A beginner’s guide to mechanical keyboards — how they work and compare to normal keyboards – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

A beginner’s guide to mechanical keyboards — how they work and compare to normal keyboards

Mechanical keyboards have become a popular computer accessory.

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Most people today type on computers using membrane keyboards, which have a rubber dome under each key, and feel sort of squishy when pressed.

But a growing number of people — especially gamers and programmers — believe that the best keyboards are mechanical keyboards. Many of the best gaming PC setups pair especially well with a mechanical keyboard, and some of the best gaming laptops even include mechanical keyboard options. 

Though mechanical keyboards look largely the same on the outside, they work, feel, and even sound different. Here’s why.

What is a mechanical keyboard?

In a general sense, all keyboards work the same way. You press a key, and it sends a signal to your computer. Your computer then decodes that signal and turns it into a letter or command. Simple. But membrane and mechanical keyboards send that signal in a different way.

On a membrane keyboard, all the keys are connected to a rubber pad. When you press a key, the pad gets pushed down to touch a circuit board. Depending on which part of the circuit board gets touched, the keyboard sends a different signal.

Meanwhile, every key on a mechanical keyboard has its own dedicated switch to send signals with. When you press a mechanical key, it clicks in a physical spring-loaded switch, which then sends a specific signal to the computer.

A mechanical keyboard with two keycaps removed, exposing the switches underneath.

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This unique construction is what gives mechanical keyboards their appeal. When you press one of those spring-loaded keys, you’ll feel or hear a distinctive click. It’s physical and precise. This means you’ll always know when a key’s been pressed — there’s less second-guessing about whether a press actually went through. 

Mechanical keyboard fans claim that the tactile response can help you type faster and more accurately. The raised keys also help you touch type more easily, so you can focus on what you’re typing instead of how. And the sound is satisfying, especially if you’re a fast typist.

There are three primary kinds of mechanical keyboard switches, and each one has its own feel. Linear switches don’t have much resistance, and can be pressed in one smooth motion. Tactile switches have a bump that you’ll hit halfway through pressing, which makes them slightly louder and give a physical response as you type. And clicky switches have that same bump, but make a much louder noise.

There isn’t actually much non-anecdotal evidence that mechanical keyboards improve typing speed or form. But mechanical keyboards have a massive fanbase, and it’s growing.

Mechanical keyboards vs. membrane keyboards: Which one is better?

If mechanical keyboards are so nice, why don’t more people use them? The biggest advantage that membrane keyboards have is price. They’re cheaper to produce and buy, which is why the majority of keyboards — both external and attached to a laptop — are membrane style. You can buy a membrane keyboard for as low as $10, while a mechanical keyboard is going to cost at least $30, or higher if you want one from a name brand with higher quality keys.

Some people also don’t like how loud mechanical keyboards can be. A fast typist on tactile or clicky mechanical keyboards can sound like a machine gun firing, especially if they slam their keys. Even “quiet” linear mechanical keyboards will make some sound as you type. It’s a big change from the relative silence of a membrane keyboard.

The tradeoff is that although they’re louder and more expensive, mechanical keyboards tend to last longer. Many mechanical keyboards are rated to last anywhere from 20 million to 100 million keypresses, while it’s typical for a membrane keyboard to only be rated for 5 million to 10 million. After that point, the keys and circuits start to give out.

Mechanical keyboards also offer special features that are important to gamers, like “rollover.” Rollover means that even if you press multiple keys simultaneously, since each one has its own switch, all the inputs are sure to go through. Membrane keyboards that share one circuit board struggle with this, and competing inputs can cancel each other out.

Mechanical keyboards are also easier to clean, repair, and customize. Each individual key on a mechanical keyboard can be removed with your fingers, or more safely with a key puller, a simple tool that’ll probably come with your keyboard. If a key or switch breaks, you can replace it. If gunk falls between the keys, you can remove them to get it out. And lots of websites, like KeyGeak, sell custom switches and keys you can decorate your keyboards with.

Since mechanical keyboard keys are easy to remove, it’s also easy to install new ones.

Ceconds/Shutterstock

Which one you want to buy will depend on your budget and tactile preferences. But the best mechanical keyboards feel great, look great, and sound great — all valuable qualities for an item you’ll probably use every single day.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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