Mechanical keyboards are a popular choice due to their responsiveness and overall great experience in typing and gaming.
So, How do Mechanical Keyboards Work? Mechanical keyboards work by using physical switches(a.k.a mechanical switches) beneath the keys(Keycaps) to register the keystrokes.
When a key is pressed, the switch is activated and a signal is sent to the computer.
This signal tells the computer which key was pressed, and the character associated with that key is displayed on the screen.
Why Should you Trust Me? Hi, I am Anirban Saha, an Engineer with a Specialization in Electronics and Communication Engineering. I have experience in Smart TVs, Electronics circuits, and Computer peripherals.
Let’s dive right in!
Contents of The Article
- 1 How Do Mechanical Keyboards Work?
- 2 How does a Traditional Membrane Keyboard Work?
- 3 Mechanical Keyboard Features
- 4 Benefits of Mechanical Keyboards
- 5 Customization options for mechanical keyboards
- 6 Maintenance and care for mechanical keyboards
- 7 Conclusion
How Do Mechanical Keyboards Work?
Mechanical Keyboard keys have individual switches mapped to them below. On the top layer, there are Keycaps.
Below the Keycaps, lie the Mechanical Switches. Below the mechanical switches lie the PCB board which receives the input signal.
Here is the mechanism of how mechanical keyboards internally work:
- First, we press the keycap which lies on the top of the mechanical keyboard. It actuates the mechanical switch below it.
- On applying pressure from the keycap, the mechanical switch gets pressed. However, it requires a certain amount of force to actuate known as actuation force due to the presence of a metal spring within the switch that causes stiffness to be present.
- The spring compresses and the mechanical switch’s stem goes down, and finally, the metal contacts touch the PCB completing the circuit.
- This now sends a signal to the computer that a click has been noted.
In contrast to a rubber dome keyboard, mechanical keyboards are preferred by gamers as their gaming keyboard choice due to their high-quality mechanical switches in them.
Also, they have N Key Rollover which helps to input multiple characters all at once accurately which is only possible in the case of a mechanical keyboard due to the individual switch design and not array-based keyboard input.
Mechanical keyboards offer different switch types to suit different preferences. Some keyboards offer tactile, linear, or clicky switches.
Clicky switches produce loud clicking noises and are ideal for those who like typing loudly.
How do Mechanical Keyboard Switches work?
Mechanical switches have a metal spring within them which creates stiffness and requires force to actuate them.
On pressing a mechanical switch, the spring gets compressed and the switch stem presses the keyboard PCB and completes the circuit.
This is how a keystroke gets registered by a mechanical switch.
Now, during pressing the mechanical switch, it gets through two positions which are an actuation point and a reset point.
The actuation point represents the position at which the switch registers a keypress, and the reset point represents the point at which the switch no longer registers a keypress.
Switches vary in resistance and can be classified according to the type of switch they are. Some switches are clicky while others are tactile.
Each type of switch is classified by its color, and each color has a different tactile bump or audible click when it is pressed.
Types of Switches for Mechanical Keyboards
There are three mechanical keyboard switch types which are: clicky switches, linear switches, and tactile switches.
1. Clicky Switch: Keyboards would give you a clicky feel while you are typing but they are loud.
E.g., A Cherry MX Blue Switch Keyboard.
2. Linear switches: They lack a tactile bump but provide consistent snappy actuation from the key switch of your mechanical gaming keyboard.
E.g., a Cherry MX Red Linear Switch keyboard or a Cherry MX Speed Silver switch keyboard.
3. Tactile switch: keyboards don’t make much sound but have good bumpy feedback in them.
E.g., Cherry MX Brown Mechanical Switch Keyboard.
There are other manufacturers other than Cherry MX like Gateron, Kailh, Outemu, etc. You will also find clones of a Cherry MX switch too which comes cheaper but does not last long.
So, find the keyboard switch type you want and then choose from the wide range of switches these manufacturers provide.
How does a Traditional Membrane Keyboard Work?
Traditional keyboards like membrane keyboards or rubber dome keyboards use a rubber-dome system under each key.
With each button press, the dome collapses, completing the circuit. This type of keyboard is cheaper to manufacture, but it doesn’t offer the same level of precision or durability as a mechanical switch keyboard.
This keyboard type is a classic choice for users who don’t want to spend much money and want a cheaper alternative.
Mechanical Keyboard Features
When it comes to keyboards, mechanical keyboards are the gold standard for gaming and typing. Mechanical keyboards feature special switches beneath each key, which give them distinct tactile and audio feedback when pressed.
In addition, they provide superior performance with features like N-Key Rollover and macro keys. Let’s take a closer look at some of the features of mechanical keyboards.
A. Tactile and Audio Feedback
The tactile and audio feedback of a mechanical keyboard is one of its most attractive features. The switches beneath each key provide a distinct tactile response when pressed, which helps you to know exactly when a keystroke has been registered.
Additionally, the audio feedback helps you to know when you’ve pressed a key, which is especially useful when you’re typing in a noisy environment.
B. N-Key Rollover
N-Key Rollover (NKRO) is a feature that allows you to press multiple keys simultaneously without any of them being missed.
This is essential for gaming, where multiple keys need to be pressed at the same time in order to perform certain actions. NKRO is especially useful for fast-paced games, where split-second response times are crucial.
C. Macro Keys
Macro keys are a great feature for gamers and professionals alike. They allow you to assign certain commands or keystrokes to a single key, which makes them ideal for executing complex tasks quickly.
For example, you can assign a macro to a specific key in order to open a file, launch a program, or perform an in-game action.
