So I Bought A Mechanical Keyboard

Note – this piece is aimed at people who are as ignorant about mechanical keyboards as I was until around a week ago (and probably still am), not at old hands.

For the longest time, my major interest in a keyboard has been whether it’s got big, easy multimedia controls. Apart from that, it’s a plastic thing with buttons on it, right? Then people (including our resident tech-head Jeremy) started talking about mechanical keyboards and how they were the best thing to happen to both typing and gaming since Ian Keyboard invented the keyboard in 1426, and I started to worry about being left behind.

Then I looked at the prices of these things, and stopped worrying. I do not want to spend £100+ on a plastic typing rectangle, thank you very much. Also people kept talking about ‘Cherry’ switches and I just associated that with horrible beige budget keyboards from the 1990s. (Turns out it is the same company. Who knew? Everyone except me, that’s who!)

This week, makers of preposterous hardware and ugly snake logos Razer had a big sale to celebrate CES. Which is a funny thing to celebrate, but I suppose when you’re in the batshit hardware business it’s the most important entry in your calendar. Anyway, I had a look on a whim, quickly discovered that all the coolest stuff like their super-slim gaming laptop isn’t available in the UK, and looked in dismay at what was there – mostly over-priced mousemats, unspeakably ugly t-shirts and gigantic headsets for people who like shouting obscenities at strangers.

Then I clicked on the keyboard section and things got more interesting. Mechanical keyboards! Like the young people keep talking about! The stock prices were unthinkable, but the sale permitted me to buy one thing at a 50% discount. For £60 – still twice what I’d ever thought I’d spend on a keyboard – I ended up with the Blackwidow Ultimate Classic, which has a blue backlight instead of the sitcom’s-depiction-of-a-drug-den bilious green of the non-classic version. You can also get non-Ultimate versions which lack a backlight, or Stealth ones which have quieter keys, or a board from an entirely different company. I hear good things about Corsair’s ones, but again: there was a sale on.

The typography on Blackwidow’s keys is frankly ghastly, the sort of thing you’d see on the frontage of an early 90s laser tag place, but otherwise it’s a decent, minimalist-looking keyboard that’s refreshingly bereft of pointless bells and whistles. Black-bodied, matt finish, feels pretty premium in everything other than font. It’s also really heavy, which I like a lot – this thing isn’t going to shoot across my desk every time the cat jumps onto it or I bang my stupid knee again.

Anyway, let’s talk about the mechanical aspect. It’s a refined throwback to how some keyboards used to be made, rather than a wholly new innovation. Basically, a mechanical keyboard has an individual, spring-loaded switch under each key, rather than the squidgy rubber membrane of a standard keyboard. Those switches are precision-made (i.e. a big step on from old school clickety-clackety keyboards), and available in various flavours of travel distance and noise. This system has longevity benefits, but mostly the gain is in tactility. It feels better. It bounces and clicks rather than taps. I’m sure the spell will wear off, but just under a week in and I’m still almost excited about using it. It’s also very noisy, however, or at least it is if you didn’t buy one with specially-quietened switches.

I didn’t get one of those. Thus, this keyboard goes CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK really loudly. It’s like a typewriter from All The President’s Men. Initially I was horrified by this, even though I’d been warned about it, but now I love it. It doesn’t matter what I’m writing – even if it’s blathering nonsense like this article, it sounds incredibly important and forceful. I am hammering my thoughts into the computer. THESE WORDS HAVE POWER. It makes typing fun, almost. I’m finding I’m typing slightly more rapidly too, as the clicking and bouncing enhances the rhythm of writing.

What I’m still struggling with slightly is that it’s tiring to use – i.e my finger tips ache a little. This is because my old brain is accustomed to a keyboard which requires me to press each key all the way down before a character will appear, and the keys on this thing require quite some force to do that. I’m currently hammering it, in other words. In fact, a keypress on this thing triggers when a button is relatively lightly, so what I’m trying to do is train myself to type less forcefully.

This does involve unlearning how to type to some degree, but I’m getting there, and eventually I’m going to find the degree of button-pushing which is the best fit for me, rather than that what is mandated by the travel distance of the keys. It’s slowly happening, and there’s both less volume and less ache because of it, but without losing the wonderful bouncy, clicky, look-at-me-I’m-doing-something-physical sensation.

There’s not too much to report for games, if I’m honest. High-end players love these things because there’s no chance of the keyboard having a wobbly when you press too many buttons at once, and because the whole key travel distance thing means in theory you can have less delay in inputting commands, but that’s just not my world. Frankly you might as well ask me to diagnose a sick dolphin. What I do like is that hitting reload or use or whatever feels a lot more like doing something physical now – again, this is about the tactility and to some degree noise of a mechanical keyboard. If you want to hit a button with purpose, this is the way to go.

This Razer thing also has repogrammable keys, macro recording and a USB port, but your mileage may vary on that sort of gubbins, depending on which board you go for. I’m just blathering about the general mechanical vs traditional keyboard concept here. This particular board has certainly impressed me, but there are far more attractive mechanical keyboards out there. If you can find the money for them, that is. I got this one because it was cheap, for one time only, and while it’s really only the fonts on the key-tops that bother me, in time I may regret going for a stingy option. That seems fairly unlikely right now, though.

The move to mechanical is definitely a more than superficial change – after all, we’re talking about making the main means of interfacing with one’s PC feel more enjoyable – but I think I’d have seriously struggled to spend the £100+ generally required for these things. Hopefully we’ll see prices lower – for entry-level models at least – as interest in mechanical keyboards continues to rise, which I’m rather it certain will be the case.

186 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    It’s impossible to explain to someone who isn’t ONE OF US yet (:P) how nice it is to use a good mechanical board, they’ll only get it when they get one.

    Good effort tho big Al!

    +1

    • Faxmachinen says:

      I’ve had one for more than a year now, and I still don’t get it.

      Perhaps I’ve been spoiled, growing up with a Model M. Modern mechanical keyboards just feel like some half-assed thing that’s neither here nor there in terms of price and clickyness.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Mostly because mechanical switches are “fine” but the ToPre electrostatic ones are the ultimate high end, and the board matters aswell. The RealForce for example is fully made in Japan and the chassis is reportedly something incredible, coupled with those switches it was described as “just like typing on boobs”.

        I think i’m gonna get one of those sooner or later, that keyboard won my trust since it was made popular by word of mouth alone as the brand was born simply for the japanese professional market, no marketing buzzwords or PR hype or anything else. A non gaming brand that handbuilds proper stuff for people to work with.

        What really killed mechanical keyboards for me is the chattering of the switches as soon as there’s too much dust ( or cat hair ) in the wrong spot, and it’s hard to fix without simply changing the switch. Whoever doesn’t feel that much compelled to “upgrade” should really know this kind of stuff in advance so they can stick with a crappy one and just replace it when needed.

        Also, the model M is surely no random keyboard either, the switch used along with those i mentioned are pretty much both considered the holy grail by enthusiasts.

        • Naed says:

          depending on the way the switch is mounted, you can just open it up and clean it :)

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            As far as i know you can just remove the cap, anything else might be some serious DIY business, but i don’t think i’ve heard of people doing that and yes, the kind of nasty stuff that might make the key malfunction likely gets trapped very much inside and there are mixed opinions about the usefulness/harm of compressed air.

            I’ve mostly heard of people replacing the whole switch, some boards facilitate that but others require soldering. The latter shouldn’t be hard or too much precision based, but then you’re supposed to have the tools for that and ultimately the whole matter might be something one might not be willing to bother with.

          • Naed says:

            TacticalNuclearPenguin / it all comes down to “how” the switch is mounted.

            If there isnt a topplate that blocks the switch, you can disassembly a switch with a small screwdriver/plier combo :)

            but the easiest way to get some actual knowledge on it is to have a look here
            link to deskthority.net

            or to do a quick google on “disassemble cherry mx switch”

            and you can always add on the model name of the keyboard you own, someone might have a specific guide for your exact model :)

            Best of luck :)

        • Contrafibularity says:

          I can wholeheartedly recommend Topre. It’s hard to describe the joy of typing on one since I’ve already grown accustomed to it, save perhaps using the symbol <3. Perfect tactile feedback, without the hard mechanical feel of other mechanical keyboards, and of course no noise (it makes nice soft sounds). I've not noticed the keypresses changing over time and I've only cleaned it twice, it still feels and works exactly as new (it's rated at 30 million key-presses per key).

