At the heart of any great computer setup is a keyboard. A mechanical keyboard is an excellent choice for those who want a premium typing experience. But with so many options available, it can be challenging to choose the right one. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide to mechanical keyboards, covering everything you need to know.
What is a Mechanical Keyboard?
A mechanical keyboard is a type of computer keyboard that uses individual mechanical switches under each key to register keystrokes. In contrast, most traditional keyboards use rubber dome or membrane switches. Mechanical keyboards have gained popularity in recent years due to their durability, tactile feedback, and customization options.
The individual mechanical switches in a mechanical keyboard are made up of a housing, a stem, and a spring. When a key is pressed, the stem moves down and the spring compresses, causing the switch to close and register the keystroke. The switch then bounces back and the spring expands, returning the key to its original position. Each switch has a specific feel and sound, depending on factors such as the type of switch, the spring weight, and the housing material.
Mechanical keyboards are known for their durability, as the switches can withstand millions of keystrokes without losing their responsiveness. They also provide tactile feedback, meaning that the user can feel when a key has been successfully pressed, which can lead to improved typing speed and accuracy. Additionally, mechanical keyboards offer a wide range of customization options, such as different keycap designs, backlighting, and programmable keys.
Overall, mechanical keyboards are a popular choice among gamers, programmers, and typists who value a high-quality typing experience and durability.
History of Mechanical Keyboards
Mechanical keyboards have been around for quite some time, starting back in the 1970s. At that time, most keyboards were “membrane” keyboards. These keyboards used a rubber membrane with conductive pads underneath each key, which would register a keypress when you pressed down on it.
However, these membrane keyboards had some drawbacks. For one, they didn’t provide much tactile feedback, so it could be difficult to know whether you had successfully pressed a key or not. Additionally, they weren’t particularly durable, and the rubber membrane could wear out over time, leading to keys that were less responsive or didn’t work at all.
To address these issues, a new type of keyboard was developed: the mechanical keyboard. These keyboards used individual switches underneath each key, which provided more tactile feedback and were generally more durable than the rubber membranes used in membrane keyboards.
The first mechanical keyboard was called the Model F, and it was developed by IBM in the 1970s. It quickly became popular among IBM users, as it was known for its durability and responsiveness. Over the years, other companies started developing their own mechanical keyboards, and they became particularly popular among gamers, programmers, and writers.
One reason mechanical keyboards are so popular among these groups is that they offer a lot of customization options. Mechanical keyboards come in a variety of switch types, each with its own feel and sound. Some switches require more force to press down, while others are more sensitive. Some switches make a loud “click” sound when you press them, while others are quieter. This allows users to choose a switch that best fits their needs and preferences.
In addition to switch options, mechanical keyboards also offer other features like customizable RGB lighting, programmable keys, and detachable cables. All of these features make mechanical keyboards a versatile and customizable option for those who want a keyboard that is both durable and responsive.
In summary, mechanical keyboards have been around since the 1970s and were developed as an alternative to membrane keyboards. They offer more tactile feedback, durability, and customization options than membrane keyboards, which has made them popular among gamers, programmers, and writers.
Benefits of Mechanical Keyboards
To begin with, mechanical keyboards are different from the typical membrane keyboards that are found in most laptops and computer keyboards. Mechanical keyboards use individual mechanical switches for each key, rather than a single, flat membrane that covers all the keys. This means that each key has its own dedicated switch, which provides a number of benefits.
One of the most notable benefits of mechanical keyboards is their durability. The switches used in mechanical keyboards are designed to last for tens of millions of keystrokes, which means that they can withstand heavy use for years without losing their responsiveness. This is particularly important for gamers and other users who spend a lot of time typing or playing games on their keyboards.
Another benefit of mechanical keyboards is their tactile feedback. When you press a key on a mechanical keyboard, you’ll feel a distinct “click” or “clack” that lets you know that the key has been registered. This feedback can be useful for touch typists who rely on the feel of the keyboard to know when they’ve hit the right keys.
