Why I’m ob­sessed with key­boards

This is why I have more key­boards than I can use at any one time

HWM (Singapore) - - Contents - By Koh Wanzi

It’s di cult to de­scribe the ap­peal of tin­ker­ing with a new and hard to nd switch type, but it has a lot to do with break­ing up the monotony of your ev­ery­day com­put­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The key­board is one-half of the way you in­ter­act with your PC. As some­one who writes for a liv­ing, I spend hours upon hours peck­ing away at let­ters, try­ing to string a bunch of words to­gether in a semi­co­her­ent man­ner.

In other words, my key­board is very im­por­tant to me, and I’m pretty picky about how it feels. My rst me­chan­i­cal key­board was a SteelSeries 6Gv2 with Cherry MX Black switches, and it was a huge step up from the mushy lap­top and imsy rub­ber-dome key­boards I had used be­fore.

How­ever, the thing with me­chan­i­cal key­boards is that they aren’t even any­thing new. The best key­boards were made in the 1980s – for in­stance, the iconic IBM Model F – but man­u­fac­tur­ers had started to push more ag­gres­sively for cost sav­ings by the 1990s, which led to a del­uge of cheap, mem­brane key­boards on the mass mar­ket.

Fast-for­ward to to­day, and me­chan­i­cal key­boards are see­ing a resur­gence, most no­tably among gamers. The orig­i­nal Razer Black­Wi­dow was one of the rst me­chan­i­cal key­boards mar­keted specically at the gam­ing com­mu­nity, and the years since have seen count­less com­peti­tors from other brands, in­clud­ing mod­els with their own pro­pri­etary “gamin­gori­ented” switches.

But that’s not why I can’t get enough of me­chan­i­cal keys. I’ll ad­mit that me­chan­i­cal key­boards don’t con­fer the same level of benets as a good op­ti­cal mouse in terms of gam­ing. They feel great to use, but don’t markedly im­prove your abil­ity to re­spond in game. In­stead, their ap­peal lies in the sheer va­ri­ety and depth of cus­tomiza­tions they of­fer.

Other than your more com­mon­place Cherry MX Browns, Reds, and Blacks, there are a mul­ti­tude of switch types to ex­plore. There’s a sense of serendip­ity from stum­bling on a new switch type, such as that time I found MX Na­ture White switches on a Vor­tex Pok3r RGB key­board.

These sit some­where between Cherry MX Reds and Blacks, and have so far proved to be my fa­vorite switch type af­ter To­pre switches. It’s this po­ten­tial for dis­cov­ery and try­ing new things that makes this ex­pe­ri­ence so fun.

Frankly, get­ting on Mass­drop is risky busi­ness these days, be­cause I’m likely to end up splurg­ing some cash on a snazzy look­ing key­board or key­cap set, even though I never in­tended to. Lack of self-con­trol aside, there truly is a lot to look for­ward to these days, as key­board en­thu­si­asts have taken to de­sign­ing their own key­boards and switches and even re­viv­ing older de­signs.

One shin­ing ex­am­ple is the Mass­drop x In­put Club K-Type me­chan­i­cal key­board, a uni­body alu­minum beauty with one of the most stun­ning light­ing ef­fects I’ve seen on a key­board. More im­por­tantly, it uses brand new Halo switches, de­signed by Ja­cob Alexan­der over at In­put Club.

The Halo True switch is mod­eled af­ter the force curve of To­pre switches, and they at­tempt to com­bine the vel­vety feel of the lat­ter with the wide-rang­ing com­pat­i­bil­ity of Cherry MX-style stems.

Then there are the Hako switches, the re­sult of a le­gal dis­pute between Mass­drop and In­put Club. These switches use Kai­hua’s new box switch de­sign, which are sup­pos­edly more durable and sta­ble.

But de­tails aside, the point is there’s a lot of it­er­a­tion and in­no­va­tion go­ing on in the me­chan­i­cal key­board scene right now. Mass­drop is also bring­ing back Hall Ef­fect switches in the form of the Mass­drop x XMIT key­board, which uses mag­nets to trig­ger a key press.

It’s difcult to de­scribe the ap­peal of tin­ker­ing with a new and hard to nd switch type, but it has a lot to do with break­ing up the monotony of your ev­ery­day com­put­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Each switch truly feels dis­tinct, and it’s re­fresh­ing to be able to have some­thing new to play with ev­ery so of­ten.

Fur­ther­more, with every­thing from de­light­fully retro de­signs to a more clean and mod­ern look, it’s seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble to set­tle.

You don’t like the font on the stock key­caps or shiny ABS plas­tic? No prob­lem, just swap them out. From cus­tom sets on sites like Pimp­mykey­board.com to ar­ti­san key­caps from KeyForge, there are nearly lim­it­less op­tions as to what you can do. Let me just say that the lat­ter is truly a work of art in its own right, and sup­ply is so lim­ited that the only way to get them is to know when the rafe opens so you can en­ter your name.

And let’s get real here. One key­board can’t pos­si­bly ac­com­mo­date all the drool-wor­thy key­caps out there. 1976? Pulse? Why not both?

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