Types of Keyboards By Josh Blagden | JB - Mac Help | JBlagden

Types of Keyboards By Josh Blagden

In this article, I’ll cover the different types of keyboards, particularly the different types of key switches.

The most common type of key switch is the dome switch. This has a rubber dome between the metal contact on the key and the one inside the keyboard. With this type of switch, you have to push the key down all the way for it to register.

Apple keyboards often use the scissor switch, which is preferable over the dome switch. This still uses rubber domes, but the key travel is shorter, which allows for faster typing. Apple keyboards have employed scissor switches for many years, likely because it allows them to use the exact same keyboard design in both mobile and desktop keyboards, and also because it’s easier to use than most dome switch keyboards. For the past 4 years have used the Apple Wireless Keyboard, and I still use it; if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Writers and gamers often use keyboards which employ mechanical switches. Writers prefer mechanical keyboards because it allows them to type faster by having keys which move back up more quickly than a keyboard which uses dome switches, and also because many of them like the clicking sound which some mechanical switches make. Gamers like mechanical keyboards because they can use up to six keys at once and the keys don’t need to be fully depressed to register. 

The least common type of keyboard is the membrane keyboard. This is the type of keyboard which you will see on things like Blackberry smartphones, photocopiers and microwaves. This type of keyboard provides close to no tactile response because the keys hardly move at all. By the way, many people mistake membrane keyboards for ones which employ dome switches. 

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Notes on Mechanical Keyboards

When researching mechanical keyboards you’ll find that most of them employ switches which are made by the Cherry Corporation and also that many of them employ Cherry blue switches. There are four main types of Cherry key switches: black, blue, brown and red. The four different types differ by feedback type and the amount of actuation force required. The blue switches provide auditory (click) and tactile (bump) feedback so you’ll know when the key has been depressed. The brown switches provide tactile feedback. The red and black switches do not provide feedback. The brown and red switches both require 45 grams of activation force. The blue switches require 50 grams of activation force and the black switches require 60 grams of activation force. Personally, I would go with the brown switches because they require less force and also because I definitely don’t want auditory feedback. I would want a keyboard with red switches, but according to www.mechanicalkeyboards.com, the red switches were going to be discontinued, but now they’re in limited production and consequently cost more. 


Though, not all mechanical keyboards utilize Cherry switches. Some keyboards use very similar switches from other manufacturers. Also, there are some companies which make their own switches. For example, Matias makes its own switches, which are based on the old Alps switches. Matias has two different versions of their Alps switches, one making a louder click and the other making a much quieter click. Also, Razer has Orange switches which are like Cherry MX Brown switches and Green switches which are like Cherry MX Blue Switches; just a different name.


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