          So you can just remove all the keys with the included tool, clean the board (and keys if you want) and it'll be good as new. Luckily I've not yet spilled a drink over it, but I'm told it survives such things and more. For possibly decades.

          Once you've used one, you'll never go back. It's like large monitors. /spreadingthejoyofTopre

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            It also helps that there’s no physical actuation, so as long as the the innards of the switch are in a good housing the stories you mention about spilling drinks might indeed be true.

            And yeah, maybe i wasn’t much clear in my previous post but one of the reason i’d like to try a ToPre is due to the higher potential of reliability.

        • Faxanadu says:

          Can someone recommend a Topre keyboard? With n-key rollover?

          I watched a few videos, and they seem like something I might like. I haven’t had a mechanical, because every single one I’ve fondled at a shop has felt, not very good, and having long presses, and that insanely loud clicking, just, no pros at all – so I couldn’t believe it’d suddenly turn amazing after plugging it in.

          But topre seems pretty quiet, and I like the way they’re describing typing on it. …no I don’t mean the boobs part… …not that that sounds bad.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Those are still pretty obscure and hard to buy, but as far as i know americans go with the site Elitekeyboards and in UK it would be this.

            As far are recommendations go, the rollover is a given on any model and more or less what you choose is just based on wanting the numpad aswell or not.

            There is also the matter of the switch weighting, but that’s personal taste even if most people seem to be pretty happy around the 45-50 grams mark. Some boards use different weighting for different areas of they keyboard, but as far as i know it should be specified.

            I think if you want to know further geekhack or some reddit is your only hope, unless someone chimes in.

          • Faxanadu says:

            Thanks.

        • Tams80 says:

          ToPre keyboards are lovely. Unfortunately the full size RealForce UK version doesn’t seem to be available anymore, but the tenkeyless is, and you can get separate numberpad boards.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Yes, this. I find Cherry keys deeply disappointing.

        Also I’m glad I didn’t have to Ctrl-F “Model M” because someone got in there in the first reply.

    • mouton says:

      Many people with no running water are happier than you!

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Meh, the biggest things for me in a keyboard are that it be small and that it doesn’t have a bunch of extra buttons I won’t use but might do odd things to the computer I don’t like. The advantages of a mechanical keyboard are outweighed by the cost/size/weight and general poor design of them.

      • pepperfez says:

        For size, you can get a 60% mechanical like the Poker that has a minuscule footprint and no frivolous keys. Of course, it’s still too expensive, but when has pragmatism stood in the way of new hardware?

    • Underwhelmed says:

      These are the fountain pens of interface devices. People think you are a pretentious twit for using one, and maybe you even feel like you are, but they offer a feel that the more typical options just cannot reproduce.

      Also like a fountain pen, they really aren’t that practical when you get right down to it. It really just comes down to what you like in terms of the feel. There is no law that says you need to be 100% logical all the time though, so use what you like.

      • pepperfez says:

        That comparison really nails it. Another similarity, and the one that got me interested in both devices, is how durable and repairable they are. When your fountain pen goes dries, you don’t toss it or even buy a branded refill – just put in any ink you want. If a switch wears out on your mechanical, even if you can’t fix it there are plenty of people who can. In the increasingly disposable world of electronics, it feels good to commit to a tool like that.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        “There is no law that says you need to be 100% logical all the time though, so use what you like.”

        This is a pretty good one, nice. If this law existed we could call it the “Law of boredom” though!

  2. thedosbox says:

    How do other members of your household feel about this purchase?

    I mourn the death of my old scissor-key Logitech UltraX. Quieter than a mechanical, yet still had crisp feeling, low-travel keys.

    • Malcolm says:

      Dunno if it’s exactly the same, but the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard has scissor switch keys and sounds fairly similar.

    • Ryuuga says:

      Still got a couple spare Ultra Xs sitting, bought a few when they were being discontinued. I dunno tho, I thought the early ones were better tho, at least these final ones I bought had heavy, unresponsive keys.

      Tho these days they mostly gather dust, it’s all wireless from the couch, using a logitech all in one TK820, touchpad is nice for couch use.

      I dunno, I have fond memories of mechanical keyboards, but..

    • trankzen says:

      Well I went from a Logitech Ultra X Flat to a Filco Majestouch II
      I went with MX Brown switches for a nice tactile feedback and 2mm o-rings to keep them -somewhat- quiet.

      Best keyboard I’ve ever owned by far. Wouldn’t go back.

    • Contrafibularity says:

      Get a Realforce Topre, all the benefits of mechanical without the CLICKCLICKCLACKCLICKCLACKCLICKCLICK. Won’t ever go back.

      • pepperfez says:

        That seems to be missing one of the major benefits of mechanical.

        • Contrafibularity says:

          No, the click is tactile rather than audible, the feeling on your fingertips can best be described as pleasantly squishy but firmly precise. Topre electrostatic switches are in fact mechanical, just.. better (which is entirely subjective of course, so try it out when you get the chance).

  3. No Excuse says:

    Totally basic question – is a mechanical keyboard in someway a ‘new’ invention or is it just back back to wot keyboards were like before the rubbery mat underlay thingy? Because if we’re just talking about going back to the kind of keyboard I had on my old BBC I don’t see the attraction.

    This totally seems like a thing I wouldn’t buy unless I’ve tried it first, which is nae use as I (and probably many people on here) basically only shop digitally now, apart from for food and clothes. Advertising for this must be a bit like the problem they have with trying to advertise a 3D T.V. or something with a 2D advert. I just don’t get it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      It’s very much a step back to the way keyboards used to be, particularly to the days of the IBM Model M, which some rate as the greatest keyboard ever made.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • jellydonut says:

        No, it’s not. As the article states, mechanical switches today are not the same as the buckling-spring switches in the Model M.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          I think his/her point is that they’re similar in what they try to achieve ( at least the clicky ones ), they simply are just not as good and the market for type M’s is still quite strong.

        • SuicideKing says:

          Yeah, but they’re saying that while not buckling spring designs, modern mechanical keyboards are closer to the Model M than to the membrane ones.

    • Premium User Badge

      tigerfort says:

      Modern mechanical keyboards have the same similarity to BBC B era ones that a high-end flight-stick does to early 1980s mass-market joysticks. The underlying technology works in basically the same way, but the effect is entirely different, and vastly superior.

      • Tacroy says:

        Also there’s more blinkenlights, because LEDs make it easy to make things glow

    • No Excuse says:

      Thanks for the clarification (kinda!).

      Personally, I don’t like the wee tappy tappy chicklet keyboard on most laptops – including my own, which is why I use a £15 Logitech wireless number (which also has a mouse). The keys are much bigger and it feels a bit more tactile – it’s more comfortable and, more importantly, I don’t give a shit about it – I pan it across the room, drop it, stick it in a rucksack to take to a friends house etc. I’ve already broken one and I like the fact that I just ordered a new one without caring. I genuinely don’t see how having a keyboard which basically ‘feels nice’ and makes a nice sound is worth £100, I mean, it doesn’t actually do anything my £15 doesn’t, and I’d end up having to be careful with it due to its value.

      I get how the speaker port and USB would be useful, but as for the LEDs, that is akin to personalised number plates to me – I can’t see any non-wanker related reason why anyone would want that.

      Whenever I hear about any of these ‘oh my god you won’t understand this until you buy one’ products I think of Choice-Supportive bias (link to en.wikipedia.org). Consumer gets conned into buying gimmicky product which basically does nothing and then convinces themselves they love it because they don’t want to admit they wasted £100. Hm.

      I can understand a pro-gamer wanting their keyboard *just so, but to me the average gamer or consumer spending this kind of money on something so nebulous is mind boggling.

      • Geebs says:

        The economics might be the same as my really-rather-expensive spectacles: in the lifetime of the pricey thing, you’d end up spending more on replacing the cheap, disposable alternative.

        • drewski says:

          Really? I’ve never heard of even an el-cheapo keyboard actually breaking.

