All About Mechanical Keyboards
This isn’t totally true. The world of mechanical keyboards runs so deep that we could never capture everything about them. But that’s the fun of any pursuit: there is always more to learn. In our general keyboard article we answered “What is a mechanical keyboard?” In this article, we answer:
Why Are People So Crazy About Them?
We mean crazy in the best sense, the sense of a passion that sparks our curiosity and drives us to action. What is it about these keyboards that’s inspired a 597,000 member subreddit? Let’s start with the title of that page: “r/MechanicalKeyboards for all the Click and None of the Clack!”

Click and clack. Sounds (or the hosts of Car Talk). The Reddit page kicks it off referencing the sound of the keyboard. Not keycaps, not switch types, but sound. And if you get it just right, the sound draws you in to its rhythm, its beat. Taeha Kim, the beloved keyboard content creator, tells us that the keyboard world also calls it “thock,” in an attempt to come up with a word that captures that dream sound of the keystroke.

Christopher Stepanian, one of our production leads and a keyboard enthusiast, put it this way:
CHRISTOPHER STEPANIAN, GROVEMADE MAKER, GAMER: When I’m designing it makes me feel more attached to what I’m creating, almost like when you chisel wood, the sound keeps you in. When I’m gaming, it’s more so the feel of the clicky keys that helps me with being more accurate and tactile.
The sound keeps you in.

Traditionally we talk about hearing sounds, but mechanical keyboards invite you to feel them too. And with feelings come relationships. It’s hard to have a relationship with something that pretends it isn’t there, or that fades into the background. The mechanical keyboard does neither of these things, and so it has won over a loyal and growing following.
Why Are Mechanical Keyboards So Satisfying?
We’re all after satisfaction in some way, and we all have different measures of what’s satisfying. What is it about the sound and feel of mechanical keyboards that makes them so widely appealing?
Switch Types
Under each keycap is a spring-loaded switch. There are three basic types to choose from:

Linear switch: A simple up and down movement with little tactile feedback or click. The smooth motion results in faster actuation (registering of the keystroke), meaning this is often considered a good option for gaming.

Tactile switch: These provide an audible bump as the key travels down, letting you know that your keystroke has registered. So you don’t need to bottom out with every keystroke, making for a lighter and quicker typing experience.

Clicky switch: The loudest of the three, these make an audible click when the keystroke registers.

Looks straightforward, but this is where it starts to get juicy. We asked Zach Allaun, our friend and founder of Keycult, if he could remember his first mechanical keyboard. He did, down to the switches.
ZACH ALLAUN, FOUNDER OF KEYCULT, GROVEMADE CUSTOMER: It was a Cooler Master Quickfire Rapid with Cherry MX Brown switches! I bought it in 2013. I might even still have it somewhere. It also turned into my first "custom keyboard" when I desoldered the Browns and soldered in "Ergo-Clears," which is a Cherry MX Clear swapped to a lighter-than-default spring.
Within each basic type, there are options on options on options. Seen one way, it’s overwhelming. But seen Zach’s way, it’s play. And cherry switches were his first toy.

Cherry started making keyboards in the 1960s, and in the ‘80s they released their Cherry MX line. For a long time these were the gold standard of keyboard switches, icons of the linear, tactile and clicky categories.

Because they’re so well known, we wrote this poem in honor of them. We invite you to read it out loud...
Cherry MX Brown: Tactile, no audible click
Cherry MX Blue: Tactile, audible click
Cherry MX Black: Linear, no audible click
Cherry MX Red: Linear, no audible click
Cherry MX Silent Red: Linear, no audible click
Cherry MX Silent Black: Linear, no audible click
Cherry MX Speed Silver: Linear, no audible click
Cherry MX Green: Tactile, audible click
Cherry MX Grey: Tactile, audible click
Cherry MX Clear: Tactile, no audible click
Question: Why get an MX Black instead of an MX Red? Or a Silent Red over a Silent Black?

