Keyboards: Chiclet vs Mechanical
I'm looking for a new keyboards and i was looking at either a mechanical Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition, or a Chiclet Razer DeathStalker Expert. I've heard good things about both, but I want to know if anyone has good/bad experience with either one, and which I should get. Thanks!
Hello. First, my personal experience:
I used true rubber dome in the past for many years, since around 1987.
About around 2010 I have switched to chiclet type keyboards and used them until 2014, where I went for mechanical (MX Blue) after thorough research.
Rubber dome is basically the silicone cap, which is pressed by a plastic key moving within opening. Depending on quality of the opening hole, a key press on rubber dome can be complete horror or very smooth. Unfortunately the key travel is very soft, which makes this type:
- very cheap, but
- not very reliable (around 10k key presses), with
- very varying quality
Thats a basic cheap keyboard. If its a quality one, it'll last at least 4 to 8 years under moderate use. Repairing this keyboard type is usually impossible, because every key opening/fixation is different on different models even by same manufacturer.
Chiclet is a rubber dome keyboard with three differences:
- due to X-scissor mechanism the key pressure is much smaller, the keys travel much smoother than regular rubber dome
- the size of typical chiclet key is larger than rubberdome with less spacing in-between, which results in more comfortable typing, and
- the actuation point is much shorter, meaning faster typing speed / less fatique - although it depends on individual
Personally, I think that chiclet offers exceptional typing ergonomics, but there is one BIG problem which happens only over time.
The X-scissors are typically made of soft plastic, which is also held together by tiny thin rings at the bottom of each key(button), typically four. That means, that chiclet type keyboards are:
- completely unreliable and have the smallest typical lifespan of around 5k presses, or 1-3 years.
That defeats the use of these keyboards for typing. If the X-scissors would be made of metal and would be reliably connected to each button, then this wouldn't be a problem. However I know no such keyboard model.
Repairing chiclet is even harder than rubberdome. Each keyboard manufacturer tends to produce own key size and own X-scissor mechanism. Such keyboard is best left for notebooks, and even then its much better to connect an external keyboard via wireless mini-usb (to prevent USB port damage due to constant re-plugging).
Mechanical keyboards play in completely different league. They are
- exceptionally reliable, because they use metal actuators/springs. Also,
- for Cherry MX, the keys(buttons) are held in place using a standard X opening, which easily allows to change individual caps, and
- switches are pretty standard and can be re-soldered if broken; which usually never happens because each mechanical trigger typically lasts 10 million+ strokes. Switches themselves also often sit on reinforced metal backplate, which provides stability.
The downsides of mechanical keyboard are pretty obvious, its:
- pretty high price solely due to the complexity, and resulting
- higher energy use, which causes wireless mechanical keyboards to be pretty rare and power-hungry (hence most are cable), and also
- typically weight much more than rubberdome or chiclet.
Also mechanical keys have much longer travel path, compared to chiclet which may cause more fatique when typing; but like mentioned above, each individual has his own understanding about key actuation distance.
The switch type is actually irrelevant, as its more personal thing. The most reliable keyboards known are probably IBM type M, with some exemplars out there to be about 20 years old and still work flawlessly.
So, in the end all three types are pretty different and the choice depends on area of use.
- Rubber dome win at price and loose at comfort and reliability. They are ideal for budget.
- Chiclet win at typing comfort, but strongly loose at reliability. They are ideal for very light typing and high mobility.
- Mechanical win at reliability and (depending upon right switch combination) comfort, but loose in weight and price (although they usually last a lifetime). These are ideal for areas which require reliability, which includes gaming and typing.