What is a mechanical keyboard?
What exactly is a mechanical keyboard? Essentially, for each individual key they use a ‘switch’ (a switch), often in combination with a coil spring, which pushes back when you hit the key. This gives you a pleasant feeling of resistance and feedback when typing. With a good mechanical keyboard, you feel that feedback in your fingers. It is often reminiscent of typing with an old typewriter. This is in contrast to most cheap keyboards today, which are “membrane”. The keys of membrane keyboards give no feedback in both sound and feel because they have rubber or silicone underneath.
That is the first important reason to choose a mechanical keyboard: typing or gaming with a mechanical keyboard feels and sounds better . You feel the keys react when you press them. Because of that feeling of feedback, the ‘click’, you intuitively feel that you have activated the key while gaming – even during hectic moments. And in terms of typing, you can type faster and more accurately thanks to the extra feedback.
Mechanical keyboards record your actions better
Mechanical keyboards are also the better choice for gaming due to their higher ‘n-key rollover’. That expresses how many keys you can press on your keyboard at the same time and they still register correctly. For example, if your keyboard has a ‘2-key rollover’, only two keys can be pressed and registered at a time. A low ‘n-key rollover’ is mainly found on membrane keyboards. Mechanical keyboards typically go much higher. This gives you more options in games. For example, if you’re playing Rainbow Six Siege, it’s not inconceivable that you’ll want to move forward with W, lean with Q, crouch with CTRL, and tag something on your screen. This works perfectly with mechanical keyboards; the only limit is how dexterous your fingers are.
Mechanical keyboards give you more choice
You will undoubtedly start to feel dizzy when you are confronted with the many types of switches that exist for mechanical keyboards. The choice for a certain type of switches is crucial, however, because it determines the feel and sound of your keyboard. ‘Linear’ switches are often relatively quiet and have a kind of ‘travel time’ where you can press the keys gradually and that is registered at a certain moment. ‘Tactile’ switches have a ‘bump’ at some point when pressed. You then feel, as it were, when your key press is registered. This is often accompanied by a soft click. Finally, there are ‘clicky’ switches. They not only have a ‘bump’ but also a loud click with every keystroke.
Ultimately, there is no ‘right’ or ‘better’ choice: you should mainly choose switches that you feel comfortable with. † Clicky and tactile switches are pleasant because it is always clear when you have pressed a key. Especially for more chaotic games it is useful to feel and hear that you have pressed the correct key. If you have roommates, you have to take into account that these types of switches are loud. Even during gaming sessions, your headset or micro can sometimes pick up the loud clicking. A linear switch is a bit more subtle in feel, but that’s exactly why some gamers prefer it. Here you also do not have a loud click with every key pressed. The nice thing about mechanical keyboards is that you have that choice in your own hands.
Which switches belong to you?
But there are still important elements to keep in mind. Also take into account the actuation force and the ‘travel’ of the switches on a keyboard. The actuation force indicates how hard you have to press to register a key. The standard is around 45 grams, but there are also lighter switches of around 35 grams. Here you hardly have to press to get an input. The travel then indicates how many millimeters you have to press the key before it registers. The higher the travel, the deeper you have to press. The standard here is 4mm. For laptops this is usually slightly less, because there is simply less space.
For gaming it is a good idea to buy a keyboard with a higher travel but a relatively low actuation force. The higher travel reduces the chance that you accidentally press a wrong key. If your finger still strokes another button, your character won’t suddenly start bending over or switching weapons. Due to the low actuation force, it is still possible to quickly get the response of the key you had in mind, and you can quickly press that same key several times in a row. Handy for quick bunny hops for example!
The market leader in switches is Cherry, with a whole range of unique switches. For example, the Cherry MX Blue switches are sensitive and give a clicking, rattling sound when you type. The Cherry MX Red switches have a bit more nuance when pressed and are also less loud and ‘clicky’. Hardware manufacturers specializing in gaming are now also starting to make their own switches. MSI is a good example of this.
Mechanical keyboards are more often made with gaming in mind
Finally, the popularity of mechanical keyboards in gaming has the nice advantage that mechanical keyboards have unique features that are perfect for gaming . For example, many models now have dedicated ‘media controls’, such as a pause button, mute button, and a volume wheel. Many mechanical keyboards also have a nice suite of RGB lighting options. You can sometimes even have it synchronized with your game via accompanying software. Hardware manufacturers all have their own software that allows you to customize aspects of your keyboard. The MSI Vigor GK71 Sonic is particularly innovative because you can even control the RGB lighting with your voice!