As last year user
, an expert in keyboards, wanted to submit a post on mechanical keyboards. Thank you Topher!!!
Membrane keyboards are common, cheap, and there really isn't much to say about them outside of what is covered in the features and form factor sections. So mechanical is the focus here. The "gaming" mechanical keyboard aspect is largely marketing outside of the macro functionality. A non-gaming mechanical keyboard and a gaming mechanical keyboard are ultimately not very different in functionality.
This will be broken down into the following sections: features, switches, form factors, keycaps, and brands.
: The ability to play/stop songs, mute, volume control, etc.
: LEDs embedded in the actual switch can lights up the keys for better visibility and possibly very color RGB effects.
: Keys that have dedicated functions not typically found in a standard keyboard. Usually these are programmed using proprietary software that comes with the keyboard. Allows for mimicking keystrokes or even mouse buttons as well as functions not necessarily gaming related such as launching a program.
. Typically via USB dongle or Bluetooth
. Adjustable feet on the bottom of the keyboard to tilt the back up for more typing comfort.
. A rest....for your palm.
Here is an example of a mechanical keyboard that incorporates all these features except it isn't wireless. This is the $200 Corsair K95 Platinum XT. As you can see it has media controls behind the numeric keypad and function keys, it has RGB backlighting, and it has programmable Macro keys on the left side.
Amazon.com: Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Backlit RGB LED, Cherry MX RGB Blue, Black: Computers & Accessories
Contrast the K95 with the K65 which lacks the macro keys and a volume rocker.
Amazon.com: Corsair K65 LUX RGB Compact Mechanical Keyboard - USB Passthrough & Media Controls - Linear & Quiet - Cherry MX Red - RGB LED Backlit: Computers & Accessories
This HyperX Alloy FPS Pro has only red back lighting and no macro or dedicated media controls.
Of course, the feature set for these keyboards are going to dictate the price.
The crux of the mechanical keyboard is the switch. Cherry MX is by far the most well-known switch manufacturer. Other brands exist, but typically most follow the same switch schemes as Cherry so that will be the focus.
The above images are not from Cherry MX, but it serves to demonstrate the differences. Notice in the image above the four most common variants of switches.
Red - Designed to make less noise without a tactile response.
Brown - Designed to make less noise but provide a tactile response.
Blue - Designed to make a clicky noise with each keystroke as well as a tactile response.
Black - The same as red but with a higher actuation force. Less common that the other three.
Actuation force, in layman's terms, is amount of pressure required to activate the keypress. The above switches also have variants with different actuation forces. Some keyboards have lower profile versions of switches that allow the height of the keyboard to be shorter.
Some keyboard manufacturers such as Razer and Logitech have developed their own switches on schemes. For example, Razer uses Green, Yellow, and Orange to describe their switches. Fundamentally, Green is the same as Cherry MX Blue. Orange is the same as Brown. And Yellow is the same as Red. Logitech, HyperX, and Roccat have also created their switches which are all variations of the above.
There are also other switch brands not associated directly with switch manufacturers. Gateron and Kailh are well known alternatives to Cherry MX. All these switches, for the most part, follow the same Cherry MX conventions along with multiple variations of actuation force.
Full Size Keyboard
The K95 pictured above is a full sized keyboard. It has a standard key layout with numeric keypad.
Steel Series Apex 5 Full Size keyboard
Amazon.com: SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – Per-Key RGB Illumination – Aircraft Grade Aluminum Alloy Frame – OLED Smart Display (Hybrid Blue Switch): Computers & Accessories
TKL means "ten key less". It is a normal sized keyboard without the numeric keypad.
Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition TKL keyboard
Amazon.com: Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition TKL Tenkeyless Gaming Keyboard: Fastest Keyboard Switches Ever - Linear Optical Switches - Chroma RGB Lighting - PBT Keycaps - Onboard Memory - Classic Black: Computers & Accessories
These keyboards lack numeric keypads and removes spacing between main keyboard body and the directional and navigation keys.
Amazon.com: Keychron K2 Wireless Bluetooth/USB Wired Gaming Mechanical Keyboard, Compact 84 Keys RGB LED Backlit N-Key Rollover Aluminum Frame for Mac Windows, Gateron Brown Switch, Version 2: Computers & Accessories
Similar to 75% but removes the entire top row and directional keys. Many of these functions are still available with Fn keys that toggle dual functionality of other keys. For example, the number keys along with - and + can be toggled to server as F1-F12.
