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I'm wondering what the advantages of using mechanical keyboards vs. traditional keyboards (i.e. membrane keyboards) are.

My primary uses will be coding, productivity, and avoiding getting RSI.

closed as primarily opinion-based by ivaan, Andy, Cfinley, ArtOfCode Apr 27 '16 at 7:08

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • As per anything it depends on what you consider an upside. PC World has a good post on the subject that may be worth taking a look at. – Gram Sep 9 '15 at 18:19
  • I have had an issue in the past with coding in a work environment (cubes) and using mechanical due to the noise level annoying coworkers. Is this a potential concern to you? – Gram Sep 9 '15 at 18:21
  • @Gram Noise isn't too much of an issue for me, but they can indeed ne quite loud, I agree – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 9 '15 at 18:25
  • VTC: Atwood's blog covered this in excruciating detail :) – DVK Sep 9 '15 at 19:12
  • @DVK blog.codinghorror.com/the-code-keyboard ? a bit too wordy though :) – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 9 '15 at 19:15
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In my experience (new mechanical user):

Advantages

  • Key Rollover - Mechanical keyboards should support NKRO (infinite simultaneous key presses) over PS/2 and 6KRO (six simultaneous key presses not including four modifiers like Ctrl, etc., so 10 simultaneous) over USB*. Being able to press this many keys means the only limit to your typing speed is your fingers, not the keyboard.
  • Repair/Customisation - Keycaps are easy to remove so you can move them around (mine is Colemak. I've also heard good things about Workman). Also this means replacing keys and cleaning are a lot easier than on many non-mechanicals.
  • Build quality - As a premium product the build quality and reliability is very high. As an example the standard Cherry MX switches can withstand 50 million key presses compared to 5-10 from rubber dome keys.
  • Feel - There is something nice about the key presses of a mechanical keyboard

*Specifically a limitation of the USB protocol. This may be manufacturer specific, but I'm not sure. If anyone knows, comment below!

Aesthetics

For many people the aesthetics are important. If you spend a lot of money on something you often want it too look good. With my keyboard free custom keycaps and printing were included so mine looks like this:

We do what we must because we can

Disadvantages

Cost is significantly higher than a normal keyboard (mine was US$200 approximately).

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    I would also add in the ability to make them quieter by placing O-rings on the keys. At work, I have MX-Clear with red O-rings (from wasdkeyboards) and it is only slightly louder than rubber dome keyboards. Also, nice StarFox coffee mug. – Cfinley Sep 10 '15 at 14:44
  • As an advantage or disadvantage? I wonder if that is better left as an addendum of useful info (which would improve the post to be sure). Much as I enjoy the sound of my keyboard and might get o-rings in the future volume might well be a disadvantage in office situations. – Tom Wilkinson Sep 10 '15 at 14:48
  • I would say an advantage, because no one is forcing you to install the O-rings. I got the O-rings (and clear switches) to make it as quiet as possible for work environments. If noise is wanted, than you have the options of green or blue switches (which I use at home). – Cfinley Sep 10 '15 at 14:53
  • Are you suggesting I extend the customisability section? – Tom Wilkinson Sep 10 '15 at 15:10
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    It should be fine to leave it in the comments. It is a rather small part to consider when buying a mechanical keyboard. – Cfinley Sep 10 '15 at 15:50
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If you're just coding and avoiding RSI, get a keyboard with scissor switches. This switch type is used in the famous ultra-thin Apple keyboard and most modern laptops. It's extremely quiet so you won't get annoyed, and its key feature is its low profile meaning you don't have to press keys down "really far."

With a mechanical keyboard, most switch types need the user to press 3-4 mm (from initial to actuation point), which doesn't seem like much at all, but after a ton of key presses it adds up quickly. Scissor switches reduce this distance to just 1-2 mm.

You definitely want a keyboard with scissor switches if you're just coding.

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    I've been coding for about ten years and scissor switch keyboards have failed me a lot in the past. Keys broke or came loose, silicon wore down, sensors broke, etc. – Preston Badeer Oct 26 '15 at 0:42
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    Isn't the actuation force a more interesting metric than depth of keypress? Back when mechanical typewriters were a thing, people would have killed for a 3-4 mm actuation depth... – a CVn Oct 26 '15 at 12:21
  • Can't you get 2 mm of travel distance by adding o-rings in a mechanical keyboard? – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 30 '16 at 20:32
  • @Franck It's possible, but the raised keys of a mechanical keyboard will keep your hands at an unnatural raised angle (assuming you don't use a big wrist rest) while a keyboard with scissor switches allows your hands to lay almost completely flat. – Adam Apr 30 '16 at 20:48
  • @Adam: Actually I had planned to use a big wrist rest :) – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 30 '16 at 21:19

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