Clickety-clack! Clickety-clack! Clickety-clack!
We can’t put our finger around it, but hearing the clicky switches on a mechanical keyboard as you type away is just magical. We just want to press every key possible on our mechanical keyboard.
Does it have something to do with the nostalgic feeling of listening to typewriters from way back? Or does it have something to do with listening to the sound of clicks and clacks that makes you think you’re productive?
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably thinking about transitioning from membrane keyboard to a mechanical keyboard because your friends told you to get one. But you’re probably wondering: are mechanical keyboards worth it?
We’ll answer that question and more in this article.
What’s A Mechanical Keyboard?
Mechanical keyboard or not, all keyboards are basically the modern adaptation of typewriters. But mechanical keyboards are more or less just a step ahead of the typewriter in terms of evolution.
Mechanical keyboards were just as popular back then in the 1980s thanks to companies such as Cherry MX and IBM who made these accessories affordable. Unlike membrane keyboards, mechanical keyboards use physical switches underneath each key. Each key is composed of metal contacts that are held together by a spring.
When a key is pressed, the connection between the metal contacts and the physical switch is what causes the clickety-clacking noises for which mechanical keyboards are famous.
But one important feature of a mechanical keyboard is their simultaneous keystroke accuracy. Because the keys are comprised of individual switches, mechanical keyboards are better at picking up keystrokes that are pressed simultaneously than membrane keyboards. This is called a key rollover feature and will depend on the keyboard. Some mechanical keyboards recognize up to a half a dozen simultaneous keystrokes, while others are built to recognize every keystroke.
What Do We Know About Keyboard Switches and Brands?
One of the primary factors that answer our question “are mechanical keyboards worth it?” is the mechanical switches and their brands.
A switch is the most important component of a mechanical keyboard that helps you determine its quality and experience. And there are different brands of switches, so you get a different experience.
The most popular brands of mechanical switches are:
Now these are just some of the most popular, and probably premium, mechanical keyboard switches in the market right now. But you get what you pay for in terms of quality and performance. These switches are also utilized by popular computer paraphernalia companies such as Steelseries, Razer, and Logitech to name a few.
If you’re on the lookout for a mechanical keyboard, look for these brands of switches.
What Are The Different Switch Types?
We talked about the different brands of mechanical keyboard switches, and we know that they’re all built differently. What’s similar across all brands of switch are their color coding.
You may see something like RED SWITCH or BROWN SWITCH listed on a keyboard’s box. This is an example of the color coding used by mechanical keyboards. How noisy they are will depend on the Switch types listed below:
- Clicky Switches – Considered the noisiest switch and makes clicking noises when pressed
- Tactile Switches – Quieter than clicky switches, but has more feedback to it
- Linear Switches – Very smooth typing experience
This infographic below categorizes the colored switches and their corresponding switch types:
What’s A Membrane Keyboard?
A lot of gaming keyboards nowadays are mechanical keyboards, but there are still a handful of brands out there that make use of membrane keyboards.
The membrane keyboards are what you’d consider the modern version of a mechanical keyboard. They were popular back in the 1990s and dominated the industry because they were easy to produce and cheaper to purchase. They were also easier to maintain than mechanical keyboards because membrane keyboards are more resistant to dirt and dust.
If mechanical keyboards function with the use of physical switches, membrane keyboards use connecting circuits via a layer of rubber or silicone installed underneath the keys. The membrane is composed of domes situated under each key, so when the key is pushed, the rubber membrane is pressed into the dome and into the corresponding circuit.
What Are Pros and Cons of Using Mechanical Keyboards?
Now that we know the difference between membrane and mechanical keyboards, it’s time to talk about the pros and cons of each.
Pros of Using Mechanical Keyboards
Most mechanical keyboards may differ from one another in terms of brand and build quality, but you do enjoy similar benefits of using them such as:
The biggest advantage of using mechanical keyboards is its customization. Most mechanical keyboards, if not all of them, can be tweaked, upgraded, and changed accordingly.
If you don’t like the clicky sounds of the keys, then you might want to go for red Cherry MX switches.
Do your fingers or wrists hurt after a long gaming session? Some custom mechanical keyboards have ergonomic accessories such as a wrist pad that you can install. Some gaming keyboards are also advertised as ergonomic keyboards, catering to those with hand or arm-related conditions such as RSI or Carpal Tunnel.
