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Mechanical keyboard? Thank you, sir, may I have another?

4521 Views 24 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  jb1111
I've been working around computers since 4th grade (I'm 41 years old now), and spent almost twenty years actually "working" on computers for a career. In my time, I've had to use probably a thousand different keyboards. Some I liked, some I hated, but for the most part, I didn't really pay much attention to any keyboards other than having a "cool gaming keyboard" for my main computer.

A few weeks ago I was digging through the massive boxes of old computer equipment, deciding what to throw out and what to keep, when I happened across one of the older IBM mechanical keyboards. You know, the one that is ivory colored, kind of huge, and has the awesome "clicky" keys that sound like an old electric typewriter (and of course, the kb has the curly cable and the old, big PS/2 style connector that motherboards haven't had for more than a decade). I put it on the table and gave a quick type-test, and suddenly remembered how much I loved these things.

So I went on a search to find a newer version of mechanical keyboard, and come to find out, writers have been praising these things for a while now. In fact, there's a couple of websites dedicated to refurbishing the old clicky mechanical keyboards and selling them at a premium ($75-$200+). I didn't realize these types of kb were in such high demand. So I googled around and found a few sites for writers that talked about mechanical keyboards and even had some suggestions as to what was available that other writers swear by.

So I spent my usual 8+ hours driving my wife crazy while I searched and searched and thought and compared and all that good stuff (you never want to go shopping with me, trust me). To make a long story short, here's some links, then I'll link to the keyboards I just purchased.

Five "best" mechanical keyboards for writers:

Some info about what mechanical keyboards are and why you should care:

The different mechanical switches and what they are good for (gaming / writing / balance):

Another list of good mechanical keyboards:

And finally, here's what I settled on:

I bought one "Ultimate" (backlit keys), and one "normal" (same keyboard but no backlighting). The "Ultimate cost $108 when I bought it, but is now down to $89.99 (probably a sale of sorts, always after I buy the damn thing). I replaced a Logitech G15 gaming keyboard on my main writing computer, and the non-LED version will be the keyboard for a new standing desk that should arrive any day. Both keyboards are identical other than one has LED and one does not.

I almost bought one of the DAS kb's, but I still love to game too much, though of course gaming can be done on any keyboard. Anyway, now that I have the Ultimate set up, I absolutely, positively, definitely love it more than any keyboard I can remember. I could have purchased the "Stealth" version which has "Cherry MX Brown" switches, which are a lot quieter when pressed, but I really, really like the click of the keys and wanted to hear them. Well, since I wear noise-canceling earbuds, I will only feel them when writing, but for everything else, there's such a satisfying "click" with each key press that I hope it drives everyone else crazy while it soothes me.

For me, there is simply no comparison to the "mushy" gelpad type keyboards, even my beloved Logitech G15 that I've had for I think six years. I don't know if it is a mental thing, but I find myself typing even faster than before, with less errors. I will say that it has taken me a day or two to get used to it (I got the feel of it by yelling at idiots on Facebook and writing mean emails to Dorrance Publishing who somehow can't get the hint that I'm not interested in signing with a vanity press no matter how many insults I toss their way).

Anyway, thought I'd stop in and be friendly for once in a year or so, and see if anyone wanted to talk about mechanical keyboards. If you haven't tried one... try one. If you hate the clicky noise, keep in mind that you can get mechanical keyboards with different switches that are much quieter.

Here's one of many videos comparing the different switches (sound) between the Razer Black Widow Ultimate ("Blue" clicky switches, though Razer uses their own version) vs the Razer Black Widow Stealth ("Brown" silent switches):

PS: these keyboards are MUCH heavier than you might imagine. I was surprised that the two Black Widow keyboards weighed as much as the 20+ year old IBM mechanical keyboard, but it seems all mechanical keyboards are this hefty. The only negative I can find in my Razer keyboards is that the USB + headphone/mic jacks are on the right side of the keyboard, which is odd since about 95% or more of us use a right-handed mouse. However, I have a very wide kb tray on my desk, so it isn't as bad as could be, but still annoying (though most people don't plug anything into these jacks when not gaming).
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I had serious finger pain about 18 months ago. Not carpal tingling, but like muscle cramps. It scared the hell out of me. I like walking, but I'd rather lose use of my legs than my ability to touch type. I read something about mechanical keyboards and now they were easier to type on and I thought I'd give one a try and got a Ducky Shine 3 (with pink LEDs no less! and a dragon on the spacebar!). I noticed the improvement in my fingers immediately. I bought a second at work (spending their money I went with the cheap Rosewill keyboard). The pain was gone within the month.

