9 votes

11 great mechanical keyboards for coders — updated for 2019

14 comments

  1. [2]
    Whom Link
    As much as I would also recommend the Model M to nearly anyone, if it looks appealing to you or the reasons this article gives are convincing then I wouldn't suggest going for the Unicomp ones....

    As much as I would also recommend the Model M to nearly anyone, if it looks appealing to you or the reasons this article gives are convincing then I wouldn't suggest going for the Unicomp ones. Their quality control is pretty poor (compared to the originals, not to your average keyboard) and you should be able to find a very high quality original one for around the same price on ebay.

    Even the supposedly lower quality later models that were still IBM were built like tanks, and I think you're more likely to get a lifetime out of those than a new Unicomp one. Unless you're just completely averse to buying used, that should probably be what you go for. Plus they're cooler!

    5 votes
    1. NeoTheFox Link Parent
      I can vouch for my EnduraPro, I like it. The quality isn't bad, and the fact that it comes with a trackpoint is amazing - this alone would be enough to make me buy it. I'm still waiting for that...

      I can vouch for my EnduraPro, I like it. The quality isn't bad, and the fact that it comes with a trackpoint is amazing - this alone would be enough to make me buy it. I'm still waiting for that promised TKL keyboard from them, they've been working on it for some time now.

      2 votes
  2. [6]
    rmgr Link
    I use an Ergodox-EZ for work and then I bought a second one for home because I liked it so much. I use pretty much the default key map but I like the ability to go "I seem to be using this key a...

    I use an Ergodox-EZ for work and then I bought a second one for home because I liked it so much. I use pretty much the default key map but I like the ability to go "I seem to be using this key a lot and it's not overly comfortable to do so." and whack it somewhere else on the board.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      NaraVara Link Parent
      I’ve been sorely tempted to get one, but I just haven’t been able to let myself pull the trigger at that price. And it doesn’t help that I’m a fussy prig who would insist on getting a fancy walnut...

      I’ve been sorely tempted to get one, but I just haven’t been able to let myself pull the trigger at that price.

      And it doesn’t help that I’m a fussy prig who would insist on getting a fancy walnut finish for the case and everything.

      2 votes
      1. rmgr Link Parent
        What pushed me over the edge was the fact that they have a return policy. I had been looking at one for about six months so I figured the experiment just to stop looking one way or another was...

        What pushed me over the edge was the fact that they have a return policy. I had been looking at one for about six months so I figured the experiment just to stop looking one way or another was worth the return shipping.

        1 vote
    2. [3]
      3_3_2_LA Link Parent
      Isn't that just simple key remapping which can be done using something like AutoHotkey on Windows?

      "I seem to be using this key a lot and it's not overly comfortable to do so." and whack it somewhere else on the board.

      Isn't that just simple key remapping which can be done using something like AutoHotkey on Windows?

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        blitz Link Parent
        Yep! But having the remap on a firmware level means that I don't have to have more software running on startup on my computer and that I can change it in one place and it will have an effect on...

        Yep! But having the remap on a firmware level means that I don't have to have more software running on startup on my computer and that I can change it in one place and it will have an effect on both my dual booted OSes.

        I've never used AutoHotkey so I don't know what it's capable of, but on Linux xmodmap is kind of a pain for me to use. It has its own configuration language which I don't really want to spend the time learning. The Ergodox however is programmed using a graphical configurator that lets me do pretty much anything I want, but I can also write my own programs in C, which I already know, if I need to do anything more complicated.

        2 votes
        1. rmgr Link Parent
          I keep meaning to figure out how to make the back light change colour based on the layer I'm on but its hard to get motivated to go home from my programming job and program

          I keep meaning to figure out how to make the back light change colour based on the layer I'm on but its hard to get motivated to go home from my programming job and program

  3. [3]
    pocketry Link
    I have a few co-workers that are into mechanical keyboards and have them at work and home. I understand the benefits of having one, and am willing to try it out, but I don't want to give up my...

    I have a few co-workers that are into mechanical keyboards and have them at work and home. I understand the benefits of having one, and am willing to try it out, but I don't want to give up my wireless. I don't like having to manage cables and love the convenience of wireless keyboard and mouse. When I mentioned this to them they said wireless defeats the purpose of mechanical keys because of the low latency of mechanical. I think this is because they are gamers and want really quick actions. I don't do any fast paced gaming like that so I don't think it will matter for me.

