How to choose the right mechanical keyboard for you
This guide will go over all the most important points you should consider when choosing your first mechanical keyboard.
Mechanical keyboards have long been loved by gamers and programmers alike, however recently they have been gaining more mainstream appeal.
That’s great; the experience of using a well-made mechanical keyboard is a joy that everyone should get to experience.
However, like most markets populated primarily by hobbyists, the mechanical keyboard world can be quite complicated. If you’ve been thinking of buying a keyboard but are at a loss of which model to choose, don’t worry.
This guide will go over all the most important points you should consider when choosing your first mechanical keyboard. Starting with whether or not you should buy one.
Who needs a mechanical keyboard?
Mechanical keyboards excel in durability, reliability, and ergonomic value. If you type a lot or deal with situations where you can’t afford a delayed or missed input, then a mechanical keyboard is a necessity for you.
Groups that fit this description include programmers, writers, translators, data-entry specialists, and — of course — gamers.
One quick look at the hardware being used by gaming pros will show that most of them rely on mechanical keyboards, as this CSGO pro settings page shows.
The details of why a mechanical keyboard is better for gaming are a bit technical, as they relate to n-key rollover, input latency, and even to how sensitive certain keyboard switches can be.
But suffice it to say that once you reach the point where gaming is your main source of income, a $10 keyboard from the local convenience store is no longer good enough.
Of course, these are just the groups that need a mechanical keyboard for comfort or efficiency. There is nothing wrong with buying a keyboard simply because you are an enthusiast, especially given how drop-dead gorgeous some mechanical keyboards can be.
Still, mechanical keyboards are tools, and complex ones at that. And your reason for buying one will dictate what kind of hardware you should favor.
Speaking of which, let’s go over the main hardware options you should consider as a beginner.
Switch colors: the most important factor
The switch is the component that bridges the gap between the keycap — the plastic piece your fingers touch when typing — and the keyboard’s PCB board beneath.
Switches are the heart of a mechanical keyboard since their construction will affect how it feels to type on the keyboard, and how loud typing will be.
There are four main switch types, separated by color. They are the blue, red, brown, and black switches. As a beginner, you can ignore the black switches. We’ll discuss the other three.
Blue switches: Loud and responsive, blue switches will click with a satisfying noise whenever pressed, providing both auditory and tactile feedback whenever pressed. These are favored by those who type a lot.
Brown switches: Similar to the blue switches, but quieter. An ideal choice if you type a lot but work in an office space, or don’t want your typing to bother other people in your house.
Red switches: Red are linear switches, meaning they don’t provide tactile feedback when pressed. They are, however, very fast and sensitive, making them an ideal choice for gaming.
There are other advanced switches out there, which come at a premium. And everyone has their personal preference when it comes to switches — some people type on red switches, some people game with blue switches.
But this basic overview gives you all the information you need to get started, especially if you are buying the keyboard online where you can’t test and feel the difference between these types of switches.
What else to consider?
There are a few other important factors to consider when choosing a keyboard. One of them is whether or not the keyboard is hot-swappable.
“Hot-swappable” means the keyboard has removable switches, meaning you can buy other types of switches to modify the keyboard later, or to replace dead switches.
Switches are one of the few things that Never break on a mechanical keyboard. This means that while hot-swappable keyboards are often more costly, they can last you a lifetime if you are willing to replace the occasional dead switch.
Another factor to consider is weight and size. Check the weight of a keyboard before buying; they’re often heavier than they look.
And if you need a mechanical keyboard to be portable, it might be wiser to get a 60% keyboard, rather than a full-sized one.
That’s not to say that a heavy keyboard is a bad thing. Heavier keyboards won’t slide around on the table as you type, offering an extra level of stability that makes typing more comfortable.