How To Choose Mechanical Keyboards

Views 3 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this Guide is helpful

No two mechanical keyboards are exactly the same, in this following guide, we walk you through the different features of a mechanical keyboard.

Full-sized or Compact?

Many mechanical keyboard are made in the compact or 'tenkeyless' form factor ('tenkey' refers to the number pad that sits on the far right of a full-sized keyboard). Many tenkeyless form factors can also make changes to the arrow key and the set of function keys above it (Insert, Home, Page up, etc.) This may seem like a disadvantage at first, but think, when was the last time you used the number pad? Many people do not use the number pad frequently, if at all. Omitting the number pad allows the user to bring the mouse closer to the keyboard (and their right hand) making it easier to switch between the two. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference... and how much space you have on your desk.

The Thermaltake Meka G-Unit is an example of a full-sized keyboard, while the Razer Blackwidow Tournament is an example of a tenkeyless Keyboard. An example of the compact would be the Vortex Poker 2.

Which type of switch?

Arguably the most important aspect of a mechanical keyboard. Underneath each key in a mechanical keyboard, is a switch. These switches determine what sort of properties the key will have when pressed, everything from how much force you'll need, whether your fingers will feel any response from the keys when they register your key press (tactile feedback), to whether they keys 'click' when you type on them. Below are some of the different types of switches we stock.

Common Switches

Try all four switches below with one of our mechanical switch samplers. :)

CHERRY MX BLUE

Force Required 'Bump' when pressed? (tactile response) Noisy? (Clicky) Actuation and Reset points
Medium (50g) Yes Yes Not together

The Cherry MX Blue switch is considered the touch typists' switch. Requiring a moderate 50g of force to press (60g peak force), the Blue switch is finely balanced between accuracy, speed and strain on the fingers. MX Blues have a distinct tactile bump that helps typists know when the keys have been activated. The MX Blue switch has a separate actuation and reset point which makes it more difficult to repeatedly 'tap' a single key than other switches, particularly by users used to those other switches although many have no issues. The Cherry MX Blue emits a 'click' when pressed.

The Cherry MX Blue feels the most 'distinct' compared to typing on a regular rubber dome keyboard. The clicky variant of the Das Professional Model S is an example of a Cherry MX Blue Keyboard (the Das Professional Model S also comes with red and brown switch options.)

CHERRY MX BROWN

Force Required 'Bump' when pressed? (tactile response) Noisy? (Clicky) Actuation and Reset points
Light (45g) Yes, light No Not together but close

The Cherry MX Brown is half way between a gamer's and typist's switch. Requiring a force of 45g to depress (55g peak force), the key is not quite as easy to press as the Cherry MX Red. It has a light tactile feedback, strong enough to let touch typists know when they've pressed the key but not strong enough to distract gamers from the task at hand. The actuation and reset point are sufficently close that repeated key presses are not a problem. Cherry MX Browns do not emit 'clicks' when pressed.

The Logitech G710+ is an example of a Cherry MX Brown Keyboard.

CHERRY MX BLACK


 
Force Required 'Bump' when pressed? (tactile response) Noisy? (Clicky) Actuation and Reset points
Stiff (60g) No No Same point

The Cherry MX Black switch is a favourite of gamers who need precision in their key presses. Requiring 60g of force to depress, the MX black is the 'heaviest' of all common MX switches to press. However the keys have a 'smooth' feel owing to its lack of any tactile feedback and the keys have the same actuation and release point meaning that it is easier to press the key repeatedly. Cherry MX Black switches also do not emit 'clicks'.

The Cherry MX Black feels the most similar to the more common rubber dome keyboard. The Mionix Zibal 60 is an example of a Cherry MX Black keyboard.

CHERRY MX RED

Force Required 'Bump' when pressed? (tactile response) Noisy? (Clicky) Actuation and Reset points
Light (45g) No No Same point

The Cherry MX Red switch is a favourite of gamers and typists who enjoy the feel of a 'lighter' key. Requiring only 45g of force to depress, the MX Red is perfect for those who need an instant response to their key presses or those who's fingers tire after long sessions of typing. The Cherry MX red switch does not provide tactile feedback and does not emit 'clicks'.

The Cherry MX Red option of the Tesoro Durandal G1NL Ultimate is an example of a Cherry MX Red keyboard. (The Durandal Ultimate also comes with a choice of other Cherry switches.)

Less Common Switches

CHERRY MX GREEN


 
Force Required 'Bump' when pressed? (tactile response) Noisy? (Clicky) Actuation and Reset points
Very Stiff (80g) Yes Yes Not together

The Cherry MX Green was designed as a Cherry MX Blue requiring a higher amount of force (80g) to activate. It is intended to be used in space bars and other keys that are not commonly used but may also be suitable for those wanting precision and/or who are accustomed to typing with more force. The Cherry MX Green emits a 'click' when pressed.

The Cooler Master CM Storm Trigger is an example of a Cherry MX Green keyboard. (The Quickfire XT also comes in Cherry Red switches.)

Hybrid Switches

Although rare, some keyboards contain a combination of different switches. These switches are usually tailored in such a way so that the keys which are rarely pressed are given switches that require a higher amount of force to depress (to avoid accidentally hitting them) while the most commonly used keys, usually the QWERTY keys themselves, are given 'lighter' switches so as not to tire out the user. The Tesoro Durandal eSports Edition is an example of a keyboard that uses hybrid key switches (Black and Red).

Keyboard Lighting

Many new keyboard implement some sort of lighting effect to make the keyboard easier to use in low-light conditions or just for the 'wow' factor. Some keyboards are only blacklit, that is, there is a set of LEDs below certain groups of keys and the light shines through the gaps in the keys to illuminate those group of keys so the user can see those keys even when it is dark. Other keyboards have keys which are individually lit, that is, there is an LED light under each key. Usually in individually-lit keyboards, the lettering on the keycaps have a degree of transparency, allowing the light to shine through the lettering. Many individually-lit keyboards are programmable to allow the keyboard different lighting effects.

The Coolermaster CM Storm Quickfire Pro is an example of a keyboard that is only backlit on certain groups while the Tesoro Colada is an example of a keyboard that has its keys individually backlit.

Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) key caps

Most key caps are made of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic. These key caps are inexpensive to manufacture. However, some manufactures use long-life PBT keycaps, capable of surviving temperatures in excess of 150 degress Celsius and, compared to ABS caps, are more resistant to solvents and other chemicals and much more resistant to discolouration ('shining'). PBT key caps ensure that your key caps last as long as the switches beneath them.

The entire Deck range uses PBT caps.

If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to send mechkb a message, and we will do our best to reply back to you as soon as possible.

Have something to share, create your own Guide... Write a Guide
Explore more Guides