Mechanical keyboards are not everybody’s cup of tea. Therefore, the entire information needs to be collected to assess what would work the best for you. The aim is to get a better understanding of finding the best fitting keyboard for you.
Rest assured, there are a plethora of options available for mechanical keyboards in the market today. It makes it quite confusing to choose one that will suit your needs and make it work. Therefore, we have brought together a guide to elaborate on all the information you need before buying a suitable mechanical keyboard and the best options available for you.
A regular membrane or a scissor keyboard works quite efficiently for most people, but having an excellent mechanical keyboard enhances the overall experience due to its kind of performance. If you spend hours typing, programming, or gaming, there is a keyboard for each of your needs and specifications.
A mechanical keyboard includes high-quality mechanical parts such as the individual spring, the base, the stem, and all this transforms into a switch. The switches on the keyboards are helpful to determine the keyboard’s performance in terms of how tactile it is in its operations and what one can expect. There are various advantages that mechanical keyboards have over standard membrane keyboards that include removable keycaps, key rollover, durability, and the functionality of cleaning the keyboard in a DIY style.
FACTORS OF MECHANICAL KEYBOARDS
This is one of the most common form factors used by manufacturers of mechanical keyboards and is considered the full-size keyboard layout. A full-size keyboard has 104 keys in total, including the Numpad with no key missing. It comprises of Numpad, navigation keys, function keys, and other such keys. These mechanical keyboards are ideal for someone who continually deals with numbers and does not have any preferences figured out in particular but is looking for something, making their work easier and getting it done efficiently.
Various users don’t like dealing with larger layouts and choose to finish their work with a keyboard with limited keys and can go for a tenkeyless or TKL considered 80 percent form factor. The tenkeyless keyboards have about 88 tickets in total and don’t have the Numpad cluster on the keyboard. Gamers and programmers prefer this keyboard because it is lightweight and portable and used conveniently by minimalists.
Still, if a tenkeyless one is big for your needs, there comes with a 75 percent form factor, which is much smaller to ensure lesser space and a more portable feel. It is much like the tenkeyless keyboard, except it has a few missing keys and a more cramped up feel with keys placed next to each other, and no extra space is between them. There is a dedicated row of the function keys on the far right. Those who want to go in for a compact design should go for the tenkeyless form factor that doesn’t compromise the function and navigation keys.
There is an even smaller form factor of 60 percent, which follows the minimalist design approach and works more on the keyboards’ aesthetics. It quickly gets rid of the function keys and navigation keys to offer a smaller space to operate. This one has about 60 tickets in total and works for those who want something comfortable to carry, and is lightweight.
Another critical feature is the layout of the mechanical keyboard. It is something that you need to take into account. As soon as a user presses a keyboard, say supposing they encourage D. Now, the keyboard doesn’t understand what D is. It corresponds to the letter D with its raw key code value mapped or determined during the keyboard’s initial functional arrangement. There are different regions across the world, and there are three basic types of layouts that are considered the most standard ones; ANSI, ISO, and JIS.
The ANSI is the American National Standards Institute and is one of the most common layouts worldwide and Western Europe. ISO or International Standards Organization in Europe, and the JIS or Japan Industrial Standards keyboard is specifically for Japan. ANSI is the most common layout, which is used by keyboards worldwide.
These are standard layouts, but there are functional layouts, which also eventually bring certain confusion levels in deciding what to choose. QWERTY is the most commonly used layout across the world. The popular alternative to it is DVORAK, which is also used by some countries and manufacturers but is not mainstream for most of the keyboards.
DVORAK keyboards are designed to minimize the hand movement on the keyboard, and for this, the standard keys are arranged on the home row. Also, not everybody can get used to these sort out layouts too quickly.
Another essential element that can influence your buying decision is the kind of switches used on your keyboards. Mechanical Keyboards are designed with individual switches under each of the keys, which offers better durability and improved performance. The Mechanical Keyboard switches can be broadly categorized into three categories; Linear, Tactile, and Clicky.
