Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified

I'm sure you've all heard the old saying, "You get what you pay for" many times throughout your lives. Whether talking about plumbing or electronics, that saying has seemingly rung true for ages. But for whatever reason, it isn't always taken to heart, especially by PC users. Let me give you an example.

Years ago, in what seems like another lifetime, I used to manage an electronics store for a large national chain (that's surprisingly still around!). On more than one occasion, while selling a $1500 to $2000 computer system to a customer, he or she would choose not to buy a quality $49 surge protector designed specifically for PC use, despite my strong recommendation, and would instead opt for a cheap $5 model. I would try to explain to these customers, in plain English, that the more expensive option had a much quicker response time and could absorb a larger surge--which is important for sensitive electronic devices--but more often than not, they left with the cheaper option. I just didn't get it. We were talking about a minimal additional investment, that could have meant the difference between the life and death of the computer. But what did I know.

And that's not the only example I could provide regarding PC users that have forgotten that old saying. As many of you may know, I have an affinity for keyboards. I have a collection of them that has been growing for years. Rubber dome, scissor switch, buckling spring, tactile, non-tactile, clicky--you name the type of keyboard and I probably have one, or had one at some point. As someone who makes a living behind a keyboard, I have developed strong opinions on their quality and what I feel are the best options. And of course, regarding keyboards, I have learned that you most certainly get what you pay for.

The Cream Of The Crop
In my opinion, the best keyboards available have mechanical key switches. They are known as mechanical keyboards, or mechanical key switch keyboards. What makes them so desirable is that mechanical keyboards tend to be constructed of higher quality materials, they last longer and are more reliable, and most importantly, once properly acclimated to one, a mechanical key switch keyboard will make you a better typist--you may even be able to get work done faster, with less fatigue.

That may sound like a stretch, but it is absolutely true. You see, the vast majority of keyboards included with white box systems or sold at office supply stores are rubber dome or membrane keyboards. They are inexpensive, mass produced, relatively low quality devices that are inconsistent and degrade the user experience. The problem is most users don't know this, or simply don't care. The appeal of cheap rubber dome or membrane keyboards is that they're usually available in a variety of styles, are included "free" with a new system, and they may sport additional features like media controls or wireless connectivity. But these cheap keyboards typically don't provide users with any tactile feedback, the keys feel mushy and may not all actuate at the same point, and the entire keyboard assemblies themselves tend to flex and move around when typed on. Not fun.

Depending on the type of switch used in a mechanical keyboard, however, it will offer distinct tactile feedback to the user--which is to say there is a pronounced "bump" transmitted to the user's finger tip when a key is pressed. Once acclimated to the tactile feedback, users of mechanical keyboards have a second feedback mechanism, other than a letter appearing on screen, by which they'll know a key has been pressed. Many mechanical keyboards also have clicky key switches, which provide a third, audible feedback mechanism--you feel the tactility of the switch, hear it click, and see the letter appear on screen. The switches are built to stricter tolerances than rubber domes as well, so key presses are consistent across all of the keys. And mechanical keyboards, more often than not, are also heavier and more rigid than rubber dome boards. All of these things add up and culminate in what is simply a better product in my opinion.

      

What's Under The Hood
Mechanical keyboards are available in a vareity of syles. There may not be quite as diverse an array of options on the market as cheaper rubber domes, but there is enough variety out there that most PC users' needs can be met. Of course, they are available in different colors, with different key layouts, and with either USB or PS/2 connections. There are also spacesaver "ten-keyless" designs out there that do away with the numpad and products designed for gamers with n-key rollover support. Another major differentiating factor between mechanical keyboards is also the type of key switch used to build them.

There are literally dozens of different key switch types currently on the market and each one has a different feel. Here in the U.S., you're likely to come across scissor switches, Cherry MX switches, buckling springs, or ALPS copies / ALPS-type switches when shopping for a mechanical keyboard. Scissor switches are a step up from rubber domes, but are not the most desirable option, so I'll mostly ignore them here. The most common types of switch used in keyboards currently in production are Cherry MX Black, Blue, or Brown switches, buckling springs, and simplified ALPS copies with White (or White-ish) or Black stems. I should note that the reason I say ALPS copies is that the original ALPS switches are no longer in production, but simplified versions based on the original design are. And those copies are what are used in current keyboards.

The differences between the various switches you're likely to come across are subtle, but definitely perceptible. Buckling springs are the type of switch used in the original "killer" keyboard, which still has a loyal following today, the IBM Model M. Buckling springs are still used in many of Unicomp's keyboards, like the Customizer 104, which is one of my all time favorites. Buckling spring switches have a coil spring supporting each keycap that buckles or collapses, at a certain point when pressed, which provides auditory and tactile feedback to the user. The keys are usually fairly firm, but the typing experience is excellent.

Cherry MX switches all have a similar physical design, but the different colored stems signify a different switch configuration. For example, the Cherry MX Black is a non-tactile, non-clicky switch--which is to say it is linear and does not transmit a bump to the user's fingertip when pressed and it does not provide an audible click. The Cherry MX Blue, however, is both tactile and clicky. And the Cherry MX Brown is tactile, but not clicky. And all three require different amounts of force to actuate, the heaviest being the Black model, followed by the Blue, and then the Brown.

ALPS type switches are also available in different configurations. White ALPS type switches, like the Cherry MX Blues, are both tactile and clicky, whereas the Black type are not. Black ALPS copies are tactile, but non-clicky.


Cherry G80-3000LSCRC-2

I Gotta Get Me One Of These!
If you've made it this far, I assume you've got at least some interest in mechanical key switch keyboards and are wondering what products are currently available on the market. Well, there are a multitide of options out there; I couldn't possibly list them all here. I will, however, run through some of the easier to obtain offerings which I consider to be high quality products, worthy of consideration.

If a tactile, but non-clicky mechanical keyboard appeals to you, the ABS M1 (simplified ALPS copies, Black) is a good option. Non-tactile, non-clicky offerings include the Steelseries 7G and the Gigabyte GK-K8000 (both use Cherry MX Black switches), they are both available at many e-tailers.  Keyboards that use Cherry MX Brown switches, like the FILCO Majestouch Tenkeyless FKBN87M/EB or FKBN104M/EB, are also excellent non-clicky, but tactile options.