Answer: Sound brought us in, but it’s not everything. So let’s set it aside for a second and consider some other technical specs.
Operation force: The force required to push the key down
Actuation point: The distance at which the keystroke registers
Reset point: The distance at which the key is deactivated
For all the switches out there, there’s a range of operation forces, actuation points and reset points. The MX Clear, for example, has a 65 centinewton (cN) operating force. The MX Brown? 55 cN.

The MX Blue travels 2.2 mm to reach actuation, and 4 mm to reach bottom. The MX Silent Red, though, travels 1.9 mm to actuation and 3.7 mm to reach bottom.

And these are just Cherry switches. Another switch maker, Kailh, has three lines of switches, and within each of those are multiple colors.

"Between these probably Cherry but not a strong opinion. Kailh are nice, Zeal are better, and C3 aren’t shabby."

Keyboard Enthusiast and Grovemade Customer
This looks like another poem, but it’s just a list:

Kailh Default: Red, Brown, Blue Kailh Speed: Bronze Copper Silver Gold Kailh Box: Red, Black, Brown, White

Note that Cherry and Kailh both have a speed option, marketed toward gamers. The light operation force + super quick actuation = rapid, accurate and precise typing.

But Cherry and Kailh aren’t the only switch makers out there. Gateron is another, and their switches have a reputation for ultimate smoothness, according to Glorious PC Gaming Race. Actually they really love Gateron switches. It’s worth noting that Zach also recommended Gateron switches to us when we were building our own keyboard.
Gateron, for a “relatively cheap but good” option.
For some fun entertainment during your next lunch break, check out this video of “Brian P.” of BadSeed Tech reviewing Zeal switches, a high-end option that’s made by Gateron but are pricier and flashier than the general Gateron line.

Switches are clutch, so we asked Cory Watson, Observability specialist and Grovemade customer, which ones he’s currently using.
Cherry Silent Reds (on a Vortex Race 3 keyboard with stock caps)
The guy who started Input Club is named Jacob Alexander, and he has over 600 keyboards. He designed this Halo True switch, which promises “an entirely smooth curve, combined with a lack of pre-load or tension on the spring at rest.” If you click through to the product page, you can see a nifty graph showing the force curve of a Halo True keystroke, and a chart listing the specific force required for each significant moment of the keystroke. What more could you ask for?

Maybe someone to make the decision for you. If you find it too hard to pick just one type of switch, or are scared of committing, consider a hot swappable keyboard, which allows you to switch switches easily. A non-hot-swappable keyboard requires you to solder switches on to the printed circuit board (PCB)—a process much harder to undo. But hot swappable switches on a hot swappable keyboard just press into holes in the PCB, and pop out when you want to change them.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s revisit the basic mechanical keyboard structure.
Mechanical Keyboard Structure
1. A frame houses a PCB and possibly a mounting plate, depending on the board.

2. Switches and stabilizers (which keep larger keys from the dreaded Wobble) sit on top of that. PCB-mounted switches have little prongs that fit directly into the PCB- no intervening plate. But plate-mounted switches are anchored by the plate and then soldered to the PCB.

3. Keycaps on top!

What all of this translates to is Opportunity. You can pick which case you want, you can pick the switches and stabilizers, pick the keycaps.

You can get a tenkeyless backlit board with a funky space bar and a clunky click. You can get a 65% form factor mechanical gaming keyboard with Kailh Speed Copper switches and NovelKeys Star Wars GMK Boba Fett keycaps. You can get a 60% wood case with some clicky switches and these fun Year of the Rattilicious Jelly Keys keycaps, or a Datamancer Inifinity ErgoDox Hardwood case for an Infinity ErgoDox Ergonomic Keyboard.