Mechanical keyboards also offer a customizable typing experience. Because each key has its own switch, you can choose from a variety of different types of switches to suit your preferences. Some switches are designed to be quieter and more tactile, while others are louder and have a more pronounced “click.” This allows you to choose a keyboard that feels just right for you.
In addition, mechanical keyboards often offer other features that aren’t found in membrane keyboards. For example, many mechanical keyboards come with backlit keys, which can be useful for typing in low-light conditions or for gaming in the dark. Some mechanical keyboards also come with programmable macro keys, which can be customized to perform specific functions or commands.
Overall, there are many benefits to using a mechanical keyboard. They are durable, offer tactile feedback, and can be customized to suit your preferences. While they may be a bit more expensive than membrane keyboards, they are often considered to be worth the investment for serious typists, gamers, and other users who rely on their keyboards for extended periods of time.
Anatomy of A Mechanical Keyboard
Now let’s talk about the different parts that make up a mechanical keyboard:
Keycaps are the part of the keyboard that you actually press with your fingers. They can be made from a variety of materials, such as ABS plastic, PBT plastic, or even metal. The design of the keycaps can also vary, with some keyboards featuring sculpted or contoured keycaps that are designed to fit the shape of your fingers more comfortably.
The switches are the heart of a mechanical keyboard. There are several different types of switches available, each with their own unique characteristics.
- Cherry MX switches are the most popular type of mechanical switch, and they come in several different colors (such as blue, brown, red, and black). Blue switches are known for their tactile feedback and loud clicking sound, while brown switches have a tactile bump but no click. Red switches are linear and have no tactile feedback, while black switches are also linear but require more force to actuate.
- Other popular switch types include Kailh, Gateron, and Outemu switches. These switches are often compared to Cherry MX switches and can offer similar characteristics at a lower price point.
Backplate and PCB
The backplate is a metal plate that sits underneath the switches and keycaps. It provides stability to the keyboard and ensures that the switches are aligned properly. Some keyboards may also have a PCB (printed circuit board) that sits between the switches and the backplate. The PCB helps to ensure that each switch is registered properly and can also offer additional features such as RGB lighting or programmable macros.
In summary, a mechanical keyboard is made up of keycaps, switches, a backplate, and a PCB (if applicable). Each of these parts plays an important role in providing a comfortable and precise typing experience.
How Mechanical Keyboards Differ From Membrane Keyboards
|Mechanical Keyboard||Membrane Keyboard|
|Key Switch Type||Mechanical Switches||Rubber Dome Switches|
|Key Rollover||N-Key Rollover||Limited Key Rollover|
|Durability||Highly Durable||Less Durable|
|Typing Experience||Consistent and satisfying, good for long typing sessions||Less consistent, often mushy, can cause fatigue over time|
|Price||Usually more expensive||Usually cheaper|
A membrane keyboard is made up of several layers of plastic membrane sheets. These sheets have conductive traces printed on them, and when you press a key, it pushes down on the membrane, which causes the conductive traces to touch and complete an electrical circuit. This sends a signal to the device that you have input a specific key.
Membrane keyboards are typically less expensive to manufacture than mechanical keyboards, which makes them a popular choice for budget-conscious consumers. They are also often quieter than mechanical keyboards, which can be an important consideration in certain environments.
However, there are some downsides to membrane keyboards. Because the keys are activated by pushing down on a membrane, they can feel mushy and unresponsive. Additionally, the membrane layers can wear out over time, which can cause keys to stop working or become less responsive.
Now let’s talk about mechanical keyboards.
A mechanical keyboard uses individual mechanical switches for each key. These switches are typically made up of a spring and a metal contact point, and when you press a key, it causes the spring to compress and the metal contact to touch, which completes an electrical circuit and sends a signal to the device that you have input a specific key.
Mechanical keyboards tend to be more expensive than membrane keyboards, but they offer several advantages. Because each key has its own individual switch, they tend to feel more responsive and tactile than membrane keyboards. Additionally, mechanical switches are often designed to last longer than the membrane layers of a membrane keyboard, which can make them a better long-term investment.
There are also many different types of mechanical switches available, each with their own unique characteristics. Some switches are designed to be very clicky and tactile, while others are designed to be more quiet and smooth.
