Let’s tackle the first and most obvious question here: “What’s the deal with these mechanical keyboards, and why in the heck would you pay $100+ for one?!” This simple question is unsurprisingly difficult to answer in many ways. Here's one reason and a thousand words worth:
Hate the way this one looks? I guarantee you I can find one you'll adore somewhere!
Mechanical keyboards are more than just a fancy tech accessory or noisy-disco-show to display on your desk. Mechanical keyboards are a full blown hobby with a huge cult following, years of history containing community DIY projects and group buys, dedicated forums (and silly forum drama), niche’s within the niche (like artisan keycaps), and more recently big brand names investing, collaborating, and directly interacting with the enthusiast community.
Personally, I’ve been heavily involved in the mechanical keyboard community for many years. I run KeyChatter.com - a website dedicated entirely to mechanical keyboards, have created and sold more than a few custom products and keysets through Massdrop and community vendors, have amassed a collection of 200+ keyboards (see a few here https://deskthority....ion-t13590.html), hosted big community meetups, and have done work on countless collaborations, most recently the C70 custom keyboard by GMK. This hobby has definitely been a long, strange journey for me so far, but one that I hope continues for many years to come!
What Makes A Mechanical Keyboard Different
Before getting into anything too technical, let me clarify that for the sake of this article I will only be going over the two most common types of keyboards used today. Mechanical Switch, and Membrane keyboards, which are often referred to as "rubber domes."
Everyone has their own opinion about why mechanical keyboards are better than common membrane keyboards. To me there is only one definitive answer. On a mechanical keyboard the key registers (actuates) midway into the keypress, not at the very bottom like on a membrane keyboard. This small detail makes typing on a mechanical keyboard far more accurate and comfortable, especially when typing for long durations. People can argue over what feels better all day long, but
I've never heard a good argument for membrane keyboards being better in terms of how they actuate.
At first, this may seem like a small difference, but in reality it makes all the difference in the world. With a rubber dome you naturally type harder to ensure the keystroke registers, often hitting a key much harder than is required when typing at speed. On a mechanical keyboard it is possible to type lighter and faster due to the higher actuation point.
The way mechanical keyboards feel compared to membrane keyboards is still the obvious and glaring difference between membrane and mechanical keyboards. You can get tactile switches, clicky tactile switches, linear switches, and even clicky linear switches now! The springs used in most mechanical switches make them feel very crisp compared to the cheap, mushy rubber used in many membrane keyboards. Modifications can provide near limitless options in regards to how a mechanical keyboard feels.....