Every day we use this piece of technology, which stays relatively the same over the years. All these years with a keyboard and I personally never gave any thought of why I am using this particular one. The only thing I seem to remember is that old keyboards use to make a lot of noise back in the day. I used to love that old keyboard, I never stopped using it until it finally stopped working, and never bothered to fix it. So I bought countless new ones, but it never gave the same experience as that old one. I started to read some articles about old keyboards and noticed that a lot has changed over the years in the internal workings of most keyboards. Mainly how the actual key is switched.
How this typically works is that a rubber dome with a metal plate presses down on a membrane to register a keystroke. On most keyboards these keystrokes get registered when the key is completely pressed down. How far the key should be pressed and how much resistance the key has is determined by the thickness and shape of the rubber dome. When you are pressing down a key the force needed to press it down changes with a dome it will require you to put in a lot of force on the start of the key press and at the end it will be less.
Scissor switch keyboards
These are the keyboards that are typically found as the build-in keyboards on laptops. These keyboards still use the membrane with a dome but have a scissor switch. The scissor holds the dome a bit pressed in and keeps the rubber under pressure so the user has to use less force and typically these keyboards have a shorter key press distance. Again here the shape and the thickness of the rubber dome determine how much resistance it has. And still require the key to be completely pressed to the bottom to register the key press.
Mechanical switch keyboards
When I bought a mechanical keyboard a couple of months ago it immediately felt the same as that old keyboard of years ago. A mechanical keyboard does not use a rubber dome but a coil spring for the force needed for the key to put it back in the original position. Each key has its own independent key switch mechanism, which will register that the key is pressed. The registering of when a key is pressed is usually when the key is pressed half way (depending on the type of mechanical switch). This does not require you to press a key completely down in order to type. It will take some practice when you are using a keyboard to not bottom your key. But once you adjust, you will start to type faster and more comfortably.
Find a mechanical keyboard in your local shop
If you are like me and you don’t like the modern keyboards, then think about treating yourself to a new keyboard with some old-style mechanical switches. When I looked at some local stores in the Netherlands, these were relatively easy to get:
- Cooler Master Storm Quickfire Rapid (MX Red/MX Black)
- Corsair Vengeance K95 Performance (MX Red)
- Corsair Vengeance K70 Performance (MX Brown/MX Blue/MX Red)
- Das Keyboard Model S (MX Brown/MX Blue)
- Das Keyboard Model S Professional (MX Brown/MX Blue/MX Red)
- Razer BlackWidow (MX Blue)
- Razer BlackWidow Stealth (MX Brown)
- Logitech G710+ (MX Brown)
- SteelSeries 6Gv2 (MX Black)
It is a matter of taste, but I prefer the silent MX Red or MX Black tactile-less switches. The MX Brown is for people that like to feel when exactly they pressed the key (tactile). The noisy MX Blue switches will also make sound when the key is pressed. I would recommend NOT get these if you work in an office. The noise is louder than you might expect, and could easily drive your colleagues crazy 😉
There are a lot of different types of mechanical switches. These two great guides formed the basis of this post:
- Overclock.net: The Mechanical Keyboard Guide
- Forum.Lowyat.NET: [Guide]Membrane and Mechanical Keyboard
This is the source of all the information about the switches and also the source for all the used images.