Objective reasons for using a mechanical keyboard

ghostdawg187

21 Feb 2019, 11:07

Recently, I have finally convinced my wife trying to use a mechanical keyboard. It is a keyboard, where all existing Cherry MX switches have been put into this thing. The plan is, that maybe after some time she will probably tell me, which switch she likes most. Unfortunately, the plan does not seem to work. She complains about the feel of the keyboard. I asked her, if all the different switches might cause a problem, but she denied. She says that it is merely a problem with the switches themselves for being "mechanical". Later she asked me for objective reasons for using a mechanical keyboard and everything I answered seemed to be subjective.

Now, Chyrosran did this video, where he tries to find a proper definition for a "mechanical keyboard" but could not succeed, if I remember correctly. But let us assume, we have found something like a working definition, which should include almost all the keyboards, which most of us in this forum like. Do objective reasons exist for using a "mechanical keyboard" and maybe they might be of interest for me (and my wife ;) )

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matt3o
-[°_°]-

21 Feb 2019, 11:25

there are a few "objective" parameters. like linear switches with a high actuation point are generally better for gaming. not always true as many gamers still prefer browns, but still.

clicky is good if you need an audible feedback, it might be useful in some applications like data entry.

very light switches are prone to mistype and need a little time to settle to them, very hard switches are tiring in the long run.

usually cheap rubberdome on membrane keyboards are low quality, the keycaps suck, legends wears off very quickly.

These are kinda objective properties. But at the end it just down to personal preference. Typing on a keyboard with a different switch for each key is --if you ask me-- a very, very bad idea. There is one switch for each of us and that's the only reason for mechanical keyboards to exist. Your wife might probably like topre switches from what I can gather, but you can't tell what switch you like from a keyboard with an allegory of switches. I don't blame her for not liking them.

Regarding the "objective" reason, it doesn't really need to be one. Use what you feel is right, there doesn't need to be a logic because if you like a switch you end up happier. And you can't go wrong with happiness.

Anakey

21 Feb 2019, 11:31

well there are many reasons for using a mechanical board other then a rubber dome though it depends what one is wanting from a keyboard to determine in the reasons for using it will provide a better experience then domes. If all she cares about is typing on a standard layout and is happy with using the domes and is used to them then maybe there is no benefit for her to go mechanical. Unless one wants to get a more unique typing experience then normal domes can provide e.g. fancy keycaps, non standard layout, custom weighted spring, (using a board you used x years ago if you are into vintage) at the expense of a larger cost compared to a standard dome then there really is no objective reason to get one.

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Chyros

21 Feb 2019, 13:02

IMO probably the single biggest benefit of a "mechanical" keyboard is that it actuates before bottoming out, which lends itself to a much more relaxing typing style.

davkol

21 Feb 2019, 13:53

What types of switches allow you to make anything like this?

Image

Well, they have to be discrete and easy to work with. In practice, that's Cherry MX/clones or Alps SK/clones.

Findecanor

21 Feb 2019, 14:00

Long ago, I switched for ergonomics reasons. My fingers were aching from using hard Dell rubber domes at work (and stupid scroll-wheel...), and the MX Brown were much lighter and gentle to my fingers. I used MX Blue with O-rings at home, which was even better but I could not use it at work because noise is an issue. The blues are light and with two kinds of feedback. (that some think that the bump is too small is a subjective thing)

Some scissor switches are light and feel nice, but it is rare to find a contoured keyboard with them (I think I have only ever seen one, and I missed to jot down the brand, sorry). The industry trend for scissor switches has gone in the wrong direction though, with flat chiclet keys, lower key travel and wider keys: being detrimental to key feel and accuracy.
There are supposedly studies that say that bottoming out hard always would be bad for your fingers. I think that also includes bottoming out on scissor switches.

After testing various switches, I settled with Cherry MX Clear. Other people find this too hard, but to me I would describe feeling like "a scissor switch on top of a spring" because after the tactile bump, the switch actuates and the spring is then hard, cushioning my fingers. This makes my key stroke shorter on these shorter than on any other switch in the MX family, but I do admit that it took my a while to adapt to this typing style. (It is the area under the force-displacement graph that counts for fatigue, not just the force or the displacement).
I don't see much value in switches with linear feel, though, from an ergonomic standpoint. Some people love them, but that is purely subjective.

