Unless technology advances to a level where thoughts or spoken words are accurately registered in a computer system, we need a keyboard to interface with our computers. There are many types and brands of keyboards, but not all are created equal. The mechanical keyboard, however, leads the pack when it comes to quality and versatility.
A mechanical keyboard is a type of keyboard that uses mechanical switches for its keys. Because of its design and features, a mechanical keyboard is often the go-to computer peripheral of gamers, writers, and typists.
Let’s learn more details about mechanical keyboards.
A mechanical keyboard is a computer keyboard that uses a spring-equipped switch under each key, thus the label “mechanical.” The design allows for key presses that can be clearly felt. This makes a mechanical keyboard ideal for precise keystrokes.
Many writers, programmers, and typists prefer mechanical keyboards for their accuracy and anti-ghosting capabilities (i.e., the non-registration of one or more keystrokes when several keys are pressed at the same time). Avid gamers also prefer mechanical keyboards due to their accuracy and responsiveness, which is important when playing competitively.
The mechanical keys of most brands of mechanical keyboards come from Cherry GmbH, a leading German peripheral-device manufacturer, and Razer, a Singaporean-American technology company.
When it comes to core functionality and purpose, a mechanical keyboard is no different than a standard membrane keyboard. Pressing down a key registers a character or an action on your computer. Both are laid down in a familiar QWERTY layout. It’s the design and the components that make the difference.
A mechanical keyboard contains switches under each keycap, each key a complete system of moving parts in itself. Each time a key is pressed, two metal contacts under the key connect with each other. At the moment of contact, a tiny electric current flows from the metal to your keyboard’s circuitry then to your computer as a signal. Your computer’s processor interprets the signal and displays it on your monitor as a screen or action, depending on the app or program you’re using.
A regular keyboard, technically called a full-travel membrane keyboard, follows the same principle. However, instead of spring-loaded switches, the entire keyboard is made out of one-piece springy membrane that spreads all across the keyboard. When you press down a key, you press a corresponding plunger down on the membrane. Metal contacts beneath the membrane---strategically placed right under each key---touch an electrical switch matrix. As with mechanical keyboards, contact between the metal points sends a signal to your computer.
Whatever the brand, mechanical keyboards work using the same principle as discussed above. However, there are 3 main types of keyboard. Each type is determined by the variant of keys it’s equipped with.
Linear switches provide smooth keystrokes without clicks or feedback. This makes pressing the keys smooth, easy, and fast on your fingers. Fast typists and competitive gamers prefer linear switches as they’re comfortable and have a quick response time. Finally, if you prefer quiet mechanical keyboards, then go for keyboards with linear key switches.
Tactile switches provide a satisfying bump sensation. This confirms that a mechanical key has been successfully pressed and registered without feeling the need to press the key all the way to the bottom. Tactile keyboards are beginner-friendly and are ideal for fast-touch typists.
Clicky keyboards are not quiet mechanical keyboards. However, they’re satisfying and a lot of fun. Each keystroke produces a satisfying clicking sound each time a key contacts the actuation point. A clicky switch also provides a “bump” sensation to signal you that a keystroke is successfully registered.
Each mechanical key in a mechanical keyboard is made up of a few main parts.
Each time a key is pressed, the stem pushes the spring down to allow the two metal contact points to connect and register the keypress. When you release the key, the spring uses kinetic pressure to push the key up back to its original position.
Depending on the brand or model, there are other parts as well such as clickbar or tactile leaf.
Standard mechanical keyboards feature a generic layout with a main typing keypad, function keys, cursor direction keys, 9 special keys, and a numeric keypad. Some models have additional media keys. Finally, compact ones may only have the main typing keypad with several keys having multiple functionalities.
We know that mechanical keyboards are made up of mechanical keys rather than membrane keyboards. However, many mechanical keyboards may also have several features such as:
More details and features can be found in the product description of the keyboard that you’re interested in. Check out the best wireless mechanical keyboards, the most ergonomic keyboards, products with the most features, and so on.
Mechanical keyboards have several advantages:
They have a significantly longer lifespan than most keyboard types. Each key can withstand anywhere between 30 to 100 million key presses. The keys of standard membrane keyboards only last about 5 million key presses.
However, not everything is a bed of roses for mechanical keyboards. Here are some of its disadvantages
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about mechanical keyboards.
It depends on what you’re going to use the keyboard for. If your task isn’t heavy on typing, if accuracy isn’t a priority (i.e., graphic design, programming, or video editing where using a mouse or graphic tablet is more important), or if aesthetics isn’t important, then you can do away with a mechanical keyboard and opt for a standard one.
As a rule of thumb though, mechanical keyboards often beat other keyboards in almost all aspects.
There are lots of reasons why investing in a mechanical keyboard is worthwhile. As mentioned above, it’s more robust, the keys are more responsive, it has extra functionalities, and it has a lot of features. Most mechanical keyboards look great too with RGB lighting, media keys, and more.
In addition to the design of the keys, toughness, functionality, and aesthetics, many models of mechanical keyboards are programmable. Using an app or, in some cases, a built-in functionality, you can program keys to do specific functions and sequences. For example, you can program and set the P1 programmable key to do a complex set of keystrokes so you can execute a difficult maneuver in a PC game.
It’s easy to see why many people like using mechanical keyboards. Sure, it may be expensive, but it’s all worth it. Take a look at your workstation or game station: it may be time to replace your old computer keyboard, and get yourself a sparkling, glowing, beautiful mechanical keyboard.