David Papp Blog

Should you switch to mechanical keyboards for gaming?

When it comes to PC peripherals, mechanical keyboards aren’t really all that popular yet, though they’ve slowly been gaining a bit of traction in recent years. One factor is definitely the price – mechanical keyboards are significantly more expensive than the common rubber-dome switch keyboards usually bundled with PC packages. So why pay extra if you’re already satisfied with a completely functional keyboard?

The funny thing with mechanical keyboards is that you won’t know what you’re missing until you actually get to use one for an extended period. And most people who discover mechanical keyboards swear they’re never going back to using regular membrane or scissor-type switch keyboards again.

Tactile Feel
Most PC users – especially hardcore gamers – prefer mechanical keyboards because of the tactile feel it gives. With mechanical models, you get to feel a slight bump with each keystroke. This lets you know precisely when each key has reached its actuation point… the point where it sends the signal straight to your computer. While it may not seem like a big deal, this leads to a more solid, satisfying typing experience. Once you get used to it, this leads to quicker keystrokes. Since you’re basically not pressing keys all the way down, you’re reducing the time between each key press. For competitive PC gamers, the precision and speed this brings is invaluable, especially during intense moments when each key stroke can make a difference.

No matter what model you choose, mechanical keyboards are guaranteed to last longer than their rubber-dome counterparts. Keys in most models are built to last for over 50 million key presses, compared to about 15 million for rubber-dome models – and that’s only for the high-end brands. So even though mechanical keyboards are pricier, they’re a worthwhile investment simply because of how durable they are.

This is purely for cosmetic reasons, but another feature that comes with most mechanical keyboards is the added customizability. Plenty of manufacturers like Maxkeyboard.com create a range of accessories and mods to go with the keyboards. Choose from multi-coloured keycaps, rubber keycaps, translucent keycaps, LED backlighting and more! The added customizability is perfect for PC enthusiasts who like to spruce up the appearance of their desktop PC.

Now we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Mechanical keyboards are definitely louder than their counterparts. They can be as quiet though or even quieter if you learn to type without bottoming out on every keystroke. However generally everyone in the room can hear a mechanical keyboard and some get quite irritated.

You’ll probably better appreciate what mechanical keyboards bring to the table if you’ve tried one out for a week or so. Whether you’re a gamer or someone who types a lot, you should definitely look into investing in a good quality mechanical keyboard that’s guaranteed to last a long time.

30 thoughts on “Should you switch to mechanical keyboards for gaming?”

  1. I have always preferred a mechanical keyboard. I like the “bump” feeling that accompanies the keystroke. When it is missing, I tend to keep checking back as I am not certain whether I have hit the key properly or not. This slows me down no end. So, although they do make an unholy racket, I’m sticking with my mechanical keyboard.

    • This seems like a big drawback to me, if you become so used to hearing the click when you type that you have to double check if you indeed pressed a key when you dont hear it feels like it would slow you down and kill productivity when NOT using a mechanical keyboard. No matter what people say, you become accustomed to using only one or two keyboards. When I was primarily using my laptop It would feel extremely weird and awkward when I used a regular keyboard, yet now when I use a regular one the laptop feels really weird.

      What keyboard you are used to isn’t something that is easily switched.

    • Hmm… I haven’t tried a mechanical keyboard before, but I’m not a really big fan of how they may sound… I also feel that they would be less comfortable? I guess, when it comes to me, it seems like you have to put more effort when it comes to typing. But also, as you’ve said, it’s really annoying to don’t know if you actually press a letter properly or now on a regular keyboard, I guess that as everything, both of them have their good and bad things.

  2. To me it isn’t about Mechanical vs Regular keyboard. I know a few gamers who use Mechanical and apart from the ‘click’ they can’t really give me a reason why its superior. The durability isnt really an issue, I’ve never had a keyboard break on me except laptop keyboards. To me when I choose a keyboard its all about functionality and layout. Are the F keys full size? Are there media buttons separate from the function keys? Does it have easy to set Macro Keys? Are the Ins, Del, Home, End… keys independent of the numberpad or have they been integrated?

    These are what I look for in a keyboard. I love my old G15 and I don’t plan on “upgrading” until it breaks. Maybe at that point I will look into getting a mechanical keyboard, but only if it passes my above requirements.

  3. It’s silly that mechanical keyboards are targeted at gamers lately, ’cause gamers are exactly the group that has less to gain from using them! Typists and writers of any kind, on the other hand, that use more than just the… WASD quartet, should actually look into them.

    The reason why they’re not popular? Because most typists (and writers of any kind) aren’t usually that tech-savvy to know the differences between keyboards, where gamers are. And gamers also happen to be the group that pays the most for their hardware, so, since mechanical keyboards are more expensive (due to construction, materials and, yes, marketing), they’re the ones that feel they should pay the premium to get “the best there is”.

