When you do a lot of typing work or a lot of gaming, you certainly want an everyday PC keyboard that feels good on your fingers and performs well on all fronts. While there are a lot of keyboards out there with different benefits, many of them do not have the same satisfying click and feel that the classic mechanical switch keyboards have. Using a mechanical keyboard has a plethora of benefits both for gamers and computer users. In addition to being more durable than standard PC keyboards, a mechanical keyboard will let you type more accurately and more quickly.
But what exactly is a mechanical keyboard? Well, a mechanical keyboard is a PC keyboard typically built with high quality, spring-activated key switches. Although the key switches may vary depending on user preference or the keyboard’s application, all types of mechanical keyboards have physical switches underneath the keys to detect when the user has pushed the key.
Unlike today’s keyboards that use dome-switch technology or membrane switch, mechanical keyboards discard the silicone altogether and use spring as the pushback mechanism. Given that there is a lot of hardware involved, mechanical keyboards are often heavier, thicker and, of course, more expensive than their membrane counterparts. However, they’re more of an investment, especially if you’re looking for something that guarantees quality while creating a more direct relationship between your fingers and what appears on the screen.
Unfortunately, many people do not know what mechanical keyboards are and may have never heard of them. And because we can’t blame them, this article sheds more light on what you should know about mechanical keyboards. At the end of this article, you’ll be at a better place especially if you aren’t satisfied with these normal keyboards and looking for a different option.
How Does Mechanical Keyboards Work?
As we’ve noted above, mechanical keyboards are typically designed with automatic switches under each key. These physical switches not only record each keystroke that you make but are also triggered when you press them before bouncing back to the original position.
Differently, a normal membrane keyboard uses a rubber dome that allows for depression and recording of the pressed key on the screen.
You shouldn’t be worried if you’re unfamiliar with mechanical keyboards. Components of mechanical keyboards are:
Switches – Simply put, mechanical keyboards are very different from other types of keyboards in the sense that they are made with switches under the keys. These switches are integral to the mechanical keyboard. They’re made of many moving parts including:
- A hard plastic stem
- Two metal contacts, and
- A spring
As noted earlier, the plastic stem will push the spring down when any key is pressed. The two metal contacts will connect and register your keypress to the keyboard’s circuitry and then to your computer.
In short, these switches are a crucial component of a mechanical keyboard. You may have similar keycaps found on normal keyboards on mechanical keyboards but it’s the switches that make it mechanical.
Quality – These switches are generally of high quality, which makes mechanical keyboards efficient and more durable than normal keyboards. The fact that computer manufacturers tend to give out membrane keyboards with computers, they’re made of low quality and are way cheaper than mechanical keyboards.
Types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches:
To give you more flexibility, mechanical keyboards are structured with different switches. Keep in mind that switches often differ on how they signal a keypress or depression, how they close the circuit, loudness of the click, and the amount of tactile felt when the keys are touched or pressed.
Cherry MX Switches:
Like most mechanical keyboard switches, Cherry MX switches are designed with two metal contacts and a spring. While these switches work in the same way as other types of mechanical keyboard switches, their gold-plated contacts are stand-out features. This is essential since it prevents the contacts from fading or rusting; thereby make the switches even more durable. You can easily differentiate this type of switches by the gold color of the stem but only when you remove the cap.
Linear Switches (Cherry MX Black):
A true classic, Cherry MX Black were the first type mechanical keyboard switches made available to the public. Their non-tactile or linear feature discards the loud sounds, bumps or clicks that are felt when keys are pressed. These types of switches are popular
with gamers thanks to their smooth feel that are enabled by the fact that their release and actuation points are meticulously at the same position. This feature makes double-tapping a lot easier than on other types of switches.
Cherry MX Blue (Clicky Switches):
The audible click sound makes these types of switches popular with the typing community. When you hit the activation point, you’ll not only feel the audible sound but you’ll also have the same experience that’s akin to typewriters.
Cherry MX Brown (Light Tactile Switch):
These are one of the best mechanical keyboard switches for both gamers and typists. Unlike most types of switches, they have a soft, tactile bump. You’ll love these switches for your gaming escapades because they enable you to double tap faster. Similarly, you’ll love it for typing thanks to their good tactile feedback. In essence, these types of switches have a softer click and require less or no force to actuate.
Cherry MX Clear:
These types of switches are very rare and have a more tactile feel than the MX Browns and are a little bit silent than the Blue switches. They also have a lot of friction than other mechanical keyboard switches.
Topre switches (very expensive):
Although these switches are a hybrid of mechanical switch keyboards and membrane dome keyboards, Topre switches use a spring underneath a rubber dome. When you press a key, it depresses the spring, which then causes a capacitive circuit underneath to detect that a key has been pressed.
Other not-so-common types of mechanical keyboard switches are:
- Alps switches
- Cherry MX Red, and
- Buckling spring switches
Benefits of Using Mechanical Keyboards:
When deciding whether to use a mechanical keyboard or any other type of keyboard, it’s important to look at the benefits that they bring to your typing or gaming experience. With that in mind, here are the benefits of using a mechanical keyboard.
