Mechanical keyboards have gained popularity recently for their superior build quality and improved typing experience. In fact, mechanical keyboards have been around for quite awhile. The IBM Model M was first introduced in 1985, and is still a popular go-to keyboard for enthusiasts today. Each key of a mechanical keyboard has a switch beneath the key that simulates the classic feel of typing on a typewriter. As a result, the user is provided with resistance and tactile feedback from the switches.
To find the perfect match for your typing needs refer to our mechanical keyboard switch types guide. If you are unfamiliar with any of the terminology used in this post please refer to the terms glossary.
What’s Wrong With My Current Keyboard?
Everyone is familiar with typical membrane style keyboards. They are affordable and get the job done. Do they really enhance the typing experience? Think about it this way for a moment. The average person spends at least two hours a day on a keyboard. This accumulates to 728 hours of time spent using a keyboard per year. For someone using a membrane style keyboard, this means each of those keystrokes have to be “bottomed out” to register. This increases strain on joints, and does not provide tactile feedback to the user.
The lack of tactile feedback present in membrane keyboards reduces the maximum typing speed and accuracy that the user can achieve. Mechanical keyboards come at a higher price premium than standard membrane style keyboards and the user gets what they pay for in durability, customization, tactile feedback, and modular design.
Durability and Superiority
Mechanical keyboards are built to last. They are heavier and more durable than standard membrane style keyboards. Mechanical switches are made to last up to 50 million keystrokes. Membrane style keyboards typically last anywhere between 5-10 million keystrokes. Mechanical keyboards have improved build quality and durability. Most mechanical keyboards have N-key rollover. NKRO allows every key on the keyboard to be pressed simultaneously. This is helpful for users who type extremely fast or play video games. Check out my post of typing 130 WPM for more details on N-key Rollover.
Mechanical keyboards are designed to personalize the typing experience. You must first decide which form factor you prefer. Once a form factor is decided on, you have to decide which switch is optimal for your typing style. Customization does not have to stop at the functional level. Check out my personal KBC Poker 3 keyboard review to see some photos of my customized keyboard and read my guides on the customization process. I consider the keyboard to be the most important computer peripheral.
Have you ever been watching stream or sitting near a friend and heard that familiar clicking noise of a mechanical keyboard? Most people have come to the conclusion that mechanical keyboards are loud. This is not true for all types of switches. If you are the type of person that does not enjoy a noisy keyboard than there are plenty of silent switch options as well as o-rings that can be placed around the switch to dampen the noise and travel time. Some switches have a clicking noise sends a signal to the brain letting them know when a switch has reached the activation point. Other switches have a bump when you reach the activation point and are much quieter than switches that have the click noise.
Everyone has been in the situation where they have put a drink too close to their keyboard and had an “oh shit” moment. With traditional membrane keyboards it usually means you will need to buy a new keyboard entirely. Luckily, with mechanical keyboards each switch is modular and not difficult to replace with some minor soldering skills. In the future, I will be adding a tutorial for soldering mechanical keyboards as well as soldering LED’s onto your mechanical keyboard for those interested.
Making the Switch
If you spend a considerable amount of time on the computer, I highly recommend making the transition to the mech world. I have put together a general buyer’s guide of what I consider the best mechanical keyboards of 2016. If for whatever reason, none of the keyboards on this list interest you, start by reading my guide on mechanical keyboard form factors and switch types.