Why You Need A Scissor-Switch Keyboard

Why You Need A Scissor-Switch Keyboard
Image: Lifehacker

As with most things tactile, one’s choice of computing peripherals is a deeply personal decision, opinion and feel eclipsing evidence and logic. If there’s any gadget this applies to more than others, it’s the keyboard — specifically the type of switch. Mechanical dominates, while membrane gets a bad rap. I’m here to remind everyone about the long-forgotten, One True Switch — the scissor.

Of course, it’s not the real One True Switch, just the OTS for me. As I alluded to in the opening paragraph: use the keyboard that works best for you.

Ignore the fanatics. Ignore the experts. Heck, ignore the reviews.

All I’m doing today is sticking my hand up, scissor-switch device in hand and saying “Hey, why not give me another look next time you visit your local computer emporium?”

Consider it one opinion, one flavour, amongst a sea of pro-mechanical nonsense propaganda enthusiasm.

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You may recall I covered the topic of keyboard preference a few years back, when my trusty scissor-switching Gigabyte K7100 bit the dust. A programmer and writer by trade, being deprived of a keyboard I’d adjusted to over many, many years was a massive productivity killer.

I thought I’d find an easy replacement, but little did I know, scissor-switch hardware had dropped significantly in the popularity stakes, leaving me no choice but to order something from Amazon US (and now that’s not even an option without jumping through hoops).

Why am I such an advocate for the scissor? Well, scissor-switch, or low-profile, keys use a pair of plastic hinges over the top of a membrane. The advantages of the design are short travel times, quieter operation and a general snappiness to one’s typing exploits.

Basically, the antithesis of mechanical. Come now, who seriously wants a keyboard with a three-quarter perspective resembling Manhattan? How do you type on such a monstrosity without injuring yourself?

Why You Need A Scissor-Switch KeyboardElegant and delicious. Everything you could want in a key. Image: Wikipedia

I also work a lot on laptops, which are exclusively scissor-switch / low-profile and jumping from svelte and silent to tall and clacky was jarring and unappealing. So, I made the choice to use one over the other and never looked back.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand the love of mechanical keys. The certainty of them. The sturdiness. The weight. The thing is, I don’t want a keyboard that makes me feel like I’m inputting coordinates into Apollo 11 or adjusting the power level of my 1930’s death ray. I want something agile. Snappy. Something my fingers can glide across like a puck on an air hockey table.

In short, I want a harp. Not a saxophone.

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Perhaps, on a shelf in a computer store somewhere — probably in Kiwirrkurra knowing my luck — there’s a mechanical keyboard that can grant me all this. But looking at pictures and videos online is insufficient testimony. I mentioned tactile before. Keyboards need touch, just as much as the next inanimate object and if I’m to find a suitable… er… suitor, we’re going to have to get physical first.

So, for now, I’ll manage with my SIIG Wired Keyboard, an aluminium-encased beauty that’s akin to typing on clouds or, at least, a pile of unused cotton buds. I’m not sure what I’ll do when it finally gives up the ghost, but, until then, I’ll be the scissor-switch’s staunchest advocate.

Well, until someone buys me a ticket to remote Western Australia, preferably by single-engine plane. A glider will do in a pinch.


  • For me, the type of switch is not nearly as important as – the keycaps.
    Some keycaps have Korean, Chinese, Thai or even Greek characters. Some have the shortcuts for an app (vi , or Photoshop). Some have text on the front of the key. Some just have standard QWERTY chars, but an extra large font, or the keycap itself is from a [admittedly limited] choice of plastic colours.

    The closest to this I’ve seen for scissor-style keys is a set of vinyl stickers, for the tops of keys.

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