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Click this: All about mechanical keyboards and why you need one

Alex Cocilova | Jan. 22, 2014
Keyboards are of two kinds: (1) the cheapo, no-name slabs that are bundled by the millions with PCs, and (2) the ones that are actually worth using--and in most cases, that's a mechanical keyboard. Stalwart friend to gamers and power typists alike, the mechanical keyboard's physical operation and durability make it the gold standard for computer use. It's not the only option out there--good alternatives abound for wireless, ergonomic, and other purposes--but if nothing else, ditching that freebie is something everyone should do. Read on to learn more about why a mechanical keyboard should be in your future.

Cherry MX Blue (Tactile)
Click-lovers and typists will find their fingers drawn to Cherry MX Blue switches. They have a relatively high actuation point at 50 grams and offer some serious tactile feedback, with loud, high-pitched clicks and a steep bump. But gamers may get frustrated with the inability to quickly double-tap. Because the reset point (the point where you are able to hit another key) is above the actuation point, the key must be released more before it can register a repeat keystroke.

Buckling Spring (Tactile)
Buckling spring takes mechanical switches back to simplicity. It works by buckling a spring (hence, the name) which activates the hammer that hits a membrane sheet to create an electrical contact. The tactile feedback and loud, distinct "click-clacking" comes straight from the spring buckling, so it is the most precise indication of when the key actuates. A stroke takes about 65 to 70 grams of force.

This switch is used in the most well-known mechanical keyboard to date, the IBM Model M. Even at 30 years old, many remain in good condition, ready for the next great American novel to be written — if the loud clacking doesn't drive you insane first.

Topre (Tactile)
Topre switches are so new that they're still tough to find. They act as a hybrid between mechanical and membrane: A rubber dome sits over a spring that creates a capacitive circuit when pressed.

The actuation force depends on the model but can vary between 30 and 60 grams. The key travels the full 4 millimeters to actuate, so bottoming out is required. They are some of the quietest and smoothest switches available, even when compared to linear switches.

Even if you think your freebie keyboard is fine, trying a mechanical could change your mind. Most major keyboard companies produce at least one mechanical model, and gamer enthusiasm has helped bring down prices as well as spawn new products. Slide a mechanical beast under your fingertips. You really can feel the difference. 


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