The thing that really pushed me over the edge was someone who commented something along the lines of "you paid $1000 for that computer, why are you satisfied with the included $10 keyboard."
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I have a Cherry mechanical kb and I love it. What I love even more is that I've put stickers over the keys and configured it to a Dvorak layout - much easier on my hands and my stroke-damaged fingers are free of pain at last.
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Peter Spenser said:
Memories... memories! ;D
I use this one:

It's not mechanical, but it's snappy and close enough. Cheap for what it is, feels great, looks great, and I get COLORS :D Pretty backlights!
I'm perfectly happy with it for writing and gaming alike. Plus it's pretty quiet. ^^
I have a cherry red mechanical keyboard at home. When I put the request for a mechanical keyboard with the ergo person at work, he said I'm the first person to make the request. Most people just ask for an ergo keyboard. Anyways, it's been a month because of my "unusual" request, but it got approved. So hoping my mechanical keyboard comes in this week.

I use Aivia Osmium. Mechanical keys are the way to go. Typos have become much less common and my writing speed has gone up considerably.

I have the Cherry Brown version. I initially wanted the Cherry Red, but after trying them out I went with brown.

The most popular type of tactile, non-clicky switch is the Cherry MX Brown. This switch was introduced in 1994 as a special 'ergo soft' switch, but quickly became one of the most popular switches.

PS* - do not let the name fool you. The keyboard still clicks. If I type casually, it's very vocal. You can go near stealth mode if you wish, but normal typing is still very loud.
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Some people really hate the clicky noise, but like I said, it's very soothing. One of the links I posted earlier describes all the different switches and their "sound" so you can find a kb of your preference.

Another good idea if you want to try and find a cheap one is to hit ebay, though it seems a lot of sellers know their old keyboards are worth a pretty penny. If you do buy an older IBM (the Lexmark ones made later don't have the "Cherry MX" switches as far as I know, but they seem to still be in circulation which means they have lasting power) with the PS/2 style connector, make sure you get a proper adapter if all you have is USB ports.

One more useful thing is a wire key-puller tool. Mechanical keyboards are a little tougher to clean in some ways, but they are far more durable than mushy gelpad keyboards. Better for me, the mechanical keyboard keys sit high enough that usually a can of air can get 95% of the hair/crumbs/non-sticky stuff out so you don't have to pull the keys off and do a major cleaning (also: keys are cleaned really well if you have a mesh basket or such and can run them through your dishwasher, though laser-etched keys will not have their lettering/symbols fade like printed keys will).

I really, really love the backlight feature. I won't buy a laptop anymore that doesn't have a backlit keyboard. Even after 30 years of typing and knowing by heart where every key is, I still need to look down once in a while and in the dark, it's a PITA.

Right. I apologize. Still sort of crushing on my new loud, annoying, beautiful keyboards ;).
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Thank you for the links! I have a mechanical keyboard nearing the end of its days, but I just haven't been able to stand the feel of a new one. I grew up using a typewriter - I hit those keys hard! On new keyboards I hit it so hard that my fingers slide off because there's no resistance!

And I love the sound ;) It's the sound of writing.
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I like my Razer Black Widow Ultimate Something Or Other so much I bought a second one and gave it to my wife (who gave me a dubious look at first, but has now threatened to beat me to death with the heavy mechanical Razer Black Widow Ultimate Keyboard of Pain or Something if I touch her new favorite keyboard).

(the lesson here is don't give your wife gifts that can be used against you)

(okay, now that I've just been bashed in the knee by her old keyboard, a crappy mushy keyboard thankfully, I have to correct my previous statement to just say "don't give your wife any gifts at all")

(okvba y type ths wit 2 fingr bcuz she angri now an huts me an pain and owwww~!)
I'd forgotten what the older keyboards sounded like. I might have to get one of those Ultimates myself. Oh, and yes, tactility is a word.
Potential buyers should make sure to check Amazon reviews if available, some mechanical keyboards have issues like any other keyboard. The DAS for instance appear to have strong reviews at first but when you read the 1 and 2 star you see a pattern of reviews mentioning that Das switched manufacturing over to China at some point a few years ago and the subsequent boards are not as good a quality. Try to find boards that are made in Taiwan vs. China, they have a better reputation.

