What is a Mechanical Keyboard?

If you are a millennial or quite young you may well have no experience using a mechanical keyboard. After all, today’s keyboards are quite small, functional, virtually noiseless, may be flexible and foldable. What’s more, thanks to the huge range of keyboards now available, at the lower price point they are very cheap as well, so easy to replace.

The early keyboards used with the old desktop computers or word processors were all mechanical and users were able to make the transition from using a typewriter to a mechanical keyboard somewhat easier. The keys would go clickety-clack, somewhat like a typewriter and the keyboards were slightly angled, though not as much as a typewriter, of course. Any new keyboard offers only a slight angle if you open out the raised clips behind your keyboard.

What is a Mechanical Keyboard

Different Types of Keyboards

Keyboards are available in different configurations and sizes. There are also many different kinds of keyboards available, the main ones being:

Built-in keyboards – these come with laptops and their size varies and depends on the size of the laptop. They are usually quiet and flat and may be basic or maybe have some multimedia keys. With small laptops, the keyboards may not have separate numerical keypad, though the larger ones will usually have this feature. These keyboards use a scissor switch.

Ergonomic keyboards – as the name says, they are designed for a better ergonomic experiences and helps reduce pain and cramps in the fingers and wrists when keyboarding for long. They are usually multimedia keyboards.

Membrane keyboards – these use new technology and have a dome shaped silicone or rubber (hence the name membrane) under the keys. When pressed the keystroke is registered and whatever you type appears on the screen. These usually make little or no noise because of the rubber or silicone used.

Flexible keyboards – these are usually made of silicone and can be rolled up for easy storage. They are often used in medical settings where keyboards may be washed to keep them clean.

Gaming keyboards – these are used by gamers who want the extra features these keyboards provide. They often have backlit keys, palm rests, multimedia keys and may have a small LCD screen as well.

Wireless keyboards – while the earlier keyboards used the PS/2 pin for connection, most of the new ones are USB, making them easier to use. For greater flexibility and usage there is the wireless keyboard that does not use any cables to connect and can work via Bluetooth, Infrared technology or Radio Frequency to transmit signals.

Mechanical keyboards – these keyboards are facing resurgence in popularity as they offer a greater tactile experience. This kind of keyboard uses physical buttons that make a noise and each key has a switch under it. When you press the key the switch is also pressed and the circuit completes and your typed text appears on the screen.

How do Mechanical Keyboards Work?

Mechanical keyboard look quite similar to membrane keyboards, though they may be a little bigger and keys will often be a little depressed in the center for better finger touch. Mechanical keyboards are made for particular usage so a mechanical keyboard that is used by an avid gamer will be difference from the mechanical keyboard that is meant for a typist and will be different from the mechanical keyboard used by a programmer.

Each key has an actual physical switch under it without a membrane or plastic covering. On pressing the key the keyboard signals the computer as to which key has been pressed and the letter will appear on the screen.

The main difference is that when you use a mechanical keyboard you do not have to press the key as far down as it goes as the sound you hear will tell you that the key has been pressed. This results in reduced finger fatigue. Typing on this kind of keyboard feels like a better experience. It can actually change the way you type as well and give you a higher speed while typing and people who use mechanical keyboards are generally pleased with the results.

Different Switches Used in Mechanical Keyboards

All manufacturers have some differences in keyboard design and feel as also the actual size of the keys. That is why when you switch from one keyboard to another it may take a bit of time to get used to it. The main difference in mechanical keyboards is the kind of switch used in the keyboard as there are different ones available.

Cherry MX Black Switch – this is a linear switch that is non-tactile. It is best for gamers who tend to press wrong keys. It requires a certain amount of force for the key to press and this is very good for double tapping. However, this is not the kind of switch that you would like if you enjoy typing. It does not have a click sound either.

Cherry MX Brown Switch – this one has a light tactile feel and does not have a click sound. It can be used for gaming or typing as the force required for this is medium.

Cherry MX Blue Switch – this switch is tactile and also has a click sound. It is best for typing as the resistance is similar to that of a membrane keyboard so it is easy to make the change.

Cherry MX Clear Switch – this is a tactile switch that does not have a click sound. It works through medium resistance, somewhat more than the brown switch.

Cherry MX Red Switch – this is a linear switch that is non-tactile and does not have a click sound. This one is lighter than the black switch and is ideal for gamers who want to use less force to press the key. Some typists also like the resistance of this switch.

Buckling Swing Keyswitch – each key has a spring under it and when the key is depressed the spring buckles and creates the circuit. It also makes a clicking sound as it is depressed. This is a traditional mechanical switch.

