“Naked” Versus Capped
In our preliminary evaluations, we had to determine whether it was accurate and fair to test switches with key caps on or off. This was further going to be an issue because we test switches mounted on keyboards and also “loose” switches placed into a tester backplate. The latter, of course, have no key caps.
We tested numerous switches at random, performing the probe test on the same switch with the key cap on and with it off. We found no substantive differences between those results.
By testing with caps on, we have the ability to get some insight on whether and to what extent switch test results are affected by slightly wider keys. For example, although the Tab key is not wide enough to require a stabilizer, it is slightly wider than a standard key. By testing with the cap on and comparing that result to the rest of the switches, we could see if the cap affects any of the results.
Additionally, testing with key caps on also allows us to test the performance of the stabilizers.
Another practical issue is that because a switch stem is small, it can be tricky to align the probe correctly above it. If the probe is off center just a bit, the pressure and distance tests could be thrown off slightly.
For those reasons, we opted to run the tests with the key caps on when possible, and as stated above, we manually and firmly pressed each key to ensure that the key caps were all firmly seated to avoid any inaccurate results from loose caps.
When we test loose switches with no caps, we spend significantly more time aligning the probe correctly than we need to when testing capped switches.
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