Linear switches provide a nice smooth feel from the top to the bottom when pressed. These are silent switches compared to the Tactile and Clicky switches, and the only noise you can hear is when the key is being bottomed down. Many people prefer a silent typing experience, and this noise can be reduced using O-rings that dampen the sound, which occurs due to the bottoming down of the key. These switches lack a certain level of tactility and are mostly perfect for gamers because they need something rapid and quick. For typing, these aren’t the ideal choice.
Unlike linear ones, Tactile Switches have a slight bump in the midway when used to offer feedback for the actuation. They don’t produce a specific quicky noise, but they do make some sound when pressed. They are ideal for being used generally and a good option for those who are into typing.
Lastly, Clicky switches are a little similar to tactile switches besides the fact that it adds a click sound for the tactile feedback when used. It offers a distinct click sound when the switch is pressed, and the tactile response indicates that the key pressed has been registered. These switches are not the best choice for gaming, and because of hysteresis, they are the best keyboards for typing and are a preferred choice for most of the gamers out there.
Therefore, the different switches provide a variety of options for various companies to manufacture. These are assessed by the travel distance required for activating a particular key and the amount of force necessary for starting or using a specific key.
This is the ability of the keyboard to register multiple key presses simultaneously, at the same time. Today, most mechanical keyboards have an N-key rollover, which means that the keyboard can quickly write n number of inputs simultaneously. An essential factor determining the critical rollover is the type of connection used by the keyboard. A USB connection offers 4 to 6 key rollover, whereas a play station connection uses N-key rollover support.
Various mechanical keyboards come in an ergonomic style and have different layouts to offer. It is recommended to initially start with a mechanical keyboard that uses a single switch type, and then as you move along, you can go on to choose one that prefers another. The Ergodox EZ is a fully programmable keyboard and lets you adjust whichever key you like. The layout chances are plenty.
ANALYZING THE KEY PRESSES
The smaller mechanical keyboards that run at 60 or 65 percent form factor can seem a little weird or even impractical, for that matter. As a user, one prefers a keyboard where the physical distance of the keys used is less. Those who generally deal with numbers regularly can go for a dedicated number pad to genuinely help them get their work done.
Therefore, there are many variations on the different kinds of layouts, and one can choose from a variety of options to make the best choice.
CASE CONSTRUCTION AND CONNECTIVITY
Most of the mechanical keyboards are wired with a USB-C or Mini USB. There is a wire going from the board to the computer. When it comes to case construction, the most commonly used materials are aluminum and plastic. There isn’t a right or wrong to choose. But wireless boards usually end up being plastic for reducing the weight and improve the signal from the various Bluetooth Controllers.
Another important thing that you need to make sure of is to make accommodation for the cable’s location. The outset usually has channels built into the case to route the wires however you want quickly. Aesthetically if you look at it, a wider choice of colors is available in aluminum cases with cerakoting and electrophoretic coating as an option. But these are a little higher priced than the other ones.
In mechanical keyboards, you can easily swap out the keycaps for a different set. The most popular switch type is Cherry MX compatible. There are also various choices regarding the materials used, key profiles, and legend marking method.
Some of the most popular key profile types are:
- SA: These are high keys and have a sculpted shape down the rows
- DSA: This is a lower key and has a slight curve on the top like the SA, and they do not have the sculpted shape down the rows
If you are just a beginner at using the mechanical keyboard, then there is not much considering that you need to give to the key profile. Signature Plastics is one of the most popular and largest producers of custom keycaps. Moreover, it is also essential to order an after-market set of keycaps to see the size you are purchasing.
Most of the keycaps are plastic. ABS is the plastic that is mostly used with the double-shot keycaps. It is a softer kind of plastic and gives the most variety of color options with a double shot, but the problem is that they can go shiny over time.
PBT plastic doesn’t get shiny with time but does not have many color options available. They do have a specific textured surface, which some of the users out there prefer.
BUILD QUALITY OF THE MECHANICAL KEYBOARDS
Cheap keyboards that come with plastic cases sound completely hollow when you type into them, and one must prefer a sturdier keyboard made up of metal or higher quality materials. There are two types of frames; one is the high profile frame that sets the keys within a plastic case, and the other is the low profile frame with switches, which sit on top of the frame. It is entirely an aesthetic choice and a personal one.
