Mechanical keyboards have gained immense popularity in recent times. Initially favored by hardcore gamers and tech nostalgia, they’ve become a sought-after piece of tech for everyone, from professional typists to everyday computer users. However, with an impressive array of mechanical keyboards flooding the market, selecting the perfect one can take time and effort. This guide aims to demystify the process and equip you with the knowledge to choose the right mechanical keyboard that caters to your needs.
Understanding Mechanical Keyboards
Mechanical keyboards are distinguished by their individual key mechanisms or ‘switches.’ Each key on a mechanical keyboard consists of an individual spring and a surrounding switch mechanism. The switch mechanism registers each keystroke, providing tactile feedback, auditory sound, or both.
Mechanical Keyboards Versus Membrane Keyboards
Both keyboards have unique features, advantages, and disadvantages, making them suitable for different users depending on their requirements.
Mechanical keyboards are characterized by their individual switches beneath each key. These switches consist of a base, a spring, and a stem, providing unique tactile feedback and audible click sound upon key press. This distinct feature of mechanical keyboards makes them highly preferred among intensive users such as professional typists and gamers who require precision and speed.
Additionally, the durability and longevity of mechanical keyboards are praiseworthy, as they can withstand millions of key presses without experiencing significant performance degradation.
On the other hand, membrane keyboards function on an entirely different mechanism. They utilize pressure pads layered with conductive traces to register keystrokes. When pressed, a key pushes down on the membrane, creating a circuit that sends the signal to the computer. This system makes membrane keyboards considerably quieter and cheaper than their mechanical counterparts.
However, they lack the tactile feedback mechanical keyboards provide, which may lead to more typing errors. Moreover, membrane keyboards tend to last less long, with their keys often needing to be more responsive over time.
Regarding user experience, mechanical keyboards are generally perceived as more comfortable and satisfying due to their tactile and auditory feedback. Users often report experiencing less fatigue during prolonged periods of typing on mechanical keyboards compared to membrane keyboards. Conversely, the softer and quieter keystrokes of membrane keyboards make them ideal for environments where noise is a concern.
Ultimately, the choice between mechanical and membrane keyboards is personal preference and primary usage. Gamers and professional typists prefer mechanical keyboards’ responsive and satisfying feel.
At the same time, casual users or those on a budget might find membrane keyboards more than sufficient for their needs. As technology continues to evolve, hybrid models combining features from both types of keyboards are emerging, offering users the best of both worlds.
While mechanical keyboards offer superior tactile feedback, durability, and precision, membrane keyboards hold their ground with their affordability, quiet operation, and softer feel. As such, both types have found their niche among different user groups in the vast landscape of computer peripherals.
The Advantages of Mechanical Keyboards
Mechanical keyboards offer superior build quality, longevity, and customizability compared to their membrane counterparts. They also enhance typing accuracy and speed, making them a professional favorite. Mechanical keyboards’ distinct tactile and auditory responses can significantly improve your typing experience.
These keyboards also provide more excellent customization options than standard keyboards. You can choose from various switches depending on the type of feedback you prefer, from soft and quiet to loud and clicky. Additionally, you can customize the backlighting, keycaps, and other features as per your preference. The mechanical keyboard offers a level of personalization unparalleled by any other type of keyboard.
Mechanical keyboards are built with superior-quality components that ensure durability and longevity. These keyboards are designed to last for decades with proper care and maintenance. This makes them an ideal investment for those who plan to use their keyboards for long periods.
1-Determine Your Budget
Pricing is often a crucial factor when deciding on a new keyboard. Mechanical keyboards are available at various prices, from budget-friendly options to high-end models. While budget mechanical keyboards offer an excellent introduction to the mechanical keyboard experience, they might need some premium features. On the other hand, high-end mechanical keyboards offer superior build quality, advanced features, and excellent customizability.
2-Decide on the Purpose
Your choice of a mechanical keyboard will largely depend on its intended use. You might want a keyboard that offers swift and responsive keystrokes if you’re a gamer. If you’re a professional typist or writer, you might prefer a keyboard that provides excellent tactile feedback and reduces typing errors.
