Over the last several years, there has been a major boom in the sales of mechanical keyboards. What used to be a niche market has blossomed into a significant segment of sales, and with that growth came lots of innovation. There are now dozens of keyboard manufacturers and switch types to choose from. Rather than force all you wonderful people to wade through forum threads, press releases and Wikipedia pages, we are here to lay out the basic groundwork of what a mechanical keyboard is, how it’s different from other keyboards on the market, and we will even provide you guys with some insight on various switch types, complete with personal experiences.
What Makes A Mechanical Keyboard Different?
This is the biggest starting point for any mechanical keyboard discussion; just what the heck is a mechanical keyboard. It all has to do with how the keys work. In a normal laptop, or any modern “standard” keyboard, you will find the keyboard is littler more than a massive circuit board with a series of little rubber buttons underneath the keys. These are called rubber dome, or membrane, keyboards. The little rubber nubs are conductive, so that when you push the key down, it touches the circuit board and makes a connection. It’s a very simple mechanism, and it’s very cheap to make. This is why most keyboard makers switched to this kind of construction.
Mechanical keyboards on the other hand make use of individual mechanical assemblies that feature springs and metal actuation switches. This is where the name mechanical comes from. This construction method gives mechanical keyboards some very distinct advantages and disadvantages over their membrane counterparts.