Simpleton's Guide: What Is A Mechanical Keyboard Switch?
Sometimes the entry into mechanical keyboards is too much to handle, we get it. So we hope we can simplify this with a very short idiot proof introduction. To get things started:
What is a mechanical keyboard?
Keyboards fall largely into two groups - membrane and mechanical. Membrane keyboards, as the name suggests, have a large rubber membrane layer in between the keycap and circuit board, with a rubber dome like shape beneath each key. When the key is pressed, it presses on the membrane layer which in turn activates circuit board below it to register the keystroke. It returns to its original position when the key is released and the membrane underneath it returns to its dome shape.
Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, have mechanical switches with several moving parts. These switches are positioned in between the keycaps and circuit board as well, and when the key is pressed, it presses on the switch which in turn presses down on a spring inside the switch and registers the keystroke. It returns to its original position when the key is released and the spring inside the switch returns back to its original length.
These switches are central to how mechanical keyboards work and the switches itself has many brands, feels, colours and variations to choose from. Mechanical keyboards offer a huge deal of customization, and can be set up according to how you want it. Essentially, you can make it YOUR keyboard. If you want a purple keyboard with matching keycaps and a heavy typing feel, it's just up to how much lighter your wallet wants to get.
Different mechanical switches not only feel different in terms of actuation weight and clicky-ness (or the lack of it), they also different in the sounds they make! You may refer to our Mechanical Switch sound guide for an idea of how different switches produce different typing sounds:
As you may expect from the mechanics of the two types, mechanical switches cost a little more. Membrane switches are widely used because it is inexpensive, widely available and does a decent job. The keyboards that came with your stock PCs or laptops very likely have membrane switches. To some, a mechanical switch doesn't feel all too different from a membrane switch. To others with anal levels of over 9000, they can tell you the differences in feel for 5 days straight (yes that's not a typo) and pound you hard as they go on about it. Needless to say, mechanical keyboards may not be everyone's cup of tea.
Our personal opinion is that it's no secret we can spend hours using the keyboard for work or for play. We like to think of keyboards as car tyres. This could be the most retarded analogy we've ever made but hang in there and listen to the rest of this retarded explanation. No matter how good the car is or how powerful the car engine can be, the medium that actually touches the road is the tyres. Similarly, the keyboard and mouse are what connects the user to the feel. And just like how poor tyres can have negative consequences, the same goes for keyboards but really with much less severe consequences. Now before you call us fellas who sold ourselves out, we would just like to say that's harsh, and at the end of the day we hope that you simply pick a keyboard that fits your needs, budget and feel.
This is really just an article for people who are thinking of dipping their feet into the world of mechanical keyboards. Stay tuned for more regarding this topic!