If a tactile, clicky keyboard would better suit your needs though, the Cherry G80-3000LSCRC-2, Scorpius M10, and Das Keyboard Professional or Ultimate, which all use Cherry MX Blue switches, are good choices. The Unicomp Customizer 104, which uses buckling spring switches, is also a fantastic tactile, clicky keyboard as is the Matias Tactile Pro 2.0 and the Solidtek ASK-6600U which uses simplified White ALPS copies. And users looking for vintage throw back offerings should consider an original IBM Model M (buckling spring, clicky) or Dell AT101W (ALPS Black, tactile, non-clicky).

I should note, some mechanical key switch keyboards can be a bit difficult to obtain. FILCO's offerings, for example, aren't sold in the U.S., so a Japanese buying service or eBay are good places to look. And some of Cherry's own keyboards are typically available at more specialized e-tailers, that cater to POS or business consumers. Should you decide to give a mechanical key switch keyboard a try, it is most definitely worth the investment and extra effort though. A quality keyboard can enhance your computing experience, increase your productivity, and last through multiple system upgrades.

I hope that I have provided you with enough background to make an informed buying decision. If not, please, feel free to comment and ask questions or poke around the geekhack.org community, where I lurk from time to time.

Update: I decided to shoot some video and show off a few of the keyboards currently in my collection, to give you all an idea not only as to what they look like, but how they sound as well.  As you'll see and hear, they're all somewhat different.  My current favorites are the Filco Majestouch FKBN104M/EB,  the Cherry G80-3000LSCRC-2 (not in the video) and the Scorpius M10.  The Cherry G80 and M10 use the same switches and sound almost identical, however.  Please forgive the awkward hand position while I'm typing in the video--I had a tripod and camera in the way and was moving the microphone into position as necessary.  Enjoy.

 


Posted Mon, Mar 9 2009 10:46 AM by Marco C

Comments

bob_on_the_cob wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Mar 9 2009 2:00 AM

Nice write up Marco!

InfinityzeN wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Mar 9 2009 10:19 AM

Good write up Marco.  I'm not even interested in getting Mechanical and I enjoyed it.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Mar 9 2009 10:33 AM

Thanks guys.  InfinityzeN, can I ask why you're not interested in a mechanical keyboard?  is it the price, appearance, etc.?

Dave_HH wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Mar 9 2009 11:46 AM

Probably because the majority of keyboards on the market are of the cheap membrane type.  I may actually give one of these a shot though.

codeguruakshay wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Mar 9 2009 1:57 PM

out here in india we have this local mechanical keyboard by the name of TVS Gold .... and its not that expensive either...abt 1000-1500 bucks (INR) which is approx. $20-30...even though it is still abt 3 times the price of a regular membrane keyboard... i really dunno the exact technology behind it but its the clicky and tactile one. i came across a fairly old model of this in a school's computer lab where i went for the competition...and i have been in love with it since then....i screwed up mine when i spilled a glass of juice over it...and havent used it since i switched to my laptop....but it really boosted my typing speed...and i especially loved the clicky noise.....

the problem with this is again its clicky noise....it can be irritating fr some...my dad used to hate it...and getting this repaired is a nightmare....there are very few service centre fr it

here is a link to the product page

www.tvs-e.com/productpage.asp

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Mar 9 2009 2:13 PM

I actually tried to get my hands on a TVS Gold!  There is some confusion here in the US as to what switch is used in the TVS.  Some say it has Cherry MX Black switches (non-tactile, non-clicky), but if you say yours was clicky, they can't be Cherry blacks.  Any chance you can pop off a key and take a pic of the swtich underneath?

Also, a quick stop through your dishwasher should clean the board right out and make it as good as new.  Just let is dry for about a week in a well ventilated area to ensure it is completely dry before plugging it back in.

codeguruakshay wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Mar 9 2009 2:59 PM

i gave away mine long time back....though i will see if i can get hold of one...i guess of my friends owns one...i will see if i can check it up

jtm55 wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Mar 9 2009 6:27 PM

Hi All

Great Review Marco. I really like how you explained the different keyswitches. I to want the  Cherry G80.

Thank you again for the review.

Anonymous wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Mar 10 2009 7:40 PM

Awesome info Marco - Now I need to buy a new keyboard and get rid of this mushy one.

ice91785 wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Mar 12 2009 11:14 PM

Call me a simpleton but I am still not quite understanding what specifically to look for if you need a new KB? I get non-membrane but how does one know? Also what does "tactile" mean in this context?

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Mar 12 2009 11:28 PM

Unfortunately, it's hard to tell sometimes--which is why I listed a few options.  But, mechanical keyswitch keyboards will usually be advertised as such.  If you search for mechanical keyboard, or key switch keyboard, you'll find them.

And "tactile" means that there is a pronounced "bump" transmitted to the user's finger tip when a key is pressed.

InfinityzeN wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Mar 17 2009 4:00 PM

Sorry for the delay.  I'm not interested in a Mechanical because my PC at home is mostly used for games and surfing the net.  A digital gaming keyboard feels better while gaming then my old IBM mechanical (the bump and click threw me off) and I use pretty much pure mouse for surfing, except for some short text plurps.

Now for work, I would really love to get a mechanical since I spend a lot of the day typing.  Sadly, we can't use outside keyboards at work.

3vi1 wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Apr 9 2009 5:36 PM

Very informative!

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Apr 9 2009 5:42 PM

Thanks man.  I'll be posting a follow up soon--like a psycho I had a new capacitive key-switch 'board imported and would also like to talk about the Filco board I mentioned here, becuase it is now for sale in the U.S. at http://www.elitekeyboards.com/.

evanmorris.com » Click! wrote evanmorris.com » Click!
on Tue, Apr 14 2009 12:18 AM

Pingback from  evanmorris.com » Click!

