Ok, so you’ve decided that you want to look into what a “mechanical keyboard” exactly is. Have you noticed that your non-mechanical keyboard doesn’t feel very satisfying when you type on it? That’s because most keyboards used today use rubber dome/membrane switch mechanisms.
Most OEM keyboards and aftermarket keyboards used these membrane switches because they’re much cheaper and easier to manufacture. 90% of keyboards in the market today use these unsatisfying switches that are bad for long sessions in front of the computer and not fun to type on!
A mechanical keyboard is a keyboard that utilizing physical switches underneath the keycaps. In simple terms, this means when someone pushes down on a key cap, the physical, mechanical switch underneath the key cap is registering a click that is signaled to the PC. This is better than a cheaper membrane keyboard because the click is registered more precisely, the tactile feel of a mechanical keyboard is ergonomically better on the fingers and wrist, AND they are much more durable than traditional membrane keyboard.
In order to fully understand the difference between the two, you really need to type on a mechanical keyboard to feel the audible and tactical feedback it provides.
The 6 Best Mechanical Keyboards
1. Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth
First off the changes. This year’s model no longer uses Cherry MX key switches. Razer has decided to move with their own in-house mechanical key switches, simply called Razer Mechanical Switches. This particular model comes in Razer Green and Razer Orange key switches. The Razer Green switches is Razer’s version of the very familiar Cherry MX Blues while the Razer Orange mimic the Cherry MX Browns. We’ve tried typing on both of these new switches and could not find a difference between these and the Cherry MX key switches. Razer also claims that their switches last longer than Cherry MX. We’ll report on this as we keep using our keyboard.
In terms of performance, this keyboard offers all of the bells and whistles you could possibly need on a gaming keyboard. Backlit key caps, a full QWERTY keyboard, macro keys to the left of the keyboard, and USB 2.0. The size is also unchanged from last year, weighing in at 3.3 pounds. Typing on it felt smooth and the key spacing is good. The Razer Orange switches are better if you’re looking for quieter audible feedback when you type. Also, gaming on this keyboard felt very responsive, although it wasn’t clear if it was because of this particular keyboard.
2. CM Storm QuickFire Rapid-i Fully Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
First off, who is CM Storm? Are they a sub brand of Cooler Master? A cheap, knock-off brand? It’s the former, a subsidiary brand of Cooler Master that was founded in 2008 with a focus on gaming products and e-sports. You may have seen the CM Storm pop up in e-sports tournaments and such. Anyway, CM Storm created a more portable version of their famed Quickfire Pro Mechanical Keyboard. This version is ideal for people who carry their keyboards around or have less space in their work/gaming area.
For the available switches, you can choose from Cherry MX Blues, Browns, and Reds. The backlight on the keys also corresponds to their respective switch depending on the model. So Blue’s will light up Blue, Browns will light up white, and Reds will light up red. Pretty neat.
As far as features go, because it’s such a compact keyboard, CM Storm left off the macro and media keys on this particular model. Other than that, the backlight on the keys can be controlled by the F keys. This keyboard is really bare bones in terms of features overall.
3. Corsair Vengeance K70 RGB LED Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Corsair is a name long known within the gaming industry. Power supplies, memory, you name it, Corsair has it. This particular model, the Corsair Vengeance K70, is the successor to Corsair’s previous highly touted model, the Vengeance K60. Corsair basically took all of the shortcomings from the K60 and tried their best to fix them with this year’s model. For the most part, design remains the same, with the familiar built-in wrist pad, and button placement.
The most notable changes to this model are the wrist-pad is now detachable (for users who need to carry the keyboard to go or just don’t like the wrist pad like me) and the adjustable poll rate on the keyboard via settings. Corsair built this particular model in Cherry MX Blue, Red, and Brown variations. Also included is key by key illumination, and 10 extra colored keys to be replaced on their keyboard for FPS gamers. It also comes with media buttons although it skimps out on the macro keys and is also lacking SuperSpeed USB.
4. Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard
The DAS name has definitely been a household name in the mechanical keyboard community for a while. The company behind DAS, Metadot, has really secured it’s footing in the high-end part of the mechanical keyboard market. The Das Keyboard 4 model, their latest iteration of their best product, falls into that high-end high quality keyboard spectrum, that they are so well known for.
For this version, a lot of the plastic that used to be present in previous models has been replaced with aluminum and metal. As a result it is a tad bid heavier, but not too noticeable. Other than that, most of the keyboard is largely unchanged from the previous model. Additional features in this model include USB 3.0 ports on the back right and fully dedicated media control buttons. Both MX Cherry Blues and Browns are available for this model.
Performance as usual, is on point for all computing tasks. We tested this particular model on Battlefield 4 and Starcraft 2, and really felt the smoothness and accuracy that comes with a good mechanical keyboard. As usual, the biggest point of debate here is the price. DAS has been known to charge a premium to customers looking for that high-end feel on their keyboard. For gamers and buyers who can afford to pay the premium DAS keyboard charges, we think it’s an absolute great buy.
