Mechanical keyboards are a surprisingly resilient trend among gamers and power users. But as they get more popular, the various options and technical variations become more and more complex. If you’re looking for everything you need to know to get started in this surprisingly varied portion of the PC world, we’re here to help you out.
The Basics: It’s All About the Switches
A good place to start is our basic run-down of the pros and cons of a mechanical keyboard. The biggest difference in any specific keyboard selection is the switches: most are variants on the ubiquitous Cherry MX design, with different click actuations and spring strengths determining the “feel” of the keypress. Some keys will be harder to press down than others, while others will be light. Some will be clicky, some will have a small bump, and some will have no tactile response at all. These characteristics are usually delineated by the “color” of the switch, with each color representing a broad assignment for tactility and resistance.
But there are many variations beyond the standard Cherry MX design, like the older Alps and buckling spring designs or the niche Topre electrostatic switch (shown above middle and right). When you’re done with our article on the basics, open up a new tab to our exhaustive glossary of terms and definitions related to mechanical keyboards…
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