3-Choose the Right Switch Type
Switches are the mechanical keyboard’s heart and soul. They determine the keyboard’s tactile feel, sound, and overall performance. There are three primary types of switches:
Photo by Keyboard University
3.1 Linear Switches
Linear switches offer a smooth keystroke experience without tactile bumps or click sounds. Gamers often prefer them due to their quick response time.
Hold onto your seats because I am about to take you on an exhilarating journey of why linear switches are the bee’s knees for your mechanical keyboard! The first and foremost advantage is their smooth operation. Unlike tactile and clicky switches, linear switches move straight up and down without extra noise or tactile feedback.
This means less finger fatigue and more comfortable extended typing or gaming sessions. Imagine being able to type or game for hours without your fingers feeling like they’ve just undergone a strenuous workout. That’s the kind of comfort linear switches provide.
Linear switches are also incredibly fast. With no tactile bump to overcome, your keypresses register almost instantly, making them an absolute dream for gamers. In a high-intensity gaming session, the speed and responsiveness of a mechanical keyboard with linear switches make the difference between triumph and failure.
And let’s remember the sound and, instead, the lack thereof. With linear switches, you no longer have to worry about disturbing others around you with the constant clicking of keys. Your keystrokes are as quiet as a whisper, allowing you to work or play in peace without causing a ruckus.
Furthermore, linear switches offer consistency like no other. Each keystroke feels precisely the same, providing an unparalleled typing experience. This consistency makes typing more enjoyable and increases typing speed and accuracy.
And if customization is your thing, you’ll be thrilled that linear switches are available in different actuation forces to suit your unique typing style, whether you prefer a lighter touch like the Lekker switch used on Wooting 60HE or a heavier one.
In conclusion, the advantages of linear switches for your mechanical keyboard are too good to pass up. From their smooth operation and fast response time to their quiet sound and unmatched consistency, they genuinely take your typing or gaming experience to another level. So whether you’re an avid gamer, a writer who spends hours typing away, or anyone who uses a keyboard extensively, do yourself a favor and switch to a mechanical keyboard with linear switches - your fingers will thank you!
3.2 Tactile Switches
Tactile switches provide a noticeable bump when a key is pressed, offering tactile feedback without any clicking sound. They are popular among typists and professionals who prefer tactile responses while typing.
Oh boy! Let’s dive into the intriguing world of mechanical keyboards and, specifically, the pros and cons of tactile switches. Tactile switches are the heart and soul of your mechanical keyboard. They give you that satisfying ‘click’ sound and the distinct ‘bump’ feel when you press a key. It’s like music to a typist’s fingers!
Firstly, the pros! Tactile switches on a mechanical keyboard offer unparalleled feedback. Unlike their membrane counterparts, they provide a distinct, physical sensation that lets you know the keypress has been registered even before it bottoms out. This feedback can significantly improve typing speed and accuracy. You’re less likely to make mistakes because you can feel every keypress. It’s like your fingers are dancing on the keyboard!
Plus, tactile switches are highly durable and can withstand millions of keystrokes. Even with heavy use, your beloved mechanical keyboard will stand by your side for years. Have you got a term paper due? A coding marathon? A gaming all-nighter? Your mechanical keyboard with tactile switches is up for the challenge!
But wait! Before you rush out to buy your tactile switch mechanical keyboard, let’s discuss some cons. Tactile switches are noisier than other types of switches. If you’re in a shared workspace or you often work late at night, that ‘click-clack’ sound could potentially annoy those around you or even wake someone up!
Also, tactile switches are harder to press than other types of switches. This might be fine for seasoned mechanical keyboard users who love the ‘bump’ feel. But for newbies or those with weaker fingers, it could take some time to get used to and may even cause finger fatigue initially.
In conclusion, tactile switches for a mechanical keyboard are indeed a game-changer! They offer an exceptional typing experience with excellent feedback and durability. However, they might only be for some due to their noise level and more rigid presses. As always, it’s best to try before you buy! So give tactile switches a test drive, and see if they make your fingers sing!
3.3 Clicky Switches
When a key is pressed, clicky switches provide a tactile bump and a distinct click sound. The auditory feedback can be satisfying for some users, particularly those who enjoy a typewriter-like typing experience.
