HWM (Singapore) - - Learn - by Joy Hou

Key­boards are usu­ally cat­e­go­rized ac­cord­ing to their switch types, which is the mech­a­nism un­der the key. Be­sides cost and de­sign, dif­fer­ent switch tech­nolo­gies af­fect over­all user ex­pe­ri­ence such as key re­sponse – the force needed to press or the feed­back you get af­ter a key is pressed, and key travel – the dis­tance re­quired for a key press to be reg­is­tered.

To­day, per­haps due to the pop­u­lar­ity of e-sports and pro­fes­sional gam­ing, me­chan­i­cal switches have be­come syn­ony­mous with qual­ity, and more key­board man­u­fac­tur­ers are putting fo­cus on pro­duc­ing me­chan­i­cal key­boards. But, what ex­actly is a me­chan­i­cal key­board? Who is this Cherry you keep hear­ing about? And why should you care if your switch is red, brown, blue or black?

Un­like your typ­i­cal rub­ber dome key­board (those that come with a desk­top sys­tem), each key on a me­chan­i­cal key­board has its own switch be­neath it, so you can re­move and re­place in­di­vid­ual key­caps. Not that you would need to change them fre­quently any­way, be­cause a switch like one from Cherry has an aver­age life­span of up to 50 mil­lion ac­tu­a­tions.

Be­cause ev­ery key has a unique switch, me­chan­i­cal key­boards fea­ture many ben­e­fits over your con­ven­tional rub­ber dome ones, like NKRO (N-Key Roll Over), which dic­tates the num­ber of key com­bi­na­tions that can be ex­e­cuted at the same time. Users with me­chan­i­cal key­boards hous­ing a PS/2 in­ter­face en­joy true NKRO, whilst most USB me­chan­i­cal key­boards can only han­dle up to 6 con­cur­rent key­strokes. This is due to the two in­ter­faces dif­fer­ently man­ag­ing in­put. How­ever, many high-end gam­ing key­boards are al­ready able to of­fer full NKRO over USB.

Among me­chan­i­cal switches, Cherry MX switches are the most pop­u­lar and com­monly used to­day. Here’s a closer look at the four ma­jor sub-types: Cherry MX Black, Red, Brown and Blue.

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