          I mean, I assume they do, but I find it improbably that anyone is getting through enough to make spending 6 times the price of a cheap one to get one that “lasts”. Unless you’re worried about whether or not your keyboard will work in 2045.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Maybe not “breaking”, but if you care enough to “upgrade” to a better keyboard you’re probably also the kind of person that would replace many cheap keyboards as their keys start working worse and worse, and that surely is something that does happen.

            it’s just that some people don’t care and others do.

          • SuicideKing says:

            Well, I have a Model M-like from 1998, doesn’t have a single key that’s not working properly (except the spacebar’s been starting to act up a little over the last two months). In the same time I’ve seen more examples cheap keyboards with stuck or hard to press keys than I can count.

            Same with the mouse. A £1 or £2 would last 6 months to a year, then I went ahead and spent an equivalent of £15 on a Logitech MX518 4.5 years ago, it’s been working flawlessly since.

          • MirzaGhalib says:

            I’ve got a squishy dome cheap toshiba keyboard that I think I bought in 1999 and it works just as well now as it did then. I took it apart and washed it once in 2005. Eww. Imagine how gross that thing must be on the inside!

        • No Excuse says:

          By ‘breaking’ I mean, I’ve broken it. It’s wireless and I throw it around, leave it on the floor by my bed etc. which swiftly results in me stepping on it or something and breaking it (this would also break a £100 one I assume). The point I’m trying to make is I wouldn’t be able to treat it like shit if it was £100 because it would be too expensive – so in a sense, I’ve lost the freedom of not caring about it and using it however I want. Meaning less real-world functionality.

          Does that make sense? Maybe not.

          • Grygus says:

            Makes sense to me. Spend x amount of money to get what you want, or spend slightly less money to get what you don’t want. Seems like a pretty simple decision to me. It’s not really the price; it is the fact that the more expensive option doesn’t meet your criteria. If there existed a keyboard that was nice to use, lightweight, and virtually indestructible, you’d consider it regardless of the cost.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        You haven’t tried one, right?

        After even just a few days, going back to a rubber dome keyboard feels squishy and strange. You get more responsiveness out of a mechanical keyboard. Moreover, they last far, far longer than rubber domes. The switches are virtually indestructible, and the rest of the keyboard is generally built using higher quality materials, so you might go through 10 of those cheap keyboards you so adamantly defend before you have to replace a single mechanical keyboard.

        What I find funny is the amount of people who’ll build a crazy computer, and then pair it with a $5 keyboard and mouse from Staples, a $100 1080p TN screen and a $25 pair of headphones. It’s like buying a sports car and proceeding to coat the entire car in mud, including the interior, before driving it around.

        • SuicideKing says:

          What’s worse is that the same people will spend $500+ on an iPhone.

      • Caerphoto says:

        I don’t really think it’s worth trying to justify the purchase of a mechanical keyboard. As I’ve said in other comments here, they’re a luxury item. If someone buys it and it makes them happy, that’s all that matters, they just need to be honest with themselves about why they bought and enjoy it.

        An even more extreme example is mechanical watches (something I enjoy reading about, but don’t really have the means to indulge in). People will try to justify the purchase by going on about craftsmanship and history and so forth, but mechanical watches are still, in purely practical terms, pointless, and yet there’s still a thriving market for them.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Mechanical watches are also inherently inaccurate, so what’s the point?

          No point, really, unless you’re someone that loves to own a great piece of engineering. You have to respect the art, you have to care about it and if you do you’ll likely see the point. Maybe you do but you don’t see how a purchase could be justified, in that case i can respect that.

          I still have my dad’s old Rolex which is a GMT master 2 from 1998 and it’s still great. It’s a watch that i love and with which i swim, surf and other punishments, once in a while i have it recalibrated and it’s good to go. I couldn’t love a random thing with a piece of quartz that could be assembled by a kid and wouldn’t realistically last me that much. Then again i got this one for free and i probably wouldn’t buy one myself though, i’ll admit, but then i could also sell it but i’m not going to.

          There’s nothing wrong in your reasoning, mind, it’s just that spending big just for this is not your sort of stuff and that’s respectable. The only flaw lies in the comparison, since with said watch you’re getting a practical downgrade ( on accuracy ) and with the keyboard it’s the opposite.

          Oh, by the way, you link looks… Expensive.

          • Caerphoto says:

            Oh hey, no need to explain about watches, I’m fully on board with the idea, I’m just not very good at articulating why I like them, which you did admirably. If I had the money, I’d gladly put together a collection of wonderful mechanical watches; as it is, I make do with my Seiko 5. And yeah, perhaps it wasn’t the best comparison.

            The picture is an A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down. It’s beautiful, and $85,000.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Yeah, i had the sneaking suspicion a little after i posted that i might have misinterpreted your point.

            Actually, you’ve been pretty much clear, as much as one might love this kind of stuff it’s still pretty hard to justify such a purchase if it has to mean a financial sacrifice.

            This really only works if you really have a LOT to spare, but then i also tend to hate those who buy luxury just because it’s luxury, without even understanding the thing. I’m glad to see a watch enthusiast around there though.

    • pepperfez says:

      If for some reason you really want to be convinced, buy a sampler like this one. With any luck, you’ll get a feel for the switches, decide you hate them, and never think about it again.

  4. Christo4 says:

    Well, one thing mechanical keyboards are good are rhythm games.
    Since the tactil feel let’s you press it with some more accuracy.
    But otherwise meh, i didn’t really find a use for one, gaming wise anyway.

  5. RedViv says:

    I have bought a Cherry G80 with MX Brown keys recently. It can go softly and quietly, or clicketyclackety loud if I want to. It’s really very nice. And only 60€.

    • Cash at Folsom says:

      I too am a Cherry MX Brown man. I take great satisfaction in knowing that about myself.

      It’s a bit funny that the Brown switches tend to be marketed as “stealth” or “quiet” or even “silent,” as they are still anything but, but I do find them a more dampened version of the stiffer mechanical switches, while continuing to offer that tactile oomph.

  6. DrScuttles says:

    Somehow I remember all keyboards used to be clacky clacky back in the late DOS to Windows 95 era. Maybe my dad just bought decent keyboards. Somewhere along the way, things got mushy. Softer. Rubbish.
    Been wanting to get a nice keyboard for a while. The daunting question is… which one? And sure, I can easily afford a £100 keyboard, but there’s no way I can justify it.

    • Caerphoto says:

      They’re basically luxury items. Nobody really needs one, but they are generally nicer to type on, especially if you get one of the better ones, the ones with the switches attached to a metal plate – these tend to feel more solid and sound less hollow compared to PCB-attached keys found in, e.g. the Cherry G80.

      Since the keycaps are replaceable, you can also mix things up a bit (that’s a Ducky Shine III with Ducky PBT keycaps).

      edit:
      As for recommendations, CM Storm or Ducky Zero boards are around £70, or you can pay almost twice as much for basically the same thing and get a Filco.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Anyone who does a lot of typing needs one. I hate typing on a membrane keyboard, since I’ve used a mechanical ever since I’ve been a kid.

    • Synesthesia says:

      My favourite is the Filco Majestouch Ninja.

      Brown switches are the best for gamers i think, since you get the haptic feedback but not the noise.

      Also it has extra high style points. I mean, look at that:
      link to cdn3.pcadvisor.co.uk

    • FriendlyFire says:

      It depends on what you’re going to be using it for. Gaming is generally MX Reds, typing MX Blues, and if you do both then MX Browns will be a nice compromise. Blues are also extremely noisy so if you have other people around they may hate you if you get those.

      As for which keyboards have them, a lot of the mechanical keyboard specialist brands do, but I generally find their designs and features unattractive. You pay through the nose for a bog standard keyboard. I prefer looking at things like the G710+ (my current keyboard, MX Browns with a rubber ring to reduce noise) or the new Corsair K70 which comes with Reds, Blues or Browns as desired. The K70 is especially nice looking and its aluminum build should make it last for ages. I’d highly recommend it.

    • mvar says:

      Computer fashion for those who were not “around” in the 70s-90s, that’s what i call it. What’s next? Perhaps 14″ CRT monitors or trackball mice. Give us 5,25″ drives too, please. Then in a few years the rubber keyboards will be again all cool and stuff. I have like 2 or 3 “mechanical” keyboards (one of which is an IBM model M) from the 90s collecting dust somewhere in the basement. There’s no way i’m re-using any of these, i like my noise-free rubber keys thank you.