Another benefit of mechanical keyboards, with Cherry MX switches is the supposed long total life. I know kids these days buy and trash expensive gaming keyboards like crazy, but real men get good tools and maintain their tools.
Nowadays, good keyboards with Cherry MX (or clones) don't actually have to be that expensive: there are lots of brands that compete, with various clone switches. You could get a tenkeyless that feels and performs great for years, with doubleshot-moulded keycaps for much less than a stupid low-profile keyboard from Apple or Microsoft. Just do your research and compare beforehand.
A keyboard with Cherry MX switches could be repaired, by replacing the switch or keycap. Other keyboards on the market are so flimsy, made from tin foil and glue basically, that the only option would be to throw them away.
Also, with mechanical keyboards switches and keycaps being somewhat standardised, you could upgrade and customise them. (Just don't get sucked into collecting expensive different-coloured custom key sets or "artisans"...)

To summarise:
• Contoured/Sculptured keys with a dimple in the keycap (cylindrical is norm) is objectively best for typing accuracy, ruling out most low-profile keyboards.
• You can get one that is light (to actuation) which is objectively better for your fingers. (But you could also go wrong here)
• Repairability. High quality is attainable.

Unfortunately, mechanical keyboards will need some customisation to not be very loud.
There have recently been some lower-profile mechanical keyboards, even clicky with contoured cylindrical keys, but I still don't think any is really great. Clicky or linear, and loud is the norm for mechanical, not silent and tactile.
Last edited by Findecanor on 21 Feb 2019, 15:42, edited 4 times in total.

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fohat
Elder Messenger

21 Feb 2019, 14:04

Although I love and enjoy my steampunk behemoths, my wife is a professional magazine writer and editor who types thousands of words a day and has been doing it for years, so her opinions are not trivial or irrelevant.

She is a devotee to all things Apple and has been for a couple of decades. I can't stand her keyboards with flat rectangles for buttons and almost imperceptible travel, but it cannot be argued that her attitudes and preferences are not indisputably proven to work for her and cannot be dismissed because I happen to feel differently.

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stratokaster

21 Feb 2019, 14:18

My wife loves her Apple Magic Keyboard that came with her iMac. She feels that typing on a mechanical keyboard with long key travel is "more work". She's a university professor and author, and before that she was a journalist and a post-grad student, so I'd argue she does her fair share of typing and has been doing it for a long time now.

I kind of like the keyfeel of the butterfly-switch keyboard in my MacBook Pro, its main problems are unreliability and a very hard bottom-out feel. It literally feels like banging on a slab of metal. Pretty much all mechanical keyboards I have ever tried feel much softer, even when bottoming-out.

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webwit
Wild Duck

21 Feb 2019, 14:52

Yeah so I asked my wife why do you buy such expensive shoes when these flip-flops have been excellent for me and I don't see any objective reasons to buy decent shoes instead of the cheapest crap. I am a biped so my opinion is not trival or irrelevant. :ugeek:

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Muirium
µ

21 Feb 2019, 15:09

Exactly. This is a flip-flop forum, damnit Jemima! The cheaper the better.

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swampangel

21 Feb 2019, 16:17

ghostdawg187 wrote:
21 Feb 2019, 11:07
It is a keyboard, where all existing Cherry MX switches have been put into this thing. The plan is, that maybe after some time she will probably tell me, which switch she likes most.
If I was in your shoes, I would have picked one of my favourite boards with a standard layout, and said "I think this keyboard is really nice to use. Can I convince you to try it for a while?"

IMO any objective arguments for mechanical kbs are overshadowed by the subjective aspects that we enjoy -- the feel, the sound, the total package.

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Muirium
µ

21 Feb 2019, 16:39

Correct on all counts.

A lot of it is to do with attitude, too. I’ve had very varied luck on convincing normals that keyboards are something worth thinking about. They’ve got to be in the mood for it.

As with so many things in life: you like what you’re used to. Our keyboards feel wildly different from chiclet scissor switch “modern” stuff, so it’s quite a jump to embrace them. You need a reason. Which is why she asked. But that’s not something we can give. It’ll find you.

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zslane

21 Feb 2019, 19:17

The objective reason behind my switch to mechanicals was durability/reliability (over cheap membrane keyboards). I mean, that's what led me to look at mechanical keyboards in the first place. But then I discovered the custom keycap options and my whole set of priorities changed.

For me, a keyboard is just a vessel for beautiful keycaps, and since mechanical keyboards are the only ones that accept the kinds of keycaps I want to be typing on, they have become mandatory in my life. Furthermore, I grew up on the mechanical keyboards of computer terminals with tall spherical keycaps, and the only way to recapture that experience (using contemporary hardware) is with a modern mechanical keyboard.

