Smooth Operator

On paper, the best keyboard for competitive gaming.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

On paper, the best keyboard for competitive gaming.

<b>Zowie Celeritas II</b>
<b>Zowie Celeritas II</b>

The Zowie Celeritas II is a rarity in the mechanical keyboard world because it’s one of the few gaming keyboards that doesn’t use a Cherry MX-style switch. Instead, it uses a Flaretech optical key switch made by Taiwanese manufacturer Adomax to Zowie’s specifications.

Like Cherry MX-style switches, optical switches also consist of individual switch modules mounted in a metal plate over a printed circuit board. However, there are no electronics in the switch modules themselves. Instead, surface-mounted infra-red optoelectronic components on the circuit board provide the sensing in conjunction with a prism in the switch slider. The optical sensor allows for a much faster confirmation of the keypress with a debouncing rate (the amount of time it takes for the key to settle) of just 0.03ms. To compare, Cherry MX switches have a debouncing rate of about 5ms. The only type of switch with a lower debouncing rate is a capacitive switch (i.e. Topre). In practice, this is mostly unnoticeable, but it’s nice to know that your keystroke technically confirms faster than the average Joe using a Cherry MX board.

The other interesting aspect of optical switches is that they allow for analog key travel. In other words, the optical sensor can read how far the key is depressed, and output a different result based on that. Having said that, Zowie does not use this feature in the Celeritas II, and it only reads linear on/off input.

Despite its exotic switch technology, the Celeritas II doesn’t actually feel that different from a standard Cherry MX-style keyboard. The switches are linear with a very smooth feel and a relatively short travel distance. 

They feel smoother than Cherry MX Reds, but with a heavier actuation force – somewhere between Reds and Blacks. Unfortunately Zowie won’t disclose the exact specs of its switches, so I don’t have any numbers to compare. The closest comparison for me would be slightly stiffer Gateron Reds.

The keyboard is full-sized, with a matte finish, and red backlighting. There’s a small built-in wrist rest that I wish was removable. It’s not large enough for me to rest my wrist on, but it’s too big for me to use my own wrist rest. There are multimedia function keys and backlight brightness controls using an Fn key modifier. There are no dedicated LED indicators for the Scroll, Num and Caps lock keys, instead the backlighting changes from red to blue when they’re for the Scroll, Num and Caps lock keys, instead the backlighting changes from red to blue when they’r activated. I actually didn’t realize this at first because I had the backlighting turned off completely.

While the keyboard uses standard Cherry MX stems, it has a non-conventional layout that makes keycap swapping tricky. It uses an irregular ‘big-ass’ backwards L Enter key, and a short right shift to make space for a relocated backslash key. The keycaps themselves are black ABS with translucent legends to allow the backlight to shine through.

There are no adjustable feet on the bottom of the keyboard, so you can’t adjust its height, but it has a fairly comfortable gradient that should suit most people. The keyboard is hard wired in the center of the board. the board.

Like all of Zowie’s Like all of Zowie’s products, the Celeritas II is driverless and plug and products, the Celeritas II is driverless and plug and play. The keyboard is also quite rare in that it has PS/2 support via an included adaptor. Theoretically, PS/2 keyboards are superior to USB keyboards, because they aren’t limited by USB polling rates, and instead send the signal the instant and input is activated. USB keyboards also have to share bandwidth with other connected USB devices, whereas PS/2 protocol acts independently of them. Once again, in practice, this is mostly unnoticeable, but it’s nice for peace of mind.

From a purely technical standpoint, the Celeritas II is one of the best gaming keyboards you can buy. For min-maxers that want any possible advantage they can get, the Celeritas II’s optical switches and PS/2 support offer the lowest possible latency you can get from a keyboard. Having said that, personally, I didn’t notice any difference in game between the Celeritas II and my regular Vortex Pok3r with MX Reds. I also wish there was a 60% or tenkeyless version as fullsize keyboards just take up too much space.

My Reading Room
There are no adjustable feet, so
you’re stuck with the default
There are no adjustable feet, so you’re stuck with the default height.
USB + PS/2
Adomax Flaretech optical
442 x 38 x 17mm