Everyone I work with knows I'm a mechanical keyboard nutcase. I've owned 4 mechanical keyboards and I've been tempted to invest and build the great and legendary ErgoDox keyboard. I originally purchased a mechanical keyboard because I kept breaking keyboards at work from heavy use and because of hand fatigue. I take credit for converting 3 people at my work for switching to mechanical keyboards. It's not 100% true, but I have an ego to feed.
So what makes a mechanical keyboard better than an average keyboard? The standard keyboard nowadays operates with a rubber membrane that require a decent amount of force to press. Mechanical keyboards have (you guessed it) a mechanical switch behind every key. These mechanical switches require less force to press than membranes and last up to 50 million operations. WASD keyboards has a great guide page on mechanical keyboards. Check it out if you want to learn more about mechanical keyboards.
So what's the big deal? Why aren't all keyboards mechanical if the benefits great? Well it boils down to cost. A mechanical keyboard will run you between $80 and $200 depending on brand and features. Most people I've talked to freak out over the price. Think about it, you spend 8 hours a day typing if you are a developer. You'd drop $200 on a pair of Beats By Dre that you wear most of the day. Don't you think you should put good money into the piece of equipment you interact with the most?
I've really been curious how much faster my typing speed is with a mechanical compared to other keyboards. I came up with a big super scientific test to see what keyboards I could type fastest on. I took a five one minute tests with each keyboard I could get my hands one. The tests were from typingtest.com and the same test was taken each time. There was a one day break between each keyboard.
Logitech G15 - $60-ish original retail - I really liked this keyboard. It's non-mechanical, but has a lot of nifty features to make up for it. Apple's Keyboard - $50 - I really like the keys on this keyboard, but I don't like the windows and alt keys being flipped. This keyboard actually uses a scissor switch membrane. It allows for a very thin key with a short travel distance. Microsoft Comfort Curve 3000 - $15 - There are ton of these around now. I really don't like them..... Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 - $20 4 years ago - There were a ton of these around several years ago... now they are going for 50 bucks on Amazon? You couldn't give these away 4 years ago. It's a great basic cheap (at one point in time) keyboard. Razer BlackWidow - $80 my version - I have a very early run that has Cherry MX Blue switches. The new ones use a different, but still great switch. This was my first mechanical keyboard and I've gotten a lot of good use out of it. I currently loan it out to friends to try out. It's clicky and really loud, but I feel like I can type really fast on it. Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth -$150 - I have a Cherry MX Brown version. The backlit keys are awesome. Cherry Browns are much quieter than Blues. They have a bump instead of a click. They require less actuation force, but I feel like I don't type as fast on it. CM Storm QuickFire Stealth - $80 - I picked up two tenkeyless versions of this keyboard a couple of years ago and it's my absolute favorite. The smaller travel distance from keyboard to mouse is very comfy and cuts down on a decent amount of work space.
It's worth noting that there is actually a Cherry MX Switch shortage right now. Mechanical keyboard popularity has gone through the roof recently. Manufacturers have started using different switches and retailers are jacking prices up pretty bad on keyboards still using Cherry switches.
|Keyboard||Average WPM||Average MPM||Highest WPM|
|BlackWidow w/ Blues||82.4||6.4||86|
|BlackWidow w/ Browns||81.4||7.3||82|
|CMStorm w/ Blues||84||6.2||88|
wpm - words per minute. mpm - mistakes per minute
I wasn't really surprised by the results. I was happy to see that my current keyboard had the highest average WPM. Lets put this in perspective. There is 480 minutes in a work day. Lets say you're actually typing for 75% of that (360 minutes). I would average about 25,200 words in a day with the Apple Keyboard. I would average 30,240 with my CMStorm with Blues. That's a pretty large different when you are looking at productivity of typing in general. Coding involves a lot of numbers and special characters. WPM isn't very accurate in measuring productivity in coding, but I still feel like it's a decent base to test off of.
I originally picked up a mechanical keyboard for the durability and comfort, but I now know that I can get more work done while using one. My purchases have been fully justified! Now the real question, when are you going to switch?