Now, if someone has somehow acquired a strong preference for chiclet keycaps on a laptop-style keyboard with no key travel, well, there may be no saving them.

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vvp

21 Feb 2019, 19:43

I went for mechanical switches because they are discrete and can be used to build contoured keyboards relatively cheaply. Otherwise I do not care that much about switches or keycaps.

Tactile switches are bit better for me since they provide some touch feedback about the actuation point. Clicky are about the same as tactile (on one side they have better touch/sound feedback on the other side they are louder). Keycaps should have spherical or cylindrical tops. Again to give touch feedback so that one knows how precisely they were hit.

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Hypersphere

21 Feb 2019, 23:54

Among objective criteria for choosing a particular keyboard are typing speed and accuracy assessed with standardized tests.

For those who need quietness, another objective criterion would be the sound level assessed with a decibel meter under standardized conditions.

Putting these two sets of criteria together, the best keyboards are lubed and silenced Topre-switch keyboards. In particular, the HHKB Pro 2, Realforce 87U, and Realforce R2 PFU Edition.

If I remove quietness from consideration, I can include IBM Model F and various Alps-switch keyboards.

However, the real reasons for my choosing "mechanical" keyboards over the cheap rubber-dome keyboards that are bundled with many of today's desktop computers are looks, sound, and feel. Moreover, for me, mechanical keyboards are more fun to use than cheap rubber domes.

Using a mechanical keyboard is satisfying. It provides a similar kind of satisfaction as driving a well-made sports car. Mechanical keyboards appeal to those who appreciate the journey as well as the destination.

If I had a Star-Trek tricorder, I am sure that I could provide objective data showing that there would be a net increase in the appropriate neurotransmitters in the pleasure and thrill-seeking centers of my brain when using a good mechanical keyboard vs. a cheap rubber dome.

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Spearra

22 Feb 2019, 08:08

No there isn't. The problem with "objective" is that the more we think about what counts as "objective", the more subjective it ends up being. For example, "all rubber domes are worse than mechanical keyboards".

If those Youtube videos taught us anything, there are irredeemably awful mech. keyboards that make 'standard' rubber dome (over membrane) keyboards look "objectively better" in comparison. But that's in comparison to straight garbage.

The problem with "objective" is that it always involves a cherry picked comparison. If I say, LK Libra switches without lube are smoother than Cherry MX, that is "objectively true" with that comparison. But there lies the problem, THAT SPECIFIC comparison.

Lets take another example. "Durability". What defines "durability"? Whats the metric? IBM Model M? IBM Model F? There's a huge difference between just those two keyboards. But then what about a Perixx PX-1900? It won't fall apart in 5 months let alone a few years. But it is a scissor switch keyboard.

Hypothetically even if there is a "standard" for durability. Which "kind" of durability? Whether the case flexes? Realistically that doesn't mean it would break in two seconds. What about spill resistance? If that is a factor to "durability", that just cuts out a huge bunch of keyboards period.

In my chaotic opinion, "objectivity" is just a fancy way of saying "standardized subjectivity".

Okay real talk for your wifey, Cherry MX isn't the best option for people coming from 'standard feeling rubber domes (over membrane)'. Imo get her a Topre clone. Preferably 55g. The problem with Cherry MX is that even with Blacks, in comparison to standard feeling rubber domes, "all mech. keyboards" are too damn light. But Topre clones are still expensive as shit.

If you want a keyboard that shits all over other keyboards in it's price range, that "Perixx PX-1900" I mentioned earlier might fit the bill. The legends are durable too. They ain't gonna fade for years unless you're doing something really unreasonable to a keyboard. No it isn't mechanical but here's something you can take to the bank, it doesn't have to be.

If your wife prefers regular rubber-domes-over-membrane instead of stabilized ones like scissor switches,
the "Perixx PERIBOARD-106" is basically a rubber dome over membrane keyboard shaped like an IBM Model M. Please note apparently the legends are fragile under HEAVY use.
If she wants something flatter like most modern keyboards, the Klim Chroma is one of the best "basic keyboards" I ever used. Please note that the Kilm Chroma is in ISO layout only! If she can adjust to ISO (under the assumption yall are using ANSI to begin with, sorry if I assumed wrong!), go for it. Its great.

PS: Like how someone mentioned Chyrosran, "mechanical" in general is also a subjective term. Imo it doesn't really matter. I tried damn near everything in my life time and the differences make a marginal difference. If anything, having a shitty mouse is way worse than having a sub $5 (USD) Dell keyboard. As terrible feeling as they tend to be, they're still "reliable" for the 3-5 years that they can be used for. A shitty mouse is absolutely miserable.