Black Alps – this one is a tactile mechanical switch but is relatively silent and you will not hear the clickety sound. This kind of switch may be complicated or simplified according to the way it is made. The complicated version is fairly hard and stiff. The switch is similar to the old style mechanical keyboards. It provides a good tactile feel.

White Alps – this switch version is both tactile and provides the click sound. It does not require as much force as the Black Alps version and so is quite popular. It is available in different brand names.

Topre Key Switch – this is a tactile switch that is a hybrid one since it has a spring under a rubber dome so it is a mix of the membrane and mechanical keyboard. It is quiet and smooth to use and offers a good typing experience.

What is an Autonomous Mechanical Keyboard

What are the Specific Features of Mechanical Keyboard?

You may well wonder what is that makes mechanical keyboards different. If you are used to membrane keyboards, you may even wonder why you should switch to something that is theoretically from an older period. For one thing, the newer switches make the keyboarding experience much better, so you cannot really compare them to older keyboards. Mechanical keyboards have some features that you may need to get used to such as:

Weighty keyboards – the basic keyboard is much heavier than the new lightweight keyboards. However, this additional weight also means that the keyboards are sturdier and will not jump around on the desk. This makes them less portable though.

Improvement in typing speed – while you have to get used to using a mechanical keyboard and you have to learn to type lightly since the force required is not that much till you hear the key sound, you will be able to type faster. When using a membrane keyboard you tend to press the key downwards till you get the slight sound.

Mechanical keyboard may be noisy – if you are working on your own or have your own office you may be happy to hear the sound but if you are in a quite office with a number of co-workers, they may actually be disturbed by the sound of the mechanical keyboard. You may be able to get a low-sound mechanical keyboard if it is big issue.

Mechanical keyboard is big – if you want portability or flexibility, you don’t have space then you may prefer a membrane keyboard. If you have very short fingers then you may find that you get more tired keyboarding when you use a mechanical keyboard.

Mechanical keyboard is long-lasting – membrane keyboards typically get spoiled after some time, sometimes within months or a year to two. As they are usually cheap, they are also easily replaceable. A good quality membrane keyboard has a life of 1 to 10 million strokes for each key and that is primary reason that the keys that are most used often wear out. On the other hand, the keys of a mechanical keyboard are good for up to 50 million presses. When you buy a mechanical keyboard, you should be aware that it is going to last you a long time.

Autonomous Mechanical Keyboard

10 Different Mechanical Keyboards

There is a wide range of mechanical keyboards to suit your needs and your typing styles. If you like to use force while typing, you can get a keyboard that has harder switches. If you like to type lightly and don’t like the click noise, you can get a mechanical keyboard that will suit you. Some of the popular mechanical keyboards are:

  1. Adesso MKB-135B Pro – the Cherry MX Blue switches in this make the keyboard comfortable to use and it is quite responsive and gives a nice click sound. It is also for the budget conscious.
  2. Corsair K95 RGB Platinum – a functional mechanical keyboard that offers many switch options and highly versatile software.
  3. Azio Retro Classic Mechanical Keyboard – with white backlit keys this one features Kailh Blue switches. The keyboard resembles a typewriter.
  4. Kinesis Freestyle Edge – this is an ergonomic model and is a split keyboard that comes in two parts. It has 8 programmable keys.
  5. Logitech G513 Carbon – you can get a choice or linear or tactile switches in this model that is fairly quiet. It has a palm rest as well despite its minimalist design.
  6. Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 – it has an ergonomic wrist rest and 5 dedicated macro keys. It is best for gamers.
  7. Das Keyboard Model S Professional – this keyboard comes with 2 USB ports and has keys that are laser etched so they are unlikely to fade with use. This features Cherry MX Blue switches. It is good for typists and gamers.
  8. The Diatec Filco Majestouch 2 Camouflage – this features Cherry Black MX switches that feature a standard keyboard. It makes for an easy transition from a membrane keyboard.
  9. Thermaltake eSports Meka G1 – this has Cherry MX Black switches and 2 USB plugs. It also comes with a snap-on wrist rest to support the wrist. It is a good keyboard for typists and gamers as it comes with headphone and microphone jacks.
  10. Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition – it has backlit keys and uses Cherry MX Blue switches. It comes with some extra features and keys including a special gaming mode that prevents other keys from being pressed.

You may be surprised to know that there are a large number of mechanical keyboards available and these are only a few. You can find one at the price point you are comfortable with and with the features that you want.

Unlike membrane keyboards that usually are quite standard, mechanical keyboards come in a range of configurations and styles that are easy on the eye. Even if you buy an expensive one, its long life means that you get value for money. And if it improves your typing or your gaming experience and reduces strain and pain on your fingers and wrists, then it is a worthwhile investment