Gatton wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Apr 14 2009 12:59 AM

At work last week I was lamenting the fact that I was asked to pick up a bunch of old hardware and move it to a storage location. I wasn't looking forward to it because it consisted of a bunch of old desktops and CRT monitors that I would have to load up on my little hand truck. That meant about 10 back and forth trips. I think it was worth it though because in the pile of junk to be thrown out were two Dell AT101W keyboards in great condition. I think these are a great clicky keyboard and I like them a little better than the Model M as they're not quite as loud. I've already noticed a slight increase in typing speed. My fingers are still adjusting as I've not used a clicky keyboard in about 10 years but I really have missed it. This is what keyboards are supposed to look/feel like :-). Thanks for posting this and I look forward to your follow up. --Gatton (who signed up to post this lol. Nice site.)

nicecherry wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Apr 14 2009 12:48 PM

There are a lot of rumors of trouble of "filco majestouch keyboard" in Japan.

see example movie, this.

www.youtube.com/watch

jp.youtube.com/watch

I bought this keyboard in December, 2008, and used it for 3 months. And, I encountered the same trouble as this example movie.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Apr 14 2009 1:46 PM

Wow, I hadn't heard of that issue with the Majestouch, and they seem to be incredibly popular with everyone that's bought one now that they're for sale in the U.S.  I just tried to duplicate the issue with my Filco board and it's working fine.  What model do you have specifically?  I wonder if there could be a problem with a certain switch type and not necessarily the whole keyboard.  My unit with Cherry Brown switches has been nothing but perfect since I got it.

nicecherry wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Apr 14 2009 7:43 PM

I purchased six "majestouch tenkeyless keyboard" in December, 2008.

It is a thing comprising "Cherry MX blue switch" that I used in this keyboard. It is alias FKBN87MC/EB of this keyboard. This keyboard broke down within three months.

In addition, I have old "majestouch" which possessed a brown switch. Most of these keyboards were unused, but broke down.

nicecherry wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Apr 14 2009 7:45 PM

I bought majestouch tenkeyless Cherry MX Blue switch model.

72.14.235.132/search

travnewmatic wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, May 4 2009 4:50 PM

I just got my G80-3000 a few hours ago, and trust me, its totally worth it.  I got mine from here:  www.geminicomputersinc.com/g80-3000lscrc-2.html

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, May 4 2009 4:57 PM

Awesome! Another convert! :) I now consider this article a success!

Keyboards guide/help/reviews - Console Games Forum wrote Keyboards guide/help/reviews - Console Games Forum
on Wed, May 6 2009 8:04 AM

Pingback from  Keyboards guide/help/reviews - Console Games Forum

kipwilliams wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, May 11 2009 1:42 AM

Thank you for the great overview. The addition of the video made all the difference for me.  Since first reading this,  I'm now the proud owner of three mechanical keyboards: 1) an IBM Model M,  2)  a Compaq MX-11800 and 3.)an Ione Scorpius M10.  Personally, I love the Model M but that thing really makes a lot of racket. In order to keep the peace, I only use it when I've got the house to myself and I want to feel like I'm getting a lot of work done.  The Compaq has Cherry MX Brown switches in a small form-factor. I had used this model before in rack-mount KVMs.  I  picked this up cheaply ($30 w/ s&h) as a test before going for a Filco Majestouch.  It convinced me this is the switch for me and the Compaq is more than nice enough to use until I'm ready to really treat myself with a new Filco. I like the feeling of the Cherry blue switches in the Scorpius, though was a little disappointed with the poor construction of the case. The right riser leg fell off straight out of the package. I got it back on and the keyboard itself functions flawlessly so it is seeing quite a bit of service.   My search started with you and led me to these keyboards. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. Thank you again.

MarktheC wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sat, May 30 2009 7:19 AM

For people outside the US and Japan, Filco keyboards can be purchased via Taiwanese internet mail-order companies (Filco are manufactured in Taiwan, at least mine is).

I purchased my FKBN104M/EB thru ArmyGroup.com.tw

www.armygroup.com.tw/.../index.php

You will need:

- a PAYPAL account,

- to install Chinese language pack in your browser (or already be able to display Chinese),

- Google translate,

- Courage!

Mine arrived safely in 5 days and works great.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sat, May 30 2009 10:06 AM

Filco, HHKB, and Topre boards are now available from a very good source in the U.S. No need to pay more for a buying service any longer...

http://www.elitekeyboards.com/

Ray wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Jul 23 2009 7:12 PM

I love this keyboard. Nice article Marco.

At last, something not generic. I'm getting tired of all generic items

Jay wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Jul 31 2009 5:07 AM

After reading this article thinking about trying out a mechanical keyboard.  Thinking of either the Das Keyboard or the ABS M1.  Don't really care about the price or the noise, which one has a better performance or overall usage quality?

Thanks.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Jul 31 2009 10:43 AM

@jay - Of those two keyboards, I lean towards the M1 in terms of quality.  The DAS has some issues with its controller and some users have reported quality problems with the casing.

With that said, I would choose the Filco FKBN104M/EB over either of them, and its available for less than the DAS.  You can find it at elitekeyboards.com.

Jay wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Jul 31 2009 4:44 PM

Hey Marco!  Thanks for the quick reply.  

One other thing, I was talking to one of my friends about this article and he told me hes currently using a Deck Legend keyboard (http://www.deckkeyboards.com/).  What caught my interest was that he told me as being a mechanical keyboard it also was illuminated.  I actually work late into the night and having an illuminated light would be great.  I never thought there was a manufacturer who made illuminated mechanical keyboard so this caught my interest.  But in the video above I didn't see the Deck keyboard so I was wondering if you have came across it.  If you have please let me know what you think about it and if it will be better in usage wise than the ABS M1 or the FILCO you mentioned.

Thanks again!!

Jake wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Aug 3 2009 4:29 PM

Marco—Thanks for the video review in particular; it definitely helps to hear the sound of keys rather than just seeing them described. I reviewed the Unicomp Customizer (jseliger.com/.../product-review-unicomp-customizer-keyboard) and think it probably the best of the bunch listed.

One other question, however: have you ever tried the Kinesis Advantage? It's well-known for an unusual layout that requires an adaptation period, but I was impressed by it (jseliger.wordpress.com/.../kinesis-advantage).

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Aug 3 2009 4:59 PM

@jake--Thanks, glad you liked the article.  I like the Customizer and have it on one of my test machines, but am partial to Topres and Cherry Browns now.

I have not tried the Kinesis Advantage, but know it has a good following.  It seems like a solid board, and since its based on my favorite switch, I'm sure it's nice.

Bruce wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Aug 6 2009 9:37 AM

Hi Marco.

Great work! Just to add a little 'latest news' we at www.keyboardco.com have just done a deal to distribute Filco Keyboards and peripherals in Europe. We have USA layout coming by the end of August and European layouts available from end of September 2009.