PSS: This is all coming from a psychopath with a Topre clone outfitted with BKE Extremes to make their clone "scissor switch feeling; binary", with a RollerMouse RED right below it. So take literally everything I say with a grain of salt considering my equipment set up is a niche nested in several other niches. I like it though. But again, that's me. Its subjective what I like. While I can say a RollerMouse RED has virtually no cursor drift in comparison to a standard mouse and say its "objectively better" in that regard, that's again, a specific cherry picked comparison.

TLDR; its subjective preference. People act like their preferences are objective. They are not. I like RollerMice to death and will live and die in osu! by them, I love extremely tactile and smooth switches raw and without lube, but those are all preferences.

Once again, people treat their subjective preferences as objective and wonder why people hard stick to their stock keyboards. Remember, even if its not "mechanical", at the end of the day, it doesn't have to be.

Menuhin

22 Feb 2019, 08:31

Why one needs an objective reason when it comes to like or prefer something?

Personal choice or preference by definition is subjective.

Menuhin

22 Feb 2019, 08:38

When it comes to an objective reason for a personal preference, it can be futile, e.g. “this car is faster”, some doesn’t care; “this car is more comfortable”, but some cares about the price most, etc.

davkol

22 Feb 2019, 10:48

Because you have vendors spouting bullshit like this:
A meticulously crafted PVD half plate designed hand-in-hand with the tasteful black & copper PCB for increased flex lends itself to an experience so :ahegao:, that you will get even more #feelios from your V2 Zealios and Zilents. Enter Xeno.
(ZealPC's Xeno: $65 plate for a $460 keyboard)

Menuhin

22 Feb 2019, 11:54

davkol wrote:
22 Feb 2019, 10:48
Because you have vendors spouting bullshit like this:
A meticulously crafted PVD half plate designed hand-in-hand with the tasteful black & copper PCB for increased flex lends itself to an experience so :ahegao:, that you will get even more #feelios from your V2 Zealios and Zilents. Enter Xeno.
(ZealPC's Xeno: $65 plate for a $460 keyboard)
Zeal has the cleverest marketing strategies - perhaps it's diligence, perhaps it's perfectionism, perhaps it's flaws - its switches have incremental revisions and versions. Their products have among the highest profit margin - I believe it is similar for RAMA.
Good QC and packaging and unboxing experience, etc. someone may call it, but a simple set of stabilizers from Zeal costs $30-$50, still made in China; KBDfans collaborates with EnjoyPBT to come up with an identical set of stabilizers at $13 of course made in China.
To be fair, Zeal has been bold and pioneering in some of their products - e.g. the factory-made ErgoClear experience with adjusted bump at the stems, and its SMD LED PCB which of the first of these kinds; on the other hand, Zeal's marketing and pricing strategy has be quite aggressive.
KBDfans is also starting to innovate according to the trends, but with fair and affordable pricing - not just copying, sometimes it is good, sometimes it is yet to be evaluated, e.g. the Tofu hotswap kit, the 5-degree case and the DZ60 PCB. They play different marketing and pricing strategy.

p.s. I had a ready-to-produce CNC model (a copy of a very basic Korean case design) and asked a Chinese CNC factory to produce an aluminium case for me, the total cost including very decent anodizing was around $110 - we can see that Tofu cases at $88 is actually earning some money. If I know CAD and CNC, I will definitely create something like AEK64 - with the curved up top for the AEK keycaps for myself, AEK aluminium cases are selling > $400 even b-stocks or c-stocks.

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hansichen

22 Feb 2019, 12:37

Menuhin wrote:
22 Feb 2019, 11:54
p.s. I had a ready-to-produce CNC model (a copy of a very basic Korean case design) and asked a Chinese CNC factory to produce an aluminium case for me, the total cost including very decent anodizing was around $110 - we can see that Tofu cases at $88 is actually earning some money. If I know CAD and CNC, I will definitely create something like AEK64 - with the curved up top for the AEK keycaps for myself, AEK aluminium cases are selling > $400 even b-stocks or c-stocks.

