An ode to the mechanical keyboard

by | Jul 10, 2017 | Technology

Takeaway: This post has nothing to do with productivity (but I couldn’t resist writing it). Mechanical keyboards are awesome, and you should get one.

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 25s.

I make sure to close the door to my office whenever I write at home—partly for privacy, but mostly because my keyboard is so damn loud.

I love my mechanical keyboard (pictured above), and wouldn’t give it up for anything. My computer, phone, and Kindle aside, this keyboard is probably my most valued tech possession.

Going from writing on a regular wireless keyboard to writing on a tactile, clicky mechanical keyboard is like going from tapping on the glass of your smartphone to typing on an actual keyboard. It’s a whole added level of tactile feedback—significantly louder, with each key having more of a give to it. Every key confirms to you—in its feel and in its sound—that you pressed it, and that what you’re typing matters.

I bought my keyboard before writing The Productivity Project. Over the span of six months, I slammed my fingers down on this thing more than 457,778 times to write that 81,302-word book. I had to suffer a few consequences for this. Immersed in late-night writing sessions with a pile of Chinese takeout containers next to me, my girlfriend often sat in the other room trying to do work as well; listening to loud music to mask the sound of my clicks next door. But the personal costs have been worth it—even though I may have to write on the other side of the apartment, so she doesn’t leave me.

Those who type on a mechanical keyboard will usually tell you that after using one, they could never go back to typing on a regular old mushy keyboard. I wholeheartedly agree. When I leave my mechanical keyboard at home to write at a coffee shop or travel, I can’t help but feel like my words matter less, that something is missing. I’ve looked at the numbers: I type around 25% more words when in front of this keyboard than I do writing on my laptop. Most of this is in my head, sure—but it feels real. Other keyboards just don’t compare.

While I could go on for a few thousand more words about the feel, sound, and elegance of writing on my mechanical keyboard, I won’t. There’s only so much I can say here. If you write a lot on your computer, you need to try one for yourself to feel the difference—especially if you have a home office, or coworkers who will put up with its presence.

Which one should you buy? Mechanical keyboard geeks may get upset with me over this part of the post, but in my eyes there are just two main types of mechanical keyboards. The sole difference between them is the loudness and tactility of the keys.

  1. Keyboards with Cherry MX Blue switches are loud, and give more tactile feedback. This makes the blue switches great for at-home use or your office if there’s a door you can close to prevent disturbing everyone around you. While the feel of this keyboard is difficult to describe—you really have to try one for yourself—each key feels as though it has a tall, narrow spring beneath it that collapses to the side as you press down each key.
  2. Keyboards with Cherry MX Brown switches are quieter, and provide a more subtle dose of tactile feedback. My first clicky keyboard had MX Blue switches, but I later changed to a keyboard with MX Brown key switches—not only is this keyboard quieter, but it still provides a solid dose of tactile feedback. In my opinion—one that some keyboard nerds will disagree with—the MX Blue switches feel cheap; as if a tiny spring collapses too quickly with each key press. The MX Brown switches, in comparison, provide you with a warmer, more luxurious feel.

These opinions are subjective, so you should really try them out for yourself. If you write a lot, or want more feedback as you type, I highly recommend picking up a clicky mechanical keyboard. It’s one of the best purchases I’ve made over the last couple of years.

In terms of an exact model to buy, there are quite a few places that sell mechanical keyboards. My favorite company is Das Keyboard.



Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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