How To Pick The Best Mechanical Keyboard (Feb 2018)

Mechanical keyboards are one of the most important tool for software engineers and gamers. As a software engineer, I am very picky about keyboards, I log a lot of keystrokes every day, speed and accuracy are the main reason of choosing mechanical keyboard. Do you know how to pick the best mechanical keyboard? There are many different brands of mechanical keyboards in the market, finding the best mechanical keyboard is not easy.

This mechanical keyboard buying guide will explain how it works, it also guide you to figure out which keyboard switches are right for your daily usage.

What is mechanical keyboard?

Each key on a mechanical keyboard contains a complete switch underneath. Each switch is composed of a base, a spring, and a stem. Switches come in three variants: linear with consistent resistance, and tactile with a non-audible bump, or tactile with an audible click. Depending on the resistance of the spring, the key requires different amounts of pressure to actuate. The shape of the stem varies the actuation distance and travel distance of the switch.The amount of sound produced by actuation can also be changed. Mechanical keyboards allow for the removal and replacement of keycaps. (Mechanical Keyboards Definition from Wiki)

You have a basic understanding of Mechanical Keyboards right?

First and foremost, the thing that defines a mechanical keyboard is the key switch it uses. Choosing such a keyboard is actually choosing a fine switch. The most famous switch manufacture is Cherry from German. Here is the different type of switches:

  • Silent makes no sound if not bottoming out
  • Clicky has an actual sound you can hear when you start to press the key down
  • Smooth feels the same from the moment you start pushing the key until you decide to stop
  • Bump has a bump you can feel part way into your keypress
  • Resistant requires more pressure to push

Some of the most popular brand of mechanical keyboard switches: Cherry, Gateron, Greetech, IBM, KBT, Matias, Topre. For me, Cherry is the best switch.

Still don’t know which one to chose?

Ok, we’ll further explore the differences between the Mechanical Keyboards Switches.

Cherry MX Blue - Clicky Bump

Cherry MX Blue - Clicky Bump

Blue switches are the best cherry switch for typing. The tactile bump can easily be felt, and the resistance is similar to your average keyboard.

Although many people find them just fine for gaming, some don't like the fact that the release point is above the actuation point. This can cause some trouble with double-tapping. This is usually the case with someone who has experienced other mechanical switches before hand.

Cherry MX Black - Resistant Silent Smooth

Cherry MX Black - Resistant Silent Smooth

Black switches are considered one of the best switch types for gaming. When gaming, having a tactile bump does absolutely nothing because you're going to be bottoming out anyway. So these give you a very smooth feel. The actuation and release points are at the exact same position as well. So games that require a lot of double tapping become easier than on any other keyswitch. However, most people don't enjoy typing on them that much do in part, to their linear nature.

Cherry MX Brown - Silent Bump

Cherry MX Brown - Silent Bump

Brown switches are considered a middle ground between typing and 'gaming' switches. They have a light, tactile feel half way through the key press that lets you know the switch has activated. This gives you an indication of what you can release the switch. The switch is considered a middle ground because the reset point & actuation point are close enough together than you can 'float' at that point, enabling you to double tap faster.

Cherry MX Red - Silent Smooth

Cherry MX Red - Silent Smooth

Red is another switch that can be considered a 'gaming' switch. It's essentially a lighter version of the Black, requiring less force to actuate. Some people do not find this switch that good for typing or gaming because it is so light, but others rave for this fact.

Cherry MX Clear - Resistant Silent Bump

Cherry MX Clear - Resistant Silent Bump

Clear switches have often been called "stiffer browns" though some users note that they have more of a tactile feel than browns do. This really can be a subjective topic, though this is another switch that could be considered "balanced." The force required is comparable to most rubber dome keyboards, with a nice tactile feedback to tell you the key has actuated. These switches are harder to find on keyboards.

Cherry MX Silver - Silent Smooth

Cherry MX Silver - Silent Smooth

Its alias Cherry MX Speed, by the name you can generally know its attribute. it is the fastest Cherry switch on the market. "Thanks to an actuation point of 1.2 millimeters and the resulting, extremely short travel as well as a low activation force of only 45 cN, this high-precision linear switch is optimized for both low response times and high switching frequencies." From Cherry.

