Mechanical Keyboards 101

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Mechanical Keyboards 101

 

Some of us just look at keyboards as an accessory that comes with your computer; however, in the world of tech, mechanical keyboards are not only a popular niche but a highly customizable and fun hobby.

We’ve asked our resident keyboard aficionado, Andrew, to share with us his top 5 keyboards and give us a little insight on each of them.

Via Andrew:

What is the difference between a regular keyboard and a mechanical keyboard?

Chances are your current keyboard at work or home is a rubber dome. They are the cheapest and most common type of keyboard. The rubber dome tends to give a mushy typing experience. Little to no sound or feedback and on top of that, they tend to all look the same.

In the hobby of mechanical keyboards, the customization is nearly limitless (not staring Bradly Cooper). You can customize the feel of when you press down on a key (resistance to bottom out), the sound (thocc thocc), and the look Want a sleek and small gaming keyboard, so you have more room for your mouse hand? Mechanical keyboards you are where it’s at! Want a massive keyboard with a number pad but still shows some personality? Mechanical keyboards got you!

Hopefully, the next 5 keyboards below will inspire you to get into the hobby!

If you find yourself lost trying to understand a term in the 5 keyboards I’ve listed below. Check out the terms below, otherwise, just skip to the boards!

Top 5 Keyboards

Keyboard 1: KBDFans Ergo Mountain

Quick summary of the keyboard:

This style of keyboard is called an Alice. The split keys are in a more neutral position that could make it easier to type on for some people. I’m one of those people! Also, this keyboard is technically 60% as well. 60% means, no function keys, no number pad, no direction keys. You still have them with layers, but there aren’t dedicated keys for them.

Keyboard: Ergo Mountain
Keycaps: DROP Laser GMK
Switches: NovelKeys Silk Black (Lubed and filmed)
Cable: Glorious Coil Cable – White
Deskmat: Pink on Navy

KBDFans Ergo Mountain
KBDFans Ergo Mountain

Keyboard 2: Kono Kira

Quick summary of the keyboard:

The Kira looks more like a traditional full keyboard (those big keys with a number pad on the right), but bunched up a bit. This style is called 99%. This was my first true mechanical keyboard that jump-started my obsession with the hobby.

Keyboard: Kono Kira
Keycaps: SA Calm Depths
Switches: NovelKeys Silk Black (Lubed and filmed)
Cable: Glorious Coil Cable – Nebula
Deskmat: Thekey.Company Moody Moon Series – Midnight

Kono Kira
Kono Kira

Keyboard 3: DROP ALT High Profile

Quick summary of the keyboard:

This style of board is called a 65% It does not have the function keys or number pad but does have arrow keys. You’ll see some 65% further down this list that does not include those arrow keys. This was my primary keyboard at home for over a year. The keys may look a bit odd to you as they are Katakana characters. You’ll notice the stylish (if I say so myself) artisan key.

Keyboard: DROP ALT High Profile – Black
Keycaps: DROP GMK White-on-black Katakana
Fancy Artisan: Stachio Bois Novelties by tinymakesthings
Switches: NovelKeys Silk Black (Lubed and filmed)
Cable: Glorious Coil Cable – Black
Deskmat: Thekey.Company– Drifter

DROP ALT High Profile
DROP ALT High Profile
DROP ALT High Profile Stachio Bois Novelties by tinymakesthings

Keyboard 4: DROP Carina

Quick summary of the keyboard:

I put this keyboard together for my partner to play games. She likes RGB, and pastel colors, as well as tactile switches. It’s a 60% so she can have more room for her mouse while gaming. The case is frosted acrylic letting all the RGB shine bright!

Keyboard: DROP Carina
Keycaps: DSA Astrolokeys by Sailorhg & Cassidoo
Switches: Everglide Oreo (tactile)
Cable: Mechcables Seafoam custom coiled aviator cable
Deskmat: Artist x TKC – YEET by Kagirii

DROP Carina
DROP Carina
DROP Carina Yeet

Keyboard 5: ZSA Moonlander

Keyboard 5: ZSA Moonlander

Quick summary of the keyboard:

This board is called the Moonlander by ZSA. It has little legs to adjust the typing angle that best suits your hands. The keys are in an Ortholinear layout – meaning not staggered like a traditional keyboard. This may help with the strain on your hand as you reach more for keys. I’m a big fan of learning new things and the process of re-learning how to type on this was fun. Your mileage may vary.

Keyboard: ZSA Moonlander
Keycaps: Default White with legends (legends just means they aren’t blank)
Switches: Lubed and filmed DROP holy pandas
Cable: Glorious Coil Cable – White – the TRRS cable that connects the two sides is by kriscables
Deskmat: NovelKeys Bento – Salmon

ZSA Moonlander
ZSA Moonlander
ZSA Moonlander

Terms:

  • Keyboard – This is not the entire thing, it’s pretty much just the case.
  • Keycaps – Those things you push to type are keycaps.
    • There are several types of keycap profiles – meaning there are different heights, shapes, and materials they are made from.
  • Switches – These are the mechanical mechanism under the keycap that initiates the keypress. There are three main types of mechanical keyboard switches I’ve listed below. There are more but these are the ones I’ll focus on today.
    • Linear – Same constant feel throughout the press till bottom out.
    • Tactile – Gives some feedback by having a bit of resistance at first before giving it away to a linear press the rest of the way down.
    • Clicky – Clicky switches are tactile in that they give some resistance and feedback at the top but instead once you pass that threshold they make a clicky sound. This is fun but a great way to annoy everyone in your office. I found out the hard way!
    • Lubed – This isn’t a type of keycap, it’s a modification that you or a factory-made to the switch. Lubing a switch, you add a bit of lubricant to the switch to increase the smoothness. Also it is common to add lube to stabilizer housing to improve the sound.
    • Film(ed) – This is a small material placed between two parts of a switch to make it more stable and give the switch a deeper sound when typing.
  • 60% – This is a keyboard layout without function keys (f1, f2, etc.), no number pad, no direction arrows, or those keys above the arrows.
  • 65% – Like the above but includes arrow keys, and typically a few of those buttons above them.
  • 75% – This is like the 65% but with function keys.
  • TKL – TKL means tenkeyless. It’s a full keyboard with the number pad chopped off.
  • 99% – This is almost a full keyboard, but the layout is condensed. Typically missing only a few keys from a full keyboard.
  • Alice – Alice is a type of split keyboard. It can be very similar to an Ergo keyboard. The main difference is an Alice layout tends to be one board, not separated like the ergodox style boards. See the Moonlander below for an example.
  • Ergo – A sometimes strange layout based around ergonomics for the user. Sometimes to help with RSI.
  • Ortholinear – In a normal keyboard the keys are in staggered rows. Q is just offset from A which is under it. In an Ortholinear layout, Q would be directly above A, directly above Z.
  • Full – if you can guess from above, that’s the big boy with a number pad and all.
  • GMK – Is a keycap manufacturer. Think of GMK as the Cadillac of keyboard keycaps.
  • SA – A keycap profile that is tall and slightly rounded. Google says SA stands for “spherical all”.

Thanks for checking out some of my keyboards! Hopefully, this gives you the urge to dive into the keyboard hobby! Feel free to drop me a message on IG or Youtube at AndyTypes.

Meet the Author

Andrew Okupinski

Andrew Okupinski

Web Development

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