Per-Key Quality Testing

In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyser that is programmed to measure and display the actuation force of the standard keyboard keys. By measuring the actuation force of every key, the quality and consistency of the keyboard can be quantified. It can also reveal design issues, such as the larger keys being far softer to press than the main keys of the keyboard. The actuation force is measured in Centinewton (cN). Some companies use another figure, gram-force (gf). The conversion formula is 1 cN = 1.02 gf (i.e. they are about the same). A high-quality keyboard should be as consistent as possible, with an average actuation force as near to the manufacturer's specs as possible and a disparity of less than ±10%. Greater differences are likely to be perceptible by users. It is worth noting that there is typically variance among keyboards, although most keyboard companies will try and maintain consistency - as with other reviews, we're testing our sample only.

The machine we use for our testing is accurate enough to provide readings with a resolution of 0.1 cN. For wider keys (e.g. Enter, Space Bar, etc.), the measurement is taking place at the center of the key, right above the switch. Note that large keys generally have a lower actuation force even if the actuation point is at the dead center of the key. This is natural, as the size and weight of the keycap reduce the required actuation force. For this reason, we do display the force required to actuate every key but we only use the results of the typically sized keys for our consistency calculations. Still, very low figures on medium-sized keys, such as the Shift and Enter keys reveal design issues and can easily be perceptible by the user.

We tested the Mountain Everest Max fully assembled as if we were testing a normal full-size mechanical keyboard. Since the keyboard is using Cherry’s original MX Red switches, the outcome of this testing was unsurprisingly predetermined – Cherry is known for their strict quality control and we consistently receive the same great performance results from testing keyboards using their switches.

The force disparity is below ±3%, reflecting the exceptional quality control we are used to receiving from keyboards with original Cherry MX switches. The average force at the actuation point (not the maximum pressure point) is at 43.6 cN, nearly perfect for a Cherry MX Red switch.

Hands-on Testing

I always try to use every keyboard that we review as my personal keyboard for at least a week. My typical weekly usage includes a lot of typing (about 100-150 pages), a few hours of gaming and some casual usage, such as internet browsing and messaging. I personally prefer Cherry MX Brown or similar (tactile) switches for such tasks, yet I do not find linear switches like the Cherry MX Red to be uncomfortable either. The lack of both tactile and audible actuation feedback may not be ideal for professional use but the Cherry MX Red switches of the Mountain Everest Max were very comfortable for long-term use. Despite its full-size keyboard shape, using the Everest Max did require a short learning curve, as the gap between the arrow/command keys and the rest of the keyboard is slightly narrower than that of a typical keyboard.

Gamers will be the ones to fully appreciate the layout and features of the Everest Max. The Cherry MX Red switches are very comfortable for long gaming sessions and the snappy modularity of the keyboard allows for the seamless removal of the Numpad every time more desk space is required for the mouse.  Online gamers and streamers will appreciate the extra display keys, while advanced gamers will enjoy the flexibility of the Basecamp software. The only negative aspect that we found irritating was that we had to select the volume submenu on the display dial every time we needed to adjust the volume, as the display keeps resetting back to its main menu after a few seconds. We suspect that the company will soon remedy that with a firmware/software update.

Conclusion

Mountain is making a huge statement with the release of the Everest as their first keyboard, yet they are also taking a huge risk by reaching for the top with their very first attempt. Most newly founded companies, or even companies that attempt to diversify, usually try and take a piece from the largest segment of the relevant market, and only after that work their way up. Mountain took the entirely opposite approach with the release of the Everest Max, as the keyboard is aimed entirely towards hardcore enthusiasts that pay little attention to price tags, and who are the smallest segment of the peripherals market.

Undoubtedly, the company’s engineers placed a lot of effort into the design, materials, and manufacturing of the Everest Max. It is one of the most well-made keyboards that has ever found its way into our labs, with a flawless finish and very durable construction. Despite its modular design, the keyboard is exceptionally sturdy when fully assembled. We also have to take into account that this is the first keyboard we have tested that features original Cherry MX switches which can be removed/exchanged by the user. This makes the Everest Max practically unbreakable, as users can easily swap switches that may go bad from mistreatment and/or overuse. Our only complaint lies with the top surface of the rotating dial, which can be scratched a bit more easily than one would expect from a screen on such an expensive device.