Geoff wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Aug 11 2009 5:47 AM

Glad to see that Filco will be available in the U.K. I have used www.keyboardco.com before and they are very helpful. Maybe I'll replace my faithful old IBM to complement my Super Ikonta!

Marco's RTG wrote Rocking Out With The i-Rocks KR-6230 Compact Keyboard
on Tue, Aug 18 2009 2:00 PM

I am happy to report, that since the initial publishing of my "Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified"

Jamie wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sat, Sep 5 2009 3:17 AM

Marco, thanks for such a great post. Recently I've been lamenting my decision about six years ago to give up my trusty SIIG Suntouch keyboard (purchased circa 1990 with my first 386SX computer, and moved to at least four other computers since then). Almost all modern keyboards are just garbage, and their wireless connections, or media keys, or illumination (the Deck keyboard referenced above being a possible exception), don't mean a whit if you're spending much of your time correcting typos induced by spongy, imprecise keys. Can you tell I've gone through about six keyboards in the past six years, and hated every single one? The "premium" keyboards like the Logitech DiNovo have been the biggest disappointments to me. What a waste of money.

So now that I'm fully armed with knowledge, I'm going "back to the past" and placing an order next week. I just need to decide if I want Cherry brown or Cherry blue switches? I think I'll start with the Cherry Blue in the Scorpius M10, since it's one of the least expensive and you recommend it highly. I think too that it will provide the closest feel to my old Suntouch.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sat, Sep 5 2009 3:14 PM

Hi Jamie,

Thanks for the comment.  Good luck!  The M10 is a great board for the money, but the build quality can be inconsistent--make sure to get one from a reputable seller, just in case.

Jamie wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sun, Sep 6 2009 4:35 PM

Thanks Marco! After further research and contemplation, I decided that I really want old-school durability as well as feel in my new keyboard. I ended up ordering a Filco Majestouch Tactile Click Special Edition from Elite Keyboards. Hopefully, with Filco's reputation for quality and the metal-plate mounted Cherry blue MX switches, I'll get a perfect combination of consistent, great feel and "heirloom" durability.

I also talked with a buddy of mine, and he said he could get me some older Fujitsu mechanical key switch keyboards that are mothballed at his work. I suspect they use the white ALPS switches like my old SIIG keyboard. Those will make excellent backups, and I might take one to work if I can't convince my employer that a Filco Majestouch is worth the investment. With fewer typos to correct and higher typing speed, it really will make me more productive, whether they believe it or not.

I really hope we're at the dawn of a "new age" of mechanical switch keyboards!. There's a whole new generation of touch typists out there who have no clue what they've been missing all along.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sun, Sep 6 2009 5:00 PM

You just bought the Cadillac of keyboards---you're definitely enjoy the Filco.  I'm typing this on one right now (with Chery Browns).

Enoc B wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Sep 10 2009 4:07 AM

We have been manufacturing mechanical keyboards for over 20 years. We manufacture for Filco, Matias, Newegg, DasKeyboard and many others.

If any of you are interested in producing one for your own brand. Just drop me an email to  > enocAngelcostar.com.tw

Great post by the way !!

insaneinthemembrane wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Sep 15 2009 10:22 PM

Just bought the Filco FKBN104M/EB based on your recommendation.  Thanks for the great info.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Sep 15 2009 10:29 PM

Awesome!  Please report back with your feelings toward the board.  I'm typing this on one right now--been switching  between the Filco board and a Topre 103UB for a few weeks now and think I've found my two favorites.

insaneinthemembrane wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Sep 17 2009 9:14 PM

Two days later and Brian from Elite Keyboards already got me my keyboard!  Excellent customer service. I took a typing test and my speed went up already (within 10 minutes of use) by 7 words per minute to 71wpm!  The feel is amazing, I wish I had changed a while back.  Interestingly, the command and alt/opt are switched on this keyboard, but I just switched to what a mac user expects in OS X.  I switch my caps-lock to control anyways (emacs/vim user here).  So, basically I can report that I am very happy and that Elite rocks!

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Sep 17 2009 9:25 PM

Another convert!  I'm glad you're liking your new keyboard so far--it really is a totally new experience, once  you switch from a crappy rubber dome...

Granville wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Wed, Sep 23 2009 2:03 PM

I believe I found this article a month or maybe 2 after it was first released.  Oh a whim I was trying to find clicky or mechanical switch keyboards and came here.  I do remember seeing the video the first time I landed here so it was after that.

One day my cat knocked over my glass of water and got my long standing favorite keyboard drenched.  Unfortunately it ruined the contacts inside and wasn't working anymore.  This is when I took it apart and realized that just because a keyboard clicks, doesn't mean that it is a mechanical switch keyboard.  What I found was some layers where when the key was pressed it pressed a contact sheet down onto another sheet to make the keypress work.  While the keys themselves were clicky and on real springs and felt great when typing on it, I don't beleive that this is how mechanical swtich keyboard are really made.

I had some older keyboards, one with an older style AT plug with an adapter to ps2, and 2 IBM models that seem to still have their lead weights in them that came iwth ps2 plugs.  I just find it hard to have them on my desk since they are so large and bulky that I recently decided to get 2 Scorpius keyboards based solely on the video found here and the sound that they made; I find the lighter sound more to my liking.  

I got them in today and while I've seen some reviews by people who said they opened up the keyboard that they just got and found disturbing things on the inside.  I don't plan on doing that to mine since I just want it to work, but it's touch and feel is so much better then the rubber dome one, that it actually took me a minute to get a good feel for the new typing sensation.

Thanks for the article and the video.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Wed, Sep 23 2009 10:46 PM

Hope you enjoy those Scorpius boards! The cherry blue switch was my favorite until I got used to the browns.  Now I'm diggin' the silence...

Dan wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Sep 25 2009 5:35 PM

Hey thanks for the video, it took me a long while to decide on what I wanted but end the end i got a Majestouch Tactile Click, and boy is it worth it! I can defiantly see a difference in my typing speed after typing on it for just a couple minutes, not to mention that the sound of the keys is simply intoxicating! No comparison to those plastic dome ones at all, the price is more than worth it. Thanks again for the great write-up!

Lei wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Nov 2 2009 8:33 PM

Great article Marco, turned me into a keyboard nerd.

