Mechanical keyboards are surging in popularity. However before you run out and buy one, it s good to know their downsides, too. A retro mechanical keyboard typically has different stroke lengths, plus they are also more sensitive than the more common membrane keyboards. Now, let s explore six reasons to avoidmechanical keyboardsand stick with membrane keyboards.
Retro Mechanical Keyboard Background
One type of mechanical keyboard is the retro keyboard. These take the unique feel and functionality of a modern mechanical keyboard and package it into the housing of a vintage-looking chassis. One of the modern features you will commonly find is wireless connectivity. However, some retro keyboardseven come with RGB lighting.
The most common type of retro mechanical keyboard is theoff-white and gray-colored keyboardwhich was an icon of the 1990s. However, some options that fall into this category are even older-looking and resemble vintage typewriters. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when mechanical keyboards became popular again, but they have certainly become more prevalent in the last ten years.
More specifically, cheaper options became readily available, and a new generation of computer users started buying them. From there, retro-looking keyboards became very popular. There are even large numbers of keyboard enthusiasts. Some have gone so far as modernizing older keyboards, like the belovedIBM Model M, to give them modern capabilities.
Reasons to Avoid a Retro Mechanical Keyboard
Although some may prefer the unique look of a retro mechanical keyboard, they are certainly not for everyone. In addition to a dated aesthetic, they also cost more than traditional membrane and mechanical keyboards. Plus, they are often uncomfortable and bulky, which is only worsened by long keystrokes and loud clicking. Now, let s take an in-depth look at all of the reasons to avoid retro mechanical keyboards.
They Are More Expensive
The first reason you should avoid a retro mechanical keyboard is the cost. Keyboards have become very cheap over the years, thanks to cheaper materials and manufacturing methods. However, the quality of many keyboards on the market is terrible. So, with the upgraded quality also comes a hefty price tag.
You can purchase a name-brand membrane keyboard for under $50, but you will rarely find a name-brand mechanical keyboard for less than around $100. Obviously, higher-end models will cost significantly more, but those numbers start as a baseline. Membrane keyboards are cheaper as they have fewer components, including plastic bodies, keycaps, rubber sheets, and membrane layers.
Mechanical keyboards are quite different because they utilize individual switches that connect to a printed circuit board (PCB). Supporting the PCB is a metal plate that adds structure to the keyboard. Individual pieces add to the cost of a mechanical keyboard and the complexity of manufacturing.
They Are Less Ergonomic
Another area where mechanical keyboards are lacking is ergonomics. You will likely experience this if you do a lot of typing. Some gamers also complain that a mechanical keyboard doesn t have the best feel. However, feeling comfortable is only one part of the equation. The other major concern is that your body is in a good position with your wrists supported.
Mechanical keyboards are larger, which makes adjusting them difficult. That said, many retro models in the market do come with awrist rest. However, you will want to ensure that it, as well as the keyboard, fits you and your desk well.
A final word on ergonomics is mechanical keyboards have less variety. Sure, there are plenty of different styles of keyboards, but the way the switches connect to the PCB and the metal plate underneath makes mechanical keyboards rigid and difficult to contour. Membrane keyboards, on the other hand, come in a range of different shapes and styles. If you use your computer for typing, we recommend you get an ergonomic keyboard.
They Are Bulky
The next reason to avoid a mechanical keyboard is size. Many of these keyboards are bulky. If you remember keyboards in the 1990s, then you probably recall the keyboards being heavier than most modern computers. They not only took up considerable desk space, but they were also heavy.
Weight isn t really a problem as long as you plan to keep the keyboard on your desk. However, they are not great for toting around. Most mechanical keyboards still contain metal plates, making them very strong. The metal s extra weight also helps keep the keyboard from sliding around. Yet size is a much bigger problem, especially at a time when users are going for minimalist design.
Keychronis a very popular manufacturer of mechanical keyboards, and their C2 is a prime example of a size problem. It is roughly 17 inches wide by five inches deep, and it stands one and one-half inches tall. Surprisingly, that is still smaller than older mechanical keyboards.
They Are Noisy
Another reason to avoid a retro mechanical keyboard is they re noisy. Clicking keys has been synonymous with offices for decades. Going back to the days of typewriters, audible clicking lets everyone around you know you re working. However, with modern keyboards, most people no longer endure the loud noises from a mechanical keyboard.
