What is a Mechanical Keyboard?
By Space Coast Daily // August 4, 2022
Keyboards come in different shapes, sizes, and looks. Elements like RGB lighting, having or not having a number pad, and the quality of the build are basics that help buyers visually differentiate between keyboards.
But eventually, what makes a keyboard different from another is its type. Today’s market mainly offers two types of desktop keyboards: mechanical and membrane. These may further be classified into rubber dome keyboards or scissor switch keyboards.
Keep reading to find out more!
So, what is a mechanical keyboard? Mechanical keyboards have certain features that stand out from traditional rubber dome keyboards. Essentially, the mechanical keyboards get their names from their mechanical switches.
Whereas, membrane keyboards rely on rubber below keys which help register key presses on the keyboard’s electrical circuit board. The electrical circuit board on a mechanical keyboard receives input when a plastic switch under the keyboard keys is pressed due to a key press.
Key switches on a mechanical keyboard work and sound different from your regular keyboard switches. These are clicky switches with a clicky sound, and key presses can be elaborately felt; something you do not experience with rubber dome switch keyboards.
A mechanical keyboard switch usually offers a smaller input delay than rubber dome switches, which earns them another name: speed switches. This is a key reason why gamers prefer mechanical keyboards.
Let’s further discuss the various elements most mechanical keyboards offer.
Switch Type: The most used mechanical switches
Various types of switches can be found on mechanical keyboards. Here are the more prevalent ones:
Tactile switches only need to be pressed halfway to register input. This grants them a faster input time compared to linear switches. This switch type will certainly improve a user’s typing speed.
Linear switches need to be pressed completely before they register input. A keyboard with a linear switch will have more input time than a tactile switch counterpart. However, linear switch keyboards will still outperform your standard keyboard.
Optical switches are mechanical switches that rely on light for input. They offer a better input time than a tactile switch, making them a popular option for gaming keyboards.
Mechanical keyboards work similarly, but they have these small variations in their switch types. These maintain the ‘clicky switches with a clicky sound’ and tactile feel aspects that mechanical keyboards offer.
Cherry MX switches are well-reputed keyboard switches. Cherry switches come in various switch types and have different highlights. Mechanical switch keyboards with Cherry MX switches are a popular choice amongst users.
Multiple quality brands offer a high-quality product for your mechanical keyboard.
Mechanical Keyboards and Their Uses
The type of keyboard being used by a person is a personal preference. Other keyboards like membrane keyboards, rubber dome keyboards, or scissor switch keyboards do not make the sound attributed to mechanical keyboard switches and are cheaper to purchase. Users who prefer working in quiet environments and do not want that clicky feel upon key presses will feel comfortable using most membrane keyboards.
However, rubber domes and rubber membranes usually do not cut it, when it comes to preference for gamers or programmers. These users prefer a keyboard switch that makes a clicky sound and feels responsive.
A gaming keyboard is the most common application of mechanical keyboards. Gamers are looking for a gaming keyboard with minimal input delay, as the smallest pauses can be decisive in competitive gaming situations. Using a mechanical gaming keyboard also guarantees better accuracy when registering key presses. Some people even use specialized switches and springs from cutting edge companies like Prevail Key Co.
The clicky nature of mechanical keyboard switches makes the experience immersive. Mechanical keyboards also offer’ rollover,’ which refers to registering all key presses done simultaneously, which is not as effective as membrane keyboards.
Users who do excessive typing work might also prefer using mechanical keyboards, given that they do not work in a workplace that may be disturbed by the elaborate sound of mechanical keyboard switches clicking away.
Membrane keyboards do not offer the typing speeds achieved on a mechanical keyboard. The mere tactile bump from pressing a mechanical keyboard key and the sound with it can make typing enjoyable, something a membrane keyboard will not offer.
Mechanical keyboards come in different varieties and offer different features.
Mechanical keyboards are available in various sizes; these being:
■ Full-size keyboards
■ Ten keyless (TKL) Keyboards
■ 60% keyboards
Ten keyless keyboards do not have a number pad, while a 60% keyboard consists of all keys, including and under the function keys.
A mechanical keyboard like the nk980 keyboard can come with a plastic case or a metallic body. The keycaps are normally made from ABS plastic or PBT plastic. Users often use custom keycaps for certain keys to make them look prominent. Normally, these are the ‘W,’ ‘A,’ ‘S’ and ‘D’ keys.
Since keycaps can easily be removed, they are easy to replace if broken or for customization. The easy-to-remove aspect of keycaps also makes mechanical keyboards easy to clean.
Like a membrane keyboard, mechanical keyboards come with USB cables for connectivity. Some of them may have a removable cable that can be detached from the keyboard. Others also offer Bluetooth connectivity.
Frequently using a keyboard for long durations can cause repetitive strain injury – RSI. Ergonomic keyboards come with different layouts that allow the user’s hand to rest while they work, reducing strain on their hands and fingers.
■ Multiple varieties of mechanical keyboards are available
■ Input speed on a mechanical keyboard is better than on a membrane keyboard
■ Accurate input with better rollover quality
■ Mechanical keyboards are more long-lasting than membrane keyboards, lasting between 20 to 100 million key presses compared to 5 to 10 million keypresses
■ An immersive experience for users with tactile bump and clicky sound
■ Keycaps are customizable and replaceable
■ Mechanical keyboards are expensive compared to membrane keyboards
■ The sound from key presses may be disturbing for some users
A mechanical keyboard’s application is the same as a membrane keyboard. That being said, mechanical keyboards offer extra features, making them stand out and popular among users.