Oh, boy. This question, huh?
Lots of people want to know the answer to this; unfortunately, it’s usually more complicated than they expected.
But don’t worry! Once you’re given some more information on mechanical keyboards, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on whether or not you’ll benefit from using one during your gaming.
Understanding Mechanical Keyboard Key Presses
Let’s start with some background information.
First of all, it takes less time for a mechanical keyboard’s key contacts to register that they’ve been pressed. This is called their actuation point.
As an example, if it normally takes other types of keyboards 4mm to actuate, it only takes mechanical keyboard keys about 2 mm to actuate. Note that it also takes a certain amount of force, measured in centiNewtons (cN), to press these keys until they reach actuation point.
Additionally, key switches are also either tactile or linear. Tactile means that you feel a slight bump to indicate when the key has reached its actuation point; linear means you don’t feel this, and just experience one, smooth action. This bump or lack thereof affects how quickly you type, because once you get used to how the keys work, you generally learn to type faster.
And you should also note that different types of key switches have different reset points. A reset point is when the key’s contact is no longer registering. This may or may not happen at the same time as the actuation point, so it can also affect how you type.
Applying These Facts to Your Gaming
So what does this mean in terms of your gaming experience?
Well, a lot actually. All those specific things about pressing keys (actuation points, force, tactile vs. linear, reset points) are what cause opinions to fly about whether or not mechanical keyboards are better for gaming. (Seriously, just check out this forum thread about the topic.)
Some gamers prefer mechanical keyboards because they truly feel they improve their gaming. For example, these gamers prefer using Cherry MX black switches or red switches, because they are linear and are “easier” to know when the keys have been pressed. These gamers also claim that it’s easier to double-tap faster with black switches (and sometimes even with brown switches).
However, other gamers think mechanical keyboards inhibit their gaming. Many of these gamers like to mash their keys as hard and fast as they can; though mechanical keyboards last longer and can handle this mashing, often all the little nuances that make typing easier (like those actuation and reset points) just get in the way when you’re gaming.
So what’s the best solution for you?
It’s actually quite simple: test out as many mechanical keyboards and switches as you can. You can order key switch testers, head to your local electronics store, or ask to borrow your friend’s mechanical keyboard for a week. You might even want to consider purchasing a used mechanical keyboard off eBay or Craigslist for cheap to see how it affects your gaming.
Every gamer is different. Your best bet in figuring out if mechanical keyboards are better for gaming for you is to try them!
Have you found in the past that you game better with a mechanical keyboard? Why do you think it helped you?