features, functionality, and built-quality criteria they sought after. Hence, the CODE keyboard was born.
Cherry MX Clear switches have nearly the actuation force of Black switches, but retain the tactile feedback of Browns without the clicking noise of Blues. If that was a clear as mud, MX Clear switches have a higher actuation force than every key except Black and Green switch types, and a bottom-out force is the highest of the bunch, tied with Green switches. Our chart should help clear things up (sorry, last pun).
|Feedback||Clicky||Actuation Force||Bottom-out Force|
|CHERRY MX Red||Linear||No||45g||60g|
|CHERRY MX Black||Linear||No||60g||80g|
|CHERRY MX Brown||Tactile||No||45g||60g|
|CHERRY MX Blue||Tactile||Yes||50g||65g|
|CHERRY MX Green||Tactile||Yes||80g||100g|
|CHERRY MX Clear||Tactile||No||55g||100g|
Getting back to the CODE keyboard; it offers 6-key USB rollover (nine if counting Ctrl, Alt, & Shift), or no limit at all over PS/2. The backlighting on the CODE is Apple-esque in its design, in that the white LED offers seven levels of brightness or can be turned off. Even the steel backplate under the keys has been painted white “to provide perfectly even light dispersion”. Onboard memory will remember the last backlight setting for when the system is next turned on or even when the keyboard is disconnected. If that wasn’t enough, even the positioning of the Helvetica font typeface has been taken into account for the LED backlights.
Oh, and don’t let the photos fool you. The CODE has an Fn key for six media keys subtly hidden on the Ins, Home, and Page key area with a seventh mute sound key on Pause.
The CODE was designed to be minimalist and unobtrusive, with the keyboard housing custom-molded to reduce its footprint as much as possible. The housing itself is textured to resist fingerprints, smudges, and light scratches. Flipping it over, and as expected, there are large rubber pads for plenty of grip, but one will also find rubber coated flip-out feet as well, something that is unfortunately all too rare to find in my opinion!
But wait, there’s more! In what has to be the most unique feature yet, flipping the CODE keyboard over will reveal another relic from the 80’s mechanical keyboard era: dip switches. These switches provide for some intriguing features and configurability. Users can switch between QWERTY, Dvorak, or Colemak typeface layouts, while Mac users will be happy to note they can convert the Alt into a Command button. Other settings include disabling the Windows key, changing the caps-lock key to a Ctrl, or even modifying the scroll-lock key into a Windows key lock function.
What isn’t so hidden as the Fn media keys is the price; at $150 for the 104-key with numpad or the 87-key version sans numpad, the CODE is by no means cheap. Still, given the dearth of MX Clear keyboards available, the price seems very reasonable, especially after taking into account the build quality, feature set, and configurability. Okay who am I kidding – honestly, the media keys may be worth it alone.
I am probably biased, but the CODE has every feature I’ve been looking for in a quality Cherry MX Clear keyboard, with the possible exception of self-cleaning keys. And I may not be the only one, as the 104-key CODE is already backordered well into next month. The 87-key CODE keyboard will also become available for ordering around that time.