Paula wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Nov 2 2009 10:12 PM

Thank you for this excellent article. I learned the hard way that having a crappy keyboard will ruin your wrists. After several weeks of using a terrible $10.00 keyboard, I started to develop severe wrist pain. I switched to a wonderful keyboard with ALPS keys and it's like typing in mid air, as if I'm not even pressing any keys at all. Within a week my wrist pain totally disappeared. I'll never type on a cheap keyboard again.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Nov 3 2009 11:00 AM

Awesome! More converts. I'm glad this aritcle has pointed some of you in the right direction.  Enjoy your new keyboards!

Nicomater wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Nov 3 2009 2:19 PM

I gotta get one of thses, nice article.

avidracer wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Nov 6 2009 7:04 PM

hi Marco,

great article, I ended up withthe filco 104M/EB model. wow, its amazing, gives a good feel when typing on it. Its now my daily work keyboard also.

could you also please cover the scissor switch models ? are they better than the rubber dome and quiet at the same time ?my wife will go mad if I make so much noise at home and I was looking from some quiet aletnatives.

László Monda wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sat, Nov 7 2009 4:47 PM

Congratulations Marco!

This is currently the best resource on the Internet on mechanical keyboards.  My journey has been started with Das Keyboard but it will end with my own design.  We're just building a pretty unique, fully programmable keyboard intended for hackers, utilizing quality microswitches.

It's nice to read this page because it reinforces my opinion that mechanical keyboards are absolutely superior to the rest.

Really nice article, keep it up!

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sun, Nov 8 2009 12:46 PM

Thanks László, I really appreciate that. I'll be following up soon with a piece featuring the Topre Realforce, HHKP, and a few others.  Between this piece and the next one, we'll pretty much have all of the high-end mechanical boards and key switches covered.

When you finish your custom design, be sure to show it off in the forums! We'd love to see it.

Jacob Alexander wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sun, Nov 8 2009 11:34 PM

I've been using a Unicomp Spacesaver 104 for over a year now. Its been awesome.

Unfortunately, I destroyed my first one with a beer.

So rather than wait 5 weeks to get another one (didn't have a credit card at the time). I decided to order a Cherry G81-1800 (MY Switches) from a local retailer in Ottawa.

Though a different typing experience, its also very nice (well suited for hard typing).

But I still missed the Spacesaver I destroyed (and needed another keyboard), so I ordered another one (had a credit card this time). This time, though, without any printed keys (you just need to request it via the comments).

Currently, I'm using the G81-1800 at work (since its not as loud), and the Spacesaver at home.

Since I'll be in Japan until May, I guess I should check out some of the FILCO keyboards.

Membrane Switch Manufacturers wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Nov 17 2009 4:10 AM

I just bought the Cadillac of keyboards---you're definitely enjoy the Filco.  I'm typing this on one right now .

Membrane Switch Manufacturers wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Nov 17 2009 4:11 AM

VERY GOOD! THANKS!

Daniel Beardsmore wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Dec 18 2009 11:49 AM

Just curious ... my concern about clicky keyboards is noise, both in the office and at home. I've got an old Tulip clicky non-tactile mechanical (102-key PC-AT, came off a Tulip 286) that feels and sounds lovely, but it's quite noisy, especially compared to my scissor!

In the video I notice that the Scorpius Cherry blue clicky is extremely quiet, then the FILCO Cherry brown is noticeably noisier despite not clicking, and the Das is noisier again, but a much sharper, clearer sound than the muffled bump of the bottomed-out Cherry brown.

Most of the noise of the Dell rubber dome I use at work is due to the sound of your finger striking the keycap and the keycap rattling in its slot. A tap sufficient to move the keycap only 1 mm or so makes a very sharp noise, while the bottoming out of a rubber dome is a soft thud.

The keys on this Dell rubber dome are very rattly, but the rattle provides the nice sharp sounds that a rubber dome bottoming out cannot.

Could you clear up in any way the difference between Cherry blue and Cherry brown, and how a Scorpius Cherry blue is so much softer and quieter than a brown?

Cheers

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Dec 18 2009 12:00 PM

Hi Daniel,

The Cherry Brown is non-clicky, and is a quiet switch next to the Cherry Blue. The sound of the keys bottoming out on the FIlco are what make it seem loud. In the video, the noise you hear from that keyboard is the sound of the bottoming out.  If you're a touch-typist with a light-touch, the Cherry Brown-based Filco shouldn't be too noisy for an office.

The sound of the Scorpius seems quieter than the Das only becuase of the pitch and tone of the click. The design of the board results in a duller click, but it is still a clicky keyboard and will probably annoy some folks in the office.

If you want the best of both world, mechanical switched, quiet operation, and a duller thud when bottoming out, check out a Topre Realforce board.  I've been meaning to record another video with a handful of recent keyboards I've acquired, including the Topre, HHKB, and a few others, but haven't had the time.

Daniel Beardsmore wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Dec 18 2009 12:43 PM

Well, I would have expected Cherry blue click + bottoming out, to be louder than a silent Cherry brown bottoming out only. I presume that you did not bottom out the Scorpius?

Recordings vary so much, but those at geekhack by Ripster make the bottoming out very bassy, which compared with a Cherry blue's tinny click, combines to a very weird noise.

My old Tulip mechanical has a really good, hefty, solid ALPSy click -- just like your recording of a Customizer -- that a Cherry blue seems to lack. But then, your recording of a buckling spring is very soft compared to the fearful clang of Ripster's Model M and Customizer recordings!

I think we need a chain of showrooms :-)

I think, though, I'm settled on Cherry brown.

Paddy Mullen wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Dec 29 2009 10:21 AM

Do you know what type of key switch the kinesis contoured keyboards use?

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Dec 29 2009 10:34 AM

There are Cherry MX Brown switches in the Kinesis keyboard.

Membrane switches wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Jan 4 2010 10:33 PM

Membrane switches often provide the sole interaction between your customers and the technology you provide to them. It is critical that your customers are satisfied with the tactile response of the machine interface.

Stefan wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sat, Jan 9 2010 2:34 AM

bought the filco FKBN104M/EB just before christmas -- it's awesome !!!