    • P.Funk says:

      Well they used to ship Model Ms with new computers at one point. There was this radical period when finely created mechanical keyboards were basically the same as el cheapos these days. That the most new mechanical keys are still not quite up to Model M snuff is funny considering how much people pay for them.

      I actually have a mechanical keyboard from the middle 80s, so old it has an AT connector rather than a PS2. Apparently its the same model that shipped with the Commodore and Amiga. Must try it one day. Damned thing is older than me.

    • C0llic says:

      I can’t recommend one of these enough; the Corsair K70.

      link to amazon.co.uk

      It’s not cheap but the build quality on it is fantastic. There are some video reviews up on the tubes (in fact I think the RGB version was featured in the original RPS article).

      A mechanical keyboard isn’t necessary, but a truly good quality one like this will last you years. And it’s one of the pieces of equipment you will use the most every time you turn on your PC. So really, it isn’t too hard to justify paying extra for something really nice that will last you a long time.

      PS. Don’t buy a mechanical keyboard by Razer. If you’re going to pay the extra to get a mechanical one, you had may as well pay the extra and buy something with a better build quality. Middle of the road is never fun, and when it breaks or is otherwise unreliable, you’ll wish you’d just spent another 50 quid.

  7. Ross Angus says:

    Surely this keyboard must enhance the experience of playing Alan: Isolation? The verisimilitude!

  8. DarkFenix says:

    Not sure what the song and dance is about mechanical keyboards to be honest. Never had problems personally with anything but the cheap nasty keyboards that tend to come with crappy pre-made PCs.

    • SomeDuder says:

      Keyboards, like fashion, are cyclical. In a few years, everyone will be sick of their dumb loud keyboards and come back to their senses and remember why modern keyboards have rubber inlays to dampen the sound.

      Mechanical keyboards as a gaming tool are a load of bullshit. You only use what, WASD, space, control and escape? Maybe some number keys? Mechanical switches won’t make you a better player.

      But, like fashion, you “just don’t get it” until you have one. And then you have a +€80,- slab of plastic, but you will have lost a load of self-respect.

      • gunneh says:

        Ive been using a mechanical board for about 2 years now and it has literally changed the way I type and the speed I type at. My fingers hurt a lot less and everything seems to have been turned up a notch, both speed and, to grievance of my housemates, noise.

        Even as a gamer you can feel it. I almost broke my board and had to temporarily resort back to rubber domes and it was awful.

        I find most enjoyment is done in typing though, its a lot lighter (or heavier depending on the switch) than rubberdomes and they seem to just feel nicer

        • Horg says:

          There are mid price range rubber dome keyboards that improve the typing experience to mechanical equivalence, have anti-ghosting software, and don’t go DAKADAKADAKA when you try and write an email. It seems like whenever the topic of keyboards gets brought up, it always boils down to £100+ mecha keyboard vs the free rubber done board you get with new PCs. Not really a fair fight or representative of the entire hardware spectrum. Perhaps it’s time the high end rubber done keyboards got some feature time. In terms of price to performance you would be negligent to overlook that segment of the market.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            Ehhhh no. I used a G15v1 before, and I came back to it to work on another computer for a few days and dear god the feeling is mushy and weird. The advantage of mechanical keyboards isn’t in anti-ghosting or anything, it’s the switches themselves. You cannot emulate this with rubber domes.

          • Horg says:

            I suppose the keyboard i’m typing this on is just a figment of my imagination?

          • tremulant says:

            Which keyboard are you currently imagining, Horg? I recently grabbed an i-rocks K10, partly because it was cheapish and partly due to the anti-ghosting and reasonably conventional full size layout, i’ve seen it described as being very much like using a mechanical keyboard, I have yet to experience a modern mechanical keyboard myself so can’t really comment, but it certainly isn’t anything like my 1987 Model M, and the keycaps are upsettingly wobbly under digit. It’s also blessed with a curious font
            link to i-rocksusa.com
            Yeah, that’s basically the Star Trek DS9 logo font, hideous, isn’t it? Still, it’s an OK board, i’m not quite used to the increased key height yet and find myself stumbling a little at times, and i’m not convinced that the feel of the keys is superior to my already quite pleasant compaq keyboard, but the anti-ghosting seems absolutely fine.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        Or, on the contrary, they actually work and you’re just spewing a load of horseshit because you apparently have an axe to grind against mechanical keyboards? I ain’t judging man, just a bit strange. Don’t like it, don’t buy it, but you really are missing out, sorry to say.

        There’s nothing cyclical about it, it’s not fashion or being hipster or whatever else you can make up. It’s also not about making you better at gaming, it’s about having a more pleasant experience. Your strawman is a bit weak, I find.

      • DarkFenix says:

        That was pretty much my impression, some fashion giving people a sense of smug superiority because their keyboard goes ‘click’ and they go around telling everyone their keyboard has a better ‘feel’ as though that’s some kind of objectively quantifiable thing.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Then let’s put it diffently, what about said people that actually prefer that “feel” that had no option to obtain exactly that before? Now they do.

          There are some objective parts aswell, a sturdily built keyboards with weighted switches all mounted on a metal frame is bound to be a better piece of engineering no matter how you twist it, or at the very least it’s understandably more expensive. The “opinion” part is another: if you care about spending for that or not.

          Both answers are fine, off course, let’s just not write this down as just a bandwagon though.

          PS: i had a mechanical with Black switches, they don’t “click” just like Reds so it’s not like something inherent to mechanical keyboards. They did however all offer the very same stiffness and there was no chassis flex when pressed down, which is something you start to notice only when it’s finally missing and then compare it to your old board.

        • Therax says:

          The “feel” of a keyboard switch pretty much is objectively quantifiable, and can be easily visualized as a graph of pressure vs. distance traveled. See the comparison between various mechanical switches here:

          link to wasdkeyboards.com

          Another completely objectively quantifiable difference between mechanical and membrane switch keyboards is the activation point, the point in the physical travel of the key where electrical contact is first made. On a membrane switch, this happens at the bottom of travel, when the key physically hits the backing circuit board. On a mechanical keyboard, this happens much closer to the middle of the range of travel, which (in theory) gives your finger a bit of distance to “slow down” instead of slamming all the way until the key bottoms out.

          Subjectively, for me personally, switching to a good mechanical keyboard at home and work has notably reduced the trouble I have with RSI. Let me tell you that saving even one visit to the doctor for tendonitis is well worth the price of even a very high end $200+ keyboard, if you’re in that situation.

          For what it’s worth, I’m currently typing on a set of MX Clear switches, which have a “tactile bump” in the middle of key travel, and a stronger return spring than the more common MX Browns, which I like because it slows down my fingers more quickly once past the activation point, and further reduces how often I bottom out on a keypress.

    • Calculon says:

      I was kind of in the same boat until about a week ago when my keyboard died. Since I also happened to be playing some high end APM-ish games in my limited spare time, and encountering issues with having to re-issue commands several times in some cases, I thought I would give the mechanical keyboard thingy a whirl.

      I bought the Razer Stealth (and to be honest I had reservations about Razer after a bad headphone experience) – I was more than pleasantly surprised. The feel of the keyboard – and the enjoyment of using it is quite in line with what Alec is saying. It literally feels nicer on the fingers, its more responsive, and really a joy to use.

      If your an occasional user of the boardkey thing-a-ma-jig it probably doesnt make a lot of sense to pick one up. If however you play more APM intensive games and/or you are a very fast typer/type a lot, it makes a lot of sense.

      Im loving my switch to mechanical thus far. 9/10 – would buy again.

      • Razumen says:

        How loud is the Stealth variant? Not sure I’d buy one soon, but I think the noise would be my biggest concern.

    • P.Funk says:

      Actually they stopped making mechanical keyboards in large part becuase they’re complex engineering and rubber domes are simpler and cheaper to produce. As they say you get what you pay for. Certainly the mechanical keyboard comes back into fashion here and will likely leave the mainstream, but its still a fantastic bit of kit if you get the right one.