Totally speaking, the Cherry MX Speed switch has a smaller actuation than any other MX switch.

Above is the most common Cherry MX Switches comparison (not all), we make some more intuitive distinction between all Cherry MX Switches.

Linear

  • Cherry MX Black
  • Cherry MX Red
  • Cherry MX Silver Silent
  • Cherry MX Grey
  • Cherry MX Speed

Tactile, non-clicky

  • Cherry MX Brown
  • Cherry MX Clear
  • Cherry MX Grey

Tactile and clicky

  • Cherry MX Blue
  • Cherry MX Green
  • Cherry MX White

The auditory and tactile nature of each switch, and the amount of force needed to actuate it, vary depending on the switch type (from wiki):

Switch type Clicky Tactile Linear Actuation force Tactile force Product code
Cherry MX Speed (silver) No No Yes 0.45 N N/A MX1A-51xx
Cherry MX Black No No Yes 0.60 N N/A MX1A-11xx
Cherry MX Red No No Yes 0.45 N N/A MX1A-L1xx
Cherry MX Silent No No Yes 0.45 N N/A MX1A-L1Nx
Cherry MX Nature White No No Yes 0.55 N N/A MX1A-41NA
Cherry MX Brown No Yes No 0.45 N 0.55 N MX1A-G1xx
Cherry MX Clear No Yes No 0.55 N 0.65 N MX1A-C1xx
Cherry MX Blue Yes Yes No 0.50 N 0.60 N MX1A-E1xx
Cherry MX White Yes Yes No 0.50 N / 0.70 N 0.60 N / 0.80 N MX1A-A1xx
Cherry MX Green Yes Yes No 0.70 N 0.80 N MX1A-F1xx

So far, you should know enough about the differences among Switches. My choice is more little force for long typing or gaming, Clicky for typing and linear for gaming. I really like the clicky sound, however this may affect your gaming experience. If you have good reason, please let us know. If you want to learn more about top Mechanical Keyboards recommendations, please keep reading. We will review a Mechanical Keyboards per switches.

Das Keyboard 4 Professional Clicky MX Blue Mechanical Keyboard

Switches: Cherry MX Blue - Clicky Bump

RGB backlit keys for enhanced visuals, 4 levels of LEDs brightness adjustment to suit your environment and 7 different lighting modes to give your keyboard a cool looking effect.

Cherry MX RGB BLUE mechanical key switches (Tactile and Clicky), It operates with an actuation point of 2mm and only requires a pressure of 50g for the key to register a key stroke Furthermore, the actuation point and release point of the switch are identical, which will facilitate speed, precision and more control in typing and less fatigue to your fingers.

Braided Cables & Gold Plated Connectors Heavy duty braided cable provide additional flexibility and prevent tangle wired. 18K gold-electroplated connectors to minimize latency and provide reliable connection that optimizes signal quality and delivers the best transmission and data transfer.y

Built in 2 high-speed USB 2.0 hub. Added convenience right at your finger tips. Transfer files and photos from your thumb / flash drive at 480 Mbps high speed data transfer rate and 100mA power current on each port. Ideal for small USB mobile devices such as mouse, trackball, trackpad or joystick.

1K Polling rate | 5 programmable layers | Macro on the fly | 6KRO or NKRO

The Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate mechanical keyboard experience is like no other. From the initial idea to every fine detail when crafting this machine, the experience we deliver to customers is what drives our team. The combination of tactile feel, the psycho-acoustic experience and incredible craftsmanship all deliver an unmatched typing experience that only Das Keyboard 4 offers.

With a Das Keyboard 4, you'll type faster and longer. It feels so good, you won't want to stop.as Keyboards uses best-in-class, Cherry MX mechanical key switches that provide tactile and audio feedback so accurate it allows you to execute every keystroke with lightning-fast precision. Its high-performance, gold-plated switches provide the best contact and typing experience because, unlike other metals, gold does not rust, increasing the lifespan of the switch. The Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate mechanical keyboard is available in both the Cherry MX Brown and Cherry MX Blue switches.

