Learn Why These Are the Best Mechanical Keyboards Out There
Mechanical keyboards are a popular option for gamers because they offer more tactile keystrokes and customization options than ever before. But with so many different brands and switch types out there, it can be confusing to figure out which ones are right for you.
To help you out, we’ve compiled this list of the 10 best mechanical keyboards for gaming out there. Each of these models offers some unique benefits.
Optical switches have become increasingly popular among mechanical keyboard users because they offer many benefits over traditional mechanical switches. Unlike standard switches, optical switches rely on light instead of physical contact for actuation.
They also don’t suffer from oxidation, wear, and tear, or metal debounces noise that can cause performance degradation with traditional mechanical switches. In addition, they also have a longer lifespan and can be easily replaced with a new set of key switches.
These features make optical switches a good choice for gaming, too. They are faster than their counterparts, which can help you eke out an edge in twitchy multiplayer games.
Another great benefit of optical switches is that they can be installed without wires. This makes them a great option for gamers who want to go wireless and still get the same gaming experience they would with a keyboard connected via USB.
Using optical switches can make your keyboard more compatible with other devices, too. For example, you can install USB dongles for mouse or headset connections on your keyboard so that you don’t have to worry about lag or dropped signals when playing.
Finally, optical switches are generally faster than traditional switches and can be up to five milliseconds faster in response time. This is because they don’t suffer from the metal debounce noise that can add a delay between your keyboard and computer.
However, this increase in response time depends largely on the manufacturer and the force and travel distance that a key needs to actuate the switch. Most optical switches have a lifespan of around 50 million keystrokes, which is a lot more than the lifespan of traditional mechanical keys.
Besides being more durable, mechanical switches are better at keystroke accuracy because they use physical effort instead of software or electronic signals to actuate them. This is a major advantage in typing and can lead to a more consistent keystroke experience. It’s important to note that mechanical switches are more expensive than optical switches, but if you’re willing to spend the extra money, they’ll give you a faster and more comfortable keystroke experience.
Cherry MX Switches
Since the first mechanical gaming keyboards hit the market, users have been seeking out the responsiveness of Cherry MX switches. These switches are known for their reliability, a lifespan of 50 million actions, and their ability to deliver a smooth, fast response to key presses.
When you press a key on a Cherry MX keyboard, the switch will slide up and down a stem. When the stem reaches a certain distance it will connect to a gold crosspoint and register a keystroke. This crosspoint is a critical component for registering every keystroke.
The switch's stem can be a variety of different colors, but they all have the same basic components: an upper housing that holds everything in place, a gold crosspoint contact, and a precision coil spring that provides resistance and quickly returns keys to their original positions after a keystroke is made. These features ensure that you'll experience the same performance and durability with a wide variety of keyboards.
While many people prefer a tactile clicky switch, you can also choose from a variety of linear switches if that's more your style. Linears are a great option for gamers who enjoy the faster key presses and smoother response times that these switches offer.
A good example of a purely linear switch is the Cherry MX Red. These have a lighter actuation force of 60 cm and a shorter total travel, which allows for faster response times and easier key presses.
They are also incredibly quiet and are perfect for gaming. The only downside to these switches is that they can be a little uncomfortable for long periods of typing.
For those who like a heavier feel and a more tactile bump, you might want to try the Cherry MX Browns. These switches have a lighter actuation force than the MX Blues and come with a heavier bump on each keystroke.
These switches are more comfortable to type on and can be a good choice for people who tend to make lots of typos. However, they can be a little loud and may not be ideal for typing in a busy workspace or competitive environment.
Topre switches are a type of keyboard switch that is known for being one of the fastest and most responsive switches in the industry. They are often used in high-performance gaming keyboards and can make typing on your computer a lot more enjoyable.
They are a little more expensive than other switches, but they offer an enhanced typing experience that many people enjoy. They are also quieter than other mechanical switches and can be a great option for anyone with carpal tunnel syndrome or wrist mobility problems.
These keyboards use electrostatic capacitive switches, which work by registering key presses without any physical contact between the switch and the circuit board. The mechanism uses a rubber dome that houses the circuit board, but it is not physical contact that is used to register keypresses.
The switch itself is a slider that is held in a housing with a rubber dome over a conical coiled spring that is fixed to a printed circuit board. This makes the switch very discrete and allows for it to be made in different weights.
Most Topre switches are rated for 45-55g, but some versions are rated to be even heavier than this. They are available in a wide range of options and should fit most users.
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These switches are very comfortable to use, but some people might find them a bit difficult to get used to. This is because they feel very different from standard switches and are more akin to membrane keyboards than other types of keys.
Topre switches have a relatively high point of actuation compared to other switch types, which can be helpful for those who like to hit a high word count per minute while typing. They also don’t spring back with as much force, but rather they gently rise and reset into place when you press down on them.
This is a big deal if you are someone with carpal tunnel syndrome or other wrist mobility issues that cause pain when you type. It can help you to keep your fingers straight and prevent injuries.
If you’re looking for a keyboard with a mechanical feel, but don’t want to spend a lot of money on one, an electro-capacitive switch is probably your best option. Capacitive switches don’t rely on physical contact to register keystrokes, so they’re more durable and quieter than their mechanical counterparts.
An electro-capacitive switch (also known as a capacitive membrane) is an electrically controlled switch that operates by measuring changes in capacitor membrane values. These changes are interpreted and registered as an activation of the switch. The membrane can be a flexible printed circuit or a sensing pad on a rigid PCB.
This makes it possible to incorporate a lot of functionality into a single switch. A capacitive switch can have intensity sliders, multiple sensing areas in different shapes and levels of sensitivity, and even a proximity sensor.
It’s also possible to add a range of functions like mute, volume, and lock/unlock features with an electro-capacitive switch. This allows users to adjust the switch’s settings to match their needs, whether it’s for an office environment or a gaming session.
The only downside to an electro-capacitive switch is that it can be a pain to replace the individual rubber domes if they become mushy or different from others in the row. But for those who want a truly unique keyboard switch, an electro-capacitive switch is an excellent choice.
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Another good option is the Topre switch, which is a variant of Cherry-style mechanical switches that uses a slider instead of a stem to press down on a conical spring encased in a rubber dome. A sensor on the keyboard’s PCB detects changing capacitance as the spring compresses and triggers the switch at a set point, resulting in a softer, smoother feel than those produced by Cherry-style switches.
While they aren’t as pristine as Cherry-style switches, Topre, and similar switches offer a softer feel that enthusiasts appreciate and are available in a wide variety of keycap designs. They’re usually more expensive than those produced by manufacturers such as Cherry and Realforce, but the softer feel and many custom features like programmable layouts and multiple actuation points make them worth it for enthusiasts.
Whether you're a gamer or designer, or just want to experience something a little different from your average membrane keyboard, there's a mechanical keyboard out there for you.
When choosing a mechanical keyboard, there are two main types of switches you can choose from -- clicky or tactile. The former are louder, but also more satisfying both physically and audibly.