      I mean for god’s sake people spend hundreds of dollars on smart phones and we all seem to think this is perfectly reasonable. Why are we being so judgmental about one of two I/O devices that you use to interact with your computer? Its not even as bad as smart phones where people will buy new ones every year or two or three. A good mechanical keyboard can last a long time. I have some from the 80s that still work.

      You’re just doing that “fuck hipsters” argument thats so shallow. “I don’t get it so it must be about hipsters posing”. Some people are posers for sure, but there are always those people regardless of the efficacy of a particular thing. You think that Fender makes shitty guitars just because a million poser teens want to own one endorsed by their favourite middle of the road pop musician?

  9. Low Life says:

    One thing worth noting is that a keyboard being mechanical doesn’t eliminate the issues with multiple simultaneous keypresses. It’s just that mechanical keyboards are generally aimed towards gamers and pricy anyway, so spending a bit more money on a good scanning method makes sense.

    • DavishBliff says:

      There are some noticeable differences, but whether they matter enough to you is of course a personal thing. For one, you can type much faster with a mechanical keyboard. My WPM goes from between 70-80 on a regular keyboard to 80-95 with a mechanical keyboard.

      The second big benefit partly explains this: from feel alone, you can type without being in any doubt whatsoever whether a keypress has registered. This sounds minor and dumb, but it can make a tremendous difference in a tense game or when typing. If you can already type without looking at the screen, a mechanical keyboard can help you do so more with fewer mistakes, even if you’re doing lots of double letters very quickly. I suspect this is actually the main reason why pro gamers use them, since as others have pointed out it doesn’t take a mechanical keyboard to remove the limit on simultaneous keypresses.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Yeah, as I understand it, there are two basic limitations to how many keys you can press at once:

      One, a lot of cheaper keyboards have “ghosting”, whereby pressing three keys at once causes a fourth to erroneously press; or, “jamming”, where (to prevent ghosting) three keys at once causes the third to not register at all. This can be fixed by just using better keyboard hardware.

      Two, USB itself has a six-keys-at-once limit. This is a lot harder to exceed in typical gameplay unless you’re playing a game with both hands on the keyboard, or a “two players same keyboard” game (and at that point, you may as well hook up a second keyboard). To go beyond this limit generally means extending the USB HID spec. Corsair does that with their K90 keyboard, but the cost is that simpler devices (e.g. video game consoles) that can normally use a keyboard, can’t use your fancy keyboard because it extends/violates the spec in ways that only a full-fledged PC keyboard driver is capable of handling. (Corsair brands this a “16-bit keyboard” but I don’t see that in reference to any other product anywhere, so I don’t know if it’s just their name for it, or if it’s just that they’re the only ones doing it.)

      And yes, neither of these is fixed by the fact that they’re mechanical; they just happen to be complaints that affect gamers more (like “damn these mushy keys”) and have thus been targeted by modern mechanical gaming keyboards.

      • TerribleUsername says:

        “One, a lot of cheaper keyboards have “ghosting”, whereby pressing three keys at once causes a fourth to erroneously press; or, “jamming”, where (to prevent ghosting) three keys at once causes the third to not register at all. This can be fixed by just using better keyboard hardware.”

        Don’t take everything I say as gospel, but it’s not so much the number of keys, but the combination. Keyboards have keys laid out on matrices, pressing keys on, say, gridlines A1,A2,A3,A4 is generally manageable because 1,2,3,4 are all separate lines. Similarly A1, B1, C1, D1 is manageable. When you press keys where the lines of the matrix will intersect, it can cause confusion (it will think the line of intersection is a key press when it isn’t, i.e ghosting); or the opposite problem of masking, where a key press(or release) isn’t recognised because the intersecting grid lines have masked it.

        Not all keyboards have the same matrices (the physical layout of the keys doesn’t necessarily match the layout of the matrix), some cheap keyboards will work better than expensive ones because of this. I imagine “gaming” keyboards either ensure common combinations don’t intersect (e,g shift + wasd). Or every key is recognised individually (through whatever method). It’s very easy and cheap to solve, caused mostly by laziness.

    • gunneh says:

      I disagree that theyre aimed at gamers, theyre aimed at anyone who works a lot with computers. Blue switches for example are great for typists and gamers alike. The huge range of switches (iirc there’s 8 Cherry ones, 2 Razer ones a few Topre ones and some others) means there is a switch for everyones needs.
      If you only use your PC to check emails then the $80-200 pricetag isnt worth it but if youre a gamer who also writes then I suggest it if you have the money to spare. You can even go bargainhunting for a IBM Model M since theyre well regarded in the community

      • djbriandamage says:

        IMHO some mechanical keyswitches are better for gamers than others. The first mechanical keyboard I bought had Cherry MX Red switches which had no intermediate click, so I found that just resting my fingers on a key would often register as a keypress. That was no good. I exchanged that for a keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches and that totally solved my problem – the intermediate click and tiny bit of resistance kept me from pressing keys accidentally.

        The other gamer-centric feature is anti-ghosting which is also available on membranous keyboards. That’s the feature that allows you to press many keys simultaneously without some keys becoming unresponsive.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    I bought a mechanical keyboard a few months ago and while I’m getting more and more accustomed to it I can’t say I like it very much. The biggest issue is that it’s so goddamn loud and I went with the Cherry MX Browns which were supposed to be the quieter option for the keyboard I got. But I can’t say I like the feel of it too much either. All I’ve really noticed is that the keys travel much further than the keys I’m used to using and it just feels weird and awkward to me. For typing I still prefer the logitech k270 I use at work and I don’t understand the instant conversion stories seemingly everyone online who say they’ve used one have.

    • demicanadian says:

      Heretic! Burn!

      ALL
      HAIL
      HYPE

    • trankzen says:

      You should learn to touch-type, that’s what that tactile feedback in your MX Brown switches is for.
      Learn it, and then the keys will travel a lot less and make much less noise as they won’t bottom out.

      • Premium User Badge

        Oakreef says:

        I can touch type perfectly fine. The mechanical keyboard I got doesn’t even have any symbols on the keys.

  11. tehfish says:

    I’ve wanted one of these for a long time, but i’m more than a little wary on spending so much on a keyboard, as i have the unfortunate habit of spilling drinks into them.
    Not a big issue if you drop a beer into a £5.99 PC world jobby, but a disaster for a £60+ one :P

    • Faxmachinen says:

      I spilled my drink into my mechanical keyboard. Took it apart and popped it in the dish washer, no soap, let it dry thoroughly. Good as new. Probably works for cheap keyboards too, but I suspect they’re harder to take apart.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        I dunno, a membrane keyboard has one sheet of rubber (the membrane) as a spring, which you can take out and wash, whereas a mechanical keyboard has an individual spring in every single key.
        That said, you shouldn’t be putting your drink near your keyboard in the first place, you hear me!

      • Premium User Badge

        Sinomatic says:

        I used to take apart my old microsoft internet keyboards and wash the non-tech bits in the shower. Cleaned them really well and they worked perfectly (after thorough drying, of course).

      • Premium User Badge

        yhancik says:

        Why nobody posted link to youtube.com here?

    • C0llic says:

      I have split beer on my Corsair K70 (not too badly, just over a corner). I was worried for a while. The liquid effectively broke the three bottom keys for a few minutes. After popping off the keys and cleaning it , it came back to life. Works perfectly still (Yes, I am lucky)

      Also, if you get crap between your keys (i do ash mine sometimes, though i try not to), cleaning a mechanical one is so much easier as you just pop off the caps to clean the back plate and the important switches are left untarnished. You just wont get things in the actual switches at all unless you’re truly trying to abuse it.

      They’re much more robust than the rubble nipple ones under normal use.

  12. imperialus says:

    I have a Logitech G710+ and I adore it. It’s got the cherry MX Browns, that strike a nice balance for me between the tactile feel and clicking sound. I’m absolutely astounded as to how much different it feels to type on, to the point that I am thinking of buying a second one to bring to work and hook up to my work computer.

    • lgfriess says:

      Ya, I picked up the k70 with the cherry blues and can’t hardly stand it when I’m at the office on the membrane keys. The mushiness, ugh! I might buy a cheaper mechanical KB just for work now.

      Hard to explain until you’ve used one.

    • djbriandamage says:

      I’ve got the G710+ as well and I really love it, despite the insane price. The Brown keyswitches are the perfect combination of clicky and quiet. It’s really easy to clean as well thanks to the removable keycaps and sturdy switches.

