Things We Love: Mechanical Keyboards

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Have you ever seen or experienced something that left you feeling oddly satisfied? How about when you’re pumping gas and the digits fall perfectly into place for a whole number? Or when you walk into the grocery store and all the products are lined up perfectly and even arranged by color? And when you finish that last slice of pizza so there’s nothing to clean up? OK, that last bit may be a stretch, but I think you get the point. For me, one of those feelings is typing—not on any regular keyboard though, but one with mechanical switches. As someone who uses the computer for more than nine hours a day, a good keyboard is mandatory, so I figured, why not at least make it enjoyable?

Like most people, my early days of typing were spent on a generic $20 Dell keyboard. (No disrespect here Dell, you’ve gotten me through a lot and I’ll always remember the good times we shared.) In 2010 or so, I read a thread about mechanical keyboards and I haven’t looked back since. I had my eyes on a Ducky 1087 with Cherry MX Brown switches and the price was steep, especially for a student. I recall paying around $85, and I even had to have it shipped from Taiwan because stock here was limited. And you know what just blew my mind? Here we are now, in 2018, and I’m still using that same keyboard. It’s certainly not the only one I’ve had since then, but it is the one I use daily.

From there, I’ve owned the original Razer BlackWidow, a Das, and plenty of others that I can’t recall at the moment. I wouldn’t say that I was an avid collector, but the job I was working at the time provided me with review units. Even though I had to return most of them, there were a few that I ended up buying or could keep, that I added to my stash. So, from different switch types to RGB lighting and additional macro keys, I’ve tried almost all that keyboards have to offer. It was when I had a small mountain of unused keyboards lying around that I decided to share them with my friends.

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

As mechanical keyboards started trending, new switch types hit the market: Logitech’s Romer-G, Kalih, Gateron, etc. Admittingly, I’ve been out of the loop for a while, so I can’t offer my opinion on some of them. One type that always eluded me was the older Topres, because of the price range. (Maybe someday.) But with Cherry MX being the most popular ones, I can gladly share my experiences with them and why I’ve grown to love the Cherry MX Brown switch.

Das Keyboard 4 Professional Mechanical Keyboard

When I first started this job here at B&H, I had already been using mechanical keyboards for a while. I still remember sitting down on my first day and typing on a Lenovo membrane keyboard. It wasn’t the worst experience, but I ended up with more typos than usual. It wasn’t unpleasant either, but more of a sense of “meh.” Fast forward a few weeks, or maybe a month, and I half-jokingly submitted a new keyboard request to my manager, who approved it without grilling me. (Thanks!) With a Cooler Master CM Storm Cherry MX Brown keyboard, I could type easily and comfortably again. If I had to give you a metaphor, it would be as if I got a pair of shoes that fit. Would I be OK if the shoes were a bit smaller or larger? Probably. We can adapt, but when you know something fits, it clicks.

Now, why specifically MX Brown? For starters, it has a tactile bump. Around halfway when pressing down the key, it reaches the actuation point, which provides you with feedback that you can feel. With practice and a good sense of touch, you’ll be able to type much quicker than before, because you won’t need to press each key all the way down. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the MX Red and MX Black. These switches are linear, so no bump included. That doesn’t mean they’re not acceptable for typing, though. To each his own, you know? Then comes MX Blue. These switches are like MX Browns in that they have a tactile bump, but in addition, they also have a tactile click. Honestly, these were the most fun I could have with typing on a keyboard, but the novelty wore out quickly. (If you want to read more about keyboards and why it seems like I dislike MX Blues, check out this article.) Aside from all that, mechanical switches are rated to last up to 50-million clicks. I thought that was ridiculous at first, but now that I’m nearing eight years with the same keyboard, I appreciate it a lot. If you want to talk about investing or buying something for life, this is it right here.

Das Keyboard Prime13 Backlit Mechanical Keyboard

Now, as we’re tying it all up, I want to mention that there have been a few times when other employees have stopped by my desk to ask me what keyboard I’m using. So, if you buy one, be ready for some extra attention, especially if you get one with all the extra bells and whistles. (OK… I did switch out my WASD keys with red keycaps, but moving on…) And a few months after, a coworker got one too, but with white LED lighting. (Not jealous, by the way, the lighting is distracting.) Then, what do you know? Even my manager got pulled into the mechanical keyboard craze and now uses one with MX Blues. (Pro Tip: Give your manager a keyboard with MX Blue switches so you know when he’s at his desk or not.) Jokes aside, a mechanical keyboard was a little treat to myself that I ended up loving more than I expected. If you haven’t tried one by now, consider giving it a chance. You might be missing out on something oddly satisfying.

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Ok. Mechanical keyboard = Good. How does someone working from home test one? I can't spend $100 to $200 on a keyboard just to find out it isn't for me. I can't order 5 different ones, test drive them, then return the rest. I've looked at my brothers "Ergonomic" keyboard (the one with that is 'bent' in the middle (see MISEKBBQ)) and wondered how long it would take to get used to it. But, then if I did I would need one at home and one at work... I could go to my local store.. but that won't be real world... That is why we rely on reviews like this one, and the ones I used to see in PC World. NOTE: I'm sitting here typing on my old Apple 105 (think G4).

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