What is a Mechanical Keyboard: A Guide for Beginners

So, you’re curious about mechanical keyboards and what sets them apart from traditional keyboards? You’ve come to the right place! Mechanical keyboards have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of mechanical keyboards and help you understand their benefits and unique features.

What is a Mechanical Keyboard

A mechanical keyboard is a type of keyboard that uses individual, high-quality plastic switches underneath each keycap. Unlike the membrane keyboards that most of us are familiar with, mechanical keyboards have spring-loaded switches that provide tactile feedback and produce different sounds as you type. This not only enhances the typing experience but also offers increased durability and a longer lifespan.

What Sets Mechanical Keyboards Apart?

Mechanism of a Mechanical Keyboard

Mechanical keyboards are different from traditional membrane keyboards because they use individual mechanical switches for each key. These key switches provide better tactile feedback, durability, and keystroke consistency. There are various types of key switches available, such as Cherry MX Blue, Cherry MX Brown, Cherry MX Speed, Cherry MX Silent Red, and TTC, each with its distinct characteristics.

In a mechanical keyboard, each key switch has a spring and a stem that actuates the key. When you press a key, the spring compresses, and the stem actuates a contact mechanism inside the switch housing. This provides a unique experience based on the switch type, making a mechanical keyboard enjoyable to type on and suitable for different applications like gaming or typing.

Switch Types in Mechanical Keyboards

When it comes to mechanical keyboards, different switch types offer unique typing experiences. In this section, we’ll explore three main types of switches: Tactile Switches, Linear Switches, and Clicky Switches. Understanding these types will help you choose the perfect mechanical keyboard for your specific needs.

  • Tactile: These switches, such as Cherry MX Brown, have a slight bump in the key’s travel, which provides feedback when the key is actuated. Tactile switches are versatile and suitable for both typing and gaming.
  • Linear: Linear switches, like Cherry MX Speed and Cherry MX Silent Red, have a smooth keystroke without any tactile bump or click. They’re ideal for fast typists and gamers who prioritize quick key presses with minimal resistance.
  • Clicky: Clicky switches, e.g., Cherry MX Blue, produce a distinct click sound when the key is actuated, providing both audible and tactile feedback. These switches are preferred by typists who enjoy the sound and feel of the keystroke, but might not be the best choice for quiet environments.

Depending on your preferences, you can choose a mechanical keyboard with the type of switch that best suits your needs. They offer a personalized and satisfying experience that sets them apart from traditional membrane keyboards.

Types of Mechanical Keyboards

There are various types of mechanical keyboards available on the market to suit different needs and preferences. In this section, we’ll briefly discuss three main categories: Full-Size Mechanical Keyboards, TKL Mechanical Keyboards, and Compact Mechanical Keyboards.

Full-Size Mechanical Keyboards

Keychron q6 qmk full size keyboard
Keychron Q6 QMK Full Size Keyboard

A full-size mechanical keyboard typically comprises 104 keys, including a number pad, function keys, and navigation keys. It is the most common layout and ideal for those who frequently work with numbers or require a dedicated numpad. With many variations and switch types available, you’ll surely find a full-size mechanical keyboard that suits your typing style and preferences.

TKL Mechanical Keyboards

Keychron K8 TKL
Keychron K8 TKL

Tenkeyless (TKL) mechanical keyboards are similar to full-size ones but lack the number pad, hence the term “tenkeyless.” This layout usually has around 87 keys and is popular among gamers and those with limited desk space. By removing the numpad, TKL keyboards provide more room for mouse movement and a more ergonomic typing experience, as your hands remain closer together.

Compact Mechanical Keyboards

Keychron Q4 QMK 60
Keychron Q4 QMK 60

Compact mechanical keyboards, also known as “minilo” or “60% keyboards,” are even more compact than TKL keyboards. They typically consist of 61 keys, eliminating not only the numpad but also the function and navigation keys. This layout provides extreme portability and minimalism while maintaining a comfortable typing experience. Many compact keyboards still allow quick access to these removed keys via function layers, so you won’t lose functionality.

