I need help choosing a mechanical keyboard.
July 9, 2014 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I am super hard on keyboards. I have killed 2 fancy ergonomic ones and more cheap keyboards than I can count in the past 4 years so I have decided to splurge on a nice mechanical keyboard, that can hopefully stand up to my destructive ways, well that and I really like the clicky clacky sensation when I type that you don't seem to get on modern keyboards. I have read various forums & even an old question on the green and all I have done is confuse myself so looking for some suggestions. Thanks.

Things I am looking for in a keyboard.

I am a fast touch typer and type a lot, so I need keys I don't have to slam down to get to register as I am prone to a little arthritis in my fingers and wrists, but not so soft it misreads.

I also like to game in my off time, a lot of different MMOs so something good for gaming.

From what I've read think what I'd want is a Cherry MX Brown or Blue switches for typing and a Black for Gaming which means I'd probably want a Cherry MX Red as it's kind of a mix of both. At least I think that's right, if I've misunderstood what I've read feel free to correct me.

I rather like clicky, don't mind if the keyboard is a little noisy, as I actually kind of miss the audio feedback when typing and find myself typing hard to try and get that same effect on my cheap ass keyboards.

Oh and it has to have little legs so I can prop it up, my current keyboard is held up with altoid tins, due to stiffness in the wrists I find a flat keyboard hard to type on.

Under or around $150 great, under $250 is OK if it's like a life changing typing experience that will make me see God.

I've looked at Model M's and probably used the originals back in the day not sure how'd they'd go for my needs.

So assuming my calculation of Cherry MX Red switches matching my needs what makes & models would you recommend. Or should I go a whole other direction?
posted by wwax to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've got a Truly Ergonomic, which has Cherry switches (choice of blue/brown/red) and is therefore adequately clicky, though it is a tad expensive at $250. I wouldn't call it a life-changing typing experience, but the layout is good if a bit unusual (the Microsoft Sculpt is similar, but without the centralized keys and a $100 cheaper). The downside of this keyboard (really of all ergonomic keyboards) is that switching between different keyboards at work/home/laptops/other people's computers becomes problematic if you're a touch typist and leads to lots of backspacing.
posted by beerbajay at 12:22 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I haven't bought from them, but you might check out wasdkeyboards.com, which lets you customize everything. From what you describe, it does sound like you'd want cherry reds. You can order individual switches and keycaps from them, so you could experiment before committing to a keyboard.
posted by adamrice at 12:32 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: I am a keyboard jerk. I use an apple one at work and a code keyboard at home. Both are great for different reasons. The clicky Code Keyboard is awesome.

posted by bensherman at 12:52 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: I needed a new keyboard six months ago and settled on a Das Keyboard Model S Professional. Mine is an MX Blue because while I play a lot of games none of them require a hugely responsive gaming keyboard, but it looks like the Model S is available with MX Red switches, too. It's solid and not really as noisy as I was afraid it would be -- and in fact I like the aural feedback. (I'm a little self-conscious about it when I'm on the phone and taking notes but whatever. It's a really solid keyboard.) I'm surprised how much I miss the backlit keys I had on my previous, very sexy Logitech keyboard, which literally fell apart after two or three years, but no way would I go back just to get them back. Recommended.
posted by Mothlight at 12:53 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: If you can swing it, I love my Topre Realforce, which I got as a hand-me-down.
posted by supercres at 1:27 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: I have a WASD V1 (no longer available, apparently) and a Ducky Shine, both with Cherry MX Browns. Both are very high-quality and if I was going to buy a third keyboard, it would be from either one of those manufacturers.

As far as which switches to get, the guide from WASD's website does a pretty good job of describing them.
posted by Gev at 1:46 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: I've got a Corsair Vengeance K60 with Cherry MX Red switches and a Cooler Master Quick Fire with Cherry MX Blue switches; both suit me pretty well. I bought those not so much for the gaming look/features but because those were the ones I could try out locally and the prices were under $100.

Neither have any particular ergonomic layout, but they're comfortable and I have had fewer problems with my wrists and hands since switching to them, and my typing's faster and more accurate.

If you've got the option at all, I recommend trying the various keyboards and switches out for feel; most of them aren't available in any local stores but there are frequently at least a couple around.

Mechanical keyboards are pretty bombproof, so I wouldn't expect them to be easily destroyed -- but you might look to make sure they're ones that are easily cleaned, because keyboards get nasty.
posted by asperity at 2:40 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: phoning this in from a friend who's REALLY into mech boards:

Stay away from cherry anything, it all sucks. The old dells with alps switches are good, and his current favorite is the happy hacking pro.