As far as mechanical keyboards are concerned, unique features are rare nowadays, as the market is saturated with hundreds of products. None the less, Mountain managed to give the Everest Max a touch of uniqueness with the programmable display keys and the multifunctional rotating dial. The Basecamp software makes the Everest Max a very versatile keyboard, allowing users to customize its functionality and aesthetics to their every whim.

The Mountain Everest Max is a unique keyboard, unlike any other currently out in the market. However, its $199 retail price is several times that of a more basic keyboard, a fact that will definitely drive most users away. The Everest Max is a keyboard meant for the elite – users that want to have an excellent, unique keyboard unlike any other and are willing to pay a grand price tag for it. Although the $119 Core version of the Everest is nearly half the price as the Max, the Core is not really competitive as a stand-alone tenkeyless form mechanical keyboard. On the other hand, the Everest Max may be very expensive but it does have many unique features that could draw the attention of users who are seeking a well-built keyobard that is way above the norm.

Software: The BaseCamp App
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  • COtech - Friday, November 19, 2021 - link

    Sounds like quite a product for a first attempt. $200 is out of my budget range but not crazy for high-end boards with Cherry switches and good software.

    As well as they did out of the gate, and with the report that one software issue observed has already been fixed, I'm sure they'll get the other minor things fixed in the next revision.
    Reply
  • COtech - Friday, November 19, 2021 - link

    They are asking $70 for the media dock alone so it makes sense to get the Max package straight off rather than start with the core and build. Reply
  • zlandar - Friday, November 19, 2021 - link

    Wish someone would make a real successor to the Logitech G15. I like having the lcd display with Sirreal applet running. Reply
  • Short_Circuit - Friday, November 19, 2021 - link

    Funny you say that. The original G15 is the last 'specialty' keyboard I bought prior to the Everest.

    Back when the iCue Nexus was announced I was considering one of those + a K100 as a potential equivalent, but the Nexus, in the flesh, was a bit disappointing for the price (primarily for the very low screen vs bezel ratio). If/when Corsair brought out an improved version of that (or the cost of the current one reduced by a margin), I'd probably stick one on the back of my Everest for the best of all worlds.

    Don't forget that there are a variety of other options for small, keyboard-mounted displays, albeit many have a DIY aspect to them. Nextion HMI displays are ideal for this.
    Reply
  • stjoes123@gmail.com - Thursday, November 25, 2021 - link

    Anandtech once again made a very compelling write up why this Mountain Everest keyboard system is top notch and worthy of purchase. As a result I ordered one as I was tired of going thru another Corsair mechanical keyboard. As I type this post I have 3 broken Corsairs all for failed Cherry MX Red switches. Sounds like a simple fix right? .... anyone who has completed a replacement Cherry switch on any of the Corsair keyboards knows it's not a quick repair but involves not only soldering but removal of dozens of tiny phillips head screws. Me, I'm tired of spending hours making this type repair versus a simple Mountain Everest keyboard switch replacement which takes only a few minutes to complete. This alone is worth this purchase. Reply
  • Short_Circuit - Monday, January 17, 2022 - link

    It's with a heavy heart that I'm back to make a follow-up to previous comments praising the keyboard.

    Unfortunately, six weeks of experience has demonstrated that while my opinion of the hardware hasn't changed, it remains a lovely keyboard to work on, my view of the firmware and software has, drastically - for the worse.

    After the intial setup I have found a growing number of glitches with the keyboard, the most serious of which is that since a firmware update, the Media Dock refuses to wake up after system standby or hibernation - unless it (or the entire keyboard) is physically disconnected/reconnected every time.

    Furthermore, it occasionally goes non-functional when the system is up, too. And when this happens it somehow interferes with communication between the keyboard and its mating software service.

    The automatic, app launch profile switching doesn't work consistently, and, most frustratingly, after being advised to re-flash the firmware and then factory reset the keyboard by Mountain TS, re-importing my saved settings didn't re-import custom per-key per-app lighting profiles I'd previously set up.

    The macro recording process is exceptionally cumbersome and difficult to edit too.

    To be fair, Mountain support have been quick to respond to emails, but beyond asking for (and me providing) a large amount of detailed info and system logs, they haven't yet been able to make any suggestions. Since looking around, I've found a significant number of other users reporting issues too.