Each of these mechanical keyboard types has its benefits and drawbacks, but it ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences. Whether you prioritize portability, ergonomics, or a full set of keys, there is a mechanical keyboard out there to perfectly suit your typing and gaming experience.

Building Quality and Design

When it comes to mechanical keyboards, the build quality and design play a crucial role in your overall experience. In this section, we’ll go through some important aspects that contribute to a well-built mechanical keyboard, while maintaining a friendly tone and focusing on a second person point of view.

First and foremost, build quality is a key factor. A well-constructed mechanical keyboard should be durable and sturdy, ensuring that it can withstand daily use and last for years to come. High-quality materials such as aluminum, steel, or high-grade plastic can greatly contribute to overall durability and longevity.

Another aspect is the keycap profile. Keycap profiles vary in height, shape, and angle, which can significantly affect the typing experience. Some common profiles include Cherry, OEM, SA, DSA, and XDA. It’s essential to choose a keycap profile that suits your preferences and enhances the overall typing comfort.

Now, let’s talk about south-facing switches. This term refers to the orientation of the mechanical switches on your keyboard, where the LED is located on the south side of the switch housing. South-facing switches reduce the risk of keycap interference with the switch housing, especially when using custom keycaps or different keycap profiles. This layout can provide a more consistent and smoother keystroke experience.

Finally, the type of switches you choose for your mechanical keyboard will also impact the build quality and design. For instance, Keychron K Pro Brown switches are tactile and relatively quiet compared to other mechanical switches. They offer a great typing experience, making them suitable for both gaming and typing tasks.

Flashy Features

RGB Backlighting

One of the most appealing aspects of mechanical keyboards is their backlighting. With a variety of lighting options available, you can truly make your keyboard stand out. Many mechanical keyboards come with per-key RGB backlighting, which means you can customize the color and brightness of each key individually. This feature not only adds a personalized touch but also enhances your typing experience, especially in dimly lit environments.

Keycap Customizations

Another benefit of mechanical keyboards is the ability to customize keycaps. Keycaps are the removable plastic covers on the keys, and they come in various materials, designs, and colors. Swapping keycaps can be a fun way to personalize your keyboard, or simply upgrade the look and feel of your typing experience. Some keycap sets also include fun designs and prints, so you can truly make your mechanical keyboard unique.

Mechanical Keyboards by Logitech

Logitech MX Mechanical Keyboard

Logitech is a well-known brand in the world of mechanical keyboards. Some of their popular models include the Logitech G915, which is a sleek, wireless mechanical keyboard that offers a great typing experience. Among their other offerings, you can find a wide range of styles and technologies to suit your preferences.

Corsair Mechanical Keyboards

Corsair K70 RGB TKL Cherry MX Speed Switches

Corsair is another leading brand in the mechanical keyboard market. The Corsair K70 RGB Mk.2 and Corsair K70 RGB TKL are highly rated models that offer a fantastic combination of durability and performance. For a compact option, the Corsair K70 RGB Pro Mini Wireless is a great choice for those looking for a space-saving keyboard.

Popular Corsair ModelsFeatures
Corsair K70 RGB Mk.2Full-size, customizable RGB
Corsair K70 RGB TKLTenkeyless, customizable RGB
Corsair K70 RGB Pro Mini WirelessCompact, wireless, RGB

Razer Mechanical Keyboards

Razer Huntsman V3 Pro Analog Optical Switches

Razer is a brand synonymous with gaming, and their lineup of mechanical keyboards is no exception. The Razer Pro Type Ultra offers an excellent typing experience with a stylish design. They also offer various other models that cater to gamers and non-gamers alike, so you’re sure to find something that suits your needs.

