What is a Mechanical Keyboard?

Mechanical keyboards have become very popular over the last few years with gamers and the average computer user.

But what are mechanical keyboards?

And why do they appeal to so many people?

Keep reading to find out.

What makes it mechanical?

A mechanical computer keyboard is the type that uses individual mechanical switches underneath each key instead of a rubber membrane.

These mechanical spring-based switches give the end-user a far more tactile experience, similar to what they’d get when using a typewriter.

The use of mechanical switches also means this type of keyboard tends to have a longer lifespan.

Types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches

There are primarily three types of mechanical switches: linear, tactile, and clicky. 

Linear Switches

Linear switches operate in a smooth and consistent manner, making them ideal for users who prefer a smoother typing or gaming experience. 

These switches have a direct, up-and-down motion without any tactile feedback or audible click, making them far more suitable for office or home office use.

Common linear switches include the Cherry MX Red and the Gateron Red.

Tactile Switches

Tactile switches offer a tactile feedback or “bump” midway through the keypress, giving the user a clear indication that the key has been activated. 

This feedback can improve typing accuracy and speed, making tactile switches a popular choice for typists and productivity-focused users. 

Some examples of tactile switches include the Cherry MX Brown and the Gateron Brown.

Clicky Switches

Clicky switches incorporate both tactile feedback and a distinct audible click. 

The clicking noise occurs at the activation point, reinforcing the tactile feedback and reassuring the user that the key has been actually pushed down. These types of switches are ideal for users who enjoy audible feedback when typing or gaming.

Some common clicky switches are the Cherry MX Blue and the Gateron Blue.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Pros of Mechanical Keyboards

Mechanical keyboards offer a superior typing experience compared to membrane keyboards. 

They require less force, which can make long typing sessions more comfortable and reduce finger fatigue. Speaking from experience, I have far fewer uses with RSI-related issues since I swapped over to a mechanical keyboard.

Different types of mechanical keyboards can cater to different users’ preferences.

Since mechanical keyboards use individual mechanical switches for each key, they tend to have a longer lifespan than membrane keyboards. 

Mechanical keys are easily replaceable in case one fails, unlike membrane keyboards that might require replacing the entire keyboard.

Cons of Mechanical Keyboards

Mechanical keyboards are typically 25%+ more expensive than membrane keyboards

Mechanical keyboards are often louder than membrane keyboards due to their switch mechanisms. 

This type of keyboard is usually heavier and bulkier than membrane keyboards, so they’re not as portable.

Mechanical Keyboard Customization Options

Mechanical keyboards offer numerous customization options, so you can basically create your “perfect” keyboard.


Keycaps are the keys attached to the top of a mechanical switch i.e they are the actual keys you type on.

Keycaps for mechanical keyboards are available in various materials, colors, and even shapes. 

Some keycaps are made from plastics like ABS or PBT, while others might be made from metals, such as aluminium.

In addition to materials, keycaps come in a variety of profiles – these dictate the height, shape and curvature of each keycap.You can even get keycaps in different fonts, or even in languages such as Elvish – this Drop keyboard is a great example of that.


There are three main types of mechanical switches: linear, tactile, and clicky. 

Linear switches offer a smooth and consistent keypress with no audible click or tactile bump. 

Tactile switches provide a slight bump when the key is actuated, giving physical feedback without a loud click. 

Clicky switches, on the other hand, provide both a tactile bump and an audible click during key actuation.

Cherry MX switches are the most common and most popular on the market right now, but there are competitors looking to steal some of their customers away such as Gateron, Kalih and Zealios.

Mechanical keyboard form factors

A mechanical keyboard’s form factor refers to the physical shape, size, and the number of keys on the keyboard. 

Choosing the right form factor for your computer layout or space is really important.

The good news is that you’ll have no problem finding a mechanical keyboard with a form factor to suit you.

Full-size keyboards – these have 104 keys, including a number pad, a nav/sixkey cluster (Page up, Pagedown etc),’Home’ cluster, and arrow keys. 

Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards have approximately 87 keys and the name comes from the fact that they have an average of “ten keys less than a standard keyboard”. They do not have a numpad but do usually feature function keys. 

Compact keyboards (60% keyboards) remove function keys, arrow keys, and the Home cluster. They typically contain 60-65 keys and rely on combo keys to access the secondary functions that come as standard on a full-sized keyboard. Ortholinear layouts arrange keys in straight columns and rows to suit a particular user preference.

Why do people use mechanical keyboards?

Mechanical keyboards have always been popular with a certain type of computer user – people who have a collection of Cherry PS/2 keyboards from the 1980s. 

Or they were used in environments where huge amounts of data input happen on a daily basis – doctors offices, attorneys, government offices, etc.

So for a long time mechanical keyboards were a very niche choice for computer users. 

But the gaming community really shone a spotlight on the usefulness and durability of these types of keyboards.

And manufacturers were quick to capitalize on this.

Mechanical keyboards offer a more comfortable typing experience thanks to the nature of mechanical switches i.e. your fingertips aren’t hammering into a solid surface covered by a rubber membrane. Instead, they kind of bounce off the switch activation mechanism. 

The auditory feedback of a click indicates the actuation of a key, so users can touch type without wondering if they’ve actually pressed the key, or having to glance down to check. 

Membrane keyboards generally have a lifespan of 5 million to 10 million keystrokes, mechanical switches tend to last for 50 million or more keystrokes. Numbers don’t lie.

Users can select from various switch types, keycap materials, and layouts to build a keyboard that suits their preferences and their personality. 

Some mechanical keyboards even offer programmable keys, so you can assign specific gaming or work functions to those keys as a type of super-shortcut.

Are all mechanical keyboards wired?

Mechanical keyboards come in various configurations, with wired and wireless options available to users. The majority of mechanical keyboards on the market today are wired.

The reason for this is that wired connections have a much lower level of latency than a wireless connection.

However, companies such as Razer are working on and releasing wireless mechanical keyboards they claim are completely free of lag or stuttering.

Only time will tell on this one.

How Long Do Mechanical Keyboards Last?

Mechanical keyboards are known for their durability and longevity compared to their rubber membrane counterparts. 

Mechanical keyboards can last between 10 to 15 years under heavy typing or gaming use.

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