Some offices may frown upon anyone using a loud mechanical keyboard. Noise may not be an issue if you use the mechanical keyboard at home. However, you may still get tired of the non-stop clicking. So, what are your options if you love mechanical keyboards but don t want the noise?
You can use dampeners to mitigate the noise, but the downside is that you will have to disassemble the entire keyboard and manually place the dampeners behind each key. One word of caution for gamers the noise from a mechanical keyboard will likely be heard on your stream. If you don t want to fool with dampeners, then you may want to skip a mechanical keyboard in favor of a membrane one.
They Have Long Keystrokes
The keystroke is how far you have to press the key before it is picked up. The length of the keystroke depends on the switches. Some switches are more sensitive than others. In general, mechanical keyboards are very sensitive, but the total stroke is rather long. While the keyboard will pick up a light touch, it has a long stroke to the bottom.
Whether you like the stroke length or not is a matter of personal preference. However, if you are used to typing on a membrane keyboard, then the keystroke may bother you.
They Have Archaic Looks
What really sets a retro mechanical keyboard apart from a modern one is its looks. Retro keyboards commonly resemble the white or gray plastic of the past. While they deliver in terms of nostalgia, they probably won t fit in well on your modern desk.
Many retro keyboards also forego modern features like RGB backlights and extra buttons to maintain their archaic look. So if you are looking for modern features, you should pass on buying a retro mechanical keyboard.
Retro Mechanical Keyboard Alternatives
If you don t think a retro mechanical keyboard is right for you, then you can always go with a membrane keyboard. However, if you like mechanical keyboards, but want something a little sleeker or more modern looking, then you have some great choices. Retro-looking keyboards are cool, but they don t always fit into a modern space. Instead, check out some of these keyboards.
Sleek and Stylish: Apple Magic Keyboard
Apple Magic Keyboard (Wireless, Rechargable) US English White
- Wireless connection via Bluetooth
- Compatible with Mac, iPad, iPhone
- Comfortable and precise typing experience
- Long-lasting, rechargeable internal battery
- Woven USB-C to Lightning Cable for charging
Apple is well-known for its high-tech and well-built products. More importantly, many people love the keyboards that Apple uses in its MacBooks. You can get the same experience for a desktop with the Apple Magic Keyboard. While Apple s smallest keyboard is very compact, they do have larger versions. It is a membrane keyboard, and its compact size and short keystrokes make it a great option.
Modern Gaming: ASUS ROG Falchion
ASUS ROG Falchion NX 65% Wireless RGB Gaming Mechanical Keyboard | ROG NX Red Linear Switches, PBT Doubleshot Keycaps, Wired / 2.4G Hz, Touch Panel, Keyboard Cover Case, Macro Support
- 65% keyboard layout
- Up to 450 hours of battery life
- RGB lighting
- PBT doubleshot keycaps
- Includes polycarbonate keyboard cover
If you want a mechanical keyboard that is a little more modern looking, then look no further than the ASUS ROG Falchion NX. Although it is expensive, it is a mechanical keyboard with a compact form factor. Additionally, the keys are RGB-lit, making it a great option for gamers. Another nice addition is that it comes with a key cover, which is great for traveling.
More Ergonomic: Microsoft Surface Ergonomic Keyboard
Microsoft Surface Ergonomic Kybrd SC Bluetooth English US Hdwr Gray
- 78-key keyboard
- Dimensions are 19.68 x 10.51 x 1.65 inches
- Supports Bluetooth 4.0/4.1
- Suede-like wrist rest
- Two preinstalled AAA batteries
Sometimes mechanical keyboards just aren t comfortable. If ergonomics and comfort are of the utmost importance, then you will want to consider the Microsoft Surface Ergonomic Keyboard. It is a membrane keyboard, but it features a split design with a slope for better ergonomics. Plus, it has a built-in suede-like wrist rest, providing a unique look and comfortable feel.
You shouldn t buy a mechanical keyboard just because you like its clicking sounds. Instead, how it feels as it affects your typing or gaming. These keyboards are less ergonomic, noisy, and certainly not cheap. It doesn t help that they re bulky. Membranekeyboardsare smaller, lighter, and also affordable. Consider alternative keyboards like Apple Magic Keyboard and ASUS ROG Falchion that look and feel great.