What's So Great About Mechanical Keyboards

Image: Kotaku

There's been a lot of talk on Kotaku about mechanical keyboards over the past six months, talking about customising them, building them and making them pretty. We put together a little video to explain why many of us are so smitten with those clicky keys.

In the video you'll hear me explaining how important keyboards are in this digital age and why the rest of the world is starting to pick up on what keyboard communities like Geekhack and the mechanical keyboard sub-Reddit have been going on about for years.

You will also see many, many keyboards, just about all of which were bought or built by me. It's only a problem if it's out of control. How could I be out of control with so many keyboards laying about?


Comments

    Video had everything except any kind of argument for why mechanical keyboards are "important".

    Do they just look nice and make a lot of noise, or is there some other reason why they are supposed to be good? Are we just being conned into spending a lot of money on bling, and the assumption that a noisy/clicky keyboard will feel nicer?

    I've never used one, so interested to know. My only experience with them is getting annoyed at friends who sound like they are typing with their forehead when they leave the mic open.

      The tactile feel of typing on a mechanical keyboard is leagues ahead of a rubber dome keyboard. The sound is tangential, some people love the sound but the real important part is the feel. Try a mechanical board for a while and any rubber dome board you use thereafter will just feel like mush.

      Different switches have different feels also, so if you're going to try some out, try to get a feel for different switches. For Cherrys, try to get a feel for at least red, brown and blue; they'll give you the best spectrum for that brand.

      It's all about the feel of the switches and whether or not you like them. I love typing on Cherry Blues for the tactile click and the force required to trigger the key press - other people hate them and prefer switches that I'd consider mushy. They're not really "important" - it's a personal preference.

      Will it magically make you better at typing or net mad skillz at LoL or CS:GO? Nope. It's just a keyboard. It might make using the keyboard more pleasant though. If you're satisfied with your rubber dome keyboard (or scissor switch in some cases) and don't feel like the cost is worth investing in, that's fine. It's sort of like buying a gaming mouse vs a regular mouse - the gaming mouse might have some tangible benefits but if you're totally satisfied with your regular old mouse and don't want to spend the extra, that's fine too.

      There are a few factors that I feel that make mech keyboards worthwhile and a good investment in your desktop life.

      1. As mentioned by a few already, the tactile feedback you get when pressing a key (when you hit a key you know that you've hit it 100% of the time). There will be no times you need to hit a key twice because you're unsure it registered.

      2. Actuation force is tightly controlled meaning each keypress should be exactly the same as the last (rubber domes are notorious for uneven keypresses at least in my experience). And there's a huge array of options to suit every need.

      3. Bottoming out. Scissor switches bottom out much too early and produce a lot more strain on your finger joints. Rubber domes aren't as bad. It's a good way to reason to your OHS to upgrade like I did (I was on a godawful mac keyboard).

      4. Build quality: This of course varies but the build quality of mech keyboards is usually far beyond regular consumer keyboards. This is because some are made with the very best of components such as mech key switches (50 million+ keypresses), the base (solid aluminium), the key caps (shine resistant dye sublimated PBT), metal back plates (to stop the PCB bending too much I think), programmable (Keyboard Layout Language etc).

      5. Customisation. Being able to build a keyboard from the ground up to your exact specifications. Don't use the num pad at all? maybe you don't use Function keys? maybe you just want directional keys? Want a textured feel on a keycap? or maybe your logo. Want to highlight all the keys you commonly hit? or maybe you want to take away all the legends to learn to type faster. Yes you can do this on any keyboard but with mech keyboards there's a largish community of enthusiasts that have tried most configurations and one of them might just suit you.

      I guess the end result of customisation is that the keyboard is purpose build for what you need to use it for instead of a one size fits all approach of a Dell or Apple keyboard. A competitive FPS player doesn't usually need the numpad and having a player hold their mouse further away from their keyboard can cause shoulder issues over time. If you travel a lot and would still want to type on a good keyboard get a 60% with detachable cable. If you game/work in a dark room than a LED lit keyboard is a godsend.

      Anyway those are some of the reasons I feel that mech keyboards are worthwhile in the long run and everyone should give it a go even for just a weekend and see how it fares against your rubber dome or scissor switch.

      Last edited 10/08/17 8:58 am

    Just to re-iterate the points in other comments:
    If you don't type a lot, they won't make sense. It's all about the feel. I found it (MX Brown equipped) improved my typing, so it does help (especially if your work involves a lot of typing).
    Not a big fan of the noise, especially in a quiet environment. Touch typing is a lot better.
    Also, backlit helps if you like being in the dark (like I do). I game with a Steelseries M800 (impulse buy, not a "real" mechanical keyboard), the super short key travel can help during gaming. The reactive/API'd backlight is a handy touch as well.

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