When you buy a new computer, one of the first things you’ll pull eagerly out of the box — and out of the bubble wrap and styrofoam packaging and packing peanuts — is a brand new, shiny keyboard. Packaged as it is with your new computer, this free OEM keyboard may at first seem like a bastion of innovation. Most likely, it will feature a slim profile and even slimmer keys that barely make a sound as you type. And stained perfectly to match the look and feel of your new computer.
But after a few days of heavy typing, the truth will become apparent: this freebie keyboard isn’t made for long sessions at work. Its design is cheap, and few considerations for ergonomics have been made. Your wrists and fingers hurt, and your productivity has gone down the tubes.
You know you need to replace it, but there are so many different kinds of keyboards with so many different kinds of keys, it’s hard to know where to start. What to do?
Why, turn to this handy guide, of course! Today we’ll take a deep look at the most popular key designs so that you’ll have all the information you need to make this important decision.
1. Rubber Domed Keyboards
The majority of keyboards you’ll encounter on the market today are rubber domed. Although, they do vary widely in terms of quality. When you press the keycap of a rubber domed key, a silicon dome under the keycap collapses and moves downward to connect a metal disk with a circuit board so that a key depression is registered. The silicon dome and keycap interaction is what determines the key pressure. Rubber domed keyboards are one of the quietest keyboard options out there. While many do not naturally provide a lot of tactile feedback, the curve of the keys and adjustments to the distance keys have to travel can create a much more tactile feel.
Who Should Use a Rubber Domed Keyboard?
Cheap rubber domed keyboards really shouldn’t be used by anyone; they are, after all, likely what came with your computer for free. However, those that are of a higher quality are excellent for office work, given how quiet they can be. There are also far more ergonomic rubber domed keyboard options to choose from, such as the Goldtouch V2 Comfort Adjustable Keyboard. You would be hard pressed to find a mechanical keyboard with the same levels of vertical and horizontal adaptability. Both of which are essential for finding a customized fit for your body and typing style.
2. Scissor Switch Keys
The mechanism that underlies scissor switch keys moves like — you guessed it — scissor blades. While rubber domes are used for the keycaps, the plunger is attached to this scissor-like mechanism, rather than directly to the membrane. This means that you won’t have to press very hard or push very far to have the keyboard register a keystroke. For this reason, scissor switch keys are very quiet, and they tend to be good for ergonomic comfort.
Who Should Use a Scissor Switch Keyboard?
Because scissor switch keyboards aren’t very loud, they’re great for a busy office environment. The high levels of comfort they provide also make them ideal for ergonomic keyboards. And therefore they’re appropriate for anyone who does a lot of typing. Or, is already experience the pain of Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs).
The Goldtouch Go!2 Mobile Keyboard employs this technology, so if you’re looking to give scissor switch a whirl, we recommend starting there.
3. Mechanical Keys
Mechanical keyboards have heavy-duty switches and functional parts that make them both responsive and highly durable. What’s more, each key has its own devoted mechanism, which isn’t something you’ll find in most other keyboard types.
Within the category of mechanical keyboard, there are number of key types to choose from. The most popular of which are the cherry switches. Every kind of cherry switch requires much less pressure to get them to move (the technical term for this is actuation force) than the standard freebie keyboard. Where each kind of cherry switch differs is in the type of spring they use. With tactile switches, your spring will reach a point where it says, “Okay, that’s as far as you’re allowed to go — spring back up.”
Linear switches, on the other hand, don’t have that; this makes for a smoother, quieter typing experience. But, it also provides less tactile feedback, which means you’re more likely to type with more force than you really need to. Cherry switches are designated by their internal colors: black, red, brown, clear and blue. Each requires different levels of actuation force and providing different levels of tactile feedback.
Who Should Use a Mechanical Keyboard?
Mechanical keyboards provide a much more precise and intimate keyboarding experience. This makes them great for gamers who need their keyboard to respond quickly to multiple commands. The tactile switches can also be satisfying for typers who like the clacking sound and full feedback they likely remember from much older keyboards. However, few mechanical keyboards are fully ergonomic when it comes to the layout of the keys. Therefore, they aren’t necessarily ideal for long typing sessions.
Choosing the right key type for you can be an overwhelming process. So, make sure to take this guide along with you as you hunt. No matter which route you go, the most important thing is to ditch that freebie keyboard before it damages your wrists and fingers. Happy typing!