    I have, ironically, found the keyboard is more reliable and less glitchy with the Base Camp service disabled on the host PC.

    Hopefully these problems are related to the firmware and software and can be fixed in short order. If I don't hear anything back from Mountain over the next couple of weeks, it'll be a very reluctant call to the place I bought it to enquire about a refund.
    Reply
  • dreamslacker - Wednesday, January 19, 2022 - link

    Have you tried using a powered USB 3 hub to connect the keyboard and also using a USB 3 host port? If you haven't, try using a powered USB 3.0 hub and re-flash the keyboard.
    Also, with regards to the media dock or keypad, do keep these connected to the main kb module before connecting the kb to the hub/ computer.
    I've found that when using a USB 2.0 host port on my KVM (but keeping the keyboard powered via the hub), configuring the keyboard is extremely slow; and firmware updates are impossible (despite that the keyboard controller only runs at USB 1.1 internally).
    I've the same experience with Base Camp and Mountain support as well - fast response, generally polite, but basically their only response is equivalent to "Have you tried restarting/ re-installing?".
    Reply
  • Short_Circuit - Friday, January 21, 2022 - link

    Hi dreamslacker, thanks for the comment. Unfortunately I think I've got all those bases covered already.

    Unfortunately I had the keyboard connected to a powered internal USB3 hub when I first got it. And ironically I think it masked some of the keyboard's problems as the hub powered down when the system went to S3/S4/S5 - and resulted in the Everest cold-booting itself every time the computer resumed.

    I've since built up a new Z690 box and the keyboard is now connected directly to the motherboard's USB3.2 rear ports - and so the keyboard receives power all the time.

    I'm an embedded developer too so I'm mildly tempted to sniff the connection between the dock/numpad and the keyboard to see how they communicate. I'm presuming it'll either be SPI or UART - do you happen to know anything more on that?

    That said, I bought the keyboard to work with, not work *on*, and if it continues to irk me, it'll be going back. Unfortunately.
    Reply
  • dreamslacker - Friday, January 21, 2022 - link

    Hi Short_Circuit, unfortunately, I do not know what kind of protocol is used for the connection between the main module and the media dock.
    That said, when I did the tear down to pad the keyboard, I did notice that the media dock daugther card uses a 14 pin SMD connection to interface with the main module PCB.
    Assuming the buttons (5) and encoder are using 7 pins as GPIO, that leaves 2 pins for power/ common GND and 5 pins for other communication. Since I didn't open up the media dock, I couldn't say if they had use a separate MCU with I2C internally to run the OLED or if they had use SPI/ I2C to run the display module directly (since some OLEDs will have their own display IC).
    Another interesting thing I noted is that when I did the teardown on the numpad to put the poron pads, I did see that the programmable buttons display uses a single large OLED display - they simply refresh the 4 cut-out portions on the display and have to refresh the entire matrix everytime a change is made.
    Reply
  • Short_Circuit - Saturday, January 22, 2022 - link

    Thanks.

    The reason I intially suspected that there is a satellite MCU in the dock is primarily due to the way the keyboard behaves after the MMD fails to 'wake up'. If there was a simple electrical connection between the MMD transport control buttons/rotary encoder and the main Holtek MCU, theoretically the buttons and encoder should still function normally even when the display fails. That isn't what happens.

    In my case, when the MMD fails to wake up (or seemingly goes to sleep after the system is up), the buttons and encoder fail to function and remain so until the MMD is removed/reconnected to reboot it. Looking at the logs created by the Boot Camp software reinforces this notion too.

    In any case, if as you say there is a 14 pin connection (vs the 20 theoretically available via the USB-C connector), and we were to assume that the main MCU is running everything, that theoretically doesn't leave enough to have the five buttons, the encoder, four status LEDs, power and ground as well as some form of data channel to the dock's display.

    Re power draw, I can see why a USB 2.0 hub wouldn't cut it. I've just put a meter on mine and though it's fine with the LEDs off, it will go right up to nudging the USB 3.0/3.1 4.5W limit with the illumination set to full white at maximum brightness.

    Incidentally did you actually see enough of the numpad's display to confirm that it is an OLED device? I keep seeing people say that but Mountain don't describe it as an OLED, and from the colour shift across different viewing angles and the black levels, it looks more like an LCD than anything else.
    Reply

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