Concise introduction to mechanical keyboards

(If you want a more thorough guide please subscribe to Ranta Trading mailing list and it will be sent to you).

In the beginning of the computer age, almost all keyboards were mechanical. Later they were subsidized with more cheaper to produce membrane keyboards. Membrane keyboards became the standard that’s now used almost everywhere. It’s the type of keyboard that’s used in public places, e.g. libraries. Most computer packages are equipped with a membrane keyboard by default due to their cheap price.

Membrane keyboard does it’s job, but lacks the precision and comfort of a mechanical keyboard. Membrane keyboard has a rubber dome for each key of which contact surfaces touch each other when the rubber dome is squeezed together during the key press. Mechanical keyboard has a mechanical switch for each key, and these switches have a spring inside them. When the key is pressed conducting leafs inside the switch touch each other. Spring contracts during the key press and returns to it’s normal length when the key is released. This mechanical action produces more feedback on each key press, increasing the accuracy and creating more snappy typing experience. The more one uses a keyboard, the more this matters.

Mechanical keyboard increases the typing speed, reduces typos and lasts much longer. Membrane keyboards have their maximum number of keystrokes somewhere in 5 million, when mechanical switches can take tens of millions. Mechanical keyboards clearly outlast their membrane counterparts.

Mechanical keyboard switches can be divided into three categories: linear, tactile and clicky. Linears are the smoothest and quietest and require the least amount of force to press. Tactiles have a little bumb when the key is pressed and require more force than linears. Clicky ones give out a clear click – sound for every single press. They require the most amount of force to press from all the switches. Some prefer other switches over others and use only them, others use different keyboards with different kinds of switches for different purposes. Gamers prefer linears, whereas typist prefer tactiles and clickies.

In Ranta Trading, both the needs of gamers and typists have been considered and therefore our keyboards are available with linear red – switches and tactile brown – switches.

Hotswap – barebones make it possible to combine different kind of switches. So one can give every single key a different kind of feel. For example, enter-key can be made to be a clicky one requiring more amount of force to press where the other keys are lighter.

Keyboards sold in Ranta Trading – shop are built on GMMK’s hotswap barebones. If the owner of the keyboard wants to get a different kind of typing feel or wants to separate certain keys with different kinds of switches, he/she can easily do that with the tools that are provided with the sold keyboard.

Keyboards sold in this shop are also equipped with the capability to illuminate the keys according to personal preferences, different keys can be given different colors. This helps playing and typing in the dark.

Mechanical keyboards come in various sizes. A full-size keyboard used in Europe is ISO-105 and as the name implies, it has 105 keys. In ANSI-standard (used in US), full-size keyboard contains 104 keys. For many this is too many keys since they don’t use all of them, or use some of them only very infrequently. For example, numpad in full-size keyboard is for many nothing but a nuisance. It only takes a lot of space and increases the distance between the right hand and the mouse therefore slowing down the typing process. Therefore many want to get rid of it. This kind of keyboard is called TKL – keyboard (ten keys less), and it has 88 keys and these kinds of keyboards Ranta Trading is focused on selling. There are smaller keyboards also, but with 88 keys one has the benefit of having the arrow keys, which are not present in the smaller keyboards. Many people find arrow keys crucial.

Keyboards can be modified in different ways to improve the typing feel. The most common modification is lubricating the keyboard switches. Lubricating keyboard switches is slow and tiresome job, since every single switch needs to be opened and different parts lubricated one by one. There are many views of what is the proper amount of lube, and it’s a matter of taste. Some prefer that their keyboards are not lubed at all. Therefore in Ranta Trading – shop keyboards come in three different variety: unlubed, lubed, and lubed+. Unlubed means no lube at all, lubed means the switches have been lubed according to the “less is more” -philosophy and lubed+ means switches have been lubed so that there is a bigger difference between the unlubed and lubed+ -keyboard, than there is between unlubed and lubed -keyboard. The difference is bigger both in the sound and feel.

Watch a comparison on YouTube of different keyboards we offer:

Another significant modification than can be done is filming. The stem of mechanical keyboard switches tend to wobble a little bit and some users find this disturbing. In Ranta Trading -shop, keyboards which are sold as lubed have also been filmed. This is how the keyboards sold have been modified to be as good as they ever can be.

Ranta Trading also sells lubing accessories for those who want to do the lubing all by themselves. Lubricants sold in this shop can also be used with many more applications, not just keyboards. They were not developed to be used in keyboards, but keyboard enthusiasts noticed that they work well with keyboards. Films of two different thickness are also available at Ranta Trading -shop.

There’s no keyboard without keycaps. Keycaps can be divided into ABS, PBT and POM – keycaps. In Ranta Trading -shop the keyboards have been equipped with affordable ABS -keycaps. This decision has been made to keep the prices of these keyboards at reasonable levels. A higher quality set of PBT -keycaps is three times the price of ABS -keycap set. In Ranta Trading, we have been thinking the needs of beginners and are therefore offering something that people can afford and later expand if they wish.

Abbreviations ABS, PBT and POM are referring to the material these keycaps are made of. In the more thorough guide these terms are broken into parts and explained more, in this short and concise introduction it’s enough to state that ABS and PBT are plastic and POM is synthetic resin. They all have a different touch sensation in them. ABS is the cheapest of these materials and it’s con is that in the longer period of time the touch sensation to it changes due to it becoming shiny in use. This con might be overemphasized when considering the fact that in average use it takes years of everyday typing before any noticeable change happens. PBT and POM -keycaps don’t have this property, but are more expensive. They also have their own unique feel to them.

That’s pretty much all the basic information you need to make a decision do you want to improve your typing and gaming experience by investing into a mechanical keyboard. Keyboard is the most important input instrument in computer usage, it makes a difference into everything you do with your computer. Do not spare in the wrong place!