The Ducky Lineup

Ducky 2023 Edition One 3 Series Cosmic Blue

Ducky is a favorite among mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, known for their high-quality keyboards and beautiful keycap designs. With a wide range of models available, they cater to all sorts of different preferences, from gaming to typing. Keep an eye out for their collaborations with other brands like Varmilo for unique and stunning designs.

Keychron’s Offerings

Keychron is a brand that has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to its user-friendly designs and affordable prices. Models like the Keychron Q6 are compact keyboards that boast great performance. Keychron offers several other models as well, each with its own unique features.

Keychron ModelsFeatures
Keychron K2Compact, wireless, RGB, Mac/iOS/Windows/Android compatible
Keychron K4Compact, wireless, RGB, Mac/iOS/Windows/Android compatible, hot-swappable switches
Keychron K6Compact, wireless, RGB, Mac/iOS/Windows/Android compatible, hot-swappable switches, optical or Gateron switches available
Keychron K8Tenkeyless, wireless, RGB, Mac/iOS/Windows/Android compatible, hot-swappable switches, optical or Gateron switches available
Keychron Q6Full size, customizable RGB, Mac/iOS/Windows/Android compatible, Gateron G Pro Mechanical switches available.

Budget Mechanical Keyboard Options

If you’re in search of a budget mechanical keyboard, you’re in luck! There are several options on the market that provide a fantastic typing experience without breaking the bank. In this section, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best budget mechanical keyboards available in 2023.

Redragon K552 is a popular choice among gamers, boasting a ten-keyless design and RGB backlighting. Its compact size and vibrant aesthetics make it a great addition to your gaming setup.

Keychron K-series offers a range of budget mechanical keyboards with various size options, such as the Q1 Pro and Q2 Pro. Known for their high-quality build and sleek design, Keychron keyboards are perfect for both gaming and professional use.

ASUS ROG Azoth delivers impressive performance in a budget-friendly package. With customizable RGB lighting, durable construction, and a comfortable design, this keyboard is an excellent choice for extended gaming sessions or writing tasks.

Logitech MX Mechanical combines both style and function in a reasonably priced mechanical keyboard. Featuring a sleek design and comfortable typing experience, it’s great for both office and gaming use.

Royal Kludge RK61 is a compact 60% keyboard with wireless capabilities, making it perfect for those who value desk space and mobility. Its attractive design and affordable price point have made it a favorite among budget-conscious mechanical keyboard enthusiasts.

Wireless Mechanical Keyboards

You might be wondering about wireless mechanical keyboards and how they fit into the world of mechanical typing. Wireless mechanical keyboards offer the tactile feel and responsiveness of mechanical switches, combined with the convenience and cable-free experience of a wireless connection.

A popular wireless model is the Logitech G715. It provides a great mix of features that cater to both gaming and productivity needs. The keyboard boasts customizable RGB lighting, dedicated media controls, and a long battery life, ensuring your work and gaming sessions are uninterrupted.

If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, wireless mechanical keyboards certainly deserve your attention. They provide a comfortable typing experience thanks to their mechanical switches. Additionally, the wireless option ensures a clutter-free workspace and easy portability, which is a bonus for those always on the move.

Advantages of choosing a wireless mechanical keyboard:

  • Portability: Easily carry your keyboard without worrying about tangled cables.
  • Reduced clutter: Keep your desk space clean and organized without any pesky wires.
  • Uncompromised typing experience: Enjoy the tactile feedback and responsiveness of a mechanical keyboard without sacrificing convenience.

However, it’s important to consider potential downsides as well. Some wireless mechanical keyboards might have a higher latency compared to their wired counterparts, which could slightly affect your typing or gaming performance. Additionally, battery life can be an issue, as you’ll need to ensure the keyboard is charged to avoid running out of power during use.

Mechanical Keyboards Accessories

Are you excited about customizing your mechanical keyboard? Well, you’re in luck! There are plenty of accessories available to help you create the perfect typing experience. In this friendly guide, we will explore some of the most popular mechanical keyboard accessories that you might find useful.