5. SteelSeries 6Gv2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
SteelSeries. Long known for their beginnings within the FPS and Counter-strike community and their rise to global domination in recent years for gaming gear. Best known for their sweet mouse pads and gaming mice, SteelSeries really has gone all-in on mechanical keyboards. This model, the 6Gv2, is really one of the most budget friendly mechanical keyboards on the market today. Known to be virtually indestructible and very bare bones, it makes for a perfect daily beater for a gamer that’s clocking in the hours on FPS games.
First off, the switches. The 6Gv2 comes in Cherry MX Black switches. Known for their great performance in FPS games, it only makes sense Steelseries decided to go with the Blacks in this case. Also, the keyboard just feels really solid and durable when you type on it. It really is a durable, rugged keyboard that you can type on for a long time. (Steelseries says 50 million key strokes).
In terms of performance, this is the keyboard for gamers looking for a budget friendly and high performance keyboard. Really good precise key strokes and it’s not too big and bulky on your desk or in your bag. Also is built-in with anti-ghosting technology, so there’s minimal delay between key presses when you’re gaming. We think this keyboard is best suited for FPS games as the Cherry MX Blacks require a good amount of force before the key switch registers. Overall a really solid purchase if you’re looking to save some money and are looking for a keyboard that’s going to last you a very long time.
6. KUL ES-87 Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboard
KUL keyboards, also known as Keyed Up Labs, is a relatively new player in the growing mechanical keyboard market. Coming in both Cherry MX Clears, Browns, and Reds, the keyboard itself screams high quality. After some research, we did find that Keyed Up Labs does source their keyboard components from a wide variety of high end manufacturers and they ensure that only the highest levels of quality control during the manufacturing process for these mechanical keyboards.
Visually, this keyboard is as boring as it can get. Aesthetically it looks like a plain black and white keyboard without any fancy LED switches or crazy features guys like Razer and Roccat put out in their mechanical keyboards. The KUL mechanical keyboard definitely appeals to the consumers who want a simple, no frills keyboard. That’s not to say that the quality isn’t super high. Typing on this thing really feels solid, with absolutely no flex and there are definitely no cheap parts on this keyboard. The keys are laser etched too, so expect them to last a very long time. Included in the box is a PS/2 adapter, USB cable, a keycap replacement tool, extra key caps, and a keyboard cover.
The best feature of this keyboard that we noticed was the driverless plug-and-play functionality that also allows for use on multiple operating systems and quick customization. Also, typing on this (we tried the Cherry MX Clears) feels awesome, and it’s really the first mechanical keyboard on the market to offer Cherry MX Clears as a switch type. It’s hard to describe the feeling of typing on Cherry MX Clear switches, but the closest thing to it would be Cherry MX Browns. You really have to try typing on these to get a feel for how they perform.
Overall, this keyboard is definitely a new high-end player in the market, that’s going to give a lot of other mechanical keyboard companies a run for their money. With the super simplistic design, it’s definitely meant for consumers who want to customize their keyboard with custom switches and design. Definitely a very solid option in the market.
How Exactly is a Mechanical Keyboard Better?
1. Mechanical Keyboards are much more durable.
Mechanical switches are certified to be longer lasting than membrane switches. As an example, an average mechanical keyboard Cherry MX switch lasts anywhere from 45 – 50 million key presses before it needs to be replaced (they might last even longer than that), whereas a membrane rubber dome switch will only last to about 5 – 10 million key presses. The difference is astounding, not to mention that mechanical keyboards are generally constructed of higher quality plastics and metals than traditional cheap keyboards.
2. They provide much more precise typing.
Because mechanical keyboards utilize physical switches, they offer longer travel distances, and it’s much easier to tell if you’ve activated a key or not. You won’t be mistyping and hitting numerous keys at once with a mechanical keyboard. The tactile and audible feedback mechanical keyboards provide make them much easier to type on and improve your efficiency, weather it be for gaming or work. They will also minimize the number of typos you’ll also get.
3. True n-key rollover via PS/2 connection.
This might not apply as much to non-gamers, but having true n-key rollover functionality is critical for hardcore gamers. N-key rollover functionality means that you can press as many keys as you want without having keys stop responding. Traditional rubber dome keyboards have LIMITED key rollover, which means you can press only two or three keys at once.
4. Highly customizable.
The aftermarket community is huge for mechanical keyboards, and customization of key caps, colors, and lighting are only some of the things you can customize on a mechanical keyboard. Not only that, but replacing defective keys or adding different language labels to your keyboard is super simple.