So there you have it, the main differences between mechanical keyboards and membrane keyboards. While membrane keyboards can be a good choice for those on a budget or in a quiet environment, mechanical keyboards tend to offer a more responsive and customizable typing experience.
Types of Mechanical Key Switches
|Types of Mechanical Key Switches||Description||Popular Switches|
|Linear Switches||Smooth and consistent keystroke without any tactile feedback or audible click sound.||Cherry MX Red, Gateron Red, Kailh Silver, etc.|
|Tactile Switches||Provide tactile feedback or a slight bump during the keystroke without any audible click sound.||Cherry MX Brown, Kailh Brown, Gateron Brown, etc.|
|Clicky Switches||Provide tactile feedback and a distinct click sound during the keystroke.||Cherry MX Blue, Kailh Box White, Gateron Blue, etc.|
Mechanical key switches are the switches that are used in mechanical keyboards. They provide a tactile and responsive typing experience compared to traditional membrane keyboards. There are three main types of mechanical key switches, which are linear, tactile, and clicky switches.
Linear switches are smooth and consistent switches that provide a uniform keystroke without any tactile feedback or audible click sound. They are like pressing a button with no resistance, which makes them great for gamers who require quick and accurate keystrokes without any distractions. They are also good for people who type a lot as it prevents finger fatigue. Some popular linear switches include Cherry MX Red, Gateron Red, and Kailh Silver.
Tactile switches are switches that provide a tactile feedback or a slight bump during the keystroke without any audible click sound. When you press the key, you feel a bump, which gives you a satisfying typing experience. Tactile switches are suitable for both typing and gaming purposes. They are preferred by users who require a more pronounced feedback during the keystroke. Some popular tactile switches include Cherry MX Brown, Kailh Brown, and Gateron Brown.
Clicky switches are switches that provide both tactile feedback and a distinct click sound during the keystroke. When you press the key, you feel a bump and hear a click, which gives you a satisfying typing experience. Clicky switches are preferred by users who require an audible feedback during the keystroke. They are suitable for typing purposes as they provide a satisfying typing experience. Some popular clicky switches include Cherry MX Blue, Kailh Box White, and Gateron Blue.
In summary, if you want a smooth and consistent typing experience without any feedback, go for linear switches. If you want a tactile feedback during your keystroke, choose tactile switches. If you want an audible feedback during your keystroke, go for clicky switches. Ultimately, the choice of the mechanical key switch will depend on your personal preference and the intended use of the keyboard.
Mechanical Keyboard Layouts and Sizes
First, let’s talk about the full-sized keyboard. This is the most common layout, and it’s what you’re probably used to seeing. A full-sized keyboard has all the keys you need, including the number pad on the right side.
Now, let’s move on to some of the smaller layouts. The first one is the 1800-Compact. This layout is similar to the full-sized keyboard, but it’s a bit more compact. It has all the keys of a full-sized keyboard, but the arrow keys and the delete key are combined with other keys. This makes it more compact, but it can also be a bit harder to use if you’re used to a full-sized keyboard.
Next, we have the TKL, or tenkeyless, keyboard. This layout removes the number pad on the right side of the keyboard, making it more compact and easier to transport. It still has all the other keys you need, though.
Moving on to even smaller layouts, we have the 75% keyboard. This layout removes even more keys than the TKL, including the function row and the home cluster. This makes it even more compact, but it can be a bit harder to use if you need those missing keys.
Next, we have the 65% keyboard. This layout removes even more keys, including the arrow keys and the home cluster. This makes it even more compact, but it can be a bit harder to use if you need those missing keys.
Then, we have the 60% keyboard. This layout is even smaller, removing the arrow keys and the home cluster, as well as the function row. This makes it very compact and portable, but it can be difficult to use if you need those missing keys.
The 40% keyboard is even smaller, removing even more keys than the 60% keyboard. This layout is typically used by people who want a keyboard that’s easy to transport or who don’t need all the keys of a full-sized keyboard.
Now, let’s move on to some other types of keyboards. A split/ergonomic keyboard is a keyboard that is split in half, with each half angled to reduce strain on your hands and wrists. This can make typing more comfortable, especially if you spend a lot of time typing.