RyanH wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Jan 11 2010 2:14 PM

Awesome write up Marco C, very enlightening. I've been using an saitek eclipse coming from being a "gamer" at home and been quite happy with it but have always had an itching to try a mechanical keyboard as I feel clunky while coding (web developer).

You seem to favor the MX browns, tactile, non-clicky... I think that is what I will try. Do you have any advice for someone who programs as well as plays a lot of games? I feel like the blues or blacks would be to much feedback for myself, as i favor a nearly silent experience.

I was very pleased to find a pink keyboard at elitekeyboards.com . My fiance always complains about mushy and quiet keyboards (we have different preferences) and has a thing for all things pink so i will be purchasing a FKB104MC/EP with blues for an anniversary present. Thanks for that!

RyanH wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Jan 11 2010 2:26 PM

After watching the video, I saw that the "gaming" aimed keyboards utilized black switches which i had originally read were more firm than blues/browns. Was also looking at the abs m1 you reviewed as well, can't argue with that price for a mechanical keyboard.. any thoughts for a convert?

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Jan 12 2010 7:47 PM

@RyanH - I think the Cherry MX Browns and Topre Switches are the best all around. Of course, there is some subjectiveness to this opinion, but the Browns and Topres are the quietest that give tactile feedback, they're nice and light, and n-key rollover actually works on the Filco and Topre boards.

As for the blacks and the M1 specifically, I think they're very good for gaming, but prefer the tactile switches for everything else.  For the money though, the M1 is great.

Kelvin A wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Jan 12 2010 10:32 PM

Hi, Marco! Great review/blog entry!

What would you recommend for a mechanical keyboard that is both quiet, tactile and comes with a US-international layout (with Alt-Gr key)? I need that layout as I'm based in Europe where the special characters would come in handy (never liked British keyboards for the tiny keys). It would be nice if they had the slightly higher pitched sound like the Cherry blues, though.

I also can't help but notice (when I plug in my headphones to listen in on the keyboards in your video) that there is a certain resonance (like a pinball, perhaps) in the springs as they rebound back to their original position, especially so for the ALPS black "copy". Do the Cherry blues or the ALPS black "suffer" from this as well?

Thanks in advance!

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Jan 12 2010 10:48 PM

I'm not sure which keyboard I'd recommend for that layout, Kelvin.  I'd stop by geekhack.org and ask the same question though, you'll definitely get an answer there.

As for the springy-resonance you speak of, yes, other switches suffer from this as well, but to differing extents. It seems the heavier, better built boards are less likely to resonate.

gibbersome wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Jan 15 2010 11:00 AM

Gotta say, all that typing in the video was kinda sexy...

sal cangeloso wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sat, Jan 16 2010 5:51 PM

Awesome article Marco. I'm currently in the market for a new keyboard and I've been brushing up on some of my facts.

I'd like to go ergonomic though, so that's a whole different issue. I've heard good thing about about the Kinesis Advantage, so I'm considering that though I'm wishing I could find an IBM M15.

Might pick up a Filco and try non-ergo for a bit... we'll see.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sun, Jan 17 2010 1:53 PM

Hey Sal,

Thanks for compliments.  The Filco is really nice board--I switch between it and a Topre Realforce myself.  The Kinesis board uses the same switch at the Filco, but I have never had my hands on my personally.  Should be nice though.

Brian M wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Jan 18 2010 10:42 AM

Pretty sure the bulk of this article is being plagiarized over at foxfoo.blogspot.com/.../filco-majestouch-review.html. Just a heads-up.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Jan 18 2010 10:57 AM

Danm, I hate that.  Sending the "author" a note now.

cate wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Fri, Jan 22 2010 3:58 PM

Thanks for posting this article, Marco! I'm at the start of a typing course in which I need 60NWPM (maximum 5 errors) and am desperate to give myself as many advantages as possible... the most realistic one being getting a decent keyboard. I'm currently using a G4 keyboard (couldn't stand the aluminum one that came with my Mac) and after reading tonnes of comments on the web, finally understand what 'mushy' keys mean.

So I'm ready to make the leap to a mechanical keyboard and have narrowed it down to a Filco. Trouble is, I'm having a nightmare of a time trying to decide between the Blue and Brown key switches. I've googled around and read numerous comments on geekhack, for example, but no one is really saying anything I can relate to. And since elitekeyboards.com does not allow returns (or post a phone number for questions), I want to make as an informed and correct decision first time around.

You mentioned earlier that you were using Blues but now that you've adjusted to the Browns, it's your current favourite. What sort of adjustments were needed in order to get used to the Browns and why do you now prefer them over the Blues?

(sorry for the length of this comment)

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sun, Jan 24 2010 6:19 PM

Well, the Cherry Browns have a slightly lighter touch, a less pronounced tactile bump, and they're not clicky.  So, the only really adjustment was getting used to the quieter keypresses and lighter touch.

bigboxes wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sun, Jan 24 2010 7:50 PM

I have the geekhack.org forums bookmarked. I was trying to find info on available mechanical switch keyboards when my rubber domed Intel board failed after eight years. After much research I found a Cherry keyboard (Cherry G80-3000) online. I can't believe how hard it is to find such a board in the states. It uses Cherry MX blue key switches and has no multi-media or function keys. I thought that the clicking sound would drive me nuts, but I type better than ever. I would never think of going back. I need a board that can take my pounding. It's been almost two years and I am very happy. Keys are laser etched (no fading or rubbing off). Only issue was that half the keys had chinese symbols. I complained and sent it back to the e-tailer. The replacement was exactly the same! Decided to keep it when they offered it to me at half price ($36 shipped).

img85.imageshack.us/.../boxescherrykeyboard.jpg

Chlamydia wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Wed, Jan 27 2010 9:21 AM

Just got a cherry 11900 (www.cherrycorp.com/.../index.htm) for £20 off ebay with black cherry keys. Just to see if it was better and i really notice the difference when gaming i can be really lazy and not have to bottom out the keys which is great for fast movement.

gibbersome wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Jan 28 2010 8:29 AM

Marco, so I popped out one of the keys on my laptop and realized that it's one of the cheap rubbery ones you mentioned. I feel the tactile "bump" when I press down, but I'm curious to see what a mechanical one would do to my typing.

I'm thinking about the ABS M1, since it non-clicky (quieter?) and seems the cheapest of them. I couldn't find a Steelseries 7G for less than $150. Do you know of any laptops that get shipped with mechanical key switches?

