If you’re looking to buy a new desktop or keyboard, you might ask: what’s the difference between a mechanical keyboard and a regular keyboard? Is it really worth paying more money for a fancy product that performs the same actions as any other keyboard?
The short answer is yes and yes, but it’s not because they have a customizable backlight or any flashy feature like that. While backlit keyboards are undoubtedly cool, that’s not what makes mechanical keyboards expensive.
Mechanical keyboards demand high prices because they’re strong, durable, easy to maintain and allow for more efficient typing. They’re better tools than default keyboards, from the inside out.
Along with cool backlight features, mechanical keyboards are best known for the distinct sound the keys make. But what causes this sound?
The distinguishing feature of mechanical keyboards is their unique key switches. Each key has a little switch underneath it, simply made of a plastic stem and a spring. When a user presses a key, the stem pushes the spring down, connecting two metal contacts and triggering the keyboard circuit.
This simple, but effective structure gives mechanical keyboards their customary thick clicking sound, compared to the softer sound of a regular desktop keyboard.
Additionally, mechanical key switches require less pressure to trigger the keyboard circuit than default keyboards, which puts less strain on your hands and fingers, allowing you to type faster, more accurately and for a more extended period.
You can also customize your keys on a mechanical keyboard and move them around at your pleasure, which you cannot do on a default keyboard.
You can easily remove any keycap on a mechanical keyboard for maintenance, thanks to key switches. You need a small tool called a keycap puller, but they’re cheap and easy to find.
Just insert the puller into the keycap of your choice and listen for a clicking sound. The sound signifies that the puller has latched onto the keycap underneath. Once the puller has latched on, pull gently and the keycap should pop right off.
Your keyboard might need some fine-tuning for several reasons:
- Cleaning: every keyboard experiences the build-up of dust and grime between the keys. Easy removal allows for easy cleaning.
- Fixing your switches: sometimes, the key switches can get sticky or moved slightly out of place.
- Replacing your keycaps: whether you need just one new keycap or want an entire set, you can easily replace your caps on a mechanical keyboard.
- Customizing your keyboard: you might need to change your keyboard layout because of your language, line of work or personal preference.
With easy DIY maintenance, mechanical keyboards last much longer than regular keyboards. However, that does not necessarily mean mechanical keyboards are easier to break. In fact, they’re generally more durable and higher in quality.
The primary catalyst that causes traditional keycaps to break is overuse, but the word “overuse” has a different meaning with mechanical keyboards. Mechanical keys use metal-on-metal contact points while you type, allowing them to remain functional for much longer before needing to be replaced.
Meanwhile, most traditional desktops come with rubber-dome keyboards. When you press on these keyboards, the rubber or silicone key presses directly down on a polyurethane switch, triggering the circuit board underneath.
Polyurethane is a cheap plastic material that acts as a cushion between the keys and the circuit board. As you might expect, it doesn’t hold up nearly as well as the multiple moving parts of a mechanical keyboard. The stem, spring and metal contacts are made to endure the repetitive typing process.
Go Mechanical for Your Next Keyboard
Apple, Microsoft and other computer companies make their keyboards so cheaply because every device comes with one. On the other hand, mechanical keyboards stand alone as their own products; thus they’re made with the best materials.
Since mechanical keyboards are more durable, easier to maintain and even sound better, they cost more than default keyboards. The dollar speaks loudest for most people, but before you get a brand new laptop just because the keyboard broke, consider investing in a mechanical one.
You can easily sync the keyboard with any desktop device you currently use, and it will last for years, saving you money in the long run.
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