There is simply a lot of hype around mechanical keyboards. You may be attracted by their charisma, charm, the RGB and those clicky mechanical switches. Especially if you are new to the world of gaming or someone looking to upgrade their gaming experience. These could seem like the perfect thing to get. But you are still skeptical and want to know if you really need them.
The options available are just overwhelming. The variety of switches used, clicky, non-clicky, RGB etc. Also when it comes to price some premium ones can cost a fortune while you can even get a mechanical keyboard under 100 dollars as well. There’s just no end and that’s why you need a perspective on what you really need.
In this article we did 2 things:
First, Expand your knowledge on what a mechanical keyboard is and can do?
Second, We explore what are your options and should you get one as a gamer?
Let’s first get into what a mechanical keyboard and get the basics out of the way.
What Is A Mechanical Keyboard?
You don’t need this section! You’re a GAMER! You know what is a mechanical keyboard is and does. You may most certainly do but there is always something to learn if you’re planning to invest in one.
Also, there may still be some who do not know what a mechanical keyboard is, for the simple fact that most consumers do not really care while a keyboard since every computer system already comes with one.
On the contrary, when it comes to gaming, a keyboard can be marked as one of the most essential peripherals that you need to win tournaments or get the most out of your gaming skills.
You might ask what precisely a mechanical keyboard is, and we are here to answer just that. Remember those old school bulky keyboards that everyone used in the 90s? Yes, that’s where they originated from.
Those keyboards used actual plastic switches under the keycaps and with time and developing technology, manufacturers and engineers integrated that same switch mechanism into newer keyboards with loads of features to deliver you what is known as a gaming mechanical keyboard.
The most crucial aspect that sets apart a mechanical keyboard from a traditional keyboard is quality. Traditional keyboards use rubber dome switches instead of actual mechanical ones and this is done for two reasons- to cut cost and make compact keys just like you find in laptops.
Mechanical gaming keyboards have changed the gaming industry with the superior performance they provide over traditional keyboards and all pro gamers use them no matter what genre of gaming it is.
If you are also looking to hook your new gaming rig up with a solid gaming keyboard then you have come to the right place because we are going to help you decide whether investing in a mechanical keyboard for gaming is worth it or not.
Understanding Mechanical Switches & How They Work
Before we head on to understand how a mechanical switch inside a mechanical keyboard works let us discuss what a mechanical switch is. When anyone asks about a mechanical keyboard we can answer that in two ways. The simplest answer would be that “it is a keyboard with switches under the keycaps” but we already know that. So without further ado let us dive in.
In this current generation, keyboards use different kinds of switches depending upon the consumer’s needs. If you need a cheap option for a keyboard, you can always go for a rubber dome switch keyboard. If you need a compact one then a scissor-switch keyboard is a perfect choice. Finally, if you are a gamer and need a keyboard for gaming and the best typing experience manufacturers have got you covered with mechanical keyboards.
A switch under a keyboard is made of plastic and comprises a few moving parts that when pushed register a keystroke in a computer system. A switch contains a hard plastic part with two metal contacts which is known as the stem that directly sits on top of a spring.
When the key is pressed, the stem is pushed downwards that in turn compresses the spring underneath till the metal contacts connect and a keypress is registered into the circuitry of the keyboard then into your PC. A housing holds the entire switch together.
Although the mechanism of a switch in a mechanical keyboard remains intact, all switches are definitely not made equal. Each type of switch is designed differently to offer a different kind of feedback and typing experience. While some keys require a harder press for registering a keypress, some switches are designed to respond with a lighter press, the latter being the better choice for gamers since in games speed is of the essence and the former fitter for typing purposes.
The force with which you need to press a key to register a keypress can be measured and it is expressed with a term called actuation force which is measured in grams. The lower the actuation force the lighter you need to push and vice versa.
Moreover, some switches come with an actuation bump to give you that feedback that is required while typing. While this is extremely helpful for experienced typists, it is somewhat distracting for some people. Another interesting fact about mechanical switches is the fact that they are better at giving you audible feedback than rubber dome keyboards. Some switches offer sharper audible feedback while others make less noise when the switch is pressed.
How Many Types Of Mechanical Switches Are There?
There is actually no distinct answer to this question since manufacturers and companies keep coming up with new types of switches practically every year but just to get it out of the way, switches can be categorized into 3 primary different types according to the feel they provide while typing.
In the case of a linear mechanical switch, the actuation force is somewhat the same as the de-actuation force. Such switches need to be pressed all the way down in order to actually register a keypress into a system and are generally quiet and smooth for the most part. They offer a smooth typing experience with consistent actuation and an absence of audible or tactile feedback. Simply speaking, they retain all the aspects of a mechanical key switch except the tactile bump or the clicky sound.
