Mechanical keyboards are fantastic. It's one of the few ideas that were replaced by worse alternatives. Lightweight webpages have been replaced by bloated junks, fast desktop apps have been replaced by chromium wrappers made with electron. Awesome mechanical keyboards have been replaced by subpar rubber dome keyboards. Good thing is, mechanical keyboards are gradually making a comeback. There are more and more enthusiasts out there. Me being one of them.
Enough with the prelude! Tell me what should I consider while buying a mechanical keyboard.
I'm glad you asked. While buying a mechanical keyboard, there are 2 primary things to keep in mind. What switch type do you want and what keyboard size do you want.
Mechanical keyboard switch types
Since switches in a mechanical keyboard are the most important part of the keyboard's typing experience, I'm going to focus on it first.
Mechanical keyboard switches traditionally come in 3 types; clicky, tacticle, and linear. For easier referencing, they are denoted by certain colors. Clicky ones are called blue switches, tactile ones are called brown switches, and liner ones are called red switches.
Blue switches are the most satisfying switches. They give a click sound along with the tactile feedback. Many people including me are a fan of the sound.
However, they are really loud. My mechanical keyboard with blue switches used to keep the whole neighborhood awake until late night. When I typed fast, it vibrated the room with brilliant explosions of light, sound, and energy. The switches were quite satisfying, but the people around me thought otherwise, giving it the nickname 'the machinegun'.
If there are people around you, don't buy a keyboard with blue switches. Get the blue switches only if you work alone and have decent noise isolation in your room.
They need less pressure (actuation force) than the blue switches on a keypress. Red switches are linear switches having no tactile or sound feedback at all. Since they need less force for a press, they are popular particularly among gamers and touch typists. These switches are quiet and produce very little noise making them usable in office environments.
Brown switches are a middle-ground between the loud blue switches and quiet red switches. They provide a tactile feedback without creating much noise. Most typists prefer this switch over the others. I'm currently using a keyboard with brown switches as my daily driver and the experience is pretty good. It's not as great as the blue switches IMO, but there are no complaints from neighbors anymore.
Mechanical keyboard size
The keyboards in several form factors, named after how many keys they contain.
Full size keyboards
We all have used this keyboard size. One thing to note here is it contains 2 sets of numerical keys. One on the top of alphabets, the other is on the side of the keyboard. If you are someone who inputs numbers a lot, you may find the the extra keyboard on the side quite handy.
TKL (Tenkeyless) size keyboards
I don't need the extra number pad found on the full size keyboards. That's why I prefer TKL over the full layout. It's smaller in size without sacrificing any functionality.
They retain only the essential keys. Some non-essential keys may not be present depending on the layout. For example, the above 70% keyboards do not have dedicated function keys. Function keys are accessed by pressing
fn + number
This layout is very compact and gaining in popularity lately. I personally don't prefer it since I use the navigation keys like
PgDn a lot.
Note that you will be able to access all the standard keys that you do not see on the layout by pressing different combinations.
For more information regarding mechanical keyboards or to participate in discussions, check out this subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/
Disclaimer: The information and the lists on this post are in no way exhaustive. I have intentionally left out other not-so-common switch types and layouts.