Clicky Keyboards May Seem Cooler, But They’re Not Always Better

They’re definitely more customizable

Key Takeaways

  • Mechanical keyboards are not necessarily better for your wrists than modern, flat keyboards. 
  • Wrist and hand health come down to posture. 
  • Mechanical keyboards are way more fun than boring old laptop keyboards.
A clicky keyboard on a wooden tabletop.

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

Mechanical keyboards are fun, cool, customizable, and perfect for annoying coworkers. But are they actually better to type on?

Click keyboards fans often mention responsiveness, positive actuation (you know exactly when a keypress has registered), and an overall more comfortable and possible ergonomic advantage. And typing on of these keyboards is very different, more engaging experience. But is it objectively better, or is it all just down to preference and opinion?

"Whether you have a mechanical or laptop-style keyboard it is imperative that you're sitting level with the keyboard and that your forearm, hands, and fingers are all level with it as well," Edna Golandsky, pedagogue and expert on healthy typing, told Lifewire via email.

The Click Difference

If you’ve never used a mechanical keyboard, then you’ll probably hate one the first time you try. The keys are taller, you need to push them further, and there’s that incessant clacking. You’ll also feel like you’re learning to type all over again.

But if you persist, then you’ll be rewarded with either a) No change—you still hate it, why does anyone use this outdated junk? Or b) Love. Why would anyone keep using those mushy, rubber membrane keys after trying this?

Closeup on the keys of a clicky keyboard.

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

There are a few mechanical keyboards designs, but all the popular ones use large keycaps over a shaft surrounded by a spring. The switch itself is a strip of bent metal that is closed as the body of the key moves down. The switch actuates before the key bottoms out and gives a positive click you can easily feel through the fingers. This positive actuation might be why these keyboards are popular with heavy typists. 

But they are also popular with hobbyists. There’s a huge aftermarket accessory market (rubber rings to reduce the click, custom keycaps, cloth-covered USB cables, RGB backlights, and more), and most of all, these things look super cool, especially when compared to the usual office-drab units we’re used to. 

When I asked for comments on mechanical keyboards, the most popular answer was that they're durable. And in my experience, that’s true. I have an old Filco Majestouch that’s still going strong after many years of hard use. 

Compared to laptop keyboards, these mechanical versions are often more expansive and offer extra keys and functions. Some, like the Das Keyboard, even have knobs that can control volume or other functions. But are they really any better for you than Apple’s Magic Keyboards and similar laptop-style designs?

The Case Against

The reason anyone gets RSI (repetitive strain injury) from any kind of keyboard is down to posture. Are your hands and arms at the correct angle to avoid strain? Are you pressing too hard, or somehow, messing with your tendons and so on? 

A backlit clicky keyboard.

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

“The reason your sitting height has to be level with the keyboard is so that when you move the fingers, hand, and forearms, they can do so as a unit while typing,” says Golandsky. “This is important because when the fingers don't move together, we often perform small motions such as twisting that causes wrist pain on the sides that can go all the way up to the elbow, or curling which causes tension in fingers, hands, and arms.”

One disadvantage of mechanical keyboards, in this regard, is that they are taller than laptop-style keyboards, even when you include actual laptops, with their thick bodies. Our desks are usually too high already, and force us to angle our forearms upwards. Anything that exacerbates this is bad news. 

But Bruce Whiting from The Keyboard Company has an idea that just leaning back in your chair can open the angle of your arms, and avoid any trouble. “But [with] correct posture, you don't lean and so the height of the keyboard is not a factor—that’s my theory,” Whiting told Lifewire via Twitter

In the end, it’s like anything related to your body—it depends on you. Some people might switch to mechanical keyboards and see their RSI disappear. Others might find it gets worse. But these things are getting so popular that you can buy something like the Keychron's cute new Q2 for just $149, and see what all the fuss is about.

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