    Me, on the other hand, are still trying to find ONE keyboard for my PC with the same design and feel as my old Amiga 1200’s keyboard. Big and ultra-soft, silent keys, with typical full 105-key QWERTY layout. Any suggestions? Anyone?

  4. It trips me out that keyboards are rated to handle a finite number of key presses. 15 million for a laptop keyboard? That sounds like a lot, until I consider how many button presses I may per day.

    • Well, I have never, I must stress that, never had any kind of problems with any keyboard I’ve used in my life due to wear. And I’m using computers for the better part of the last 30 years. And write. A lot. For a living. 🙂

      I’ve never had any keyboard break down on me, even the El Cheapo models I’ve bought for around 10 – 15 euros, banging their keys for years. My current one is a Razer Lycosa, and I’ve ‘been using it for the last 4 years, writing thousands of words every day. There’s not a single problem with it apart from the top of the caps having melted, letting the leds inside show their blue glow. Yeah, there are bright blue blobs where there were once letters, but so what? I can type without looking at the keyboard, plus, as an awesome bonus, it makes life hard for whomever may sit in front of my PC without me knowing 😀

    • 15 million presses is actually a lot! That’s 15 million per key, if you think about it, that’s 390 million presses for the letters alone and 1.3 billion presses per key for the letter keys for a mechanical keyboard. Unless you do a lot of typing all day, everyday, a mechanical can last you a lifetime.

  5. Having tried both I decided to stick with regular keyboards for now. Yes the response is impressive, however the cost, availability and noise are significant disadvantages. I’m not sure how it would effect your gaming performance, but I feel it isn’t that significant. What I’m saying is if I had a spare $150 I’ll look at one, but not yet.

    • People need to get over the fact that it’s targeted at gamers and realize that the speed and accuracy of your typing will improve substantially on a mechanical keyboard compared to a membrane keyboard.

      The noise aspect can be remedied by using different switch types; for example the Reds are much quieter than the stereotypical Blues. Even so, I use Blues at work – I’ve just added some rubber o-rings between the key and the switch to dampen the noise. It’s much quieter compared to the default sound.

  6. I game regularly and I use a normal keyboard and mouse, and an Xbox 360 controller for Windows and I’m pretty satisfied with them. I may consider a mechanical keyboard for their durability and tactile feel, but the price factor and the noise are holding me back. They are pretty expensive in my region. The cheapest one costs 60% of my graphics card’s cost.

    • There are some pretty cheap mechanical keyboards to be had out there – there are a lot of noname or smaller brands that are coming on the market to take advantage of the surge in popularity. Beyond that, you can often buy used mechanicals for less than half the price.

      It’s a hobbyists’ niche for the most part, but that also means they’ll be going through a lot of keyboards and often selling off ones they don’t like. You can take advantage of the boards’ hardiness and longevity; a decent clean and they should be good to last for a while.

  7. I have to admit I haven’t even transitioned to a basic USB keyboard yet and I’m still using the old mouse port. When I first tried a USB keyboard I felt like it was lagging a bit in terms of keystrokes, so I reverted back, although that issue has likely been fixed by now.

    As for a mechanical keyboard, I genuinely love the sound of them from what I’ve tried from the in-store demos. It is hard to plunk down that many bills just for a keyboard and I originally felt the way about a mouse as well, but when you consider how you interact with these things it can be quite a worthwhile investment. Like David mentioned, 50 million key presses for these mechanical keyboards versus 15ish for conventional ones. Long term, it’ll be worth it.

  8. My boyfriend is a frequent gamer and has been looking into the mechanical keyboards for a long time now. Although with the price where it is at, and the noise level of them he is just as happy using a regular keyboard with an ps3 controller for pc. Maybe one day when they are cheaper and more worked on 🙂 for now he is happy!

  9. I have grown up knowing that mechanical equals moving parts. If it has more moving parts, then it will be less durable since the movements can cause degradation. Next, it has a learning curve? I guess someone has to get used to apply the right pressure to it. Finally, the noise would be too distracting to gamers. This is especially true during tournaments. Unless they got used to the noise.

  10. I know frequent typists get to the point of not even seeing the keyboard when typing fast. In this regard, the mechanical keyboard makes sense if you’re going to be able to “feel” what you type. Now, if your work demands you to change keyboard normally in your day’s flow, then it may be more prudent to use the standard keyboard to avoid having to check if the correct key was pressed or not due to the missing feeling from the mechanical one. Sometimes it’s easier to go with the flow than against it for obtaining the most benefit.