Perfect for a workplace where the noise is to be kept at a minimum, keyboards with this type of switches are the best option to go for, and as far as gaming goes these switches are one of the top options for most competitive gamers thanks to the consistent and precise keystrokes. Apart from that, if you do not like any tactical bump or loud clicky noises, then this is the perfect option to go for.
If you really want to experience how fun typing can be on a mechanical keyboard then you should definitely opt for one that comes with tactile mechanical switches. They solely focus on proving a tactile feel when the keys are pressed while typing or while gaming. The switch has a bump that is responsible for this tactile feedback and on a keypress such switches leave a relatively audible clicky sound compared to linear switches.
Tactile switches are meant for fast typers and minimize the chances of making errors and types while typing thanks to the audible feedback and tactile feel that lets you know that the key is pressed right and everything is working well and let us be honest, the bump is probably the most satisfying thing on a mechanical keyboard with tactical switches. Tactile switches can be used for gaming but are more preferred for typing purposes.
Clicky switches are no doubt the most fun while typing, even more so than tactile switches because of the satisfying click sound. Just as the name of the switch suggests these switches make a click sound when a keypress is logged and the popping out of a plastic piece inside the switch mechanism is responsible for that sound.
A mechanical keyboard with clicky switches is a great option to go for unless you plan to use it in a quiet or public environment since the clicky noise can be loud enough to distract others and it is never a good thing. Apart from that if you plan to get one for your own room with not many people in proximity, then definitely go ahead.
Now that we have covered all the basic types of switches the fun thing to know is that manufacturers have been able to mix and match all the above types of switches to create distinct ones fit for different uses. One of the leading manufacturers of keyboard switches is a German company known as Cherry who is famous for its top-notch mechanical switches that perform excellently.
Cherry has been in this business since the 1980s but along with time, new competitors have also emerged like Razer and Corsair who make their own switches and incorporate them in their mechanical gaming keyboards. All the Cherry MX switches are color-coded according to their type and here are a few ones:
Cherry MX Red:
The best there is. No doubt the ideal switch choice for gamers is the Cherry MX Red with its linear mechanism and absence of tactile feedback. Great for quick keypresses during intense gameplay.
Cherry MX Blue:
The most available option and probably the best for typing, The signature audible click is sharp enough to give you the satisfaction you need without distracting others.
Cherry MX Speed Silver:
It is similar to a Cherry MX Red but lighter and with an even lower actuation force rating. The MX Speed Silver is great for blazing-fast key presses and gives you enough spring action to experience the sweet sweet mechanical feedback.
Cherry MX Brown:
A tactile switch is characterised by a subtle bumpy feedback and the MX Brown is the best one for that.
Mechanical V/S Normal Keyboard
Before we head on to a more detailed discussion, let us discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages that one type of keyboard has over the other.
Advantages of a typical keyboard with rubber dome switches:
Since a regular keyboard uses a membrane for its switch, most such keyboards operate silently with minimum to no noise which is a great thing if you plan to use it in a public environment or where silence is to be maintained.
There is nothing much that goes into the making of membrane keyboards. Obviously there is a lot of circuitry involved but there are many moving parts on board and hence this makes membrane keyboards very light, more compact, and easy to carry. One of the reasons why laptops are equipped with membrane keyboards in most cases. This is a big plus if you are a traveler and always need to carry your keyboard from place to place.
There is always a reason for everything and there is also a reason why manufacturers produce membrane keyboards in bulk and sell them at very affordable prices. Membrane technology is very cheap and easy to manufacture and hence such keyboards using membrane technology are very easy to produce.
Advantages of a mechanical keyboard:
They utilize switches with actual moving parts and hence require a lighter press and less actuation force to register keypresses. A beneficial factor when it comes to long hours of typing or fast-paced gaming.
The build quality is much better of a mechanical keyboard than a membrane one and every switch has a keypress rating which is at least 50 million in most keyboards. Mechanical keyboards have a much longer lifespan and come with solid build components.
Another feature that we will discuss later is the anti-ghosting feature. Mechanical keyboards allow something called an n-key rollover which enables the user to press multiple keys simultaneously and register every one into the system without fail. A big advantage when it comes to gaming.
Maintaining and cleaning a mechanical keyboard is a much easier task than cleaning a membrane keyboard. The rubber switches and membrane act as a big dust magnet and keep on collecting dust and over time it gets sticky. On a mechanical keyboard the keys are removable and the plastic parts can easily be dusted off using a cleaning brush.
At the end of the day, quality is the biggest factor that differentiates a traditional membrane keyboard from a costlier mechanical keyboard. A mechanical keyboard is always a good investment over any other type of keyboard when durability is a priority.
Traditional keyboards use rubber domes that eventually collapse and membranes that get sticky with time and thereby cause damage to the circuitry of the keyboard. On the contrary, mechanical keyboards use actual switches and all plastic parts and each individual switch is certified to be long-lasting irrespective of which manufacturer it is from. Since a switch uses metal to metal contact and is guaranteed to withstand at least 50 million keystrokes.
