A Short Dissertation on Mechanical Keyboards

Seeing as I've been busy working on my first novel, I thought I'd take a break from trying to be creative or inspirational to sing the praises of my favorite keyboards. If you think that a keyboard is just a keyboard, then that’s fine. I honestly feel that way about some things, and I can understand. If you are at least open to the idea that typing can be more productive or even enjoyable, type a lot, and agree you should at least put consideration into any tool that you use for 8+ hours a day, then I totally recommend checking out the options out there and at least think about being intentional about the keyboard you’re using (even if you do end up liking the Apple keyboard).

I will get a few things out of the way, though.

First, I am unabashedly a fan of mechanical keyboards. If you're afraid they're too loud, you should check out the “silent” switches that are at least less loud. They may not be as fun as the click-y ones, but they’re still better than the Apple keyboard or stock PC keyboard. For what it’s worth, my current Keychron with brown switches gets no complaints, even when I’m on a conference call and have to leave the mic open while I type and talk.

Second, I don't buy a lot of keyboards to try them out. I have tried out a few keyboards over the years, but I am in no way interested in reviewing keyboards or starting an expensive hobby to find the perfect keyboard; I'm a writer. With that in mind, I’ve normally done a lot of research and bought the safest bet. The exception is probably the Qwerkywriter S that I’ll talk about first, but that was a gift and is not bound by the laws of normal purchases.

Qwerkywriter S

First, I’ll start with the most polarizing keyboard. It is hands-down my favorite keyboard that I’ve ever owned, and I love typing on it. It looks like a mechanical typewriter (in fact, the creator started out prototyping it using his own Remington Rand), and it feels about as much like a typewriter as you can get without using an actual typewriter. Under the hood, it’s got Bluetooth with easy switching between up to three devices, n-key rollover when plugged in (basically, you can hit all the keys simultaneously, and it registers them all), and German engineered blue Cherry MX switches (it’s “clicky”).

Those are the things that it make it a good keyboard, but it’s the feeling of it that makes it my favorite keyboard. I will openly admit that all my computers and servers are named after typewriters (Remington and Royal are my laptops, Hermes and Underwood are my servers), and I actually do fondly remember writing my first stories as a kid on either my dad’s fully mechanical Royal or my mom’s “portable” typewriter with memory and a small display (you could write a full page on the couch). Not everybody has that same history, so it may not immediately connect with them, but it gives me all the feelings.

I appreciate that they made a few touches like making the “paper tray” into an iPad stand, making a functional carriage return bar, and using the traditional paper scroll wheels to control page scroll on one side and volume on the other.

Next, I love the feel of typing on it. No, it doesn’t feel exactly like typing on a typewriter, but nothing does. It does, however, feel tactile and satisfying, and I prefer the click-y blue switches when I’m writing long form essays or fiction. I know, it’s a very particular thing, but I can definitely type faster for long pieces if I have very tactile switches (right now I’m typing on my second favorite keyboard, the Keychron, and the brown switches are slowing me down).

Second to last note is that this is the most complimented keyboard I’ve ever owned. Most of my keyboards have never really gotten a compliment (unless you count people knowing I’m in my office because they were loud), but guests at our house literally stop and stare at this beautiful piece of steel on my desk. I can’t blame them, either, because I still stare at it sometimes.

Finally, this was a gift from my wife, and honestly a pretty expensive one considering how much she does not care about keyboards. She decided it was worth the expense because she thought it would inspire me, and now I’m writing a novel; so I guess she was onto something. She bought me sweat-proof Bluetooth earbuds years ago to inspire me to run, and I ran a half-marathon in them. She’s obviously very good.

Amazon (affiliate link)

Keychron K1 (Version 4)

Okay, after that rambling essay on my favorite keyboard for writing fiction and this blog, I’ll talk a little bit about my favorite everyday keyboard, the Keychron K1. This is a keyboard that I appreciate for its specs more than any emotional connection, but I really do appreciate the specs.

I have brown switches, which are considered less tactile than the blue switches, but they also hit with a thud (instead of a clack) and are generally quieter. On top of that, the open construction doesn’t echo or reverberate my keystrokes, so it’s actually surprisingly quiet (in my opinion) for a mechanical keyboard without expressly “silent” switches (I’ve even typed while on a conference call without deafening anybody). Again, this is a personal idiosyncrasy, but I like to program or edit code with brown switches. It slows down my typing in the good way, and it just feels right somehow.

Next, I like that it (again) is Bluetooth with up to three devices or wired with USB-C. While my Qwerkywriter is almost always in Bluetooth mode because I’m using my iPad Pro, this keyboard stays plugged into my monitor in my home office all day. I do appreciate the fact that, if I want, I can grab it and take it in the other room with me, though, or connect it to my iPad with a switch. I also just really appreciate one more thing that’s USB-C, because I’m slowly trying to weed out all my less standard micro and mini USB plugs.

Finally, I kind of like that I have a dozen or so options for the backlighting effect. Although I touch-type almost all the time, I will admit that I miss the backlighting when I use my Qwerkywriter (not that typewriters ever had backlit keys). On this keyboard, not only do I have backlit keys, but the motion lighting is actually pretty entrancing in different modes and can be a nice treat during a long day.

Amazon (affiliate link)

Keychron site (helpful if you want to customize, or they have a sale)

WASD Keyboards Code

Finally, we have the mechanical keyboard that started it all for me and currently resides at my work office, which I rarely use these days. It’s my basic, black keyboard, and it was my first expensive keyboard (after I actually bought and returned a few others). Like my home office Keychron, this has brown switches, but it’s not open and the keystrokes are kind of loud. I did add rubber o-ring switch dampeners to give it a more solid thunk and be a little less clack-y in my shared office (Amazon), and that helped. I also appreciate that it came with DIP switches that you could use to turn off Caps Lock and switch to a Mac keyboard layout.

I might be coming off as lackluster, but that’s just because it’s literally my third favorite keyboard right now. It was a wonderful upgrade from the Apple keyboards, and it felt much more like the original 90s Apple keyboards that I remember. For a basic, no-frills keyboard that still outpaces a lot of the competition, I’m happy that I have this keyboard at my office to use when I go in, and I plan on giving some custom key caps when I'm back in the office more.

Amazon (affiliate link)