An ortholinear keyboard is a keyboard where all the keys are in a grid layout, rather than staggered like on a traditional keyboard. This can make typing more efficient, as the keys are easier to reach.
A numpad is a separate device that adds a number pad to your keyboard, if your keyboard doesn’t have one already.
Finally, a macropad is a small keyboard that is used for macros and shortcuts. It typically has a few keys that can be programmed to perform specific functions, making it a useful tool for gamers and power users.
Customization and Modifications of Mechanical Keyboard
Customization and modifications of mechanical keyboards refer to the process of changing the appearance, feel, and function of a mechanical keyboard to suit the user’s preferences. This can include things like changing the keycaps (the individual keys on the keyboard), lubing the switches (applying lubrication to the switches to make them smoother), adding sound dampening materials (to reduce the noise of the keyboard), and even swapping out the switches themselves (to change the feel of the keyboard).
One of the most popular forms of customization is changing the keycaps. This is because keycaps are often easily removable and come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and materials. For example, you might want to replace the standard black keycaps with colorful keycaps that match your setup, or you might want to replace the ABS plastic keycaps with PBT plastic keycaps that are more durable and resistant to wear and tear.
Another common modification is lubing the switches. This involves applying a special lubricant to the mechanical switches to make them smoother and more satisfying to type on. Lubing can also help reduce the sound of the keyboard, as the switches will make less noise when they are smoother.
Sound dampening materials can also be added to the keyboard to reduce the noise it makes. This can include things like adding foam to the inside of the keyboard case, or adding O-rings to the switches themselves. These materials absorb the sound of the switches bottoming out (when the key hits the base of the keyboard), resulting in a quieter typing experience.
Finally, some people might want to swap out the switches themselves. This can be a more involved process, as it requires desoldering the existing switches and replacing them with new ones. However, it can be worth it for people who want a different typing experience. There are many different types of switches available, each with its own feel and sound profile.
Overall, customization and modifications of mechanical keyboards can be a fun and rewarding hobby for those who are interested in it. It allows you to create a keyboard that is uniquely yours, and tailor it to your specific needs and preferences.
Build Quality and Durability of Mechanical Keyboard
Now, when it comes to build quality and durability, mechanical keyboards are generally considered to be far superior to membrane keyboards. Here’s why:
- Switches: As I mentioned earlier, mechanical keyboards use individual switches for each key. These switches are typically rated for tens of millions of key presses, which means that they can last for years without needing to be replaced. In contrast, membrane keyboards use a rubber dome that can wear out much more quickly and lead to inconsistent typing experiences.
- Materials: Mechanical keyboards are often made with higher quality materials than membrane keyboards. This includes things like aluminum frames, PBT keycaps, and braided cables. These materials not only look and feel better than their membrane counterparts, but they are also more durable and resistant to wear and tear.
- Customizability: Because each key on a mechanical keyboard is separate, it’s often possible to customize the keyboard by replacing the keycaps or even the switches themselves. This means that you can personalize the look and feel of your keyboard to suit your preferences, and you can also replace any components that might become worn out or damaged over time.
- Typing experience: Finally, it’s worth noting that the typing experience on a mechanical keyboard is often much better than on a membrane keyboard. The tactile feedback and distinctive clicking sound of the switches can make typing more enjoyable and even more efficient, as you don’t have to press the keys down as far to register a key press.
In summary, mechanical keyboards are known for their superior build quality and durability thanks to the use of high-quality materials, individual switches for each key, and the ability to customize and replace components as needed. If you’re looking for a keyboard that will last for years and provide a satisfying typing experience, a mechanical keyboard is definitely worth considering.
Pros And Cons of Mechanical Keyboard
|Provides tactile feedback||Can be loud|
|More durable||More expensive than membrane keyboards|
|Longer lifespan||May take time to adjust to typing feel|
|Customizable key switches||Heavier and bulkier than membrane keyboards|
|Better for typing accuracy||Limited portability|
|Less ghosting and faster response||Not as widely available as membrane keyboards|
- Provides tactile feedback: Mechanical keyboards have individual switches for each key, which provide a tactile bump or click when pressed. This feedback can make typing more enjoyable and improve typing accuracy.