PROGRAMMABILITY OF THE MECHANICAL KEYBOARDS
Many of the non-mechanical keyboards cannot be easily programmed, and hence you can connect them to your computer, and they are made to do the usual computer stuff. Various keyboards offer onboard programming, where you have to press specific keys and record macros and customize the entire backlighting for a more comfortable experience.
Backlighting can be an excellent addition to the keyboards as it gives a nice, full effect. But it isn’t the most crucial consideration to make.
BEST MECHANICAL KEYBOARDS
Corsair K95 RGB Platinum Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
- This keyboard comes with an aircraft-grade anodized brush aluminum frame.
- Built with durable materials and built to last.
- Lightweight and rugged, with a keyboard that will end up seeing a lot of action and work.
- It comes with an 8MB profile storage with hardware macro and lighting playback.
- You get access to three stored profiles on the go, irrespective of the use of any external software. Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, or Windows Vista.
- There is a Dynamic multicolor per-key backlighting with a nice light edge. You can adjust the color of the key and the illumination level for sophisticated and enhanced animations.
- One hundred percent Cherry MX Speed RGB mechanical key switches. It offers an incredible speed of 1.2-millimeter actuation.
- The durability of gold contact Cherry MX mechanical key switches
- There are six programmable G keys for in-game macros. You can assign keystrokes or multiple complex combos for any of the 6-macro keys.
Razer Black Widow Chroma V2
- It is a multi-award-winning razer mechanical switch, which has been designed specifically for gaming.
- This mechanical keyboard is durable with up to 80 million keystrokes.
- It comes with individually backlit keys and is powered by Razer Chroma that offers over 16.8 million customizable color options.
- The keyboard includes an ergonomic wrist rest wherein you can enjoy long gaming hours without compromising any activities.
- It offers ten key anti-ghosting wherein one can execute almost up to 10 commands simultaneously with ease.
- It includes five dedicated macro keys and comes with an audio and USB pass through.
- It offers three mechanical switch variations and provides utmost comfort for all the gamers out there.
- Includes rebind buttons, assign macros, save profile configurations, and advanced capabilities, including the ultimate hardware configuration tool.
- This Keychain comes with a 75 percent layout, includes a white LED backlight, and is considered a compact, Bluetooth mechanical keyboard.
- It is the perfect keyboard that retains the shortcut and arrow keys.
- It easily connects with up to three devices via Bluetooth, and you can easily switch among the devices for easier access.
- The mechanical keyboard comes with the latest Broadcom Bluetooth 5.1 chipset.
- This keyboard comes with tons of versatility and can be used anywhere from homes to offices and light gaming. It easily connects to smartphones, laptops, and iPads. It also includes a wired mode, which powers through the USB-C connection.
- The great thing is the unique and distinct Mac layout. The K2 Gaming keyboard provides all the necessary and required Mac function keys and is compatible with Windows.
- Consists of extra keycaps for Windows and Mac operating systems that are inbuilt or included
- The mechanical keyboard can last up to 72 hours of typing and almost seven days of regular use. It comes with a 4000mAh big battery, which is considered one of the biggest in mechanical keyboards.
- It consists of the N-key rollover on wired mode and the 6KRO on the wireless method.
- It looks quite decent and elegant with an LED backlight and has beautiful keycap legends to type in any low-lit or dime environment. Moreover, you can also choose the static white backlight mode.
- It is made using durable gateron mechanical switches with a lifespan of 50 million keystrokes, ensuring unrivaled tactile feedback on the linear red switches.