    Does anyone have experience with mechanical keyboards like these?

    Anyone know how I could go about testing different switch types before I buy one?

    2 votes
    1. hungariantoast Link Parent
      Like @cfabbro said, a switch tester is a great way to test switches before you buy, but since you have coworkers who are into the hobby, I would ask to borrow or at least sit down and type a few...

      Like @cfabbro said, a switch tester is a great way to test switches before you buy, but since you have coworkers who are into the hobby, I would ask to borrow or at least sit down and type a few sentences with their keyboards first. Be sure to ask them what kind of switches they have, as in, what brand, model, and type.

      Odds are they'll either be linear, tactile, or clicky, and I'm sure they'll fill you in on the rest of the details from there.

      Then, once you figure out if you want a linear, tactile, or clicky switch, you can begin reviewing different switch options for that type.

      For instance, I absolutely love heavy, clicky switches, so my first mechanical keyboard was equipped with Cherry MX Blues, but later on I wanted a heavier, clickier switch that sounded and felt different, so I got another board and put some Kaihua Box Navy switches in it, which is what I'm using right now.

      So, once you talk to your coworkers, try their boards, or at least have an idea of what type of switch you want, you can begin looking at different switches of that type. Let's just assume you're like me and love clicky switches, so you might be interested in any of these switches.

      This is the part of the process where things can begin to feel overwhelming because there are so many choices, but that's what switch testers are for and you can find them everywhere, but I specifically like the ones sold by NovelKeys that let you pick and choose exactly which switches you want to include. Dropping $40 on a switch tester might seem ridiculous, and yeah, maybe for your first board it is, but if you're going to build your board yourself and you want to get it right the first time, spending money on a switch tester is worth it.

      As far as wireless mechanical keyboards, I've never owned one but they're a popular niche, if that makes sense. I wouldn't worry too much about latency especially if you're not into competitive gaming or anything like that.

      Final bit of parting advice:

      You're either going to want to buy your board already assembled or make it yourself, either way I highly recommend getting a board that uses hot swap sockets instead of requiring the switches to be soldered on. It makes swapping out switches so much easier in the future. I also recommend getting a keyboard that offers some degree of programmability and customization, for which QMK compatible keyboards are the golden standard. If none of what you're reading makes sense yet, don't worry, with enough research it will. If you have any questions or want me to clarify on something just ask, I love talking about this stuff.

      2 votes
    2. cfabbro Link Parent
      Google “mechanical keyboard switch tester”. You can usually get them for $15-20 or so, and even amazon carries them. I would link one for you but I’m currently on mobile.

      Anyone know how I could go about testing different switch types before I buy one?

      Google “mechanical keyboard switch tester”. You can usually get them for $15-20 or so, and even amazon carries them. I would link one for you but I’m currently on mobile.

      1 vote
  4. jgb Link
    I am very fond of my TKL QuickFire Rapid with MX Blues (and PBT Blank keycaps for hacker cred). I can get by fine with a laptop keyboard in general usage but for long programming sessions or...

    I am very fond of my TKL QuickFire Rapid with MX Blues (and PBT Blank keycaps for hacker cred). I can get by fine with a laptop keyboard in general usage but for long programming sessions or writing long-form prose a mechanical board is a wonderful thing to have.

    1 vote
  5. Bullmaestro Link
    Eight years ago I bought a Razer Blackwidow. Easily one of the worst purchases I made. The driver software was incredibly buggy to the point of causing keypresses to lock. The problems disappeared...

    Eight years ago I bought a Razer Blackwidow. Easily one of the worst purchases I made. The driver software was incredibly buggy to the point of causing keypresses to lock. The problems disappeared the moment I uninstalled Razer Synapse and used it as a typical plug & play keyboard. Even when I tried Synapse on later OSes like Windows 8.1 and 10, the problems persisted which showed that Razer didn’t even patch them out.

    The Cherry MX Blue switches are not ideal for gaming due to how the tactile feedback worked, and the clicks are so loud that even using the keyboard as a normal typist could wake people up on the other side of the house.

    I would rather use a membrane keyboard than that crap, but alas I paid almost £100 for it and wouldn’t want that keyboard to go to waste.

    1 vote