The customization alone is one benefit that makes mechanical keyboards worth the purchase. Imagine an entire keyboard that you can customize based on your needs and wants. And you might even find a mechanical keyboard community in your area too.
Durability and Quality
Mechanical keyboard switches, like Cherry MX switches, are a lot more durable and sturdier than any rubber dome keyboards (membrane keyboards). Membrane keyboards run the risk of membrane tearing with excessive use, and can withstand far less keystrokes than mechanical keyboards.
For mechanical keyboards, switches and keys are replaceable so you can just buy them off from stores like Amazon or any other retail store.
Easy To Clean
Mechanical keyboards are easier to clean and maintain because the keys and switches are removable. You just need to purchase a couple of tools that will help you remove them, and you’re done!
Membrane keyboards, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. Once you tear up any of the rubber dome keyboards while cleaning, you’re done. Dust and grime also stick to the membrane layer and are a bit difficult to remove unless you wipe
If you ever wondered why a gaming keyboard is categorized as such, then you need to know that a gaming keyboard that’s mechanical has programmable keys.
What do we mean by programmable keys? Well, a gaming keyboard will have a set of keys not usually found in typical keyboards. Sometimes, they’re labeled as Function Keys (i.e. Fn1, Fn2, and so on), but regardless of the name, these keys easily stand out.
These programmable keys, by default, don’t do anything. But keyboards like Razer will come with their own software like Synapse, allowing you to program these keys accordingly per game. You can’t do this with a membrane keyboard, even if they’re branded as a gaming keyboard.
Better Typing and Gaming Experience
Mechanical keyboards provide better gaming and typing experiences for anyone. For typing, mechanical keyboard switches are easier to press and a lot more responsive than membrane counterparts. But don’t bring your clicky keyboards to the office, otherwise you’ll end up annoying everyone else. Thankfully, there are keyboard switches that are silent and don’t make a lot of noise when pressed.
For gaming, mechanical keyboards have taller keys that are easy on the fingers, and gamers swear that their actions are more precise than on a membrane keyboard. Other keyboard intensive tasks also feel better on a mechanical keyboard
Cons of Using Mechanical Keyboards
This isn’t going to be a one-sided article, so we’re also discussing about the disadvantages of owning or buying mechanical keyboards.
One of the biggest drawbacks to owning or buying a mechanical keyboard is that it’s pricey. Now you’ll probably see mechanical keyboards worth about $20 to $30, but these are not the branded ones nor will they have all of the features that are found in branded keyboards.
The brand of mechanical switches also plays a huge part in determining how expensive a keyboard is. For example, keyboards with Cherry MX switches may be a lot more expensive than those with Gateron or Oetemu switches. Wireless keyboards will also be a lot more expensive than their wired counterparts.
If you were to go for the branded ones like Ducky, Royal Kludge, or Keychron, then you’re probably spending at least $80 for a decent keyboard. Brands like Razer, Steelseries, and Corsair may go as high as $200 to $300. Yes, there are mechanical keyboards that are that expensive.
But the best mechanical keyboards aren’t determined by their price, but by what they can do. For brands like Ducky and Royal Kludge, their mechanical keyboards offer full customization and connectivity for up to three devices (for their wireless keyboards).
Customizing a whole keyboard can also be pricey, especially if you’re going down that rabbit hole. Customized switches and keys and even a customizable keyboard frame will cost you a few hundred dollars too.
Who’s Meant To Use Mechanical Keyboards?
Now, don’t get us wrong. Everyone who wants to have an enjoyable typing experience is meant to use a mechanical keyboard. They’re just a league of their own compared to membrane keyboards. And once you get started with using a mechanical keyboard the first time, you’re never going to want to use any other type of keyboard.
People who love to play games or who work with keyboard intensive tasks like writing will appreciate mechanical keyboards more than the everyday user.
Are Mechanical Keyboards Worth It or Not?
Ultimately, this answer is tied to what you want out of your mechanical keyboard. If there’s going to be some substantial usage, then mechanical keyboards are the way to go. Their far more durable and feel better under your fingers.
But you don’t need to buy keyboards worth $200 or so. A good brand like Ducky or Royal Kludge will set you back at least $60 to $80, and they’re both popular amongst keyboard enthusiasts.