I am trying out the Cherry MX brown and find them plenty clicky enough - I can't imagine using Blues, that would drive me nuts. The IBMs are just too tiring for me to use, although I see the appeal. Browns are a nice middle ground.

I definitely find mechanical keyboards WAYYYYY better than conventional keyboards. I actually can't wait to write on my mechanical keyboard, it feels so good.
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Can you still get ergonomic/split keyboards, or did they go the way of the dinosaur? I love mine and have kept it through numerous PC upgrades but I'm worried it won't last much longer.
Is there any alternative to a curved keyboard? I have rheumatoid arthritis and my wrists are fused, so can't use a laptop/small keyboard.
Tilly said:
Can you still get ergonomic/split keyboards, or did they go the way of the dinosaur? I love mine and have kept it through numerous PC upgrades but I'm worried it won't last much longer.
Is there any alternative to a curved keyboard? I have rheumatoid arthritis and my wrists are fused, so can't use a laptop/small keyboard.
I was wondering the same thing. A few years ago I started getting some really bad wrist pain. Switched to a ergo keyboard and it went away never to return.

I would love a mechanical keyboard, but it would have to be laid out similar to my beloved Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard. I replaced a really nice Logitech keyboard for that cheap sucker. Best $50 I ever spent (it's only $30 now).
I used a DAS keyboard until my wrists couldn't take it.

1) The DAS one without lettering on the keys is incredible if you want to up your typing speed.

2) Be careful using mechanical keyboards. You type faster on them and you have to keep an eye out to avoid carpal tunnel and other issues. You can circle/rotate with an ergonomic keyboard. The Microsoft 4000 is cheap and good.
Tilly said:
Can you still get ergonomic/split keyboards, or did they go the way of the dinosaur? I love mine and have kept it through numerous PC upgrades but I'm worried it won't last much longer.
Is there any alternative to a curved keyboard? I have rheumatoid arthritis and my wrists are fused, so can't use a laptop/small keyboard.
Nicole's already mentioned what is probably the most popular split keyboard, the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000. But you can find alternatives from companies like Goldtouch, Kinesis or Maltron.

My split keyboard is a Logitech (Cordless Desktop Pro) and I'm very happy with it -- but I don't think that Logitech make them anymore.
I did some research a while ago too because I also like solid, reactive keyboards and ended up with a Filco, which is really designed (I believe) for gamers. The reason I got the Filco is because I don't need all the number keypad stuff--which just ends up making the mouse further away when I need it :)

I wrote a post about buying the keyboard here
Hell, I still remember the bloodied cracks under my nails from actual mechanical typewriters :)
Glad to see this thread.

I am a keyboard snob, although I try to be gracious about it and keep quiet around other people.

There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of the keyboard has a direct relationship to the quality of the writing. That, of course, is subjective and may well be unsupportable, but it is a truth for me.

My main keyboards are an old Das Keyboard that sounds like how a war tank sounds as it thunders over the horizon. I like it loud and I am sure it would get me censored in an office, but I work alone.

I also use a modern KeyChron K3 Slim. This is one of a long line of models made primarily for gamers. There is just about nothing that you can't change on them; the keys, colours, and unfortunately, the backlighting. I say unfortunate because my keyboard has something like a dozen lighting setups, colours, and light level changes. Some settings make it seem like I am trying to write at a rock concert, and I am sure they are a danger to someone with epilepsy. Fortunately, there is an old-guy steady light setting that has an adjustable light level.

As someone else mentioned, backlighting is just so useful and comfortable that I am going to make sure that whatever keyboard, or laptop, I get next has it.

I have several portable (usually folding) bluetooth keyboards for when I am out and about with just my phone or my Apple Mini. But I was very picky about buying and keeping them. None of them are mechanical but there are big differences in touch between the jello keyboards and some are acceptable.

When I travel (before Covid-19) I use a fairly old MacBook that has a decent non-mechanical touch. I would buy a newer model in a heartbeat, but I have yet to find as good a Macbook keyboard. I also use an old Lenonvo Thinkpad for the same reason, and I have a couple of Chromebooks where the designers at least tried to pay attention to the quality of the keyboard.

Now, if someone could recreate a modern version of the ancient IBM Selectric typewriter keyboard that would be just about perfect.
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