Mechanical Keyboards: Worth the Hype?

To most of us keyboards are all the same, just rows of keys, numbers and symbols that allow us to type on a computer. Keyboards are just some cheap plastic peripherals that are quite common and apart from the different branding, they’re all the same to most of us. For those who type on a regular basis as a part of their profession however, such an oversight can be harmful.  Not paying attention to the choice of keyboard puts the user at the risk of repetitive strain injuries or even carpal tunnel syndrome.

These days, there’s an interesting new trend among PC enthusiasts- Mechanical Keyboards. They’re different from standard keyboards, and some people claim that they help you type more accurately and even last longer than their normal counterparts.  Let’s take a look at this new trend, and help you decide whether you should make the switch from a normal keyboard to a mechanical one.

What’s a Mechanical Keyboard?

Switches in action

Mechanical keyboards use switches to register user input

A mechanical keyboard uses physical switches to determine when the user has pushed a key. Press a key, and the switch is pushed downwards, and that sends a signal to the PC telling it that a key has been pressed.

What’s so remarkable about that?

At a normal level, this seems like any other keyboard- you push a button, and the corresponding character appears on the screen. Think about it for a moment though, and you’ll notice that for the character to appear on the screen, you have to push the key as far downwards as it can go. That means you need to apply quite a bit of pressure on every key just to register an input. Imagine a writer, or a programmer who has to type continuously for several hours in a day. Typing for hours at a stretch can cause fatigue, and cases of computer related injuries are quite prevalent these days.

Just a normal keyboard

Standard keyboards use different membranes. Inexpensive, but they tend to cause fatigue.

The reason behind this is that most keyboards these days are composed of a set of three plastic membranes, with rubber dome-shaped switches underneath each key. Press a key, and the rubber switch pushes through a hole in the middle membrane to connect the top and bottom membranes, which creates an electrical circuit that causes the keyboard to send the input to your PC. This keyboard design is inexpensive and spill-resistant, but it doesn’t give you as much tactile or audible feedback when you press a key, and you have to press each individual key harder, which affects typing and causes fatigue much faster.

How exactly are Mechanical Keyboards different?

 

1. They feel different

When you swap your normal keyboard for a mechanical one, the first thing you’ll notice is that every key, when pressed, gives a clicking sound and a tactile response, and you don’t have to press the keys as hard as you’d have to when typing on a normal keyboard. This is one of the most important differences. Each keystroke requires much lesser pressure, and it gives you that reassuring click and feedback to tell you that the key has been pressed properly.

2. They are much louder

Mechanical keyboards tend to produce much more noise than normal keyboards, and how loud they can get depends upon the type of switches used in the keyboards as well as the typing style of the user. This may be an issue at a workplace, where co workers may hear the sound of your typing. Many people also say that it tends to drown out peoples’ voices in video calls. This is highly subjective, but an important thing to remember.

3. They are much heavier and bulkier

Mechanical keyboards tend to be much heavier and bulkier than their standard counterparts. This is good, because the added bulk and weight means that they keyboard will not slide around on a table and will stay put. But, it does affect portability, and you have to consider this factor if you constantly move your computer setup from place to place.

4. They are Expensive

All this mechanical goodness comes at a premium, though. Mechanical keyboards are much more expensive than their normal counterparts, and significantly so. Mechanical keyboards from big name brands can retail for as much as INR 5500 and even higher. In India, however, TVS manufactures a mechanical keyboard which is worth INR 1500. Despite the price difference, it’s still much more than one would pay for a standard wired or wireless keyboard.

5. They are sturdy and last longer

Mechanical keyboards, owing to their construction, tend to last much longer than regular membrane based keyboards. While most regular keyboards are rated for 5 million keystrokes, they generally last for about 2 or 3 years before needing a replacement. Mechanical keyboards on the other hand, are generally rated for 50 million keystrokes, which means that these things easily last for at least a decade. There are numerous instances of people using mechanical keyboards for more than a decade without any issues or failures. The use of switches as the input method greatly improves the longevity of mechanical keyboards and thus they offer a great value for money. 

How Mechanical Keyboards affect typing:

The longer you use mechanical keyboards, the more apparent the changes in your typing style will be. Mechanical keyboard users tend to use much lesser pressure while typing, and that leads to much lesser fatigue, and a significantly faster typing speed. This may not be a big deal for light users, but for professionals like writers, bloggers or programmers, this can prove to be significant as typing requires lesser energy, fatigue doesn’t set in as soon as it would on a normal keyboard and more typing gets done in a shorter time frame.

Should you get one? 

So finally, whether a mechanical keyboard is worth the added expense or not, is up to you. If you’re a person that types continuously for hours on end, or are into gaming, these keyboards offer a significant advantage over the standard keyboards. One thing is certain, though: once you begin using a mechanical keyboard, there is no way you’ll feel like using a standard keyboard ever again! 

What are your thoughts on mechanical keyboards? Do you want one? Do you have one? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! 

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