- Feel – This is probably the most crucial feature when choosing a keyboard. Feel is based on the level of resistance on the keys. If you prioritize the solid click and feel shortchanged with the spongy and mushy textures of ordinary keyboards, a mechanical keyboard might be the best way to go. Unlike membrane keyboards that have a wobbly feel thanks to the nonlinear resistance brought about by the rubber dome underneath the keys, mechanical keyboards have a pleasurable feel when clicked or touched. You’ll, however, have to contend with the audible sounds when you click the keys.
- Durability – A proper keyboard should last longer even if you’re using it regularly. This is one of the many benefits that mechanical keyboards offer you. Mechanical keyboards are highly resistant to repetitive strokes and clicks, which make them very durable. The keys are made with metal contact points, which enable them to withstand over 50 million keystrokes in their lifespan. You should, therefore, go for a mechanical keyboard if durability is on top of your priority list. You’ll at least avoid dealing with sticky keys or collapsed rubber domes, which are common features in ordinary membrane keyboards.
- Tactility – In addition to allowing you to type more lightly, quickly, and accurately than normal keyboards, the audible click of mechanical keyboards sets them apart. While some people may feel that the audible click sound is noisy, it’s an important feature of mechanical keyboards in the sense that you don’t have to press the key longer than necessary. If anything, you do not have to use more force or much energy when pushing the mechanical keys.
- Easy to Maintain – It’s a known fact that keyboards are prone to spillage, dust, and dirt. As such, you should clean your keyboard regularly not just to make it functional but also to make it last longer. The sticky rubbers on ordinary keyboards are highly vulnerable to dirt, which may be hard to remove and clean. On the contrary, cleaning mechanical keyboards is a breeze as it’s easy to separate, clean, and reattach the flat plastic and the self-contained switches. In essence, mechanical keyboards are designed with removable keycaps that give you the flexibility to customize your keyboard to be compatible with the theme of your case of the style you want for your keyboard.
- N-Key Rollover – Using a mechanical keyboard gives you more leeway to press more keys simultaneously than membrane keyboards. This makes a mechanical keyboard more appropriate for a perfect gaming experience than an ordinary keyboard.
Disadvantages of Mechanical Keyboards
Although mechanical keyboards raise the keyboard game in every possible way, some of the disadvantages of mechanical keyboards include:
- Expensive – The fact that mechanical keyboards are designed with more hardware and technology to make them more expensive when compared to other types of keyboards. You should, however, consider a mechanical keyboard as an investment that will pay off in terms of durability and quality of your typing.
- Loud – While the volume of a mechanical keyboard largely depends on the type of switches (blue switches are louder) in use, the audible click sound can be irritating to others. If you’re the kind of person who wants to talk on Skype while typing, a mechanical keyboard may not be right for you.
- Heavy – A mechanical keyboard may not be the right keyboard for you if you’re looking for something light. While its weight may be an advantage to others, it may not be perfect for you if you move with it a lot more.
- DIY Skills – Mechanical keyboards are flexible and can be customized to your liking. This, however, means that you’ll need some DIY skills to be able to switch different keycaps.
How to Choose the Best Mechanical Keyboard for You?
Needless to say, choosing the right type of mechanical keyboard is important. Here are some factors to consider.
Choosing the Right Board:
Choosing the right board is essential when looking for the right mechanical keyboard for you. Generally, the traditional full-size board is the most common one as it has all the keys you might need to fully operate a computer. The only noticeable disadvantage is that it is large and inefficient since you have to move your hands farther away to reach every key.
You can choose to go for the Ten-Key-Less (TKL) board, which is essentially an 80% keyboard. This type of board does not have a pad, which makes it a much smaller board and will bring the mouse closer. In essence, you should choose a board that can work perfectly for you.
Choosing the Right Switch and Keycaps:
If you’ve chosen the right board for you, you should ask yourself a very simple question: how do you want your typing or gaming to feel like? As we discussed earlier, there are several switches to choose from. While we can’t tell you the type of switch that you’ll
like, you should go for something that feels best for what you want to do. You can choose to mix and match these switches to find something that works best for you.
You should take advantage of the fact that mechanical keyboards are customizable. Depending on what you want, you can choose various types of keycaps if you want to customize or build your mechanical keyboard. You should, however, have some DIY skills so that you do not spoil the keycaps or the entire keyboard. For instance, you should know how to solder the keycaps.
If you always spend any amount of time playing games on your PC or using it for other purposes, you probably know the importance of having the right keyboard. Having the right type of keyboard not only improves your computing experience but can also make things a lot easier.
While there are a lot of keyboards in the market, mechanical keyboards raise the bar in every imaginable way. Whether you’re a normal computer user or a gamer, a mechanical keyboard can be a great option if you’re looking for something much better than standard membrane or dome keyboards. That’s because mechanical keyboards are durable, feel good on the hands, are tactile, and are easy to maintain.