PROS
  • Lighter key effort required to push the key down.
  • Fast, really fast.
  • Works like a keyboard should.
  • USB-3.0
CONS
  • The only color is black.

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Cougar 700K Aluminum Mechanical 32 Bit ARM Keyboard

Switches: Cherry MX Black - Resistant Silent Smooth

Cougar’s style is very much from the Lamborghini, the whole keyboard has lots of chamfers and bevels. The effect is one that you’ll either love or hate.

Since it's a Mechanical Keyboards for gaming, when we are gaming, we found the macro keys to be well placed for rapid access, although we are skeptical at the split design of the spacebar which has been separated out to add an extra macro key. As standard, both sides of this act as a spacebar but it takes some getting used to when typing.

The detachable plastic wrist rest hosts one of the unique features of Cougar 700K, a secondary wrist rest can be magnetically attached to its left side, raising its height by a few more millimeters, making WASD or TAB-1234 gaming more comfortable.

PROS
  • Great build quality.
  • Excellent typing performance.
  • Split spacebar is great for gaming-Dedicated macro keys.
CONS
  • Styling is an personal taste.

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ASUS Mechanical Gaming Keyboard ROG Claymore Cherry MX Brown

Switches: Cherry MX Brown - Silent Bump

The ROG Claymore comes in two parts: the main board, which acts as a traditional TKL, and then a removable number pad that can be attached to the side of the main board. The Claymore is available as a complete two-part set for about $300, or in a main board for 3/4 price.

For actual experience, both parts are very well made, the ROG Claymore looks and feels every bit as expensive as it is. E.g. Constructed from aluminium and tough plastic, and fully customisable RGB lighting. But its not perfect, although the joining mechanism has been very well designed, but it can not completely avoid the possibility of the number pad loose.

Additional, Asus provide a wide choice of key switches, and typing with the Claymore is an excellent experience, with solid keycaps. Maybe the biggest problem for this Mechanical Keyboards is price.

PROS
  • Quality metal body.
  • Aura Sync RGB lighting.
  • Compact design
CONS
  • High price
  • no wrist rest

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Cherry G80-3494LWCEU-2 G80-3494 MX Silent Keyboard

Switches: Cherry MX Red - Silent Smooth

For design, this is a very common keyboard. However, Cherry Mechanical Keyboard is usually not very good in design. The biggest feature of the Mechanical Keyboards is that it's very quiet. It is ideal for use in the office, you do not have to worry about noisy.

Performance: With Cherry MX Red (Noise-optimized), over 50 million keystrokes per switch without compromising quality, you can not worry about it at all.

PROS
  • NKRO
  • Very quiet keystrokes
  • Each switch is rated for 50 million keystrokes
CONS
  • Size is a little large, 18.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches tall

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CODE 104-Key Illuminated Mechanical Keyboard with White LED Backlighting

Switches: Cherry MX Clear - Resistant Silent Bump

Since Cherry MX Clear is not very common switch, the Mechanical Keyboard doesn't have a lot of choice. WASD Keyboards, one of the few companies to offer this switch. It offers both full-sized and ten keyless models.

The first obvious feature of the Mechanical Keyboards is its build quality. The Code feels dense and sturdy, with a thick frame and a smudge-proof textured finish. It also happens to be LED-backlit (Full white LED back lighting with 7 levels of brightness adjustment), but only one color, white.

For this Mechanical Keyboard, other manufacturers slap their ugly logo, but it has no visible branding on top, no edgy fonts. It’s just a plain black board.

PROS
  • Excellent build quality
  • Pretty clean
  • Good included accessories
CONS
  • Only white LED back lighting (personal preference)

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CORSAIR K95 RGB PLATINUM Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Switches: Cherry MX Silver - Silent Smooth

As the earliest and only brand used the Cherry MX Speed Switches, if you want an Mechanical Keyboard, you do not have many options. Fortunately, this keyboard is pretty cool, Combine with updated CUE and a nice RGB overhaul, the Corsair K95 Platinum further refines the pinnacle of design and functionality for gaming keyboards that its predecessor, it is now a 100% programmable keyboard with six added programmable G keys. If you log considerable hours either gaming or typing you'll find this keyboard to be premium.