- More durable: Mechanical keyboards are built to last, with key switches that can withstand millions of keystrokes. They also tend to have sturdier construction than membrane keyboards.
- Longer lifespan: Due to their durability, mechanical keyboards typically last longer than membrane keyboards.
- Customizable key switches: Mechanical keyboards allow you to choose from different types of key switches with varying levels of tactile feedback, actuation force, and noise levels.
- Better for typing accuracy: The tactile feedback and faster response time of mechanical keyboards can help improve typing accuracy.
- Less ghosting and faster response: Mechanical keyboards typically have anti-ghosting technology, which allows you to press multiple keys at once without any missed keystrokes.
- Can be loud: Mechanical keyboards can be louder than membrane keyboards due to the tactile feedback and clicking sound of the switches.
- More expensive than membrane keyboards: Due to their higher quality construction and individual key switches, mechanical keyboards tend to be more expensive than membrane keyboards.
- May take time to adjust to typing feel: The tactile feedback and actuation force of mechanical keyboards may take some time to get used to if you’re used to membrane keyboards.
- Heavier and bulkier than membrane keyboards: Mechanical keyboards tend to be heavier and bulkier than membrane keyboards, which can make them less portable.
- Limited portability: Mechanical keyboards may not be as portable as membrane keyboards due to their size and weight.
- Not as widely available as membrane keyboards: While mechanical keyboards have gained popularity in recent years, they may not be as widely available as membrane keyboards in stores.
Choosing The Right Mechanical Keyboard
Now, let’s talk about how to choose the right one for you.
- Switch type: The first thing to consider when choosing a mechanical keyboard is the switch type. There are three main types of switches: tactile, linear, and clicky. Tactile switches provide a tactile bump when pressed, linear switches have a smooth keystroke, and clicky switches provide an audible click sound when pressed. Try different switch types to find the one that feels most comfortable to you.
- Size: Mechanical keyboards come in different sizes, from full-sized to compact. Full-sized keyboards have a number pad, while compact keyboards omit the number pad to save space. Consider your workspace and how much room you have on your desk when choosing a size.
- Backlighting: Some mechanical keyboards come with backlighting, which can be useful if you work or play in low-light conditions. Backlighting can also add a cool visual effect to your keyboard.
- Durability: Mechanical keyboards are generally more durable than their membrane counterparts, but some are more durable than others. Look for keyboards with a solid build quality and sturdy materials.
- Brand reputation: Finally, consider the brand reputation when choosing a mechanical keyboard. Some brands are known for producing high-quality keyboards, while others may have a reputation for poor quality or customer service.
By considering these factors, you should be able to choose a mechanical keyboard that fits your needs and preferences. Good luck!
The Most Popular Mechanical Keyboard Brands
Now, let’s dive into the most popular mechanical keyboard brands:
- Corsair: Corsair is a well-known brand in the gaming world, and their mechanical keyboards are no exception. They offer a variety of keyboards with different switch types, such as Cherry MX switches, and customizable RGB lighting.
- Razer: Razer is another popular gaming brand that offers mechanical keyboards. Their keyboards are also customizable with different switch types and lighting options, and they often feature extra programmable keys for gaming macros.
- Logitech: Logitech is a well-known brand for computer accessories, and their mechanical keyboards are no exception. They offer a variety of keyboards with different switch types, and some even come with a wrist rest for added comfort.
- SteelSeries: SteelSeries is a popular brand in the esports world, and their mechanical keyboards are built with gaming in mind. They often feature low-profile switches and customizable RGB lighting.
- Ducky: Ducky is a smaller brand that specializes in mechanical keyboards. They offer a variety of keyboards with different switch types, as well as custom keycaps and other accessories for customization.
- Filco: Filco is another smaller brand that is known for their high-quality mechanical keyboards. They often use Cherry MX switches and have a minimalist design, making them a popular choice for professionals.