- It is a high-performance RGB keyboard with customizable and full-spectrum color lighting per key and also offers Lightsync game-driven lighting colors and effects
- It includes advanced Romer G Linear mechanical key switches that ensure 25 percent faster responsiveness and a much smoother feel on keystrokes
- You can use this keyboard for longer durations because of the soft and robust memory foam palm rest that offers tons of comfort
- Packed with features of utmost durability that resists sweat and you can wipe it off simply
- Uses aircraft-grade brushed aluminum alloy top cases for a nice, sleek high-class look that seals and covers the different components with rugged levels of protection
- It offers a convenient USB pass-through port that makes it easy to snap to and plugs into your mouse, flash drive, or phones for easy data transmission and charging
- It can only be used with Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, or Windows 7
Corsair K 63
- Cherry MX Red mechanical key switches that are known to provide and deliver the best and most ultimate performance, giving a superior competitive advantage to the keyboard
- The look includes a brilliant red backlighting LED that amplifies and enhances the overall experience with dynamic and unlimited lighting adjustability.
- It is designed in a friendly, compact, tenkeyless design and is excellent for those who travel too often, making more space for your mouse.
- It includes dedicated volume and media controls wherein you can adjust the audio without interrupting your game.
- One hundred percent anti-ghosting combined with a full key rollover. The keystrokes on this laptop always register the way you want them to.
- The software CD does not come with the product and hence, you have to look for other services.
- It is fully programmable with CUE for assigning macros to any key and creating beautiful dynamic light effects.
- Reduces the distractions by disabling the Windows key when you are operating it
Hyper X AlloyElite
- It includes a signature light bar and RGB lighting effects that make for easy personalization.
- Provides six preset LED lighting effects
- It is built using high-quality materials making for a durable solid frame for stability and long-lasting usage.
- This mechanical keyboard is spill-resistant and prevents damage from any accidental spills.
- Features dedicated media controls so that you can conveniently control the media.
- Features the Keyboard lock mode to protect your belongings while you are away from your keyboard
- Includes quick access buttons for ultimate brightness, lighting mode and game mode for quickly adjusting the overall brightness, lighting profiles
- Enables the game mode with the simple touch of a button
- Compatible with Windows 10, 8,1, 8 and 7
- The Key rollover on the mechanical keyboard lets you press keys simultaneously and registers every key code. Perfectly executes in the order as pressed and expected.
Dell Alienware Pro
- Has 16.8M RGB ambient lighting color options for adding to the aesthetic
- It comes with three adjustable leg angles.
- 50 million durable cycle life for all the keys and has a cable length of 6 feet
- There are an anti-ghosting and N-key rollover on all the keys and the mechanical switches.
- Includes 15 programmable macro essential functions with on-the-fly recording ensuring that your keyboard lives longer
- Mechanical brown switches are designed with all the gamers in mind, ranging from beginners to experts. They deliver reliable tactile feedback with low actuation force and low click noise.
Steel Series Apex 7
- Includes linear red switches that offer guaranteed 50 million key presses, red buttons providing for consistently smooth movement without any bump, allowing for lightning-fast actuation
- It provides an OLED smart display and comprises an integrated command center for adjusting the settings and tracking on the fly info straight from your game.
- It was built with aircraft-grade aluminum alloy, which is made to last and offers more excellent stability.
- RGB illumination with unmatched customization and 16.8 million colors per key.
- It offers a nice premium and comfortable magnetic wrist rest, which provides full palm support and a comfortable, ergonomic feel.
- The connectivity technology is wireless.
- It provides software free customization for saving almost five unique profiles on the keyboard.
- Includes a clickable metal roller and media keys that allow you to adjust the volume and settings on the move quickly and use all the functions with the simple press of a button
Das Keyboard 4
- Cherry MX Brown mechanical key switches with Gold Contacts for a soft tactile feel and an unmatched typing experience
- Built with rugged construction to withstand almost 50 million keystrokes with a top aluminum panel
- Oversized volume knob and dedicated media controls, and an instant sleep button
- It offers a mechanically detachable footboard to raise the keyboard that also functions as a ruler
- Full N-key rollover with anti-ghosting features
- DAS German Engineering with a durable build quality for instilling tons of confidence and precision
Code V3-87 Illuminated Mechanical Keyboard
- It comes with a slim case design and multi-channel cable routing system and comes with a detachable USB cable
- Fully programmable via the hardware and includes program macros and keymaps over four layers
- White LED backlighting with seven levels of brightness and onboard memory that ensures and sets your lighting preferences