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Why are mechanical keyboards so expensive?

Mechanical keyboard on table
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

When you start searching for a mechanical keyboard to replace your mushy membrane one, you might be left wondering why the prices are so high. After all, your average mechanical keyboard can be ten or even twenty times the price of the $15 membrane keyboard that came with your computer.

Why is this? Is it the materials used? Maybe they take more production time to make? Maybe it’s a combination of things that led to the inflated price tag? Then again, with economies of scale, shouldn’t mechanical keyboards from larger companies be cheaper to produce, corresponding to a lower price to the consumer? So many questions, I know.

So, why are mechanical keyboards so costly?

  • Simple answer: Because they have more parts

You might not know that before the nineties, most computer keyboards were mechanical. They fell out of favor, in no small part to the higher cost of production. I mean, think about it: every single key has a self-contained mechanical switch on it, that has to be placed, soldered, and not to mention, attaching a keycap. That’s a lot of extra work, even for robots on an assembly line, compared to membrane keyboards where the membrane that triggers each key can be laid down in one step.

Then there are the materials involved. Most membrane keyboards are 100 percent encased in plastics. Mechanical keyboards often have aluminum sections or are completely clad in aluminum. Then there is the cost of the switches. Even if they’re ten cents each, that shakes out to ten bucks in raw materials for the average keyboard, driving the price up.

This is still at the consumer level, but oh boy does the price increase drastically when you get into enthusiast keyboards. Those are short-run, complicated designs with exotic materials that start at $200 or so, and could cost upwards of $1,000.

So the next time someone asks why your mechanical keyboard cost so much, you’ll know what to say.

Does this answer your question? Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere. His hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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