Let’s throw marketing out the door, and be realistic for a moment. You don’t need a mechanical keyboard. You’re not a professional E-sport player, IT geek or competing in the next ultimate typing championship. Heck, even then it’s questionable. We all use laptops and portable devices with built-in (digital) keyboards these days anyway. So why would you spend so much money when buying a mechanical keyboard?
I believe that’s one of the better arguments I would tell myself, whenever I’m looking at yet a new mechanical keyboard, in an endless search of something better. But the truth is, I spend so many hours behind a computer, may it be for work, gaming or leisure, that not having good computer equipment is equal to walking on bare feet because shoes are overrated.
So in honor of my keyboard cravings and Wooting, I’m going to explain why you should consider buying a mechanical keyboard, and if you already own one, just wait for Wooting’s keyboard.
Mechanical Keyboard History
Let’s first take a short trip through memory lane. Not everybody is aware of it, but mechanical keyboards technology is old… like.. really old. It was heavy, technical and expensive to make. So when the membrane with rubber dome keyboard was introduced, it was revolutionary. It could fit in thinner devices, was less complicated and much cheaper to produce. You could find membrane technology in literally anything with key input, take your old Nokia 3310 for example.
Only a niche group of consumers were still using and actively looking for mechanical keyboards, for only one reason; Typing. There is nothing more satisfying than typing on a mechanical keyboard. Any mechanical keyboard owner can attest to this, even if they condone the amount of money they spent on it. At that time, however, it was a very small declining market.
Thanks to PC gamer’s growing lust for competitive gameplay, it revived the peripherals market. Previously Gaming peripherals were mainly focused on the mice and mouse mats, due to the popularity of First Person Shooter (FPS) games. But as the market grew, online gaming was becoming mainstream and in turn competitive online gaming, people were willing to spend more money on peripherals.
I believe, the introduction of Real Time Strategy (RTS) game Starcraft 2 really put a spotlight on mechanical keyboards.
If you were a Starcraft player, then you know everybody talked about Actions Per Minute (APM) similar as talking about Word Per Minute (WPM) with typists. And the only way, outside training muscle memory, to increase your APM or WPM is by using a mechanical keyboard.
A couple of years down the road, we’re now at a point that mechanical keyboards are the new gaming standard. There is a broader choice of mechanical keyboards, and it’s more affordable than ever before. Slightly ironic, considering that technology wise it took a step back.
Mechanical vs Membrane Keyboard
Well boys and girls, without going into too much technical detail, it all comes down to the press of the key. Mechanical switches are your physical connection between human and computer and also determine the entire feel of each key press. Mechanical keyboards have an individual switch per key and use a spring to delicately determine the keypress feel. Unlike membrane and rubber-dome keyboards that produce the entire layout in one solid piece and have very limited “feel” options.
To be fair, membrane rubber-dome keyboards come in different quality grades and are not per definition always inferior to a mechanical keyboard. Some manufacturers even make membrane keyboards that mimic the feel of a mechanical switch.
Nevertheless, up to date, there are three shortcomings with membrane rubber dome keyboards in comparison to mechanical keyboards.
1. technically membrane keyboards require you to press the key all the way down (bottom-out), before actuating. Mechanical keyboard can actuate the key before it hits the bottom. Very useful when you’re typing fast and don’t waste any energy on pressing all the way.
2. the key press consistency is unreliable over time. The membrane and rubber dome deteriorate in feel and have a shorter lifespan of 1 to 5 million key presses. While mechanical switches can last over 50 million key presses, giving the same consistent key press feel and reliability.
3. membrane keyboards don’t support any tactile (meaning you feel a small bump at the point of activation) and audible (you hear a click sound at the point of activation) feedback. You might not be aware of it yet, but when training your muscle memory, you also unconsciously pick up on some kind of feedback, which can strongly influence your typing speed.
The next time you’re typing on a membrane keyboard, you should pay close attention to how much time you spend making sure you’ve actually pressed the key and how much effort it takes to press it all the way down. Time.. or, in other words, a delay between input and action is exactly what typists and gamers try to mitigate to increase their APM or WPM.
For another type of games, your APM will be less relevant, but the reliability and perks of the mechanical keyboard will still outweigh the cost.
Once you’re on board with mechanical keyboards, a new quest begins; finding out which of the different switches fit your preferences. A topic for another time.
We still see places for improvement
At Wooting we still see one problem with mechanical keyboards; it’s outdated input technology that hasn’t seen any changes over the last decades. It’s hard to believe we’re still typing on keyboards that can only send one signal at a time, while we’re all multi- and force touching on our portable devices. Time for a change if you ask us.
Do you agree?
You’re welcome to share any tips, tricks or your opinion.