Keycaps are perhaps the most visually appealing aspect of mechanical keyboards. They come in various materials, colors, and designs, allowing you to personalize the look of your keyboard. Replacing your keycaps can also change the key feel and typing experience. Some popular materials include ABS and PBT plastic.

Switches are the key components responsible for the tactile and audible feedback you get when typing on a mechanical keyboard. There are several types of switches, each with its own characteristics: linear, tactile, and clicky. You can purchase individual switches if you want to modify your keyboard or experiment with different switch types.

Parts & DIY accessories allow you to dive deeper into the customization world. For example, you can find stabilizers, replacement plates, and even entire DIY kits to build your keyboard from scratch. If you’re the hands-on type, this is an excellent opportunity to create a genuinely unique mechanical keyboard.

USB Cables might seem like a minor accessory, but they can add a touch of style to your keyboard setup. Custom USB cables come in various sleeved materials, colors, and connectors to match your keycaps and the rest of your setup.

Switch Testers are an excellent way to try out various switches before committing to a full keyboard. These small devices contain a range of switches, providing an easy way to compare their different feels and sounds.

Wrist Rests are an ergonomic accessory for supporting your wrists while typing. They come in various materials like wood, foam, and gel, each providing a different level of comfort and support. Choose one that suits your typing style the best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are mechanical keyboards preferred for gaming?

Mechanical keyboards are often preferred for gaming because they provide a more tactile and responsive typing experience. The individual switches beneath each key allow for precise keystrokes and faster reaction times during gameplay. They are more durable and have a longer lifespan, making them a reliable choice for gamers who spend many hours playing.

How do mechanical and membrane keyboards differ?

The main difference between mechanical and membrane keyboards is how they register key presses. Mechanical keyboards use individual, spring-equipped switches for each key, providing tactile feedback and a more consistent typing experience. Membrane keyboards use a rubber dome and a layer of plastic to register key presses, which can be less responsive and wear out over time.

What types of switches are used in mechanical keyboards?

There are several types of switches used in mechanical keyboards, with Cherry MX, Razer, and Romer-G being some of the most popular brands. Within these brands, there are various switch types, like MX Blue (clicky), MX Brown (tactile), and MX Red (linear). Each type provides a different level of tactile feedback, actuation force, and noise, allowing users to choose the best fit for their preferences.

Can mechanical keyboards be wireless?

Yes, mechanical keyboards can be wireless. Many manufacturers offer wireless options that use technologies such as Bluetooth or proprietary wireless connections. These wireless mechanical keyboards offer the same typing experience as their wired counterparts, with the added convenience of eliminating cables and enabling greater flexibility in your setup.

What makes a mechanical keyboard clicky?

The “clickiness” of a mechanical keyboard comes from the type of switch used beneath the keys. Some switches, like Cherry MX Blue or Razer Green, are designed to create an audible click sound when actuated, giving users both tactile and auditory feedback during typing. This can be satisfying for some users and helpful in confirming successful key presses.

Which mechanical keyboards are considered the best?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best mechanical keyboard depends on individual preferences, needs, and budget. Some popular and well-regarded brands include Ducky, Leopold, Varmilo, and Keychron. To find the best mechanical keyboard for you, consider factors such as switch type, build quality, design, layout, and additional features like programmability or backlighting.

Are Mechanical Keyboards Louder?

Mechanical keyboards can be louder than membrane keyboards due to the individual switches used beneath the keys. However, the noise level can vary depending on the switch type. Clicky switches, like Cherry MX Blue, produce an audible click which can be louder, while tactile and linear switches are generally quieter. There are also silent switches, like Cherry MX Silent, designed specifically to minimize noise while maintaining a mechanical feel.

About the Author

Dan was initially only focused around gaming reviews and other content back in 2019ish on this platform. Since then he has decided to focus on the hardware and software side of things instead of just the games themselves. He has been focused on PC gaming and wants to give back to his community as much as possible.