There is a reason for the higher prices of gaming mechanical keyboards on the market when compared to the cheap alternate membrane ones. High-end or even mid-range mechanical keyboards are not only equipped with some of the best features that a gamer solely needs but also come with a long-lasting build and a solid design that might last year without a problem.
Let us be honest. Have you ever typed on a mechanical keyboard?
Once you use a mechanical keyboard there is no going back. The satisfying typing experience in a mechanical keyboard is on a whole nother level that is unmatched and no matter what, no membrane keyboard can rival it. Manufacturers like CHeery MX, Razer, and Kailh have got tons of different switches to deliver just what you need.
Want that clicky sound and tactile feel? Try out the Green switches from Razer or the Blue ones from Cherry MX. Want a silent one in Linear fashion, you Blue Cherry MX switches, and many others. We always recommend not to settle for anything less when it comes to any computer peripheral or gaming accessories like gaming mouse, a CPU or a graphics card.
The linear type mechanical switches give gamers the advantage over all the other players since such switches on a mechanical keyboard allow for faster key presses and therefore easier gameplay and more wins. Giving a pro gamer the right mechanical keyboard is like giving a swordsman the Excalibur.
Even apart from gaming, such keyboards are much better than membrane ones when it comes to long typing tasks and productivity. Typing on a mechanical keyboard is not only fun but also much more comfortable with the audible feedback and tactile feel.
Have you ever tried to press several keys at once one traditional membrane keyboard?
What appears on your screen is pure gibberish and is nothing at all what you typed on your keyboard. This is a huge disadvantage of using membrane keyboards for gaming.
In games, you will always require multiple keypresses to execute those stylish combos or get those kills in competitive games, and without the anti-ghosting feature, it is almost impossible to do so.
Since every key of a mechanical keyboard has an individual switch underneath, each keypress is registered separately, and thus such a keyboard allows the user to press multiple keys simultaneously and those keys are called anti-ghosting keys. Anti-ghosting enables n-key rollover or NRKO on a mechanical keyboard which means no matter how many keys you press simultaneously, all the keypresses will be registered into the system without a problem. The anti-ghosting feature and n-key rollover make gaming much more fun and fluid by enabling you to get those combos and special moves that you have been trying to master for so long.
Cleaning is the worst. Period. But we need to do it in order to keep our gaming rig up and running. Cleaning a keyboard is a tedious task that requires quite a bit of time. Membrane keyboards are much more prone to collecting dust and other particles than mechanical keyboards.
The floating design of most mechanical keyboards and the ability to easily remove the keycaps make cleaning a mechanical keyboard a much easier task than cleaning a membrane keyboard. Moreover, the membrane inside a traditional keyboard gets sticky over time and keeps on collecting dust and other nasty stuff till the circuitry fries out.
Customization on a mechanical keyboard is limitless, to be honest. Everything starting from lights, and keycaps everything is customizable. Every gaming mechanical keyboard comes with LED backlighting which might even be RGB. Now, the RGB is itself customizable or not depending upon the manufacturers. High-end product manufacturers like Corsair and HyperX offer gaming mechanical keyboards that come with RGB LED backlighting that offer you complete control over the lighting.
You just need to download the software and customize the lights and patterns as you like and you are done. Since the switches are removable in a mechanical keyboard you can also get new keycaps with different fonts and everything from the market. With so many options and customization options, a mechanical keyboard is truly versatile in its own way.
Mechanical keyboards are often equipped with multiple programmable hotkeys and multimedia keys to enable you to easily access different shortcuts and in-game abilities just with a single keypress just under the tip of your finger.
Price is a very important thing when you are tight on your budget. Obviously, there are going to be price differences between different products but whether it is worth investing in is completely a different matter.
Let us cut to the chase. Mechanical keyboards are a bit pricey, sure you can grab a few under even 50 dollars but what good are they. If you are going to buy something for your computer then make sure you absolutely go for the best only if you have got the money.
For even as little as a few 100 bucks, you can easily buy a mid-range gaming mechanical keyboard. 100 dollars might seem a bit more than one would like to spend on a keyboard but as a gamer, choosing the right keyboard is a very important thing even if the price is a bit high.
Final Verdict – Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming
In the end, it all boils down to one thing, whether you want it or not. Trust me, there is nothing wrong with buying a membrane keyboard for gaming. In my opinion, there are tons of membrane rubber dome keyboards out there that are specifically meant for gaming.
They are well equipped with features that you can find only on high-end mechanical gaming keyboards. These include but are not limited to anti-ghosting keys, programmable keys and swappable hotkeys. But as we discussed, a mechanical keyboard is always going to perform much better than a membrane one no matter what! Be it is durability, quality or pure typing experience.
There is a reason for which mechanical keyboards are the first choice of gamers in all aspects and we are quite sure that getting one for yourself will elevate your gaming and typing experience to a whole another level even if it is a cheap one.