So you want a mechanical keyboard, huh? (newbies buyer guide)


Word on the block is you heard about the clickety-clack of these amazing keyboards that aren’t like the one you have.. and you want it.

You turn to google where you’re showered by a plethora of mechanical keyboard elitists and their many opinions on everything from keycaps to the backlight on the keyboard. Oof don’t even get me started on the ‘perfect’ amount of keys to have on your keyboard or which switches they should have underneath them.

Wait, you have to lube them!?

Well slow down slow down — this is where I come in. Let’s make this short and simple, shall we? My goal here is to point out the three things I feel are most important when choosing your first set of keys!

FirstSize matters.

Barring over the top keyboard designs (which there are many of), as a beginner you should only concern yourself with a few, particularly these:

SecondThe sound of the stroke.

Ultimately what makes a mechanical keyboard so seductive, the sound of each key as it’s gently – or aggressively, depending on what you’re into – stroked.

These ‘switches’ sit under the keycap and are intentionally color coded

Regardless of what brand is prefixed to the type of switches in a keyboard you’re looking at, they all fall under one of three categories; linear, tactile, or clicky.

Before getting into the difference between them it’s important to explain the ‘point of actuation’ or actuation point of a switch; this essentially refers to the moment a keystroke is registered by your computer. So when a switch ‘is actuated’ that means the key has been registered as pressed.

The primary difference between these switches is the feedback they provide when actuated.

Linear – provides no feedback nor does it make any noise. These switches can often times feel very sensitive to the heavy fingered. These switches are typically colored red (requires less force) or black (requires more force) and are referred to as silent switches.

Tactile – when these switches are actuated, you’ll feel a ‘bump’ that lets you know the key has been pressed. These switches are typically colored brown (requires less force) or clear (requires more force) and are also referred to as silent switches.

Neither Linear nor Tactile switches intend to give audio feedback. Any sound created from keyboards with these switches are a result of any combination of keycap material, keyboard housing, and how much force is applied to the keys themselves.

Clicky – These switches are essentially Tactile switches which have intentionally been made to ‘click’ when actuated. They typically come in blue (requires less force) or green (requires more force) and are often referred to as loud switches.

Third If you’re gonna touch it..

A switch can look however it wants, as far as we’re concerned all that matters is how they sound and feel when stroked. We can hardly care about how they feel under our fingertips as they glide across the keyboard since we never touch them.. however the same can’t be said for keycaps.

Being the most abused part of the keyboard, we’d definitely want them to be made of a material that not only feels good stroke after stroke but can also hold up visually. In this category we only have two plastics (as a beginner) to worry about; abs and pbt.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) – Same material Legos are made out of. They have a very slick feel and often very light sound profile when pressed. Abs keycaps are known to wear down over time degrading the finish on the keycap legend (top of the key) and exposing the actual silky lego-esque look/feel of the plastic.

PBT (Polybutylene Terephtalate) – Much more durable plastic, with a sandy like texture on the keys. Typically keyboards won’t ship with these keycaps and if they do it will most likely be reflected in the price.

Now GO!

(I’ve purposely omitted things like bluetooth, backlight (solid vs rgb) and connectivity (USB-C vs Micro-USB) under the assumption if you’ve gotten far enough to want a mechanical keyboard you also have strong thoughts on where you stand on those matters.)

That aside, now that I’ve given you what I feel are the big three when considering your first mechanical keyboard it’s time to get to it and buy one already!

Shameless plug: Definitely feel free to check out our store here at thegreatgamers where we have a few (tested by our own fingertips of course) keyboards that’s worth a gander.

Happy Gaming ~

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