Durgod Hades 65% keyboard
Amazon.com: Durgod Hades 68 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard - 65% Layout - Cherry Profile - NKRO - USB Type C - Aluminium Chassis (Cherry Silent Red, White PBT): Computers & Accessories
Similar to 65% but removes navigation keys (page up, page down, home, end) and directional keys.
Ducky One Mini RGB 60% Keyboard
Amazon.com: Ducky One Mini RGB LED 60% Double Shot PBT Mechanical Keyboard (Cherry MX Brown): Electronics
About as slimmed down as you can get.
The MiniVan Custom Mechanical Keyboard Kit | Price & Reviews | Drop
The most common mechanical keyboards come with ABS keycaps which means the keycap is simple molded plastic that has been painted. Another option is Double Shot PBT. These are higher quality keycaps that are not painted, but have two separate plastic molds of contrasting colors combined to form a keycap. These keycaps last longer and have a premium feel. The downside to this, however, is it that backlighting may not be as bright or may even look quite a bit off in some areas. This is due to the dual molds that can make it harder for light to shine through. Some manufacturers have been able to mitigate this issue with more attention to the actual character placement on the key.
Here is an excellent video explaining the differences between ABS and Double Shot PBT
Buying a keyboard that comes with Double Shot PBT is not required in some cases. HyperX, Razer, and Corsair offer replacement Double Shot PBT keycaps:
CORSAIR raises the bar on keyboard performance with PBT double-shot, backlit compatible keycaps. Each keycap is created using our special two-shot molding process, ensuring more durability, more stability and legends that won’t fade.
The HyperX Pudding Keycaps allow your keyboard to shine brighter with a translucent design. These keycaps are compatible with all HyperX mechanical keyboards.
The Razer PBT Keycap Upgrade Set works with Razer and standard 104/105 key US or UK layouts, includes a 120 doubleshot PBT keycaps and additional stabilizers.
There are also third party options (such as the Havit keycaps below), but care MUST be taken to ensure the keycaps are designed for the form factor of the keyboard owned.
Does not have many options outside of full size and TKL keyboards, but these are very popular keyboards. Several variations of features. Uses Cherry MX switches exclusively.
CORSAIR gaming keyboards power top esports professionals with features like CHERRY mechanical keyswitches and powerful CORSAIR iCUE software. Shop now.
Only full size and TKL, but variations in features. Has models that have Cherry MX, Kailh, as well as their own HyperX switches.
Check out the mechanical gaming keyboards in the Alloy Family and get equipped with the one best for you. Alloy FPS Pro is a tkl keyboard tuned for FPS gamers, while the Alloy Elite offers brilliant light effects.
As with HyperX and Corsair, no options outside of full and TKL. Uses their own Romer-G switches exclusively.
Browse Gaming Keyboards. Logitech G professional gaming keyboards are engineered to compete. For serious gamers looking for high quality and high performance.
Steel Series has developed their own switches with the capability of adjusting the actuation force programmatically as well as more conventional switches. Only full size and TKL options.
SteelSeries offers a variety of gaming keyboards for the ultimate gaming experience. Mechanical, Cherry MX, membrane, RGB lighting, and more.
Has 60% keyboards as well as full size and TKL.
Razer's gaming keyboards are engineered to give you the best experience. Shop online.
TKL and full size only.
A quality keyboard is vital for both work and play. Whether you’re a mechanical purist, a couch gamer, a freak for extra functions or someone who wants it all – we’ve got you covered.
Yep. Just like you can build your own PC, you can build your own keyboard. Go here for more:
Custom keyboards are easy to make with mechanical switches. You need only a few parts and a little bit of elbow grease to get started.
While the above covers most of the major brands, there are many other options available, most of which are available on Amazon, but are not going to be available in stores to try. When buying on Amazon, make sure you are aware of the return window as mechanical keyboards are expensive and you certainly do not want to be stuck with one your are dissatisfied with.
There is no universal recommendation that can be made when it comes to keyboards. Personal experiences and preferences are going to vary. The best approach in deciding on a type of keyboard is first hand usage. Many retail outlets such as Microcenter and Best Buy have keyboards on display for demo purposes. Sometimes a store demo isn't enough though. It may take extensive usage after the purchase to come to a conclusion so make sure the store has a really good return policy.