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Jan 28 2010 11:13 PM

Yes, the M1 will be quieter than a clicky board, once you get used to typing on it and don't bottom out the keys at full force.

And I don't know of any laptops with mechanical switches, although many use scissor switches with aren't completely horrible.

Colin wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Feb 1 2010 3:25 PM

Would it be possible to install these switches on a gaming controller?  I opened one the other day and discovered they use a membrane solution and am curious if this would improve the feel of the controllers buttons.  Ideally they would have a "Hair-Trigger" type feedback.

The current model used in controllers is just rubber with a dome which I assume gives the tactile feel.

Would the ML series be better than the MX series there since they are lower profile?

Thanks for the great article and still responding to people!

Radarrider wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sat, Feb 13 2010 8:13 PM

Thanks for making me discover Filco!

I am typing this on a 20-year old IBM Model M and it still works perfectly except for the escape key that is starting to show it's age.

Time to try something new and that Filco keyboard sounds just perfect. Not cheap at 110$ but I can guess just by the look and sound that it's worth it. I am also tempted by the Cherry G80-3000 as it is easier to find over here in Europe.

demonhunter wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Feb 22 2010 4:47 PM

Marco,

Your article has been very helpful!  I recently came upon what I believe is a new addition to the market, SIIG's USB Desktop Keyboard with Mechanical Key Switches.  The construction is very sturdy and the tactile feedback is excellent; however it is extremely noisy.  Just a brush of the hand (without actuating any keys) sends off a rattle of noise.  Is this typical of mechanical key switches?  Have you heard of this new SIIG, or what particular switch it uses?

Many thanks.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Feb 22 2010 11:08 PM

@demonhunter - Thanks!  I am not familiar with that SIIG board, but it's specs say it uses Alps copites.  It actually looks nearly identical to the Solidtek board in the video.

demonhunter wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Wed, Feb 24 2010 6:53 PM

Yes now that you mention it, they sound the same as well.  Thanks for the reply :)

HALABOUTIT wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Wed, Jul 21 2010 7:07 PM

How important is the N-key rollover function for a gaming keyboard? If my MB has no PS/2 input, should I buy a non n-key rollover KB? Thanks for the review Marco. You convinced me.

HALABOUTIT wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Wed, Jul 21 2010 7:09 PM

How important is the N-key rollover function for a gaming keyboard? If my MB has no PS/2 input, should I buy a non n-key rollover KB? Thanks for the review Marco. You convinced me.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Thu, Jul 22 2010 11:10 PM

NKRO is not an absolute necessity. And since your mobo only supports USB, the max you'll get is 6-Key rollover anyway.

I would still recommend getting an NKRO board though.  My choices now are the Filco FKBN104M/E and the latest DAS Keyboard Pro S.

rawc wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Aug 2 2010 10:43 PM

I would love to see your opinion on the XArmor U9BL that just started selling in the U.S. a couple of days ago (http://www.xarmor-usa.com or look on ergogeek.com).  I'm looking to get a mechanical keyboard and think I have narrowed things down to either a Filco Majestouch, latest Das Keyboard, or an XArmor U9BL? The only potential downside I see for the XArmor is the rubber coated keys...would they last very long? It would be great if you had access to one of these keyboards and could give your opinion since you've obviously used a lot of other great keyboards.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Aug 2 2010 11:25 PM

@rawc - I haven't had a chance to try the U9BL, but I will see what I can do and try to aquire one.  My gut tells me the rubberized coating won't last very long with daily use, but I can't say for cetain.

I can say that I have been using the latest DAS with Cherry Browns for about two weeks now and I REALLY like it.  The keys are holding up well, and the build quality seems very good. And with the student discount DAS is offering, it's one of the cheapest Cherry boards available at the moment.

Mektub wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sat, Sep 25 2010 6:44 PM

I bought a Filco Majestouch, NKR, Linear Action, USA Keyboard in March 2010

from "The Keyboard Company"  and at the beginning was very happy with it.

But to may dismay barely 6 months passed the engraved letters are disapearing.

The "R"now looks like a "P" and the "O" like a "C".

For a keyboard that did cost me over € 120, I find this unacceptable.

Mektub

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Sun, Sep 26 2010 8:02 PM

@Mektub - Keycab durability is a definite negative with the Filcos.

ADowning wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Nov 8 2010 7:58 PM

I just got my first Mechanical keyboard the Razer BlackWidow which uses the Cherry MX Blue switches. I am amazed at how great the keyboard is and from this point forward am converted to using mechanical keyboards.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Nov 8 2010 8:32 PM

@ADowning - Nice!  I haven't gotten my hands on one of those boards yet, but I'd love to check one out.  Enjoy!

ADowning wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Nov 9 2010 2:18 AM

@Marco C Hopefully I will have the full review up in a couple of weeks on Benchmark Reviews but compared to other mechanical keyboards it is actually not to expensive the version without a back lit keyboard and no USB hub only cost $80.

The noise is starting to get to my roomates they complain occasionally that they can hear me typing in my room from their room. Oops

David8 wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Apr 25 2011 10:06 AM

@Marco. Great article! I was trying to find out what the difference were between the cherry colors.

About 14 years ago, I was talking to a friend who told me how much he resented the windows key. Shortly after I was exploring at Weirdstuff and came across some Compaq Enhanced II Keyboards in a bin. I picked up 3, gave him 1 and stored the other 2 since I liked the windows key.

Over the years I lost one while moving I guess.

5 years ago, I needed a keyboard to use and when to my bin, pulled it out and fell in love. I use it at work. I've had comments like, "why does the IT guy have to use that old keyboard?" They don't even know.

Marco, are you familiar with the Compaq Enhanced II Keyboard? Do you know what's under the hood?

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Apr 25 2011 10:33 AM

@David8 - Unfortunately, I don't have any first hand-knowledge with that board, but I did a little searching and found that there are two version of the Compaq Enhanced II, one with capacitive switches and another with rubber-domes.  The capacitive version is of higher quality, but opinions on the board seem to be mixed.

If you like that Compaq board, you'll probably be enamored with something like a Topre Reallforce or Cherry Brown.

raccer wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, May 31 2011 1:36 AM

Marco!

I'm impressed at the lifespan of this post! 2K9 & people are still commenting, & your're still replying to boot! Strong work.

