Image source: Pexels
Few sounds in this world are more satisfying than the click-click-click of a mechanical keyboard. Built from the bottom up with spring-activated switches these high grade machines are the modern equivalent of the typewriter in the best possible way; they’re loud, they’re certain and they have a sliding scale of price points suitable for any budget or hobby. Whether you’re a newbie gamer looking to build your first set up or a veteran author in need of a new trusted companion, here’s a rundown of the best mechanical keyboards in the business.
What’s the Difference?
In general, there are two types of keyboards sold on the market today: membrane and mechanical. Membrane keyboards are the norm. Microsoft sells them. Logitech sells them. Pretty much every hardware company ever does! Any pre-built PC or laptop you buy is likely to come with one of these. Membrane keyboards work via sets of plastic membranes (hence the name) below each number, letter or key, with a dome-shaped switch that registers your touch. Touch a given key and a signal gets sent back to your computer – and there you have input.
A mechanical keyboard is quite different, however. It feels more like what you might be used to if you were an early PC or Mac computer adoptee. Remember those hulking, white and grey IBM models that clattered with every sentence? The audio and tactile feel of a mechanical keyboard is much more precise. There’s more feedback than simply your word document on the screen or your character’s action in a game. A mechanical keyboard, like a membrane version, also operates on switches. In this case, however, they’re physical switches rather than electric, and the result is, to many people, a much more nostalgic and satisfying experience that allows for better touch-typing and more feedback.
There are three main types of mechanical keyboard switches: linear, tactile and clicky. This defines how much travel there is as well as how loud they are. You may also have heard about red, blue, brown and other types of switches, but that’s usually just the manufacturer’s way to specify how the keys will feel and respond, as PC Gamer explains in an article.
Boards for Gamers
Just take a look at some of the top brand names for gamers; Xtrfy, Razer, Corsair, Logitech. Each of these companies have put their own spin on the mechanical keyboard design, streamlining the already simple tech and aiming it towards the gaming experience. In competitive, high paced games, the audible and tactile feedback of a mechanical keyboard can be invaluable when it comes to millisecond-decision-making. Designers know this and plan for this – so kit yourself out. Gear up, plug in, and get your budget ready.
The Xtrfy line of mechanical keyboards is narrow yet diverse, owned by eSports team Ninjas in Pyjamas. Their professional gamers have access to some of the best peripherals in the industry. Their teams travel the world and compete in every major game, armed with industry sponsors like bookmaker Betway and keyboards like the K2-RGB. Xtrfy keyboards are flashy. Xtrfy keyboards are precise. Available as cheap as €79 and as expensive as €189, their colourful light up displays can adorn the desk of both fans and pros alike without a fuss. Another example is hardware company Razer, sponsor of a whole host of teams and lineups around the world; they provide gear to three time League champion team SKT, to the 2017 winners Gen. G, to Overwatch team Immortals and more. Much like Xtrfy, their mechanical keyboards have their light up, glow in the dark gizmos. Razer offers something more unique however: a hybrid between membrane and mechanical designed to offer not only speed, but precision and a preferable typing experience to boot. The best of both worlds. Bear in mind that the newest opto-mechanical models can cost up to and beyond $200 with shipping. It’s true, mechanical keyboards are much more costly than membrane keyboards – but with peripheral gear, you get what you pay for.
Image credit: Pexels
Boards for Work
Pure mechanical might be best if you’re a hardcore gamer. Opto-Mechanical might suit a user who uses their PC for a variety of tasks. But what if you’re more of a casual homebody? Someone that doesn’t game, or who just uses their PC to type? You might try a CODE keyboard, which is simple but effective. You might try a HXSJ 2600 with ergonomic padding. There are so many models and so many options, sometimes the best thing to do is just get out and take a look. Go to a store. Tap away. See what feels best to you.
Mechanical keyboards are all about feel, after all.