How come when we come to planning a new PC, we almost always skimp on the components that really matter? Yes a better graphics card might give you 10 more frames per second, but a decent keyboard will improve your game and keep you playing for longer. It's the most used peripheral you own, and your fingers hate you not buying a good one.
The PC Gamer Rig is the best value PC you can build for under £1,000/$1,550, and thanks to some recent juggling of components and suppliers there's been a fair bit of that budget left to play with in recent weeks. Since we can afford it, now that the Microsoft X4 - a long time favourite in the office - is getting harder to get hold of and more expensive it's time to find an alternative.
A lot of keyboards have passed through the labs recently, and there's been a promising resurgence of interest in those with keyswitches of the mechanical kind . Corsair's beautiful looking K60 , QPAD's superb MK-85 , Razer's double brace of Black Widows and the pricey but pleasant Mionix Zibal 60 have all been tested and found wanting almost solely as a result of the cost. As important as it is to own a good keyboard like these, though, even I'd struggle to part with more than £100/$150 for one unless I'd just had an unexpected windfall of some kind.
But in amongst a box of mice and race controllers from Steelseries that arrived for review this week, I think I've found the perfect keyboard: the 6G|V2. It's been around for a few months now – longer in the US - and now I've had chance to play with it I realise I've been waiting for it for a long time.
The 6G|V2 is basic. Very basic. Compared to the outstanding looks of Corsair's aluminium K60, it might as well be wearing a pastel shirt and a perm, it's so very 1980s. It doesn't come with as much as a wrist rest, so resolutely does it eschew modern affectations like ergonomics. It doesn't even have legs to prop it up into a more comfortable position if you wish.
There's no backlight or macro keys or fancy driver suites, either. Just a Cherry MX Black switch under every key that has a smooth mechanical action without the tactile click of some keyboards. Which in my zealous crusade to convert all PC Gamer readers to the joys of a mechanical keyboard, I'm going to gush about.
The buttons themselves are slightly heavier to push than the MX Red switches favoured by Corsair and QPAD, which remain my favourite of the Cherry suite. Many typists prefer a little more resistance than the Reds offer, though, as it can help to prevent mis-strikes.
What's important about the Steelseries 'board, though, is the price. Short of hopping onto eBay or finding a bargain at the local car boot, it's just about the cheapest mechanical keyboard around. It's up against Razer's Black Widow or Black Widow Stealth Edition, slightly cheaper in some places, pricier than others. Of the two, I prefer the design and non-tactile keys of the 6G|V2.
At £67/$85 it's still what most people would consider expensive for a keyboard, but that's only £30 more than the X4 cost last month. That's an investment I'd argue is worth every penny, personally. Especially as the whole Rig is less than £5/$15 more than last week including the mechanical keyboard, thanks to shopping around on prices elsewhere.
What's in the Rig?
Intel Core i5 2500K
Unlocked for overclocking, but if you're on a tighter budget you could go for a cheaper fixed speed chip.
ASUS P8Z68-V LX/Gigabyte GA-Z68AP-D3
Good boards with plenty of tuning tools and Crossfire graphics support (not that that's important with the NVIDIA card below).
Crucial Ballistix Sport
Good quality RAM at a good price. Expect comments below about how x-brand is better.
GeForce GTX 560Ti
The UK store only has a few cards left at this price, so expect them to sell out fast.
500GB hard drive
Still not quite the right time to buy a hard drive, but things are looking better.
You don't need a DVD drive anymore, but you'll need this or a large USB stick to install the Windows 8 beta.
Not just good looking, but soft to the touch too.
OCZ ZS Series 650W
Plenty of power for what you'll need.
Classic Logitech design with a modern 3600dpi sensor.
It's not quite the cheapest mechanical keyboard around (I think that honour goes to the Solidtek KB-6600BU , which isn't widely available in Europe), but at this price you really should treat yourself.
ASUS Xonar DG
Not essential, but a great extra for £20.
Iiyama Prolite X2377HDS/AOC i2353Ph
Alternatively, you could try the excellent Dell U2312HM for £25 more – the stand alone is worth the extra.
Creative SoundBlaster Tactic 3D Alpha
I'm not the biggest fan of Creative headsets, but to get better you'll need to spend a lot more.
That's £4.59/$14.33 more than last week.
Be sure to check out our list of the best gaming keyboards.