The mythologized and all-consuming mechanical keyboards are possibly the most prized item in the world of PC peripherals. It has come to the point where, if you don’t own one, you are made to feel as though you are entirely missing out and that your life is lacking something that can only be replaced by a rectangular slab of metal and plastic. Mechanical keyboards have quite literally become the king of all PC components. They are, without a doubt, the topics that receive the most discussion in the peripheral world, and for good reason. Although some could argue that other setup components are more crucial to the user’s experience, nothing is more individualized and customizable than their keyboard.
However, it also implies that some members of the mechanical keyboard community are touch obsessed. There is no limit to your keyboard’s uniqueness, so you risk going down a rabbit hole that will ultimately cost you a big fortune. It’s one of the rare DIY hobbies when building something from scratch costs more. The advancements in keyboard technology over the past few years are incredibly astounding, but is it even worthwhile?
Are all the clickety, clackety switches, RGB settings and and custom keycaps just filler? Have we deviated too much from what keyboards were designed to do, which is simply typing? Do mechanical keyboards give gamers a competitive advantage?
The Evolution of Keyboards and the Rise of Mechanicals
We need to go back to the beginning of Esports in order to understand how we got to the insane point where mechanical keyboards are now the gold standard. Near the tail end of that era, we were blessed with the holy grail of all OG keyboards, the IBM Model M. Those keyboards were so well made that there is still a niche group of die-hards who continue to restore and use them.
This is not to suggest that the IBM Model M was the pinnacle of gaming keyboards, but this non-mechanical beast opened our eyes to the possibilities very early on. Actually, any keyboard can be used for gaming and has been. That’s one of the reasons their fandom is so fascinating. It was in the late 2000s that businesses wised up and began purposefully designing peripherals just for gamers.
Logitech was one of the businesses that became a gaming peripheral powerhouse when they introduced the now legendary G series lineup. The 2007 launch of G15 was one of Logitech’s significant early achievements. A digital display would be added to the design a few years later in the G19, which broadly gained popularity due to the addition of programmable buttons. Many other firms would soon follow its design.
It’s important to note that the Logitech lineup up to this time consisted only of membrane keyboards, not mechanical ones. Meaning that when the keys are pressed down, they trigger a little rubber button that activates the switch, so a question arises What exactly is a mechanical keyboard?
Unraveling the Mechanics of Mechanical Keyboards
A mechanical keyboard differs from other keyboards because it uses switches. The key is pushed down, a little prong is moved, the switch is turned on, and a signal is sent to your PC. The signal was terminated when the springs were released and pulled the key back into position. Even though mechanical keyboards may have existed in the past, the ones we know and love today are all thanks to Cherry MX key switches, which, despite reaching their height of popularity in and around 2010, were really invented and patented back in 1984.
The Cherry MX switches not only paved the way, but they continue to be the switches that the majority of manufacturers either use or attempt to replicate. One company did emulate the Cherry MX switches in 2014. The Razer BlackWidow, which used Cherry MX switches prior to their implementation, went on to become one of the most well-known mechanical keyboards ever made.
Mechanical Keyboards in Gaming
To begin with, it was significantly more affordable than just any other mechanical keyboard targeted toward gamers. A BlackWidow could be purchased from just about any big-box retailer or tech store, and since it was essentially the first keyboard to be promoted for its custom-made replica Razer green switches, it was a tremendously influential item. One that would set the standard for the market for consumer-grade mechanical keyboards for many years.
Additionally, it finally made room for greater customization. So naturally, the BlackWidow had RGB options, allowing you to transform your workstation into a Vegas slot machine. To better meet your needs, Razer even offers a variety of switch styles in the box. Because of this, the BlackWidow completely took off, and for many gamers, it was probably their first experience with mechanical keyboards.
This also sparked a trend of peripheral manufacturers starting their brands of gaming accessories in an effort to corner the market. Why would individuals choose mechanical keyboards over their excellent membrane keyboards? Part of it is good old marketing magic, but more significantly, people were starting to fall in love with the idea of simply using a mechanical switch, the sound, the feeling.
How Mechanical Keyboards Elevate Your Gaming Experience
The only factor driving people to purchase them can’t be that they click like a typewriter. Gamers make up the largest market for these products, so they must offer some sort of benefit. Theoretically, yes, but it might not be that important. One of their main selling advantages is that mechanical keyboards last a lot longer than membrane keyboards. Even mass-produced BlackWidows have a ten-year lifespan.
Any competitive edge is attributable to the mechanical keyboards’ lightning-quick response times. The keystroke input signal is transferred to your PC faster than with any other type of keyboard because of the way the switches work. Therefore, being sure that your inputs will be registered exactly when you want them to is crucial in competitive gaming, where every millisecond counts.
Exploring the Art of Custom Mechanical Keyboards
Custom keyboards are a revolution in peripherals all on their own. People are increasingly giving up their standard mechanical keyboards in favor of ones that are a little more unique. A keyboard may be purchased on Amazon for about $100 and $150, and there are also more expensive, higher-end Logitech and Corsair keyboards with additional functions, which generally start at approximately $250. After that, you enter the custom realm, where prices can range from $300 to thousands of dollars.
However, these custom keyboards are not just expensive for the sake of being expensive. Additionally, they offer a level of customization and personalization that is unmatched in the peripherals industry. The custom keyboard industry has grown to such an extent that simply updating your setup may now be a career path in addition to a hobby.
The mechanical keyboard kind of becomes an extension of your body because you can feel every input, similar to how a mouse conforms to the curve of your hand. It’s essential to have a mechanical switch since, in competitive games, especially FPS, you want your movement to be exact and flawless to the touch. In addition to being a product that will last a long time and provide you with the response time you require, mechanical keyboards have developed into this ideal fusion of design and function, which, in my opinion, is more significant than anything else.