- Das Keyboard: Das Keyboard is a brand that specializes in mechanical keyboards for professionals. They offer a variety of keyboards with different switch types and customizable backlighting, and their keyboards are often built with durability in mind.
These are just a few of the most popular mechanical keyboard brands, but there are many others out there as well.
Maintenance and Cleaning Tips
To keep your mechanical keyboard in top condition, it’s important to perform regular maintenance and cleaning. Here are some tips:
- Turn off your keyboard and unplug it from your computer before cleaning. This will prevent any accidental keystrokes or damage to your computer.
- Use a soft, dry brush or compressed air to remove any debris or dust from between the keys. You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a small nozzle attachment to suck up any dirt.
- For more stubborn dirt or stains, you can use a damp cloth with a mild soap solution. Be sure to wring out the cloth thoroughly before using it on your keyboard, and avoid getting any moisture in the switches.
- Avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals or solvents, as these can damage the switches or keycaps.
- If you have a keycap puller, you can remove the keycaps to clean them individually. Be careful not to damage the switches or keycaps when pulling them off.
- For deeper cleaning, you can use a small amount of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab to clean the switches. Be sure to let the alcohol evaporate completely before using your keyboard again.
- Finally, you can lubricate your switches with a small amount of silicone grease or oil. This will help to reduce friction and prolong the lifespan of your switches. However, be sure to use only a small amount, as too much lubricant can cause the switches to become mushy or unresponsive.
By following these tips, you can keep your mechanical keyboard clean and functioning smoothly for years to come.
Conclusion: Recap of The Ultimate Guide to Mechanical Keyboards
In conclusion, mechanical keyboards offer a superior typing experience compared to traditional membrane keyboards. With their satisfying tactile feedback, durability, and customizable features, they have gained a devoted following among gamers, writers, and professionals alike.
If you have never tried a mechanical keyboard, it may be worth considering investing in one. There are many different types of switches to choose from, so take some time to research which one would suit your needs best. Additionally, consider factors such as keyboard layout, size, and additional features like RGB lighting.
While mechanical keyboards may come with a higher price tag than traditional keyboards, the long-term benefits in terms of comfort and efficiency make them a worthwhile investment. Whether you’re a gamer, writer, or simply someone who spends a lot of time typing, a mechanical keyboard could be the upgrade you’ve been looking for.
What is a mechanical keyboard?
A mechanical keyboard is a type of keyboard that uses individual mechanical switches for each key instead of a rubber dome or membrane to register keystrokes. Mechanical keyboards are known for their tactile feedback, durability, and customizability.
Why should I use a mechanical keyboard?
Mechanical keyboards offer a more satisfying typing experience, with tactile feedback and audible click sounds that can make typing feel more responsive and accurate. They’re also typically more durable and longer-lasting than traditional membrane keyboards.
What are the benefits of using a mechanical keyboard?
Mechanical keyboards are known for their durability, tactile feedback, and customizable keycaps. They can also be more comfortable to type on for long periods of time.
How do I choose the right type of mechanical keyboard?
There are a few factors to consider, such as the type of switches you prefer (e.g. clicky, tactile, linear), the size of the keyboard (e.g. full-size, tenkeyless), and any additional features you might want (e.g. RGB lighting, macro keys).
Are mechanical keyboards more expensive than regular keyboards?
Yes, mechanical keyboards are generally more expensive than regular keyboards due to the cost of the individual mechanical switches.
Can I customize the keycaps on a mechanical keyboard?
Yes, many mechanical keyboards allow you to swap out the keycaps for different colors or styles. There are also many third-party keycap sets available for purchase.
Are mechanical keyboards loud?
It depends on the type of switches you choose. Clicky switches are known for their loud clicking sound, while tactile and linear switches are generally quieter.
Do I need a mechanical keyboard for gaming?
No, you don’t necessarily need a mechanical keyboard for gaming, but many gamers prefer them due to their durability, responsiveness, and tactile feedback.
How do I clean a mechanical keyboard?
You can clean a mechanical keyboard by removing the keycaps and using a can of compressed air or a small brush to remove any dust or debris. You can also use a damp cloth to clean the surface of the keyboard.