These are just some of the features of mechanical keyboards that make them so popular. With their tactile and audio feedback, N-Key Rollover, and macro keys, they provide superior performance and make gaming and typing easier and more enjoyable.
If you’re looking for a superior keyboard, then a mechanical keyboard is definitely the way to go.
Benefits of Mechanical Keyboards
There are many benefits to a mechanical switch keyboard. If you spend a lot of time typing on a computer, you will love mechanical keyboards.
The key switches in a mechanical keyboard are highly responsive. They produce a clicky sound halfway through their travel.
This helps users type more accurately and comfortably. A mechanical keyboard will last up to 10 to 15 years on moderate usage. Typically, you’ll start with one switch type as you need to find the right type of switch as per your requirement.
Cherry Switches are one of the most popular mechanical keyboard switches. Then you need to look into the keycap material of the mechanical keyboard. If it has PBT keycaps, then it is great.
Also, check the comparison of ABS vs PBT keycaps to know why PBT is great.
A mechanical keyboard has independent switches for each key, which prevents multiple key registrations from degrading feedback.
Additionally, mechanical keyboards are customizable, and you can even customize your keycaps and choose from any type of keycap profile. You can even use custom-designed Keycaps known as Artisan Keycaps.
Pro programmers and hardcore gamers alike enjoy the tactile feedback that a mechanical keyboard provides.
Not only does this improve typing accuracy, but it can also increase your level of satisfaction.
So, if you’re planning on buying a new keyboard, think about getting one with a mechanical keyboard.
Generally speaking, mechanical keyboards are more durable than their membrane counterparts. Their build structure and individual switches are more durable.
In addition, mechanical keyboards feature individual switches mounted underneath each key. Because mechanical keyboards use independent switches, they can last between 50 and 100 million keystrokes.
So, if you are looking to get a good-quality keyboard that will last for years to come, a mechanical keyboard is the way to go.
Better Responsiveness and Click Accuracy
Mechanical switch keyboards have different key switches in them. The rubber-dome ones are very similar to the mechanical ones, but they offer little tactile feedback.
Mechanical keyboards are much more responsive, and the different key switches give you different levels of feedback.
Mechanical switches that are tactile and clicky give awesome tactile feedback if you use them as a switch choice for your keyboard.
These are a great choice to consider for your regular usage if you like the bumpy feedback of the mechanical switches.
They are far better and more enjoyable than a membrane switch keyboard.
Easy on Hands
A mechanical keyboard is designed to minimize the impact on your fingers by reducing the amount of sideways movement you make while typing.
Traditional keyboards require a large “activation force” for every key press, which causes your fingers to “bottom out” before the key registers, increasing the strain and impact on your fingers and wrists.
Customization options for mechanical keyboards
- Keycaps and materials: One of the most visible aspects of a mechanical keyboard is the keycaps, which are the plastic caps that cover the tops of the keys. Mechanical keyboards often offer a variety of keycap materials, including ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) plastic, PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) plastic, and Doubleshot keycaps, which are made by injecting two layers of different colored plastic together. Keycaps can be replaced to change the look of the keyboard or to improve the feel and durability of the caps.
- Swapping out switches(Hot-Swappable): Many mechanical keyboards allow users to easily swap out the individual switches that make up the keyboard. This allows users to customize the feel of the keyboard to their own preferences, or to replace worn or damaged switches.
- Custom firmware and software: Some mechanical keyboards offer customization options through custom firmware or accompanying software. This can allow users to program macros, customize lighting effects, and fine-tune the behavior of the keyboard.
- Macro keys and programmability: Some mechanical keyboards include dedicated macro keys, which allow users to program complex sequences of keystrokes or actions to be performed with a single press. These can be useful for gaming or for streamlining repetitive tasks.
- Backlighting and lighting effects: Many mechanical keyboards offer backlighting, which illuminates the keys and can make it easier to type in low-light conditions. Some keyboards also offer a range of lighting effects and customization options, allowing users to create their own unique lighting schemes.
Maintenance and care for mechanical keyboards
Proper maintenance and care of your mechanical keyboard can help extend its lifespan and ensure that it continues to function at its best. Here are some important things to consider:
- Cleaning and dusting the keyboard: Dust, dirt and other debris can accumulate in and around the keys of your mechanical keyboard, which can interfere with the smooth operation of the switches and keycaps. To keep your keyboard clean, it’s important to regularly dust it off using a can of compressed air or a soft, dry cloth. Avoid using liquids to clean your keyboard, as this can cause damage to the electronics or the switches.
- Lubricating switches and stabilizers: Over time, the mechanical switches in your keyboard can become dry and sticky, which can affect their performance and lifespan. To remedy this, you can lubricate the switches using a specialized lubricant or a small amount of silicone grease. You may also want to lubricate the stabilizers (the mechanisms that keep the larger keys from wobbling) to improve their smoothness and reduce noise.
- Replacing switches and keycaps: If you notice that your switches or keycaps are damaged or worn out, you may need to replace them. This can be done by removing the old switches or keycaps and installing new ones in their place. Some mechanical keyboards make it easy to swap out switches and keycaps, while others may require more advanced disassembly and installation.
By following these maintenance and care tips, you can help ensure that your mechanical keyboard remains in top condition for as long as possible.
Check this guide on how to clean a mechanical keyboard to learn in detail.
Let’s conclude the post on how mechanical keyboards work!
If you’re into gaming, mechanical switch keyboards are the way to go. They let you program your keys to perform certain actions, eliminating the need to memorize and press every key individually.
If you already have gamer friends who are using a mechanical keyboard to play their best, you will soon be able to match them with practice with a mechanical keyboard.
I hope you enjoyed reading the post.