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Now I want a mechanical keyboard!
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What's inside your CLICKEYbits?
There are five basic models of CLICKEYbits:
Classic - 2 brown, 2 red, and 2 blue switches
Clicky - 6 clicky switches, either Cherry green or Kailh navy blue
Silent - 6 silent red switches
Beta Tester - red, silent red, black, speed silver, linear clear, and silencer clip red switches
Clear Tester - blue, green, brown, red, silent red, and one other switch. (the CLICKEYbits itself may be black, white, or blue)
What does this all mean? Read about the switches and other keyboard features below.
What are the Kinds of Buttons?
Inside each CLICKEYbits are six mechanical keyboard switches. These are the actual buttons actuators underneath the colored keycap and there are lots of varieties to choose from from several manufacturers. The color of the stems (the part that attaches to the keycap) is generally color coded and can tell you how the switch will behave. They fall into three main groups.
Clicky - The click on a keyboard gives you audible feedback when you hit a key. And when you're on a roll typing away the rapid fire of clicks helps keep up your momentum. Clicky switches are favorites for programmers and people who don't have to worry about annoying someone else in the room.
Blue - Most clicky buttons are "blue". These feel great and give a satisfying click. They are made by all switch manufacturers with only minor differences. Blues are used in the CLICKEYbits Classic and are the most common clicky switches for mechanical keyboards.
Green - These are heavier than the blues, so it takes a bit more force to press them down. Only a few manufacturers make these heavier alternatives. Greens are used in the CLICKEYbits Clicky. and have a smaller but loyal following.
Navy Blue - A super clicky switch with a strong click when you press, and a second one when you release
Tactile - This is similar to a clicky key, without the click. When the button is half way down you can feel a bump that lets you know you've hit the key. This is the most popular form of mechanical keyboard switch, and a great choice if you work in an office with other people.
Brown - This is the most common type of switch and is used in offices around the world. It is an excellent mid-weight where you don't press keys by mistake and you don't have to press too hard. The bump is not only useful as feedback when you've hit the key, it helps train you to stop pressing earlier and not "bottom out" which means less strain on your fingers. Although there are some rare other tactile switches, browns are the most common. Browns are used in the CLICKEYbits Classic.
Tactile Clear / White - (unfortunately on occasion some manufacturers use different color codes) This is a heaver version of the Brown. Keyboards with this switch feel solid and great. For someone with a heavy keystroke this is an excellent choice, but others find prolonged typing sessions cause finger fatigue.
Linear - This button goes straight down without any kind of click or bump. Gamers prefer this kind of keyboard switch because it can give them a small edge when milliseconds count. There has been an explosion in the variety of of linear switches available on the market and figuring out which is right for you can be a challenge.
Red - This is a classic medium weight button, ideal for most gamers. It is the most popular switch for gaming keyboards today, although gamers now have many options to choose from. Reds are used in the CLICKEYbits Classic.
Black - A heaver version of the reds, for gamers that want more resistance. This is helpful for players with itchy fingers who want to apply some pressure to the keys before the key starts to go down. These are not as common and not all switch manufacturers make them. One black switch can be found in the CLICKEYbits Clear Tester.
Silent Red - This is a new type of red where there is almost no sound when the key hits the bottom, and also very little sound when the key rises back up. Although these are more difficult to find they are worth it if you are in a room where others find your game play to be disturbing. Silent Reds are used in the CLICKEYbits Silent.
Linear Clear - This is a lightweight liner switch for gamers looking for an edge. Resting your fingers in the home row you can feel that they switches will press very easily and quickly. These are not common but are a favorite of some gamers.
Silver Speed - This is similar to the reds except the key press distance is shorter. It takes the same force to press, but the keys will activate sooner and will "bottom out" more quickly. These are a fairly new product being made by a couple of manufacturers, and are proving to be a popular choice.
And so many more!
This scratches the surface of your choices.
If you are interested in a first mechanical keyboard look at either Brown, Red, or Blue switches, which are the same found on the CLICKEYbits Classic. If you want to dive into something more adventurous do your research! You may find CLICKEYbits Beta Tester and CLICKEYbits Clear Tester are also helpful in your journey.
O-Rings - An O-Ring can be added to any button between the switch and keycap. The O-Ring itself is a rubber ring that absorbs impact. It makes the switch quieter and shortens the distance the switch can be pressed. It gives a softer "landing" when you press the button all the way down. This can reduce stress on your fingers.
Silencer Clips - A silencer clip surrounds the top of the switch and gives it a softer landing, reducing the impact and the noise. Silencer clips can be applied to any switches.
Switch Manufacturer - There are about a half dozen switch manufacturers to choose from. Cherry is a very safe bet for a first keyboard as they invented the modern MX switch format (the most common format) and they create a consistent high-quality product.
KeyCap Styles, Materials, and Manufacturer - You might not think this is a big deal but it makes a huge difference. Some keycaps are short and others tall, some have a flat surface, barrel indent surface or sphere indent surface, some have a smooth surface and others have some grip, and the plastic material changes how the keyboard sounds and feels. Tall CLICKEYbits gives you some idea of the different styles of keycaps but the shape and height is a personal choice. Some materials are stronger than others and can last longer, where PBT is the best with ABS being a great alternative. The most respected manufacturer is Signature Plastics.
Keyboard Manufacturers - There are too many quality manufacturers to list. Look for the switches, caps, and keyboard features you want and then look at the product reviews. If you really get into keyboards you may find keyboard manufacturers to be irrelevant as you start buying individual parts and building your own!
Thanks and credit for animated GIFs goes to Lethal Squirrel from Geekhack.org