Experiences with mechanical keyboards?

This forum still doesn’t have a specific place for hardware topics, and this place seems one of the least inappropriate for similar discussions. That’s why I’m posting this question here.

Does anybody among us have personal experience with mechanical keyboards (Mathias Tactile Pro, SMK-88 etc.)? Are they really that much better, comfortable etc. than the membrane keyboards that come with our Macs, or is this a myth that deserves to be discredited? In a computer store I never saw a mechanical keyboard I could try out, so all I can do is ask “those who know”.

If you have never tried one before, and cannot find one to play around with, I suppose the closest comparison would be laptop keyboards and the new keyboards that ship with Macs. Those are mechanical, but have a totally different action than the older mechanicals. For one, the old keyboards have a definite switch point where there is a solid click, but a bit of range before you hit the maximum distance at which the key can be pressed.

Laptop keyboards resist pressure up until a certain point, and once that point is reached the key moves downward and the letter is sent and you immediately hit the maximum press distance. The older mechanics had about the same amount of pressure required to start the key moving downward, and a lot more play after you reached that point. So fast typing on a laptop keyboard feels more abrupt. On an older mechanical once you get a feel where the “switch point” is you can kind of avoid the impact pressure of hitting the bottom of the keyboard. For some people, this reduces joint strain, and results in faster typing speeds because there is a good solid tactile feedback to exactly when the key is “doing something.” With a membrane, that point is vague, meaning you have to “type harder” to be sure the key is pressed.

So that is the main difference. Mechanical switches “click” when the right amount of pressure is applied, and membrane keys gradually increase resistance until you hit the bottom and the activation point is anywhere in between. Some people prefer that. If it’s all you’ve ever used, you might not like the mechanicals. Some people prefer the feel of scissor-switches like laptops. Plus, they are are loud. Not like a typewriter, but quite a clatter compared laptop and membrane keyboards.

There’s quite a few notes about mechanical keyboards on another thread here in Software By Other folk:


For myself, I don’t mind the keyboard on my MacBookPro for short sessions, or when traveling, but I’d hate to use it on a regular basis. I love heavy-duty mechanical switch keyboards for writing.

My favourite episode:


Amber pretty much covered it:

If you like clatter and racket when you type, then the mechanical keyboards might well suit you.

If you prefer quiet so you can actually hear yourself think, then the newer keyboards will probably be better for you.

YMMV, of course.

Thanks to all of you!

If you have the money you can get one made from old typewriter keys for the ultimate tactile experience.


I have the Matias Tactile Pro (original model) and it’s (brace for pun) hands down the best keyboard I’ve ever used in terms of accuracy, feedback, etc. If you like those old school Apple extended keyboards, you’ll love it.
However, mine’s on the market now because:

  1. it’s noisy – the clackiness was fine when I typed in a converted attic, but in our new small place, the noise disturbs my slumbering beloved when I type late at night.
  2. It’s radically different from the keyboard on my new MacBook. I had no problems switching back and forth between the matias and my old PowerBook or iBook. But now that Apple has gone to these new, flatter keys, every time I try to switch back from using the MacBook keyboard to the Matias, it takes half an hour or so for my hands to re-learn the different feel of the old-style keyboards.

So, I’m reluctantly selling the Matias and seeking one of the new flat apple external keyboards, wireless or wired. If any of my fellow Scriveners want to buy my Matias or trade your flat Apple keyboard for it (I know some love 'em, some hate 'em), please PM me.