Mechanical keyboards have totally taken over the PC gaming market over the last decade, resulting in a huge shift in the types of keyboards that peripheral manufacturers are developing. Mechanical keyboards have been available for decades in various incarnations, but with the development of rubber dome membrane keyboards, they became a much more niche commodity. These are far less expensive to manufacture, but they lack the quality and personalization that mechanical keyboards provide.
Of course, there are several types of mechanical keyboards, but they all have one thing in common: tactility.
Have you ever purchased a keyboard and wished it came in a wider range of colors? Each key hit has a stiffer sensation to it? Perhaps a little steam logo where the escape key should be? Mechanical keyboards are the greatest gaming keyboards for a reason, and it’s not only because they’re speedy, responsive, and comfortable to type on.
Custom keycaps are the most visible example of the many customization possibilities available in the keyboard world. Vendors sell individual caps, whole sets, and even totally bespoke sets in any color or text conceivable. Caps are also available in a variety of materials. The less costly sets are often constructed of ABS, but thicker PBT caps are more expensive but far more durable, preventing the inevitable shine that comes with less expensive materials. The downside of PBT is that most merchants, such as WASD, only provide ABS keycap sets that are fully adjustable. However, there are several PBT cap sets on the market that provide a distinctive style without requiring a fully personalized set and sacrificing PBT’s quality.
Many artisans produce a plethora of handcrafted caps ranging from raised textures that look like mummy wrapping to full-blown characters that you know and love; many artisans produce a plethora of handcrafted caps ranging from raised textures that look like mummy wrapping to full-blown characters that you know and love. Where would we be without our prized artisan keycaps if we didn’t have so many options?
A nice keyboard is, in the end, an investment. As a result, it’s critical to have switches that respond as expected while still offering comfort throughout lengthy gaming sessions. Typing feel is the mechanical keyboard’s strongest suit. In comparison to membrane keyboards, they feature greater tactile key travel and responsiveness. Switch makers have come up with a variety of solutions to lessen coworker/spousal discomfort by developing quieter mechanical switches and faster ones, but the principle remains the same.
While most keyboard switches are soldered to the board and thus cannot be simply switched, most manufacturers provide a variety of switch alternatives for each model. The advantage is, of course, that if you like the appearance of a keyboard, you can probably locate one with the switches you desire. Cherry switches are available in a variety of “flavors,” ranging from noisy and clicky to quiet and silky.
Keyboards with hot-swappable key switches, on the other hand, are available, allowing you to customize your switches at the board, and even per-key, level.
O-rings are also available from a number of providers for the purpose of keeping things quiet, however they aren’t inexpensive. While it may be tempting to save money by shopping on Ebay, bear in mind that many of the less expensive alternatives ship from China and can take months to arrive. Small foam pads can be placed on the base of each switch instead of o-rings to reduce sound just as well. Unless you buy a complete sheet of foam and cut them yourself, these will cost nearly the same. However, I’d like to believe that my time is worth more than a few lattes.
Mechanical keyboards, although being one of the most configurable components of your PC setup, are frequently overlooked. We spend a lot of time with them, and the correct mechanical keyboard will supply your PC with a pleasant, distinctive, and competitive input for years.