Product Spotlight-Mechanical Keyboards

Aug 27, 2021

I like to imagine that those that read what we write are just like us. That is, being exposed to many things “tech”, but not enough that you ever caught not curious. There’s so much that we see out there that we do not understand yet – from highly technical programming terms to the figures being thrown around in the tech ecosystem. For me, the products tech bros use for their work also falls under this category. I only know many of these products by name and have no idea what they do or why they are so important to those that use them. Think of me as a 55-year-old WhatsApp mum wondering why all her children are going crazy about iPhones. But unlike her, I’m willing to look into what the craze is about and why my children spend all their pocket money on all this technology nonsense. While I’m doing that, intend to drag you on the journey with me.

Mind you, the goal of my product spotlights is to bring the products to your attention, not convince you if they are great or not. So if together we discover that they are great, that’s a plus!
Hi, I’m Daniel and my product spotlight for today is mechanical keyboards. Before writing this, all I knew about mechanical keyboards was that they were really boxy, old-school-style keyboards that didn’t stop clacking when you pressed them. And when I found out they cost anywhere between $20 - $1000 (10,000 and 500,000 NGN) depending on how good they were or what you wanted from them, I couldn’t bring myself to justify the prices; not from what I knew anyway. So it only made sense that I went to do some digging.

Mechanical Keyboard with RGB lighting

Apparently, the keyboards found in most of our laptop computers are membrane keyboards. These ones are pretty inexpensive and use a flexible membrane, mostly rubber, under the keys. Anytime we type a key, the rubber compresses and connects the key to the bottom layer. It is this contact that completes the circuit and causes the computer to register the keystroke. It’s not just membrane types that are popular though, butterfly and scissor-switch keys are seen in many laptops these days too (I remember them from when Apple switched their MacBook keyboards between these two). But tech enthusiasts say the operating design of these keyboards means they can’t type as fast as mechanical keyboards and studies say membrane, butterfly and scissor-switch keyboards are more prone to causing hand fatigue while typing.

Mechanical keyboards use a switch beneath every key which can vary in travel and response times. Travel time is the time it takes for the switch to make contact with the bottom and response time is the time it takes the system to record the keystroke. These metrics are measured in milliseconds – a unit so small even in membrane keyboards, that non-enthusiasts like me wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But for the hardcore guys, the travel-time differences are a thing. Also, mechanical keyboards have the capability to register all keys at the same time. So I guess that’s a major justification for those really fast typists and gamers.
Mechanical keyboards are also customizable. This means you can change the size, keycaps, switches, or layout to match your preferences. But none of these can happen without spending more money!!! In fact, it seems like mechanical keyboards = moneeyyy. That’s not totally true though, they can be extremely durable and this would translate to more cost savings over time. Also, let’s not overlook the customizability advantage of mechanical keyboards. This advantage could offer endless size, layouts or programmability options for a wide range of users, especially if you’re willing to spend a little more on the keyboard kits and components required (na this spending shaaa).

There’s so much more I want to share with you on mechanical keyboards, but attention span yunno. So we’ll concede that I’ve not managed to convince you enough to want to get a mechanical keyboard, only to get you interested enough to check it out yourself (sorry for the homework guys) and see if you want it. I, on the other hand, will be saving up for a cheap one to see for myself what this craze is about.


Daniel the PM