Mechanical keyboards, or keyboards with a single individual mechanical switch below every key, have had an explosion of popularity lately, although in reality the underlying technology is the same that belonged to the first historical keyboards. So what are the advantages of mechanical compared to the classic membrane keyboards to which we are accustomed to?
Minimize typos: depending on switch type, not only is it possible to have a tactile feedback after pressing a key, but you will no longer have to wonder if the pressure was successful or not. Once you are familiar with the feeling of pressure, you will have the certainty of pressing the key and typing errors due to the double key press will be minimized. Moreover, the sound of a mechanical keyboard definitely reinforces the tactile feedback.
More resistant and durable: one of the best advantages of mechanical keyboards is that they are made to be durable and suitable for intensive use. Depending on the model chosen, these keyboards are certified for tens of millions of key presses, far beyond the standards of the membrane. In addition to this, the keys are easily removable, making the mechanical keyboard extremely simple and fast to clean.
A much more pleasant typing experience: while being quite subjective, the majority of people who use a mechanical keyboard daily confirm that the use is much more satisfactory. The sound and the security given by the pressure of the keys to avoid typing errors, allows you to enjoy the maximum pleasure of writing. In addition, according to some studies, the mechanical keyboards can relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel.
Less response time: all keys, after pressing them, have a settling time that generates a series of not registered successive presses. This would lead to the registration of multiple pressures, but in reality is avoided by the keyboard controller that ignores the button for a certain time after the pressure. Depending on the quality of the contact, the delay is between 2 and 50 milliseconds. The Cherry MX mechanical switches need 5 milliseconds to wait for a new record pressure.
Anti-Ghosting: with ghosting we refer to the phenomenon common in keyboards so that, after a certain limit (2 or 3 keys), the keys do not work pressing them simultaneously. This problem is due to the keyboard electrical wiring. The anti-ghosting is the name of what the manufacturers of keyboards used to restrict and in some cases eliminate this issue. In practice, they just calibrate some key combinations to work perfectly, but this does not mean that the keyboard does not come back to have issues if you move away from those combinations. The mechanical keyboards with a PS/2 connector offer unlimited simultaneous pressures (NKRO, n-key roll-over) while the USB ones usually only 6 simultaneous pressures (6KRO, 6 keys roll-over) due to USB protocol limitations (polling).
Most of mechanical keyboards in commerce use Cherry MX switches. Here's a quick rundown of the most popular kind of switches, and some popular keyboard models that include each one of them:
Cherry MX Black Switch: was one of the first mechanical keyboard switches available to the public. They are linear, or non-tactile, switches, as there is no loud click or bump felt when a key is depressed. Many gamers prefer these because of the smooth feel and the fact that the actuation and release points are at the exact same position, making double tapping easier than other switches. When gaming, a tactile bump doesn’t often help, since gamers tend to bottom out on the keys. Due to the lack of a bump, most people don’t prefer the black switches for typing.
Cherry MX Red Switch: is similar to the Cherry MX Blacks in that they are both categorized as linear, non-tactile. This means that their feeling remains constant through each up-down keystroke. Where they differ from the Cherry MX Black switches is in their resistance; they require less force to actuate. The result is a feel that most perceive as “smoother” and “faster,” making them especially popular among gaming enthusiasts.
Cherry MX Blue Switch: is considered to be the best switch for typing because they have a “clicky” tactile bump when the activation point is hit. While many people prefer them for gaming, it is not as easy to double tap as other switches since the release point is above the actuation point.
Cherry MX Green Switch: is a tougher version of the MX Blues, which requires a bit more force to press down and is designed to simulate even older, sturdier mechanical keyboards. These switches just hit the market last year, and feature both a tactile bump and an audible click at the actuation point, and you'll hear them both when you hit it. Unlike the Blue, the release and actuation points are in the same place.
Cherry MX Brown Switch: is about halfway between a typing and a gaming switch. Some people prefer them for gaming since it enables you to double tap faster. Unlike the black switches, the browns have a soft, tactile bump about halfway through the key press. The MX Brown switches have a softer click when depressed and require less force to actuate than the blue switches.
Cherry MX Clear Switch: is a bit harder to find in keyboards, but many users consider them to have more of a tactile feel than the Cherry MX browns without being as clicky as the Cherry MX Blue switches. The clear switches have a higher actuation force than the brown switches and are often compared to the feel of rubber dome keyboards.