Clicky switches are a unique key mechanism often found in mechanical keyboards. They are defined by a distinct ‘click’ sound that they make upon the actuation point, which is the moment when the computer recognizes a key press. This feature has advantages and disadvantages, which can significantly impact the user experience.
One of the main advantages of clicky switches is their tactile feedback. When you press a key with a clicky switch, you can feel a noticeable bump and hear a distinct click. This means you can be sure your key press has been registered without bottoming out the key. This tactile feedback can improve typing accuracy, as it physically signifies that a keystroke has been made. Furthermore, many users find the clicking sound satisfying and consider it part of the overall appeal of using a mechanical keyboard.
Another advantage is their durability. Like most mechanical keyboard switches, Clicky switches are known for their long lifespan. They are robust and can withstand millions of keystrokes, making them an excellent choice for heavy typists and gamers.
However, clicky switches also have their drawbacks. The most apparent one is the noise level. While appealing to some, the loud click sound can irritate or disrupt others, especially in a quiet or shared workspace environment. If you’re working in an open office or sharing your living space with others, a keyboard with clicky switches may not be the best choice.
Moreover, clicky switches generally require more force to actuate than linear or tactile switches. While this provides more precise feedback when typing, it may also lead to faster finger fatigue, especially during extended typing or gaming sessions.
Lastly, due to the internal mechanisms required to produce the “click,” these switches tend to be more complex and expensive than their non-clicky counterparts. Therefore, while they provide an exceptional typing experience, they may only fit some people’s budgets.
Whether clicky switches on a mechanical keyboard suit you depends on your preference and specific needs. The tangible feedback and satisfying click sound can improve typing accuracy and experience. However, it’s essential to consider potential drawbacks such as noise level, required actuation force, and cost.
4-Consider the Keyboard Size
Photo by Hardware Canucks
Mechanical keyboards come in different sizes, and your choice should depend on your specific needs and workspace constraints. From full-size keyboards with a complete set of keys to compact 60% keyboards that save desk space, there’s a size for everyone.
5-Consider Connectivity Options
Finally, consider the type of connectivity that your mechanical keyboard offers. Most keyboards come with either USB or wireless connectivity options. USB is usually preferred for gaming keyboard or when using multiple peripherals on your computer for its stability and low latency. On the other hand, wireless keyboards are more convenient as they don’t require any cables or ports on your computer.
6. Check for Customization Options
When choosing a mechanical keyboard, check if it offers any customization options. Some keyboards allow users to customize the keycaps, switches, and lighting effects. This can add an aesthetic touch to your setup and provide a more personalized typing experience.
Additionally, some keyboards offer macro recording and profile storage features that allow you to set up custom key combinations and record complex actions for faster execution. If you’re looking for a highly customizable keyboard, look out for these features before purchasing.
7-Think About Noise Levels
Mechanical keyboards can be loud, particularly those with clicky switches. If you’re sensitive to noise or work in a shared space, consider opting for keyboards with silent or linear switches that produce less noise.
8-Evaluate Build Quality
The longevity and performance of a mechanical keyboard are primarily determined by its build quality. Look for a keyboard with a solid frame, high-quality keycaps, and durable switches. Also, consider keyboards with detachable cables for easy replacement.
Mechanical keyboards have a massive advantage over membrane keyboards in terms of customizability. Mechanical keyboards offer many options to personalize your typing experience, from swappable keycaps to programmable keys. Some keyboards even allow you to swap out the switches and customize the tactile feel and sound.
10-Check the Brand Reputation
When investing in a mechanical keyboard, it’s wise to consider products from reputable brands known for their quality and customer service. Brands such as Logitech, Keychron, SteelSeries, and Ducky are renowned for their high-quality mechanical keyboards.
Lastly, consider any additional features that might enhance your experience. These could include RGB lighting, hot-swappable sockets, programmable macros, or onboard memory. While these features might only be essential for some, they can add a touch of personalization and convenience to your typing or gaming experience.
In conclusion, selecting the right mechanical keyboard involves considering various factors, including your budget, intended use, preferred switch type, and desired features. By understanding these criteria and researching, you can find a mechanical keyboard that offers a satisfying and efficient typing experience tailored to your needs.