  13. XhomeB says:

    Interesting – I might get one at some point in the future, but they’re definitely too pricey for me.
    A while ago, I was in the process of hunting down a comfortable keyboard (my old one, which I had been using for 14 years needed a new friend), I kept testing various models, something always felt “off” to me – be it the weight, the feel of hammering the keys etc.
    Finally, I settled on this thingy, Logitech K310.
    link to ecx.images-amazon.com
    Not the most sophisticated keyboard, but something about it feels totally right. I like the sound of key presses, the feel of typing, the fact it’s pretty much impossible to accidentally press two adjacent keys at once. Plus, it’s supposedly coffee&water-resistant, which I haven’t tested yet.

  14. meepmeep says:

    I feel you have avoided one of the key questions: how easy is it to clean Wotsit crumbs out from between the keys?

    • damaki says:

      Relatively easy. On most mechanical keyboards, you can quite easily remove all keys and clean your keyboard.

  15. ran93r says:

    I have had a Ducky Shine 2 for a while, Cherry Reds. Some of the LED’s for the backlight have conked out over time but I fully intend to solder in some new ones. Either waiting for them all to die or just make the move to replace the whole lot.

  16. damaki says:

    As a person prone to fingers tendinitis, I can give you at least one good reason to use a mechanical keyboard: ergonomy. Those short travel distance keys are really bad for your fingers if you type really much.
    Since I use a vintage Model M (all the way to F24) and a Unicomp alternatively, I have no more finger problems. For gaming, just do not use any keyboard requiring too much pressure. So no brown cherry mx.

  17. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I had to get a quieter keyboard because my cat finds the clackety clackety sounds I prefer an irresistable invitation to jump on the keys and make noises with me.

    • Geebs says:

      Does your cat, like mine, always manage to stand on the key that makes the HUD disappear in Dark Souls?

      • Christo4 says:

        There’s a key for that? o.O

        • Llewyn says:

          Only if you’re a cat.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          It might be related to either DSfix for the first one or GeDoSaTo for the second.

          They can offer HUDless screenshots, so i guess there’s a keybind for HUD removal aswell.

          • Geebs says:

            Yeah, I think it’s a DSFix thing. I think of the phenomenon as a particularly challenging invasion.

    • Horg says:

      Always have a decoy keyboard to hand in case of cat.

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        This is my exact solution. I have a hideously expensive keyboard that I use as a cat decoy, I just type on it a bit now and then and Earl Grey happily prances about on the keys while I quietly type on my cheap quiet keyboard.

        • Horg says:

          Consider yourself lucky it’s just a keyboard. I had to get myself a decoy desk chair when my cat decided the old one was his, and keep a spare keyboard around for when he decides that is also his. I’m just glad he doesn’t have opposable thumbs or i’d need to get him a decoy steam account : |

  18. BooleanBob says:

    So it’s like a regular keyboard, but more expensive, gaudier, noisier, more difficult to use and causes physical pain?

    • imperialus says:

      except once you’re used to it and stop ‘bottoming out’ the keys like you have to on a rubber dome keyboard it actually requires less force to be able to type faster, which actually reduces strain on your fingers.

      You can get dampers that reduce the noise. My keyboard came with them, and it’s pretty quiet.

      Gaudy in subjective, and besides, my keyboard is a nice looking black, it’s nod to ‘gaudy’ comes in the form of backlit keys, and the fact that the WASD keys are grey rather than black.

      Price, yeah, you got me there, but outside of apple products oftentimes paying more for quality is worth it. My dad still uses his IBM Model M.

      • No Excuse says:

        I guess the thing I don’t get is, why should I have to ‘get used to it’? I’m already used to my current keyboard and it doesn’t present any problems at all. I don’t need to type faster (its the speed at which I can think what to write which limits me, not my typing speed), I don’t get ‘strain on my fingers’, and I don’t need to artificially dampen the noise of my keyboard because it isn’t egregiously loud. I get your argument about quality but that is independent of the ‘mechanical is better’ argument. So what is this offering me that would justify me having to spend (possibly weeks judging from the article) ‘getting used to this’?

        I can see why a stenographer, pro-gamer or someone with a health issue affecting their hands or fingers would want this, but marketing this as a consumer product is major gimmicky to me. £150 super comfort tactile back lit mousepads for all.

        • Caerphoto says:

          You “get used to it” the way you get used to a Tesla Model S after driving a Ford Fiesta for 10 years. Fiestas are fine, but a luxury car is just plain nicer to drive, even if it feels weird at first.

          • Matt_W says:

            OTOH, I’m perfectly content to drink $3 bottles of wine several times a week. I’d rather not train my palate to prefer $20 bottles.

          • No Excuse says:

            Maybe this is just a personality thing then.

            Because unless my car was so shite it was actually non-functional or kept breaking down, I just wouldn’t spend more than the minimum to get a car that got me from A to B – after all, even if you have a Tesla B the speed limit is still the speed limit it doesn’t give you any added real-world functionality. Just like I don’t understand why anyone would buy a Tesla B (I don’t know what that is but I can imagine), I don’t understand why anyone would buy a £100 keyboard.

            The Tesla B is actually a good analogy – like another commenter said, its a purely luxury product which you buy basically, because it’s shiny and it feels nice, even though it doesn’t really do anything (you can actually use or detect in the real-world) a car the fraction of the price wouldn’t do. And that’s fine – it’s a luxury product. It’s cool stuff like that is available for people who want to spend their money that way.

            I think what is the problem is people knocking about acting as if somehow a mechanical keyboard is like functionally on another level and a must-have for everyone. It would be like saying to someone who drives a ford fiesta – mate, you don’t know how shit your car is because you haven’t had a shot in my Tesla B.

  19. ichik says:

    Razer keyboards are horrible if you’re looking for something with decent looks and good quality without terrible overpricing.

  20. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    This reminds me of an ancient Linux server I used to have (a 486 from ~1995, lasted well until the 2000s), and the keyboard that went with. I had access to newer, “better” keyboards, but I always liked the mechanical one better and never really knew why. That love went so deep that when the tab key wore out, I learned to use ctrl-I instead (which was hell to unlearn later, I’ll tell ya).

    I never knew the reason I loved it so much, but when I got my first mechanical gaming keyboard, it all made sense.

  21. FuriKuri says:

    I think the “typically over £100” price range suggested by the article is a bit misleading. Sure, there are those that exceed that (aimed at the easily fleeced ‘pro gamer’) but a quick browse on amazon suggests you’re mostly looking at £50-£80 for a decent one.

    I’ve tended to go with CM Storm, their Quickfire XT is excellent (£80) and after owning some of the more… flamboyant keyboards available I’ve cetainly come to prefer the simplicity it offers. Looks like there’s a fair few other brands offering stuff in that range if you’re not fussed about “dedicated programmable macro keys” (and you shouldn’t be! AutoHotKey is better anyway).

    Parting advice: Can’t speak to the exact keyboard reviewed, but I’ve found razor products to typically feel cheap and tacky for the price and very unreliable in the long run… (Sorry, Alec)

  22. gunny1993 says:

    Cant get over how good my Mechanical Corsair is, build quality is just light ears ahead of any non mechanical i’ve had, spilt 3 glasses of wine on this one and the only thing that isn’t working is some of the LEDs. And best thing about that …. 2 year warranty so I can return it anytime.

    • djbriandamage says:

      I bought a Corsair but returned it. I couldn’t stand that most keys were mechanical but some secondary keys, like the function keys, were membrane. As an MMO player I press those secondary keys a lot and that disparity felt really cheap, which is not feeling I deserved for what I paid for the thing.

      I understand the new Corsairs have all mechanical keys but I’m happy enough with my Logitech.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        That strange decision of theirs for their first K70 is the reason I’m using a Logitech as well. I wanted Browns and I wanted some features beyond the bog standard keyboard layout (separate music keys and a volume roller, for instance). The K70 had that, but those rubber dome F keys was a terrible idea.

        Now that they’ve fixed it I’d say the new K70 is probably the better choice because Logitech’s all-plastic build leaves to be desired.

