Mechanical keyboard aficionados surely know about Cherry, the German manufacturer of the popular MX switches used on so many high-end boards. However, not everyone knows that Cherry manufactures their own keyboards, both mechanical and rubber dome, as well as being active in many other areas, from automotive to medical devices. Today we’re reviewing the Cherry Stream 3.0, a simple keyboard with scissor switches marketed as a low-profile keyboard for office environments. Let’s see if this 40€ piece of hardware is worth purchasing for a professional or a small business, and what its highlights are.
Packaging and content
The Cherry Stream 3.0 comes in a slim cardboard box. On the top is a picture of the keyboard itself in the German layout. Mine has an Italian layout, so I’m assuming all packages feature the same German picture. On the bottom, the name of the keyboard and marketing blurb in 5 languages, although for some reason the last bullet points for Spanish and Italian are swapped. On the front and rear side is only a Cherry logo, on the left a sticker and another picture of the top of the keyboard, and on the right a side view. It’s quite an elegant box, with an almost understated look. I quite like it and it can double as a box for your install disks, if you so desire.
Inside is just the keyboard in a plastic bag and a manual in case you’ve lived under a rock for the past 150 years or so and you’ve never seen a QWERTY keyboard before and don’t know how to use it. Jokes aside, it covers general and warranty information in 7 languages and suggests to download Cherry’s KeyM@n application for binding F keys to custom bind them. Obviously, I listened. What surprised me a bit is that the website lists multiple download links, each for every language supported. That’s a bit strange, considering that the installer allows for selecting multiple languages during installation. We’ll talk in depth about KeyM@n in a later paragraph.
What surprised me when I first unboxed the keyboard is how heavy it feels, compared to other rubber-dome models. Lifting it with my hands, it seems slightly lighter than my Das Keyboard, in itself a rather heavy product. The spec sheet lists it at weighing 962 grams, which is a heck of a lot for a non-mechanical keyboard. That’s very good, because a heavier product will be less likely to slide around a desk. To further improve stability, Cherry has provided its keyboard with 2 rubber feet on the front. Lifting the keyboard up on the stands (which you should definitely do in any case) raises the total of rubber feet to 4, making it very stable on the desk.
The keyboard is available in two colours: black and pale grey, although the pale grey version’s bottom is black anyway. That’s a bit surprising because, in all honesty, fuck grey and beige computers. These ain’t the ’90s anymore, kid. Cherry offers 12 keyboard layouts for the Stream, although Hungarian layout models are only available in grey and US with Cyrillic ones only in black. Sucks to be Hungarian, I guess.
The keys have the same rough texture of the rest of the keyboard, which helps with hiding dust and stains, but makes them a little less comfortable to type on. Each key is laser-etched, meaning its inscription will last longer. Cherry’s black model’s inscriptions are filled with white coloured plastic, making the inscriptions very noticeable to the touch, compared to other keyboards that use pad printing. Prolonged usage will most likely level them out, but the same effect can be achieved with extra fine sandpaper, if the pronounced inscriptions bother you.
On the usual right top spot are three LEDs for Num Lock, Caps Lock and Scroll Lock that thankfully are very bright and easy to see from every angle in all lighting conditions. Above the function keys are six multimedia keys to adjust volume, mute your computer, skip to the previous or next track, and pause or resume multimedia playback. Their build quality doesn’t seem excellent: pressing on them felt mushy right out of the box and I suspect these will be the first keys to malfunction.
The Cherry Stream 3.0 uses scissor switches, similar to what you’d find on laptops. They provide tactile feedback once the key bottoms out and are very silent, even compared to other slim keyboards, but at the same time they are slightly stiffer to type on, although not as much as the keys on a Microsoft Wireless Desktop 800 keyboard. Overall, the typing experience is satisfactory and comfortable and it’s clear that this is a keyboard meant to last.
Typing speeds and error rates
As usual with keyboard reviews, we ran the usual typing test 5 times using TIPP10 and analysed the results with Microsoft Excel. Here are the results.
Overall, I’m very happy with the typing speed I achieved with the Cherry Stream 3.0. It ranks very high compared to non-mechanical keyboards and beats both mechanical keyboards I’ve tested so far by about 1 word per minute. Granted, this isn’t necessarily a big deal, but it’s nice to see a relatively inexpensive device being able to keep up with more expensive offerings. The result is even more surprising when one takes into account the stiffness of the keys. I expected this to be a major drawback compared to the Das Keyboard, but the Stream still ranked second among all the models I’ve tried so far. Only the Trust keyboard beat it by a 3 words per minute margin.
We’re looking at the average error rates here. The Cherry Stream 3.0 fares better than mechanical keyboards and slightly worse than the average of non-mechanical ones. It proved to be slightly worse than the Das Keyboard by a 0.01% margin, but beat the VicTsing I-500 by more than 0.20%. It didn’t stand a chance against the Trust keyboard, though (1.59% vs 1.96%).
I promised I’d spend a few words about KeyM@n. Basically, it’s the poor man’s AutoHotkey. What it does is allowing the user to bind function keys on the keyboard or mouse clicks to an action such as opening a program, activating the screensaver, shutting down the computer, and the likes. I have no issue with this in theory, but in practice, binding a key to an action overrides that key’s function in all applications. Normally, F1 opens the Help for a program, but binding that key to any action except the default No Action option will make the help menu inaccessible through keyboard shortcuts. Considering that the default behaviour for most function keys and mouse click is fine as it is, I see no point in using KeyM@n for day-to-day use. Another thing that bothers me is that, by default, the application only recognizes two applications to open: Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. If you want to use any other application, you have to copy and paste the exact path to that program.
Despite not being the fastest keyboard I’ve reviewed, the Cherry Stream 3.0 still manages to fend off really well compared to all the other keyboards. Yes, the Trust keyboard is cheaper, slightly faster, and made me make less typos, but it’s also a lot lighter and less sturdy, meaning it will break sooner and won’t be able to sustain as much physical punishment. If you’re looking for a keyboard that works really well and has a reasonable price, the Stream 3.0 is right for you. Just don’t get the grey version, please. Pretty please with cherries on top?