Mechanical keyboards — keyboards with individual switches under each key — have exploded in popularity recently, and for good reason. This week we're going to take a look at five of the best mechanical keyboards, based on your nominations.
Not familiar with mechanical keyboards? Check out our guide to why they're awesome and how to choose the right model for you/
Ah, the IBM Model M — it's the keyboard that started it all, and it has been in production for decades. While it's technically a buckling spring keyboard rather than a mechanical keyboard in the sense that term is usually used, the Model M's toughness and effective design mean it remains popular. If you're using a Model M, enjoy it — they're tanks, and won't give up on you any time soon. If you want one for yourself, you can still acquire them from Unicomp and other online sources for around $80-$100, depending on the model you choose. If the original Model M is too big for you, consider the IBM 5150.
Das Keyboard has been in the mechanical keyboard business for a long time, so its keyboard models are well-designed and highly effective. — way before the current rise in popularity. For that reason, they've had time to refine their keyboards. The Das Keyboard Ultimate claims to last for more than 50 million keystrokes, incorporates a 2-port USB hub inside, and features full N-key rollover (meaning pressing multiple keys will register correctly). It's available with your choice of Cherry MX Brown (quieter, softer) or MX Blue (louder, clicky) switches. Unusually, the Ultimate is a label-less keyboard, meaning the keys don't have inscriptions on them. So you'll need to be good at touch-typing to use it, because you won't be looking at your fingers. If you want your keys labelled, check out Das Keyboard's other models.
The Cooler Master Storm QuickFire family of mechanical keyboards are well-regarded by gamers (our own Whitson Gordon owned one and loved it). The company produces a diverse range of models that are functional, affordable and rock-solid. The range offers incredible flexibility in switch types, backlighting options, full N-Key rollover, auto-disabling of the Windows key while gaming and removable braided USB cables, and more. Those of you who nominated it praised it for being a solid, affordable and flexible entry-level option.
Ducky has a reputation for making incredibly high-quality mechanical keyboards that are sturdy and long-lasting without being bricks on your desk. They're beautifully crafted, and targeted towards enthusiasts, keyboard geeks, coders and developers, and writers — people who live and die by their computers. The Shine 2 and the Shine 3 are available with your colour choice of Cherry MX switches, though you may need to shop around to find one. You get all the great features of a good mechanical: Full N-key rollover, reactive lighting to the ambient light in the room, a beautiful matte finish, and customisable backlighting profiles for individual keys. If you can find one, it's a solid keyboard that will stand the test of time.
Not all the keyboards from gaming manufacturer Razer are mechanical models, but the BlackWidow Ultimate and the BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth both fall into this category. The Ultimate packs Cherry MX Blue switches, while the Ultimate Stealth features the quieter Cherry MX Brown switches. It's a full-sized mechanical keyboard with programmable keys on the side, individual-key LED backlighting with adjustable brightness, media controls on the function keys, a USB port on the side with USB pass-through along its braided cables, and on-the-fly macro recording. Those of you who nominated it praised it for its heft, tactile feel, and build quality.
Honourable mentions this week go to the Rosewill RK-9000, an affordable model available with Cherry MX Blue, Red, Black, or Brown switches that we highlighted in our guide to mechanical keyboards, and the new Another honorable mention this week goes out to the new Logitech G710+ Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming, Logitech's first entry in this space. Finally, for those folks who want the ultimate in customisation, we have to extend a hand to WASD Keyboards (shown in the title photo), who offer a wide variety of other mechanical models that can be customised with whatever switches you prefer.
Have something to say about one of these keyboards? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Let's hear about it in the comments.