  23. Cerzi says:

    This is gonna make me sound like a massive keyboard hipster and general wanker, but I’ve been using mechanical gaming keyboards for over 10 years, starting with the Raptor Gaming K1 link to dragonsteelmods.com – the finest keyboard I’ve owned, lasted me a good 8 years before it started breaking down. Such minimal clean design, the total opposite of all those shite tacky media-control logitech keyboards, nothing flashy just pure quality build.

    After it broke down I got my hands on the Razer Blackwidow which was essentially, unsurprisingly, a piece of shit keyboard. Not a fan of the cherry blue noise anyway, but it’s just another example of Razer being bad at anything outside mouses.

    Now I’m using CM Storm’s QuickFire Rapid which is the nearest thing I’ve found to the minimal design of the Raptor (which doesn’t seem to be being made any more). It doesn’t have a numpad so I have a lil extra USB numpad for when I’m playing dwarf fortress, roguelikes etc, but otherwise the tiny size and soft keys are perfect for gaming and typing. And it’s reasonably priced at a time where mechanical keyboards have become seemingly trendy and otherwise overpriced.

    • damaki says:

      Keyboard wankers use only Model M. Anything other is a pale imitation, or so they say.

  24. BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

    I’ve had a go with a mechanical keyboard and it simply wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m probably due a new keyboard at some point due to some of the keys on mine being stuck down by the remains of gunky biscuit covered in tea, however I really don’t see me putting down much money for one at all. What’s more, as someone who really isn’t into competitive play at all, I don’t feel I desperately need one, either. Still, at least they’re there for those who want them.

  25. Zephro says:

    Maybe I’m not clearly in on this. But that font and backlighting is all kind of gross. Well that’s true of most keyboard I guess. Someone should do something somewhat minimalist but with a nice serif art deco font.

    • djbriandamage says:

      I once bought keycap stickers to superimpose a better font on my Microsoft Natural 4000 keyboard. I dunno if it was a wise investment per se but it sure made me feel better.

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      This is undoubtedly my Amiga nostalgia talking, but I like the font.

    • pepperfez says:

      One of the coolest, least useful things about Cherry MX keyboards is that you can switch the keycaps. I suspect that’s where a lot of the obsessive fandom comes in: Playing dress-up with your keyboard, putting together new outfits, getting that hot accessory…

  26. derbefrier says:

    Mechanical keyboards are nice but DO NOT TRAVEL WITH THEM. I dont know if its just that Razer makes shitty product or if its the same for all mechanical keyboards but that thing fell apart on me within a year. buttons stopped working on it and sticking etc. Also don spill coffee on them. honestly while it was nice to have unless you just happen to have a extra 100 bucks dont bother. You dont really get anything out of them other than “hey look at my 100 dollar keyboard” is not like having one makes you a better gamer or gives some kind of advantage they are just cool to look at really.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      No, that’s just Razer. Mechanical keyboards are far more durable on average. Also like how you say they’re nice, then conclude by saying you don’t really get anything out of them.

      • derbefrier says:

        yes things can be nice but still not be worth it. Having a sports car is nice but you can get to work and back just as easily with a geo metro for a fraction of the cost.

      • Emeraude says:

        Well, “nice” doesn’t imply “nice to everyone”.

        A mechanical Keyboard is a nice piece of tech, but for some reason, as an end user, I can’t stand the thing – find it… tiring for lack of a better word. I would still advise it to people that value that “tactile” feel. But it doesn’t make it some panacea choice.

    • C0llic says:

      Razer do not make good quality products. They make garish, overpriced rubbish with (usually) green LEDs.

  27. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    Frankly, I don’t get why people concentrate so much on mechanical switches instead of on the simple fact that your average slab keyboard is an ergonomy nightmare and a badly designed peripheral for typing, gaming or just about anything else. Both aspects are important for a smooth typing experience, but all in all, I’d rather have a rubber-dome keyboard made for actual human hands than a mechanical keyboard made for aliens from the square planet.

  28. FabriciusRex says:

    I have a Microsoft sidewidner x4. Bought it several years ago. Might have a look at a mechanical one. I get joint pain in my left index finger from hammering. If a mechanical can alleviate it, it would be great.

  29. Llewyn says:

    The only thing that tempted me was the apparent BLT button next to the space bar, which seemed like an awesome addition to any keyboard. Then I looked more closely and realised it was just some irrational mixed-case font, and lost interest again.

  30. djbriandamage says:

    I bought and returned my first mechanical keyboards because they felt wrong to me and I didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate what I wanted. Then I found this outstanding page of animated diagrams which told me that Cherry MX Brown switches were exactly what I was looking for.

    link to superuser.com

    This page is enormously helpful for those in the market for a mechanical keyboard.

  31. TheGroovyMule says:

    My original Dell computer I bought when I went off to Uni came with a mechanical keyboard, and I remember at the time how loud and annoying I thought it was, planning to replace it with one of the rubber matted, quieter keyboards when this one died…

    And that was eleven years ago, it still hasn’t died… This is just a plain mechanical Dell keyboard, and I’ve now completely swapped my computer about 3-4 times and it’s still alive. Seriously, not a single key has died and I don’t even want to get rid of it just because I admire the things persistence!

    • Joibel says:

      I have one of the original IBM Model Ms. I’m typing on it now at work. I bought an XT computer second hand in 1991. It must have been several years old then, I believe 1987. I’ve used it as my main keyboard since getting it, and it’s outlasted everything else. It feels great to type on. All the keys on it work perfectly, although it has had a new cable. They keycap legends don’t show any sign of wear.

      • damaki says:

        Same here. I use a French 1986 model M, which I found in the streets of Paris (litteraly), years ago, in perfect condition. I had to build a “whatever vintage” to USB adapter.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Even the more recent membrane Dell keyboards are built well. I’ve got one of their bog standard, nothing-but-the-keys usb versions from about 7-8 years ago and it’s still working exactly the same as when it came out of the box, and it only cost £15. Sure, I’d like multimedia keys, and maybe USB ports, but if it last for ten years (and it’s on course to) then I can buy enough keyboards to last a century for one mechanical one.

      I still want to get one of these though

    • SuicideKing says:

      Yup, have one that came with our first Advent made PC in 1998. Works like a charm.

  32. Foosnark says:

    I got myself a Corsair board with Cherry MX Blues — used, on eBay, because there are a lot of people who buy them and then hate the clicking.

    I loved the feel, but the clicking was just too much.

    So instead I wound up with a Nixeus Moda — which uses Kailh Brown switches. (Kailh makes basically perfect copies of Cherry switches for a bit less money.) I love the thing (except that the “2” key is picky about being pushed straight down, not at an angle… weird), and I hate my generic mushy Dell keyboard at work now.

    The Moda isn’t entirely quiet either, but acceptably slightly noisy. I wound up also picking up some o-ring dampeners, doubled up on them and it feels great and sounds no louder than your basic membrane keyboard.

  33. AreWeHavingFunYet says:

    I bought a Coolermaster QuickFire with Cherry Reds 2 years ago. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of typing on it, but it was still the best mechanical keyboard I could get in my 3rd world country at the time. That said, this thing is still miles ahead of any rubber membrane keyboard. After 2 years of use, it still works the same way it did when I bought it – it didn’t get “mushy” after a few months, like a membrane would.

  34. Simbosan says:

    Mechanical keyboards are just so FAST, great for gaming and great for typing. I blame Apple for the rise of the spongy keyboard, yuck yuck. I still remember the old IBM PS1 keyboards, clattery and lightspeed fast.

    However I wouldn’t touch Razer with a barge pole again having ceremonially jumped up and down on my 3rd replacement lycosa. It’s not just the hardware, but the awful driver software which was about the only thing that could blue screen my Win8 box. Awful awful in every way

    Only trouble is that few mechanical keyboards have any macro’ing function which is occasionally very useful.

  35. wisnoskij says:

    Mechanical would make sense if the generic $10 ones were not just a cheap version of mechanical. Sure you are more likely to get some sort of plastic version of a spring, but you still get a keyboard that will last for years and years under heavy usage and feels very very close to the $500 ones. With he same clacking and same in general mechanical principles. GO to a store and try out that $10 generic Microsoft keyboards and one of the $500 hard core mech ones. They are not far off from being indistinguishable.