He also recommended the type heaven full size, which uses the same capacitive switches as the HHKB.

Apparently realforce is even higher end above HHKB, and seems to be slightly cheaper right now!

He also mentioned the CM storm novatouch, which is more of a gaming board and might also be up your alley. The price shouldn't be too bad.

As for my personal opinion, i still use a model M. i've used the apple alps keyboards everyone raves about, and i've used the cherry MX stuff... the capacitive boards mentioned here are the real deal.

I wish i had more to recommend, but i'm still using the same board i used to beat HL2 in one sitting on launch day in like... what, 2004? I wish you listed a specific reason you didn't like the model M, because just like a solid vintage stereo receiver or something it just kinda, gets it done really heartily and well.
posted by emptythought at 4:53 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you do have things mixed up a little, because Cherry MX reds are not clicky. This is a good basic explanation of the differences among the various Cherry keys. I think the 'middle ground' keys you may be thinking of are browns, which are less clicky than blues but do have some audible/tactile feedback, unlike the reds which have neither.

I've got a Das Keyboard Professional S with blue keys, and I really like it, although I only use it for typing and not gaming. It's also available with red or brown keys.
posted by drlith at 5:00 PM on July 9, 2014

Best answer: Personally I prefer the Unicomp buckling spring (aka rebranded Model M, no need to buy used). They provide the option of proper Linux key layouts, they last essentially forever, and when necessary they can be used as a weapon against intruders.
posted by Poldo at 5:29 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Happy Hacking Keyboard Pro 2 (HHKB), at around $260, with its Topre switches, is the world's greatest keyboard. I have one at home and one at the office.

It sounds like you want clicky, though, and Topre switches aren't clicky. The HHKB layout, though superior, also is very different from other keyboards.

The Unicomp "Model M" is a terrible keyboard. The buckling springs may be similar to a true Model M, but the key caps and the body of the keyboard are cheap plastic. Nothing like a vintage Model M.

At least two other programmers in my office have Das Keyboards with Cherry MX Blues and like them very much. De gustibus non est disputandum, &c.
posted by santry at 8:20 PM on July 9, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, it seems after further research it looks like I am after the brown switches not the reds, see this is why I love asking questions here I always learn more. Your recommendations still work out as it looks like the browns are easier to find as most of the ones recommended come in a selection of switches anyway.

Just because someone mentioned it, I'm not anti Model M so much as I am old enough to have used the originals, and much like santry said the modern versions I used don't feel quite the same. Of course if an old one turns up in a garage sale or something I will be on it so fast heads will spin.

I will most likely go for the Das Keyboard at this point, mainly because it seems a good compromise on what I am looking for plus price.

I've marked you all best answers as you all gave me information to help make a decision & that is what I was after.
posted by wwax at 10:05 AM on July 10, 2014

Santry, I own both the Unicomp and an actual Model M and can say that they are not that different. Perhaps the Unicomp is made of cheaper plastic (doesn't seem like it to me) and no it doesn't have quite the heft of a Model M, but Unicomp bought the tooling from Lexmark to build them.
posted by Poldo at 10:38 AM on July 10, 2014

I want to second Poldo's recommendation of a buckling spring board, whether a Model M or Unicomp (I have used and enjoyed both).

The nice thing about the Unicomp boards is that you can get them in USB with a trackpoint, which I also find to be happy-making. That said, the cheapest and usually best condition Model Ms come from old RS/6000 boxes that were commonly deployed as servers. The keyboards on most of those machines were hardly used, unlike their desktop counterparts.

Back when my employer was buying businesses a few times annually, I was able to snag a fair number from old servers. The nice thing about most of the really old ones is that the cords are interchangeable, so you can put a PS2 cord on in place of the full DIN and save yourself the pain of an adapter.
posted by wierdo at 11:27 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some really old IBM keyboards draw rather more power than modern computers are prepared to supply, so be wary of random crashes if you go for a refurb Model M. They're also unreasonably loud in a modern office environment, what with everyone used to chiclets.
posted by scruss at 11:47 AM on July 10, 2014

I own two Model S Professional Das Keyboards -- one with Cherry Blues and the other with Browns. The Blue lives at work, the Browns are at home. The build quality is excellent.

I strongly prefer the Blue version. The audible click is extremely gratifying. There is also slightly more travel in the Brown version, which is small enough to be almost imperceptible but enough to throw me off slightly when typing.
posted by gox3r at 11:48 AM on July 10, 2014

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