I'd love to see a follow up post reviewing the current generation of high end planks. A Maximum PC article/post got me interested in mechanical & I'd love more info before I jump. (The link to their post is set as my website)

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, May 31 2011 9:46 AM

@Raccer - I have a handful of new boards on hand right now actually.  I don't think I ever featured the Topre Realforce 103UB, but I also have a new Dukcy Cherry Blue board, an XArmor Cherry Brown board, and boards from Thermaltake, GB, and Microsoft.  Right now I actually have three connected to my personal PC because I can't make up my mind--the Ducky, a DAS, and a RealForce.  I'll probably be following up with some new video and comments soon.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Wed, Jul 27 2011 4:58 PM

To AJohansson - Your e-mail address didn't come through properly so I can't reply directly. Hoping you see this...

"Hi Anders,

Thanks for coming by the site and reading my stuff—I really appreciate it. I can’t believe how much feedback I’ve gotten on that piece.  Has definitely been my post popular blog post.

To answer your question, that keyboard is awesome. It’s a newer model with an updated controller and PCB layout.  I don’t have that particular board with the same layout, but have since bought a Majestouch-2 “Ninja” and it is on-par with or better than the original.  You should enjoy it.

Good luck. Let me know how you make out.  Hope you like your first mechanical board!

- Marco"

buffalobill wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Sep 26 2011 7:49 PM

Marco, I'm in total agreement on the mechanical keyboard difference. For over ten years I had a Model M on which I clocked up to 110wpm - yes I can be fast and that was when I was writing. Eventually it stopped working and I threw it out (it was not new when I acquired it via my bank employer). Knowing what I know now it could possibly have been resurrected and I still feel sad about that. Since then I've been through lots of keyboards, but nothing stacked up. Last year I took up a sub-editing job at a newspaper and once again I found the company keyboard for me to be a major problem. They use the cheapest around and I can't and won't do with second best when the tool of my trade is a keyboard and mouse. The PC is almost irrelevant. I've long been on the lookout for another Model M, but my brother-in-law who works for IBM has been useless in this. I'm out in the sticks, so my choices are very (extremely) limited. I came down to a choice of importing a Filco Tenkeyless (brown), the Das, some Cherrys (possibly imported from Taiwan), or the Steelseries 6GV2, which was the only mechanical keyboard that I could find available in South Africa.

I bought the 6GV2 and I must say I love the feel of real typing again. I know they’re marketed as gaming keyboards and while they may be, it’s the sort of thing us power typists look for. What do I think of the 6GV2? It feels great. Yes it’s noisy, but a newsroom’s always got noise. It shows people are working and that’s important. I really like the keyboard layout and the size of the return key which is much like the original IBM. This was the clincher for me. The key lights are absolutely perfect. I can see when capslock is on without it getting in the way of my vision. One problem (and one that I’ve read about) is that much-used keys start bouncing off the keyboard. It’s happened to several keys of mine, which I’ve fixed with a very small piece of putty to make them stick. For me it’s a tolerance/manufacturing flaw. Also, after eight months, some keys are shiny. I’m expecting this to last me ten or more years, so wear may be an issue. One minor thing, which may seem a little picky, is that I’d like the keys spaced a little bit further apart as I have large hands. I can’t compare, but the keyboard seems more compact than the IBM’s.

I’m now looking at replacing my now very sucky Logitech MX 5000 at home. It’s fine for gaming but pretty useless for anything else (never settle for second-best). I have a son coming from the UK in February, so should he bring a Filco, Das or what? I wouldn’t mind chatting with you about this. I like the idea of the Tenkeyless because I never have and likely never will use the numpad and it would free up desktop space for the mouse. But I like the Steelseries keyboard layout.

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Sep 26 2011 8:58 PM

@BuffaloBill - I'd go with a Filco over a Das, only because I like the smaller case and matte finish, although both boards are great.  Glad you're liking the SteelSeries.  I used a 7G for a long time, but ended up moving away from the linear switches to cherry browns or blues (depending on my mood), because I like the tactile bump.

buffalobill wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Sep 27 2011 7:49 PM

Yup, the smaller case of the Filco is a big attraction (I'd want Cherry browns). The only thing I can see working against the Das is the gloss finish, other than size in this case.

You might also consider keyboard layout as a factor for typists. I liked the 6GV2 because of the size of the return key and that they moved the backslash key between the return and backspace. This is one of the most useless keys in modern history. Another plus is replacing the Windows key.

I would have got the Filco in December but the UK distributor ran out of stock. Now I'm torn between the Filco and maybe a Steelseries 7. One is smaller, but the other has USB ports and headphone outlets, which I'd like. But the layout is different to its kid brother's. Perhaps the 7's due for a revamp?

Of course, I'd like both, but let's not get silly, unlike some people I can mention 8-)

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Tue, Sep 27 2011 8:49 PM

Some of the things you mention as negatives, other typists need, so it's tough to weigh the benefits / drawbacks of some layouts.

With that said, I haven't heard anything about an update to the 7G coming.  Not much they could change on that board really, unless SteelSeries wants to give Cherry Reds a go.

And it's not silly if you enjoy it. :)

On a side note, just got a Rosewill Chery MX Blue based board in today.  Love some things about it. Dislike some others.  Quality seems very good, however.

buffalobill wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Mon, Oct 3 2011 8:00 PM

Out of all the boards available in the UK, which would you recommend for a typist? I know you're not there but you're more knowledgable than me.

I may just have hit on a motherload of Model Ms here. A room full of ex-bank equipment and I know this one bought IBM. We'll see.

kbfreak wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Wed, Dec 19 2012 4:11 AM

Super relevant even after three years! Thanks for the great write up Marco.

BTW, have you looked into the newly released KBtalKing Pro? It combining Bluetooth (multi-pairing and quick switching between devices) and USB, is multi-OS compatible (PC, Mac, iOS, Android, etc.) and meant to be the all-in-one desktop keyboard. Let us know if you get the chance to get your hands on one for review? Thanks! =)

kbtalkingusa.com/full-specifications-and-features

Marco C wrote re: Mechanical Key Switch Keyboards Demystified
on Wed, Dec 19 2012 9:22 AM

I haven't tried the KBtalKing board, but it seems pretty cool. I'm going to reach out to them and see what they say...