PROS
  • Handy media and shortcut keys.
  • Great aluminum build.
  • Good QC of Cherry MX switches.
CONS
  • Expensive.
  • No audio jack.

Go to list

Top Mechanical Keyboard List

Best Mechanical Keyboards List
Keyboards Name Rating
1. Das Keyboard 4 Professional Clicky MX Blue Mechanical Keyboard 4.4 Check
2. Cougar 700K Aluminum Mechanical 32 Bit ARM Keyboard 4.6 Check
3. ASUS Mechanical Gaming Keyboard ROG Claymore Cherry MX Brown 4.1 Check
4. Cherry G80-3494LWCEU-2 G80-3494 MX Silent Keyboard 4.0 Check
5. CODE 104-Key Illuminated Mechanical Keyboard with White LED Backlighting 4.3 Check
6. CORSAIR K95 RGB PLATINUM Mechanical Gaming Keyboard 4.7 Check

After reading these information, you should have some basic understanding of different Mechanical Keyboards Switches. Maybe you still have some of the concern of spending a hundred dollars on a keyboard. So before spending $100+ on a mechanical keyboard that can last you a lifetime, let’s try to figure out:

WASD 6-Key Cherry MX Switch Tester

This 6-Key Switch Tester incorporates a steel mounting bracket made from the same material as the steel back plate in our keyboards. This provides a more accurate representation of feel and noise when testing the switches. 6 of each type of our sound dampening O-rings are also included. Clear keycaps makes it easily to distinguish which switch and O-rings are being used.

Solid construction. The 6 keys are properly affixed and don't wobble. The metal bracket is good too- many mechanical keyboards have metal bases, so it's good to know how the sound can reverberate.

Everything is included. Six keys, with clear keycaps so you can see which key is which, and they even included two sets of rubber o-rings that prevent keys from "bottoming out", a popular way to make keys quieter and more gentle on your fingers.

Good key choice. The keys present- including the relatively rare MX Clear- highlight all the major styles of Cherry MX key.

Full keys. Nothing was lost, so each key has its contact points intact, meaning they can easily be placed into any keyboard or wired to another project. When you get your mechanical keyboard, you'll have six replacement keys and spacers.

Make a neat toy, you can easily use this as a finger exerciser.

Other Considerations of Mechanical Keyboards

Lifetime

Hundred of thousands of typing everyday not only make a person exhausted, also the keyboard. One of the biggest benefits of mechanical keyboards is that they’re durable and meant to stand up against heavy use. The keys are rated for dozens of millions of keypresses, which is way above and beyond the standard duty expectation of a membrane keyboard. If you’re the type of person who wants a good keyboard to stick with you for the long haul, or you notice you’re hard on your membrane keyboards, a mechanical could change the way you work.

Nostalgia

If you’re old enough to remember the IBM Model M keyboard or more recently the Apple Extended Keyboards, you can probably recall how they felt when use, and the sounds they made when you clicked away on them, whether they were your first computers or you used to work on them regularly. Modern mechanical keyboards can bring that sensation back, depending on the switches you buy.

Which one suits you the best?

In any case, whatever you want from a keyboard, you can find a mechanical keyboard capable of making it a reality—with more heft, longevity, and style than you may have thought possible. Mechanical keyboards are likely to get better as more consumers realize the benefits they offer to laser-focused typists, hard-core gamers, and everyone in between.

Final Thoughts

If you prefer popular brand, USA Filco Ninja Majestouch-2 Mechanical Keyboard (Cherry MX Red) is a good option. If you have low budget, Cherry G80-3000(Cherry MX Bule) is a better choice.

A Chinese Quoting

“工欲善其事,必先利其器。” ― 《论语·卫灵公》
Good tools are prerequisite to the successful execution of a job.

Reviewer: Rain

How To Pick The Best Mechanical Keyboard (Feb 2018)

4.7

Review Date:

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