Many people don’t give a second thought to the kind of keyboard they use. I was completely satisfied with the $10 keyboard that was provided to me at my workplace. The only reason I bought a mechanical keyboard was the idea that it would make me better at Overwatch. It didn’t. I’m still terrible. However, it completely changed my typing experience for the better. It made me come to a realization that mechanical keyboards are not exclusive to gamers and everyone can benefit from getting one.
Let’s start with the basics. What is a mechanical keyboard? A mechanical keyboard uses a physical switch that registers each keystroke. There are different switches: linear, tactile, and clicky that will change the kind of typing experience you will have. The signature clicky-clack sound comes from the clicky switches.
This is my favorite kind of keyboard because I like the audible feedback of every keystroke. You can imagine how much my coworkers like sitting next to me while I’m furiously typing away, clickety-clack-clickety-clack.
The majority of people own a membrane keyboard. Membrane keyboards work more as a pressure pad. When the key is pressed it completes an electrical circuit that registers the keystroke. Membrane keyboards are cheap, which is why they are the most common type of keyboard.
Let’s delve into why you should consider investing in a mechanical keyboard. The first reason is that it will help you type more accurately. In my case, it helped me to type more accurately and significantly faster as well. I tested this out on www.typingtest.com to gauge if there was a significant difference in my speed. I improved my words per minute (WPM) from 65 on a membrane keyboard to about 80 with the mechanical keyboard. This is probably not the case for everyone. However, precision and accuracy is significantly better on a mechanical keyboard. The lack of feedback on a membrane keyboard makes it much easier to make errors while typing. A big reason comes from how the membrane keyboard works. You have to press the key all the way down for the circuits to register. For someone who is typing fast, it is easy for your fingers to not press the key far enough for the circuits to register your keystroke. This is why feedback on a mechanical keyboard is so beneficial because if you hear the click than you know the keyboard registered the keystroke. For those who want quieter keyboards, you O-Rings, which will soften the feedback or get linear switches. The downside is that linear switches do not have an audible click at the keys actuation point.
Let’s move on to the second reason. You can prevent repetitive strain injury (RSI) seen commonly among people who type frequently. RSI is defined as “injury to the musculoskeletal and nervous system that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compress, or sustained or awkward positions“. As stated previously, membrane keyboards need to be pressed down all the way for the key to be registered. This makes it common for people to press harder than needed and the force of you bottoming adds up over time. Mechanical keyboards do not need to be pressed down all the way. The feedback occurs around halfway of bottoming out. You can use this to your advantage and learn to press only halfway until you hear the physical feedback and then move on to the next key. This prevents you from constantly bottoming out and putting way less pressure on your wrists.
The final reason is that mechanical keyboards will last much longer. Mechanical keyboards are tested for 30 to 70 million key presses, while membrane keyboards are about 5 million. This means you’re getting a keyboard that will last 6 to 14 times longer. This justifies the higher price tag because mechanical keyboards are significantly more expensive. Mechanical keyboards are built to be more durable, which is why they are much heavier. They aren’t very mobile, but you’re most likely keeping it at a desk if you have a peripheral keyboard.
This doesn’t apply to everyone. Many young people, such as college students, only have laptops. You could connect a mechanical keyboard to your laptop’s USB but can you imagine how silly that would look. This is more geared towards people who have desktops, commonly found in the workplace. You really can’t go wrong with a mechanical keyboard and there are so many different options to suit your needs. Don’t be like my friend Grant, who already has RSI at 25 years old.