A mechanical keyboard is a keyboard that utilizes spring-activated key switches to produce letters, numbers, or symbols upon impact. Early computers, from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, almost all used this type of keyboard. When rubber dome membrane switches became cheap to produce, keyboards began to evolve in different directions.
Now users are coming back to the quality of the mechanical keyboard. It may be partly for nostalgia, but the framing, functionality, and key construction that go into the creation of this keyboard type are difficult to ignore. For the average person, a mechanical keyboard feels better than any other keyboard type.
Here is a look at the advantages and disadvantages of mechanical keyboards to help you determine if this keyboard type will best suit your needs today.
List of the Advantages of a Mechanical Keyboard
1. Mechanical keyboards have a longer lifespan than other types.
When you’re using a mechanical keyboard, you’re using a product that has been tested to a maximum of 70 million key presses for most produced. In comparison, the standard membrane keyboard that you’ll find on most laptops will give you about 5 million key presses. For a full-time writer, that means replacing the keyboard every 3 years instead of every 6 months.
2. The switches of a mechanical keyboard rarely wear out.
You’ll wear out other components of a mechanical keyboard before you wear out the switches that are used to create keystrokes. Even after using this type of keyboard for several years, it will still feel familiar and useful. The keys don’t start to get stuck on you and you won’t have the clattering issue that you’ll find with other keyboard types.
3. Users receive better typing feedback while they work.
One of the best advantages that come with a mechanical keyboard is the ability to tweak the typing mechanism to create feedback that is useful for your writing style. Some people write softly, their fingers barely gracing the keys. Others type with force, creating small impacts with their fingers on every keystroke. Mechanical keyboards allow you to adjust the actuation point, optimizing its use for gaming, writing, and other common activities.
4. Each key has more stability with a mechanical keyboard.
If you’ve used other keyboard types in the past, then you’ve likely experienced slippage issues. Your fingers hit the key like you think it should, but then it slips off and hits 1-3 other keys as well. Then you must take the time to correct the mistakes, hoping your fingers don’t slip off the keys again while you are working. Mechanical keyboards offer high levels of stability. You won’t have your fingers shifting as easily when you make a correct impact, which leads to higher productivity levels.
5. You’re able to have more features with this keyboard type.
Mechanical keyboards come with a variety of features which are not offered with most other keyboard types. For gaming enthusiasts, the best feature is the variable LED lighting that can be found on some models. With lighting enabled, you may be able to adjust the brightness, sharpness, or color of the experience to meet your needs. Although some membrane keyboards offer backlighting as well, it is usually one color and brightness is your only customization option.
6. It requires less force to generate results with a mechanical keyboard.
Although the weight of a key press may feel heavier with a mechanical keyboard at first, the spring-activated design requires less physical impact to create a keystroke than other models. If you’re used to using a membrane keyboard, then you’ve probably encountered typos where your letter didn’t register, even though you know for certain that you typed it. This issue goes away with the mechanical keyboard.
7. You’re able to create results with a faster response time.
Mechanical keyboards will give gamers better response times when they’re in the middle of an event because of how the energy transfers from the keystroke. Instead of pressing into a rubber membrane or forcing a scissors connection to move, the spring engages the mechanism to generate the results which are needed. When split-seconds matter, a mechanical keyboard is going to be your best option.
8. Mechanical keyboards register more simultaneous key presses.
The number of keys that you can press simultaneously to generate results is referred to as your “N-Key Rollover.” With a membrane-based keyboard, you’ll be able to press up to 6 keys simultaneously and receive results. Some models, however, only allow you to press 3 keys for simultaneous results. With the mechanical keyboard design, most models provide you with an N-Key Rollover of 10 or more, allowing you to accomplish more with your gaming experience.
List of the Disadvantages of a Mechanical Keyboard
1. Mechanical keyboards bring extra sound into the equation.
Membrane keyboards and scissors-type keyboards are remarkably quiet. You can still hear your fingers tapping out words on the keyboard with them, but it is nothing like the experience of a mechanical keyboard. Although you can shift the sound spectrum some, and the keyboards are quieter than their typewriter predecessors, it is still much noisier than most people expect it to be.
2. They have a cost issue which must be considered.
If you’re thinking about purchasing a mechanical keyboard for your computer, then you’re going to be spending around $75 for an entry-level model that will provide a reliable typing experience for you. Some models are priced below $50, but they have rather poor reviews associated with them. If you want a mechanical keyboard that is durable and uses metal more than ABS plastic, you’re going to be paying upwards of $100. For an entry-level membrane keyboard of equal quality, you can find them for about $20 at any store which sells electronics.
3. These keyboards have more height to them.
If you’re used to typing on a membrane keyboard, then it will take you a few days to get used to the mechanical keyboard typing experience. The keys are raised compared to other keyboard types, which means your fingers will inadvertently hit keys until you get used to raising them high enough as you move across the various letters. Plan on the first week being filled with typing errors as you get used to the experience.
4. Mechanical keyboards weigh more than other keyboard types.
Because there is more stability with this type of keyboard, you will find that there is more weight involved with it as well. Mechanical keyboards tend to be a bit larger than other keyboard types, which creates some added bulkiness to the product as well. If you need to take your keyboard with you to class, work, or somewhere other than your home, the added size and weight can sometimes be uncomfortable.
5. A mechanical keyboard might change how you type.
Some mechanical keyboards are designed to mimic the experience of a regular typewriter, giving you a “click” sound when you press each key. The goal of this feature is to have you not press down hard enough to make the clicking sound, while still being able to type as you normally would. This forces you to think about not pressing down on each key too firmly, which may alter your regular typing style and slow down the results you’re trying to produce.
These mechanical keyboard advantages and disadvantages focus on helping you find the value proposition that meets your needs. If you do a lot of typing and gaming, then mechanical keyboards will provide more durability for your needs. For those who require portability on a tight budget, this type of keyboard may not be the right choice.