The Infinity ErgoDox Ergonomic Keyboard is a fully split keyboard and fully programmable, with an online tool that allows the purchaser to place keys in the order they like. It’s crowd-funded, open source, and a key to understanding the mechanical keyboard universe. Not because it’s brilliantly made, which it is, but because of how it came to be. After the first incarnation of ErgoDox, Input Club and Massdrop realized that individuals in the mechanical keyboard community wanted to weigh in on keyboard design and configuration. So they started Infinity Project as a way of gathering community input and challenging the status quo of keyboard layout and build.

The Infinity ErgoDox is a product of that project. A product of avid keyboard enthusiasts weighing in and voting on this tool that brings them joy, and challenges them to find new solutions, explore new designs. It reveals that the mechanical keyboard community really is that—a community. Connected by these toys, in the best sense of the word.
Mechanical Keyboard Community
That community building happens on YouTube, where content creators like Taeha Kim draw in 33,000+ viewers for a 3.5 minute video of him typing, or 100,000 viewers for his Black and Polished Stainless Steel Keycult No.2 Commissioned Build stream. Taeha, and others, like The Apiary, will post multi-hour videos documenting every step of their custom luxury keyboard builds. Some of their biggest customers are well-known gamers whose keyboards are tools for victory but also are works of art in themselves. Gaming enthusiasts love keyboards and keyboard enthusiasts love gaming and it seems a great symbiosis.
ZACH ALLAUN, FOUNDER OF KEYCULT, GROVEMADE CUSTOMER: There are a ton of amazing keyboard content creators out there at the moment, all of whom have their own little niche. Some focus on "keyboard news," while others focus on reviews, and others focus on builds.
Community building also happens on the mechanical keyboard subreddit, where everyone from experts to first-timers gather to share questions and musings, failures and triumphs.
Group Buys
And the building happens through the group buys that so many of these keyboards are available through. You pledge to buy a kit or component parts. You wait, and wait, and wait until the campaign is done. You wait, and wait, and wait until it’s fulfillment time. You get the parts and put it all together. Kind of the ultimate delayed gratification, resulting in the ultimate satisfaction when you finally do your typing test. And there’s a bond in that, a soldering between you and all the others who experience a spark of excitement, the mounting suspense, the long wait, the great unveiling. You might not even like it at the end of all that! So there’s the thrill of risk too.

Group buys aren’t the only option though. You can buy ready-to-ship pre-made keyboards and ready-to-ship parts for custom builds. The CORSAIR Gaming K70 keyboard, for example, comes built with Cherry MX Red switches and contoured keys. Ducky, a Taiwanese company that just wants to give people the best typing experience possible, makes keyboards ranging from minimalist styles to celebratory Chinese New Year ones. For just under $100 (at the time of writing) you can get a premade Durgod keyboard on Amazon. Or if you’re more comfortable with a name brand and are willing to pay a little more, there are options like the Logitech G513 with built-in RGB lighting, or the fully-split Kinesis Freestyle Edge.

We can’t promise that you’ll buy it and be done. Once you’ve gotten your first taste, you might get a craving for something a little more punchy, a little more stand-out, a little harder to come by. You might find yourself clicking away, carried off by dreams of Turquoise Tealios and GMK Metropolis.
Moon RAMA WORKS U-80A with 63.5g Turqouise Tealios with GMK Dracula. I could change my mind seeing the colors in the light of day, maybe to a Navy U-80A with GMK Metropolis.
Sure, mechanical keyboards satisfy with their click and customizability, their durability and snap. But they also satisfy our need to feel dissatisfaction, to feel absence. And then to aspire to fill it. With the dream! The world of mechanical keyboards welcomes your inner child and encourages the dream. Cute animals on your keycaps? Sure. LED lights just because you can? Yes. Purple frame with gold hits and your name, lasered into it? Definitely. What was once a dream becomes a reality. Satisfied.

At least until the next group buy is posted. Like Chistopher said, the sound keeps you in! And the feel and the customizability and the dream. So imagine that the next time you sit down to type, instead of mindlessly putting your fingers to the keys, you could be saying,

"Damn, I didn't realize it could be this good."

Further Reading