Why Are Mechanical Keyboards So Expensive?

The quality of the keyboard you use can dictate your particular “experience” when using a computer.

Some are too soft or spongy.

Others are too rigid and stiff.

For computer users who are particular about making their interaction with a computer as fluid as possible, a mechanical keyboard is usually their first choice.

However, you’re left with the question, ‘…why exactly are they so expensive?’

How Much Does a Typical Mechanical Keyboard Cost?

Membrane keyboards are rarely the cause of a financial headache for computer users.

That’s because they’re cheap and relatively easy to manufacture.

However, a good mechanical keyboard can cost 5x as much as a typical membrane keyboard.

Buying a mechanical keyboard is a bigger financial commitment.

A high-end model can cost several hundred dollars.

Source: www.artlebedev.com

Or in the case of the Art Lebedev designer mechanical keyboards, several thousand dollars.

Are Mechanical Keyboards Worth Getting?

Yes, but with some provisos.

Looking through all the features and specifics they come with, they’re worth the money.

Mechanical keyboards tend to be used by people with very specific input needs.

If you just use a computer for basic web browsing, amateur gaming or typing a few documents then a membrane keyboard should fit bill.

But pro gamers, programmers and people who need their keyboard to work without missing a beat (or keystroke) all gravitate towards mechanical keyboards.

Mechanical keyboards are expensive, but that’s for a simple reason – they offer far higher levels of performance than cheaper membrane keyboards.

Mechanical keyboards offer a superior user experience for the following reasons.

Typing feedback

From impressive tactile feedback to audio confirmation, you can achieve greater levels of speed and accuracy.

Durability

Mechanical keyboards last longer, and without having serious issues. That’s down to the fact that they use mechanical switches.

They’re also made from high-quality materials like aluminum and tough plastics i.e. they’re designed to take punishment.

They’re also easier to keep clean, maintain and even upgrade.

Yes, you can upgrade a mechanical keyboard, including replacing the key caps.  

Once you’re able to clean your keyboard properly, you know it will last longer.

Improved gaming experience

Gamers love mechanical keyboards.

They offer a superior tactile response when compared to a generic membrane keyboard.

Another key factor is response time – the time from when you press a key to the signal being sent to the game.

Mechanical keyboards have a speed advantage here too.

Granted, it’s measured in milliseconds (ms) but gamers will take every edge they can get.

But they’re also highly-customizable, like the ability to use backlit keys or different keycaps.

They also last far, far longer than a membrane keyboard when used for serious gaming.

So that’s why you’ll only ever find pro gamers using mechanical keyboards from companies like Razer, Corsair, and Steel Series.

Customization

An exciting aspect of owning a computer is being able to make it look and feel the way you’d prefer.

Mechanical keyboards have that flexibility.

You can pick color shades, keycap materials, lighting, and whatever style you can dream up.

Why Are They So Expensive?

Now that you know why a mechanical keyboard is worth it, here’s a list of the reasons why they have a higher cost.

The Switches

As their name suggests, these keyboards use mechanical switches are mechanically.

The switches work independently of each other, giving you a more accurate typing experience and efficient performance.

And because of the independence of the switches, they require several solder connections to hold them together.

The switches, together with printing and molding, means there’s effectively twice as much work involved.

A membrane keyboard can be printed and assembled in a fraction of the time and with far less expertise.

Mechanical keyboards are more “artisan” in nature.

These independently assembled switches can also be swapped out to suit your typing or usage style.

If you exert a lot of force when typing, you may decide to use switches with a higher actuation force to reduce the pressure on the keyboard and how your hands feels afterward.

If, on the other hand, you tend to type softly, you can use switches with lower actuation force, so you won’t have to stress yourself while typing.

There are three categories of switches –linear, tactile and clicky.

  • Linear switches are the ones without bumps.  Whenever you type, the keystroke is smoother.
  • Tactile switches have smaller bumps, which give good keystrokes and quality feedback during typing. They’re a good balance between linear and clicky switches.
  • Clicky switches, on the other hand, are perhaps the most mechanical switches because of how loud they are when pressed.

You can pick which of these switches works best for you and build your keyboard to suit your needs.

Don’t forget that mechanical keyboards have more aluminum sections than any other keyboard type. Aluminum also consists of a significant percentage of the ultimate cost price.

N-key Rollover

This feature of the keyboard prevents what’s called keyboard ghosting.

A typical membrane keyboard can only recognize 3 – 6 keys being pressed at once.

A good mechanical keyboard can register every single key being depressed at once.

Or what’s referred to as “N-key rollover”.

Final thoughts

In the end, mechanical keyboards are about the type of experience you want to have when using your computer.

Mechanical keyboards can also make a great deal of difference, especially if you’re a hardcore gamer.

They’re more expensive because they offer a superior user experience.

The cure featured image: Kevin Suarez on Unsplash

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