    The mechanical keyboard is an alternative for those devoted to their personal workspace; those who can dictate what they use; although expecting people to pay $200 for a keyboard may seem too high for many, just like in other cases in life, you get what you pay for. “Going mechanical” might be the best keyboard investment for the right kind of typist. For the regular user, not so much. (IMHO)

    • Wow, are mechanical keyboards that freaking expensive?! I had no idea, my friend bought one some months ago, but I never thought of asking him how much it had cost him! I thought probably $90 or something like that! Woah! I think I’m more than happy with the keyboard my laptop has! Glad I’m just a casual laptop gamer :O

  11. For gaming, Mechanical keyboards are indeed better, but not by a lot. I mean, besides that you don’t have to bottom out the keys to register the keystroke, I see no other advantage. Specially for the price, that’s why they’re probably not that popular, who’s going to pay twice as much just for that?

  12. I can see the advantages it has in gaming. Yes, it would be an awesome thing to own by a gamer. do not take gaming seriously. I do have a gaming laptop and the keys are just fine. I am not really tested on speed when I play certain games, so the extra fraction of a second saved would not be remarkably advantageous in my case.

    • Exactly! I stated that fact in my previous comment, the keys from a laptop are fine compared to the keys of a PC keyboard! The other day I tried to write something using my old PC, the experience of typing with that keyboard was so odd! I really can’t believe I liked to write using that kind of keyboard for years! It was so uncomfortable! Definitely not a good pick for a gamer!

  13. I like that gaming is causing a resurgence in the popularity of the mechanical keyboards. That being said, when I switched from a standard rubber dome keyboard to a mechanical (blues specifically) I noticed the impact mostly in my typing speed and accuracy, rather than my gaming prowess.

    Since then, I’ve used blues exclusively for work and have adapted to browns and reds for gaming at home.

  14. Mechanical keyboards are definitely great! That tactile feel is huge, being able to accurately tell when you’ve pressed a key frees you to react more quickly to whatever is happening within the game.

    Noise factor also shouldn’t be a huge factor since when you’re gaming, the game’s sounds will override the keypress clicks. And if noise is such a huge factor, the good thing is that most mech keyboards use the Cherry MX Brown, Blue, Black, or Red switches. They differ in “clickiness”, force needed to press the key, and noise. So choose the one that is most quiet is sound is a problem.

    I guess it really depends on location but I can usually easily find mech keyboards for under $100. The Razor Blackwidow is an example of one for <$100.

  15. I consider myself to be a moderate gamer and so far I’ve done just fine with the rubber keyboards. Perhaps in the future when it gets cheaper, but right now, the price is way too high for me

  16. I’ve always used mechanical keyboards. There’s just something about the weird rubber ones that I can never get used to. It’s not satisfying I guess. Plus, I can type like crazy and the keyboard will still be in place. If i were to type like that on the rubber one, I’m sure it won’t even work.

  17. I think this article sums up the advantages of a mechanical keyboard quite well. As a gamer though, whatever type of keyboard you choose, whether rubber-domed or mechanical, be sure that the connector is PS/2 and NOT USB. The PS/2 port has a couple of advantages over the USB port, but I think the most important for gamers is the response time. Keyboards connected through these ports have an inherently faster response time than the USB ones. I don’t have to tell you that a fraction of a second can mean a whole lot if you’re a hardcore gamer.

  18. A friend of mine who happens to be a hardcore gamer just purchased a mechanical keyboard, I didn’t understand why he ditched his old keyboard for a mechanical one. Up until today I had no idea what the differences between those two were, but after reading this article I understand why he did that!

    Those mechanical keyboards are awesome! I mean, I don’t have to press for so long or so deeply when I use my laptop, but when using the keyboard of the PC… it’s a totally different experience! It’s so annoying! I can’t get used to type using a normal PC keyboard again (the keyboard from my laptop is way better), it feels so odd! No wonder those who get a mechanical keyboard feel they can no longer go back.

  19. I agree with what you’re saying! You don’t know what you’re missing out on until you use one.
    It has a much nicer feel, pressing buttons feels “satisfying” and it actually improved my gameplay on some games.

  20. The main difference of mechanical keyboards is how they feel and of course, how they sound. I’m a student, so I find it’s worth it for me as I find it a superior typing experience. Typing all day every day justifies it!
    The main downside is the women. Yes, I’m serious (not really, haha). I’m constantly harassed by beautiful women now because of my superior keyboard. If you can handle being harassed by beautiful women all the time, I’d recommend you go for it!

  21. I never used a mechanical keyboard and I can say that I never had a key break for too much usage, honestly. I’ve been using this keyboard for the last 5 years and I can’t say that I have any problem with it. It’s a bit dusty, to be honest, but that can easily be solved in a 30 minutes job. I would love to try out a mechanical keyboard, though, because many friends actually recommended me one. However, the price makes it not worth for me, simply.

  22. I had no idea about mechanical keyboards before reading this post, I just googled them and they actually doesn’t seem to be really different to a regular keyboard, but the perks that you just mentioned seems to be a really convincing thing for me, I’m kind of a writer in my spare time and I also spend a lot of time typing when I’m doing regular homework things… I will do my research on them (they also look really pretty, though).

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