A mechanical keyboard has several key components, including the switches that register your keys. You’ll want to choose a switch that is both heavy enough and light enough to prevent accidental presses. A popular choice is a Cherry MX Blue clicky switch, which makes a satisfying “clack” sound as your key travels down and again on the way back up. Kailh Box Whites are another popular choice that also gives a pleasing feel.
The keyboard layout is an important factor when choosing a mechanical keyboard. It can make a huge difference in how easy it is to type and the overall feel of the keyboard. There are a wide variety of different keyboard layouts available on the market. The most popular ones include QWERTY and Dvorak. You can find them on laptops, desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. In most cases, you can change the layout on your device through its settings.
Another option is to replace the keys on your current keyboard with a new one with a different layout. This is typically referred to as a “keyboard remap,” It can be done easily with a computer or a smartphone. Most mechanical keyboards have a few keyboard layout options, including QWERTY, Dvorak, and Colemak. These keyboard layouts are designed to increase typing speed and reduce finger pain. However, they can be difficult to get used to at first. You’ll want to ensure you choose the right keyboard for your needs and budget.
The QWERTY layout is the most common and widely used worldwide. It features traditional letters, directional arrow keys, and function keys. It also has a number pad and a navigation cluster. Some other layouts may be more comfortable for people with small hands or those who like to keep their fingers on the same keyboard side for long periods. You can also choose a layout that separates the home cluster from the arrow keys.
Alternatively, you can get a keyboard that squeezes the navigation cluster and arrow keys closer together. This is commonly referred to as a 75% keyboard, and it’s a great choice for users who need a compact form factor that still has all the keys they need. Akko’s slightly exploded layout is an excellent choice for those who like to use a keyboard with many keys you can touch with your fingertips. This layout has a slight sliver of open space between the navigation arrow keys and the Numpad to make it easier to locate them by feel.
When looking for a new mechanical keyboard, you need to know what switch type you want. A switch is a small component that sits underneath each keycap and connects to the keyboard PCB. It’s a vital part of a mechanical keyboard and can make or break the feel of one. A few switch types are popular amongst gamers and typists alike. They all have their pros and cons, so it’s important to understand the different styles to choose the right one for you. Linear switches offer a smooth, quiet keypress without varying in resistance through their travel. They don’t have a bump or click, so they’re perfect for gaming as they’ll feel light and responsive.
Tactile switches also offer a smooth keypress, but they have increased resistance at a point in the key’s travel. This “bump” lets you know when you’re about to actuate a key and can be useful for touch-typists who don’t look down at the keyboard while typing. The Alps switch is another option used to mimic the classic buckling spring design found on early IBM-compatible keyboards. It depresses a plastic slider that buckles to put pressure on a spring, and it’s similar in principle to Cherry MX-compatible switches.
While not as common as other switch types, the Alps switch an effective substitute for the more expensive mechanical switches commonly used in high-end keyboards. They’re usually paired with an ultra-thin keycap to reduce the weight of the switch and the amount of bounce it needs to push against when pressing a key, which improves the actuation force and enables faster key registration. If you need help determining which switch style is best, a hot-swappable keyboard is a good way to try different types and see which ones you like the most. You’ll also get a good idea of how the switch feels under your fingers and whether it’s something you’d prefer to keep in the future once your keyboard is upgraded.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in noise-diminishing switches, consider a keyboard with gasket-mounted switches, which sandwich the plate the switch is mounted on between pads made of vibration-absorbing material. This will ensure that you only annoy people with your keys if you’re typing in public or at home.
Keycaps are a critical part of any mechanical keyboard. Their height and shape can impact your typing comfort and speed, so choosing the right keycap profile to fit your needs is essential. There are two main types of keycap materials: ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PBT (polybutylene terephthalate). Both have dedicated fan bases that believe one is better, but both can offer unique benefits for your usage habits. Whether you’re a typist, gamer, productivity pro, or want to customize your keys for aesthetic reasons, choosing the right keycaps is essential. You’ll also want to consider the type of material the keycaps are made from, their thickness, and their printed method.
The most common plastics used to make keycaps are ABS and PBT. Both are cheap to produce, have a slick texture and shiny surface, and can be mass-produced. However, these qualities can be a hindrance when it comes to manufacturing keycaps with crisp legends. The higher melting point and quick shrinkage of ABS make achieving a smooth, straight, and consistent keycap surface difficult.
This is why ABS keycaps tend to bow more often than PBT keycaps. This problem is for long keys like Space Bar, Enter, and Shift. Fortunately, some manufacturers have solved this issue with dye-sublimation methods. Dye-sublimation is more expensive than CMYK printing but produces a more durable legend that resists wearing down with regular use. Another advantage of dye-sublimation is that it can allow for more RGB shine-through than CMYK.
Most keycaps are opaque, except for double-shot and triple-shot keycaps, designed to let a significant amount of RGB shine through. Some keycaps are even translucent, though this is rare and often unnecessary on a mechanical keyboard. If you’re interested in a transparent keycap set, you can find them at dustsilver.com for a reasonable price. Just be sure to read reviews carefully and check the vendor’s return policy before buying!