True words regarding the prices. You can get 10 2 piece 60% cases for like 600$ shipped from China. Every group buy is milking the community in some way, but with the Korean people, Zeal, Rama and some others you at least make sure that you receive an actual good product with quality control and not some damaged parts. In the end you pay them for their good service and smooth transaction experience.

davkol

22 Feb 2019, 12:44

You're missing the point…
How can it be that physical objects, just by being in proximity to your gear’s circuitry, influence audio reproduction? How can the mere presence of a component’s lid, footers, or stand and the like, audibly color the sound—especially if it never touches the circuitry?
Wat HiFi?

Findecanor

22 Feb 2019, 13:08

Spearra wrote:
22 Feb 2019, 08:08
Lets take another example. "Durability". What defines "durability"? Whats the metric?
Domes breaking: Known to happen often to scissor switches.
Plastic switch parts breaking: Known to happen often to scissor switches
Legends wearing off: Known to happen to a lot of different keyboards, but among mechanical keyboards it is more common that they are outfitted with keycaps where that does not happen, or that you have the option to upgrade to such keycaps.

And I already mentioned it above: The possibility to repair the keyboard.
You could say that that is an aspect of durability.

The OP did not specifically ask for suggestions of what to buy for his wife, but for hard objective facts.
I agree that if she wants something else than a mech keyboard, then by all means get her that!
Spearra wrote:
22 Feb 2019, 08:08
PS: Like how someone mentioned Chyrosran, "mechanical" in general is also a subjective term.
No, it is a term which we can not all decide on a definition for where the outer boundaries are: for keyboards with switches such as Peerless, spring-on-membrane and Topre.
For most keyboards that we talk about here: Cherry MX, Alps and buckling spring, there is no question that they are mechanical.

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abrahamstechnology

22 Feb 2019, 14:04

Because you are going against the computer idustry's braindead policy of copying Apple and making everything "thinner and lighter" instead of actually usable and good quality.

Also I would like to make the argument against rubber domes being inherently quieter, as most modern rubber domes make awful squeaking and rattling sounds. My Black Alps 60% board is barely louder than the awful din of the Dell Apple knockoff chiclet boards at my university's library.

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hansichen

22 Feb 2019, 14:32

I hope you still use a beamspring or similar things. The Model M/F, Alps SKC* and Cherry MX were all low profile switches back then.

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Chyros

22 Feb 2019, 14:59

Findecanor wrote:
22 Feb 2019, 13:08
For most keyboards that we talk about here: Cherry MX, Alps and buckling spring, there is no question that they are mechanical.
Alps and Cherry, no. I've never seen anyone argue they are not mechanical. But buckling spring; yes, I've seen it many times. More regularly it's just the M that's supposedly not mechanical, but sometimes both the M and F. In some cases supposedly the M is mechanical but the F isn't, which is even weirder. One of the many reasons I felt compelled to do that video xD .

HungerMechanic

04 Mar 2019, 16:15

Spearra wrote:
22 Feb 2019, 08:08
No there isn't. The problem with "objective" is that the more we think about what counts as "objective", the more subjective it ends up being. For example, "all rubber domes are worse than mechanical keyboards".

Lets take another example. "Durability". What defines "durability"? Whats the metric? IBM Model M? IBM Model F? There's a huge difference between just those two keyboards. But then what about a Perixx PX-1900? It won't fall apart in 5 months let alone a few years. But it is a scissor switch keyboard.

If you want a keyboard that shits all over other keyboards in it's price range, that "Perixx PX-1900" I mentioned earlier might fit the bill. The legends are durable too. They ain't gonna fade for years unless you're doing something really unreasonable to a keyboard. No it isn't mechanical but here's something you can take to the bank, it doesn't have to be.

If your wife prefers regular rubber-domes-over-membrane instead of stabilized ones like scissor switches,
the "Perixx PERIBOARD-106" is basically a rubber dome over membrane keyboard shaped like an IBM Model M.

Once again, people treat their subjective preferences as objective and wonder why people hard stick to their stock keyboards. Remember, even if its not "mechanical", at the end of the day, it doesn't have to be.
Hey Spearra, thanks for pointing that all out. Sometimes, all you're looking for is a decent rubber-dome or scissor-switch keyboard.

That's been harder to find for me in recent years, which is one of the reasons I went to mechanicals.

But I think it's helpful that there are boards like the PERIBOARD-106 that are set up to give you decent performance.

If you like light rubber domes and scissor-switch keyboards, is there anything else you would recommend?

I used a membrane keyboard of some sort for years, from the beige era. It had detachable keycaps, a fairly light actuation, and the keycaps themselves were light and probably OEM-profile. It's was like a rubber-dome, light Model M. I still have uses for non-mechanicals that are set up for productivity, speed, and comfort.

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