    • pepperfez says:

      Unless you’re in for the full Korean custom experience, it would be quite a struggle to spend $500 on even a frightfully high-end keyboard.

  36. ignare brute says:

    Razer Blackwidow? Died in less than 2 years. When you look at how the buttons are held, it’s no surprise it’s short lived, no matter how good at the cherry switches.

  37. alms says:

    I enjoyed the article, but this line:

    “The move to mechanical is definitely a more than superficial change – after all, we’re talking about making the main means of interfacing with one’s PC feel more enjoyable

    Sounds exactly like those horrible articles going for the ‘indulge yourself’ angle while trying to sell you stupidly overpriced hi-fi parts or other fancy stuff whose benefits are never matched to the heftiness of the price tag.

    Shivers down my spine really. This comment is not to be intended as criticism towards mechanical keyboards.

    • Caerphoto says:

      To be fair, mechanical keyboards can be more enjoyable to type on, assuming you derive pleasure from such tactile interactions. If you don’t, that’s fine, no need to spend £70 or more on a nice keyboard, but the point you quoted is still basically valid.

      I also wouldn’t call (most) mechanical keyboards ‘overpriced’ – they’re expensive, yes, but they almost certainly do cost more to make, and the market for them is much smaller than for cheaper keyboards. It’s not like anyone’s charging £500 for them and justifying it with bullshit about oxygen-free copper cables wrapped in unicorn fur.

  38. SteelPriest says:

    Well I like my £20 Logitech k360 and i can’t see myself liking high-travel keys anytime soon….

  39. Ratchet says:

    I, too, own this keyboard. However, it was not my first. I owned a Corsair K-something, then a Mionix Z60 (maybe?) and then the Razer. The clicky switches are super nice, but the keyboard itself is kinda crappy. Crappy hard to read at a glance and immature font, yes. But what’s even crappier is the backlighting only lights the main characters on the keycaps, it doesn’t backlight any of the “shift” characters, so in the dark I had to try and remember which shift-character was where. It doesn’t even backlight any of the media control keys or even the special keys for adjusting the backlight brightness, etc. I fixed most of it by replacing the keycaps with the ones from my old Mionix, but not all of them fit (and sometimes some of the keys stick).

    Even though this is less than 4 months old, I’m already looking for a new mechanical keyboard.

    • K_Sezegedin says:

      Sorry to be a shill but look a Max Keyboard, the Nighthawk line. Not too much more expensive than the Razor, but actually high quality.

      Great backlight and every key is lit.

  40. mpcarolin says:

    There are some cheaper mechs that justify the purchase. The Quickfire Pro, for instance, is often priced around $70, and its build quality is comparable to keyboards twice the price.

  41. Radiant says:

    Thats the thing with Razor stuff.
    I’m sure that it’s good equipment.

    It’s just that everything from the price to the typography is aimed squarely at dickheads.

  42. Contrafibularity says:

    Topre master race.

  43. Continuity says:

    I love my mechanical, its a Ducky Zero (87 key blue backlit), with brown switches. it took a few weeks to get used to but now I’d not willingly go back. I find it hard to articulate exactly what the attraction is, but there is something about the tactile feel that just makes typing more pleasurable,
    I also find I miss letters much less often, on my old membrane keyboard I’d often hit a key and not fully depress it, leaving missing letters in my words, but the way mechanical keys give way then bottom with a *clack* just eliminates the problem.

  44. K_Sezegedin says:

    I started with a Razor with its blues or browns, but switched to Reds for quicker acutation and better feel. I did miss the clicking at first but I’m definately a red guy.

    Anyway, the board I bought is the Max Keyboard Nighthawk, – probably the best most non-ostentatious backlit mechanical I’ve seen outside of custom jobs. Highly reccomended.

  45. whbboyd says:

    I’m going to say this and piss off a lot of people, I’m sure, but still: under no circumstances should you buy a mechanical keyboard before trying it out to see if you actually like it. If possible, borrow one for a week. They’re not a panacea and not everybody prefers them.

    To run down my laundry list of complaints:
    * I like relatively short-throw. My favorite keyboard is that of Thinkpads from about a decade ago. If you O-ring cherry switches, you’ll get close, but it’s still deeper and full-depth keycaps are weird with short throw.
    * I want maximum resistance at the very start of my keypress. Very few mechanical switches do this.
    * Cherry switches feel cheap and have the wrong resistance profile.
    * Topres are okay, but I don’t like the mushy bottom-out.
    * Buckling-spring switches feel nice but are so goddamn loud I cannot stand it.

    • Buuurr says:

      whbboyd says:

      I’m going to say this and piss off a lot of people, I’m sure, but still: under no circumstances should you buy a mechanical keyboard before trying it out to see if you actually like it. If possible, borrow one for a week. They’re not a panacea and not everybody prefers them.

      To run down my laundry list of complaints:
      * I like relatively short-throw. My favorite keyboard is that of Thinkpads from about a decade ago. If you O-ring cherry switches, you’ll get close, but it’s still deeper and full-depth keycaps are weird with short throw.

      Sounds like you want this : link to techgage.com

      * I want maximum resistance at the very start of my keypress. Very few mechanical switches do this.

      Actually, a lot of them do, as long as they are ‘black’. Black means most resistance. If you want more then black you are looking at a POS system… and frankly that is not something you want to type on for a long time.

      * Cherry switches feel cheap and have the wrong resistance profile.

      Cherry switches can be customized a thousand ways from Sunday to fit your needs. They are far from feeling cheap if you get the right one.

      * Topres are okay, but I don’t like the mushy bottom-out.

      * Buckling-spring switches feel nice but are so goddamn loud I cannot stand it.

      Red, brown or the color in between can make them near silent.

  46. Sgt_Moose says:

    I’ve spent precisely $0 on my keyboards. Every IBM model M I’ve had has either been “inherited” from someone who was “getting a new computer” or rescued from the electronic waste piles at work. I love these things so much I have one at work and one at home. To the naysayers that think there is not an appreciable difference between a good mechanical and membrane.

    So I decided to do a little test. Yes this is not scientific. I took the same typing test (Same passage of text) four times on my IBM and five times on a cheap membrane keyboard. I even did a little bit of extra typing to acclimate my fingers to the crappy keyboard.

    Here are the best results for each, 62WPM IBM vs 57WPM cheap membrane keyboard.

    Five words per minute AND it feels better to type on? I’ll be sticking with my good ole IBM keyboards thank you very much.

    Not too shabby for a keyboard made in 1986.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Of course you could just be more accustomed to one than the other and experiencing a placebo effect.

  47. Havalynii says:

    First-time mechanical buyer here. I got the Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate and I love it. I would love to have a bullet-proof mouse made with Cherry MX’s for the buttons that would last for 10 years at least. That being said, bought the $13 Anker ergonomic mouse off of Amazon and now I don’t think that I could ever go back to a normal mouse.

  48. Chorltonwheelie says:

    When you can get a beautifully understated Steelseries 6G V2 for £50 why on earth wouldn’t you?

    • Zafman says:

      I got mine two years ago for £60. After that amount of time all the rubber dome keyboards I had before would have developed some form of problem, especially the infamous “sticky W”. My 6gv2 however stll feels factory-fresh! N prblems whatsever. ^_^

    • Immobile Piper says:

      I got mine a year ago. It feels nicer than some cheap plastic I had before.

      As someone who uses keyboard a lot, having something feel “nicer” is very much worth the 50-80€ I paid for it. But then I do have a personality that likes paying for life’s little luxuries. And I think I should reaffirm that I don’t think it plays particularly better. It just feels nicer. That’s nice.

  49. Cei says:

    I’m using a Corsair K95 RGB with red switches that I’ve added o-rings to in the aim of reducing noise when I do bottom out the keys.

    It’s lovely. The RGB element is also bonkers.

  50. Strangeblades says:

    Weird. Weird. Weird. I can’t stand mechanical keyboards. I has the reasons.

    1 Wayyyyy back in high school, I took two years of traditional typing classes, using electric typewriters. Yes, electric typewriters. That’s not a typo. (Ha!) I hated every second of it. It took all this effort to make a single character. Yeesh. (don’t get me started on centering on a page and then backing up in order to make a centered headline)

    2 I did 14 years as a news reporter. Tried all kinds of keyboards. My favorites were the least resistant.