Mechanical Keyboards


The Blog of Tom Webster

  2016-01-23 18:40:10 PST

Introduction

Mechanical keyboards. Oh hell yes. Clickity clackity. I will type on nothing else as long as I live, given that I have the choice. In this post, I'm going to tell you about two keyboards that I've bought and have been using for a while and why you should take out a second or third mortgage just to type on these beautiful pieces of modern machinery.

The first question you might be asking is "Why mechanical?". It's honestly a hard thing to answer. It's just something you have to feel to truly know the difference. I like to spend my money where I spend my time, and most of my waking hours are spent in front of a screen bashing on a keyboard. Just the feel alone is well worth the money.

The best way I can describe it is this:

Would you rather spend 8 hours a day sitting in this:

or this:

After typing on a mechanical keyboard for a while, every other keyboard feels like using that plastic lawn chair for extended periods of time. The best way I've heard it described is that all other rubberdome (non-mechanical) keyboards feel like typing on mashed potatoes, a very apt comparison.

CODE Keyboard

The first mechanical keyboard I bought was the CODE Keyboard with Cherry MX Clear switches. The keys aren't too heavy, but they have a nice spring to them. If you're a heavy typer like myself, you'll want to get some o-rings to help dampen the sound a bit. I ended up getting the red ones, but I may switch to blue to help enhance the sound dampening. After a while using it, my shift key started to squeak, so I picked up this tube of lubricant and it fixed it up perfectly. Also, any keyboard of mine is going to have a red escape key, it just has to be done.

Later on, I got backlight color covers to try out, but I ended up sticking with the white backlight.

CODE Keyboard parts list and price breakdown:

Unicomp Ultra Classic Black Buckling Spring USB

The second mechanical keyboard I bought was the Unicomp Ultra Classic. If you've ever used the classic IBM Model M keyboard, you know exactly what you're getting into. This keyboard is a buckling spring board, and the only difference I can see in this and the classic Model M is that the housing is a bit smaller, the color scheme is different (if you chose black like I did), and it has a USB connection (but you can get a PS2 connection instead). It's heavy, it feels fantastic, and I only have one small complaint: The rubber stoppers on the bottom slide a bit, unlike the CODE Keyboard. I think bigger rubber stoppers would help aleviate this problem, but it isn't like the keyboard just slides around everywhere, it's a subtle tiny problem.

This keyboard feels and sounds (IBM Model M sounds, but it's the same thing) absolutely amazing. The buckling springs are nice a crisp, you know when you've pressed a key and accidental presses don't happen. The key springs are heavy enough that you can rest your fingers on the keys, completely dead-weight, without accidentally pressing down a key. The keys spring back nice and crisp, ready for orders.

The keys look fantastic as well, the glyphs are created using dye sublimination, which means you cannot wear the prints off of the keys, as the plastic of the keycaps are stained with that particular glyph. The result is that the keys will continue to look nice for the next few decades.

Probably the greatest feature of this keyboard is the price, a mere $84 for the keyboard. You're not gonna get a backlit keyboard that will fly you to space or get you to the top of /r/mechanicalkeyboards, but what you are going to get is a fantastic keyboard with a great feel, that will be absolutely reliable for a decade or more. Well worth the money all by itself.

But that didn't stop me from adding a small number of additions: A red escape key, and a tux keycap set to replace my Windows keys.

But wait! There's more! These are made in the USA. In Lexington, Kentucky to be exact. Also, I recieved a key that was the wrong size in my Tux Key Set, so I emailed customer service, got a reply crazy fast, and they shipped me the proper key right away. Great customer service, no bullshit, no jumping through hoops, just making people happy quickly and easily. I'm very impressed.

Unicomp Ultra Classic parts list and price breakdown:

Which do I like better

I have to say, I do much prefer the Unicomp keyboard. It's crazy loud, it's not fancy, there's no backlighting, but it just feels great and the price is unbeatable for a well-respected and well-made mechanical keyboard.

Mechanical Keyboard Resources

  • Reddit's Mechanical Keyboard Subreddit
    • From reviews, to buying guides, to general information, this subreddit is the nexus of all things Mechanical Keyboard. Go browse around a bit.
  • WASD's Cherry MX sampler kit
    • If you're going to get a Cherry MX keyboard instead of a buckling spring, start out with this switch sampler kit and find out what kind of switches you prefer. There is no "best" switch, this is 100% personal preference.