1. They can get a little noisy depending on the Cherry MX switch type.
Certain Cherry MX switch types are less noisier than others but they all still provide a clicky, audible sound with every key click. This could be a problem if you have roommates or live with family. The only way to determine if it’s too loud is to try typing on a mechanical keyboard yourself!
2. They’re heavier than traditional keyboards.
When traveling to lan parties or carrying a your keyboard to go, mechanical keyboards could get a little heavy. They are certainly heavier than traditional membrane keyboards due to the physical switches and the build materials. Still, they’re no less portable in terms of size than any regular keyboard and you can opt for a ten key-less version if size matters. (Without the num pad on the right).
3. More expensive than traditional keyboards.
Everything good in life comes at a price (or does it?), and as such, mechanical keyboards do retail higher than non mechanical keyboards. The average price for a decent mechanical keyboard is around $100. Not bad considering they last much longer, are more precise, and look way cooler. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s worth purchasing a mechanical keyboard. The plus side is that there are a few budget mechanical keyboard options in the market and there’s always deals popping up.
Mechanical Keyboard Buying Guide
What Should I Look For When Purchasing a Mechanical Keyboard?
There’s a few things to look out for when purchasing your own mechanical keyboard. We give the breakdown on the factors that you should weigh in on when deciding which one to buy.
1. Build Quality
Generally, sticking to the well known brands will generally get you good build quality for your keyboard. It’s good to look at what types of materials are used, thickness of the cable, and user reviews. Ideally, seeing them in person is the best way because pictures generally don’t show the actual build quality. Generally, weight, price, and materials should be carefully examined when determining which keyboards are higher quality.
2. Cherry MX Switch Type
This is one of the more important decisions you must make when deciding on which keyboard to purchase. All of the different Cherry MX key switches have a unique feel and sound to them. (Our Cherry MX Guide gives a detailed overview of each of the different key switches) For example, a an fps gamer might want to use Cherry MX Black switches because they offer more forceful tactile feedback, or if someone prefers less audible noise, they may choose to use Cherry MX Brown switches for their reduced noise.
3. Additional Features
It’s important to understand the different features available on the mechanical keyboards when deciding to purchase. Some of these features are USB ports, higher polling rates, macro keys, media keys, and back-lit key caps. It’s up to you how important these features are, but there are many solid options out there for both basic bare-bone mechanical keyboards, and high end gaming mechanical keyboards with all the bells and whistles.
This is entirely up to you, but it’s good to know there are a wide variety of different keyboards for different purposes. If you like to customize your keyboards, having a very basic black mechanical keyboard without the extra features is your best bet. On the other side, if you’re the type to just use it straight out of the box, there are definitely keyboards out there that are plug and play and will work without any extra modifications.
Always see what the warranty is on the keyboard, especially when buying from relatively unknown brands. There are always sneaky people out there replicating the high end Japanese and Asian keyboard companies out there, so it’s good to know what kind of warranty is supplied. Just be smart about who you shop from!
Cherry MX Switch FAQ
First off, what are Cherry MX switches? They are one of the most popular types of mechanical keyboard switches in the market today. Almost all mechanical keyboards in the market today use the Cherry MX switch types. Let’s break down all the different key switch types in further detail!
1. Cherry MX Black Switch
- Heavy actuation force which allows for more precise typing.
- Longer durability than tactile key switches.
- Good for double tapping due to same actuation and release point mechanism.
- Requires more force (heavier) to register key click.
Best for: FPS gamers.
Not so good for: Extended periods of typing.
Tactile?: Not Tactile.
2. Cherry MX Blue Switch
- Clear audible and tactile feedback, which allows for better key switch actuation confirmation.
- Not good for double tapping due to mechanism.
- Less durability than non-tactile switches such as the Cherry MX Blacks.
Best for: RTS gamers.
Not so good for: FPS games or games that require double tapping.
3. Cherry MX Red Switch
- Similar to the Cherry MX Black, heavy actuation force required to activate key switch.
- Higher durability than tactile switches.
- Good for double tapping due to same actuation and release point mechanism.
- Sometimes triggers accidental key switches.
Best for: Activity that involves light typing/key pressing.
Not so good for: FPS games, or activities that require maximum precision.
Tactile?: Not Tactile.
4. Cherry MX Brown Switch
- Light actuation force, which makes for easier long-term typing.
- Noticeable audible and tactile feedback when the switches are actuated.
- Quieter typing than other switch types (such as the Cherry MX Blue).
- Shorter lifespan than linear switches.
Best for: RTS Gamers and quiet typing.
Not so good for: FPS Gamers.
5. Cherry MX Clear Switch
- Easy double tapping with actuation and release points being the same.
- Large tactile bump, good for determining actuation point for competitive gaming.
- Less durability than linear switches.
- Requires heavier actuation force (due to very stiff springs) which is not good for long typing sessions.
Best for: Competitive gamers.
Not so good for: Long typing sessions.