Keyboards are of two kinds: (1) the cheapo, no-name slabs that are bundled by the millions with PCs, and (2) the ones that are actually worth using — and in most cases, that's a mechanical keyboard. Stalwart friend to gamers and power typists alike, the mechanical keyboard's physical operation and durability make it the gold standard for computer use. It's not the only option out there — good alternatives abound for wireless, ergonomic, and other purposes — but if nothing else, ditching that freebie is something everyone should do. Read on to learn more about why a mechanical keyboard should be in your future.
Why mechanicals are worth the money
Most run-of-the-mill keyboards are rubber-domed, a simple and inexpensive design where the key hits a raised bump and squishes it down (you'll feel the slight squishiness when you type) to register a keystroke. Here's the problem: rubber-domed keyboards require a complete depress, or "bottoming out," to register. That extra effort over an entire workday can lead to hand fatigue, or worse.
Even though mechanical keyboards tend to cost a bit more, their build quality is worth it. Rather than lay down some cheap membrane layers and rubber-domed keys, these bad boys sport heavy-duty switches and functional parts. This makes them durable, and it also gives them tactile feedback that detects a keystroke before the key bottoms out. That means that with a little practice, your fingers are doing only half the work, sparing them a world of hurt.
Mechanical keyboards also multitask better. Gamers out there will understand the frustrations of holding down multiple keys (for example, sprinting forward while reloading) and hitting one last key for the ultimate grenade kill, then nothing. Did you screw up and miss the key? Not likely. Key ghosting happens when three keys are held down and a fourth keystroke doesn't register, due to hardware or software limitations on matrix keyboards (keyboards that use multiple keys on the same circuit). Mechanical keyboards handle this issue with Key Rollover, which provides more consecutive keystrokes than the rubber-domed keyboards allow — usually six with a USB connection, and infinite over the older PS/2 connection.
Which switch is right for you?
The type of switch your mechanical keyboard uses matters, too. Switches differ by how they close a circuit and register a keystroke, how the keystroke feels, and the "click" volume level. Picking a favorite is a matter of preference, and every enthusiast has an opinion (go, team Brown!).
Tactile switches have a noticeable actuation point (the point where the keystroke is registered), such as a slight resistance or bump, and you hear a "click" when the key is pressed. Linear switches have a much smoother keystroke without a noticeable actuation point or audible feedback.
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