It’s probably not shocking to hear premium mechanical keyboards are for people who are going to type a lot, and quickly. There are secondary and tertiary reasons for buying mechanical — longer lifespan, typically high programmability, sturdier materials, customization options, etc. — but the primary reason you, or anyone else, is buying a mechanical keyboard is for the sweet, sweet keystroke trigger activated with less than a half press of the key.
The difference between the keyboards you’re used to and the mechanical keyboard you’re considering is the way the board is registering each keystroke. Most keyboards today are made with rubber-domed switches under the keycaps and a varying number of gel membranes under those switches that absorb and signal your computer that you’re typing. These are cheaper to make but wear out more quickly. They also lack tactile feedback, which is essentially the key bumping back at you before you click it all the way down, providing you free lessons in typing faster with less effort. They also require you to press the key completely down to register, where a mechanical board can be pressed just barely below its resting point to register a stroke.
In short: if your profession involves heavy typing work, mechanical keyboards are worth exploring. If you’re not overly concerned with the problem of noise, there is a whole, incredibly wide world to explore. If you are, the below are excellent places to start.
For a professional keyboard at extremely good price, you can hardly find a better deal on offer than Drop's "ENTR" keyboard. With an aluminum case and slick angular design, the ENTR is exactly what it was designed to be: the perfect entry level mechanical keyboard. Available with smooth Gateron Yellow switches or tactile Halo True switches that offer a satisfying bump, the ENTR is not only grown-up looking, but also reasonably quiet in all of its available configurations.
Filco Majestouch 2 TKL
Don’t let the name fool you, this keyboard is not just for people who spell mage with a “j” or use the word mage in everyday conversation at all. Filco is another of the most respected names in mechanical boards, and this more medium-sized, Japanese-designed keyboard keeps with its tradition of stellar performance in a low-key package. Different variations of the Majestouch 2 TKL come with different switches, but this one uses the MX Silent Red switch, similar to the previous board, but with a lesser actuation force (less pressure to press the key down). Note again that Cherry’s Silent switches do not provide tactile feedback, meaning you’ll not have a springboard for a typing teacher.
Matias Quiet Pro
Matias’s unassuming line of quiet boards differentiate themselves with the brand’s propriety line of stealthy switches, found in far fewer boards than their Cherry counterpart. The Matias Quiet Pro also comes in a Mac variant, a rarity in the PC-dominant world of mechanical keyboards (nearly every board functions fine on Mac, the computer will recognize the board and adjust certain keys). Matias’s switches are not quite as quiet as the MX Silent switch keyboards, but they make up for it by providing a nice tactile bump those boards do not. The laser-etched keycaps are a small bonus as well.
WASD Keyboards CODE
WASD Keyboards’s 87-key CODE can be had with the relatively rare Cherry MX Clear switches, which are stiffer (higher pressure to push) variations of the popular MX Brown switch. They’re not expressly made for minimal noise like the previous keyboards on this list, but they’re easily the least obnoxious of the classic switch variety. They’re wonderfully tactile and they’re equipped with seven brightness levels of optional LED backlighting. WASD is a hotbed for keyboard customization and information, and provides a glimpse into the world of super-customized mechanical keyboards. Warning: the rabbit hole is deep.
Das Keyboard 4 Professional
The German keyboard designers at Das engineered the 4 Professional with a few more visible bells and whistles than others on this list; still, it isn’t violently pulsing backlight or waking up the neighbors at night. It’s available with the super-loud MX Blues, but the aforementioned MX Browns are the way to go for office-use. They bring the tactile bump without the clicks and clacks and, in this board, sport gold-plating to prevent rusting. A simple media control center in the top right corner with an oversized volume knob is yet another weirdly satisfying addition to a rock-solid peripheral. This Das has professional in the name for a reason.
There’s debate among the mechanical keyboard-crazed as to whether a Topre switch keyboard should be considered mechanical. But, by and large, it’s considered part of the crew. It uses a rubber dome with a spring under it and a capacitive sensor that senses the key being pressed mid-actuation, thereby registering a keystroke near the top of the press and with very, very little pressure or sound output. Frankly, it begins to feel a bit like there’s not even a keyboard there. The Realforce model, one of a handful of keyboards to use these switches, also features a heavy body and the decidedly superior PBT keycap (doesn’t become glossy with use, more durable) instead of the typical ABS. You will pay a pretty penny for this board, but it is regarded by many enthusiasts to be the absolute pinnacle of the form.
Cherry MX Black Silent
This is a decidedly unsexy mechanical keyboard that won’t trigger co-workers to ask why you’re trying to show off. Cherry is one the largest names in mechanical keyboards, primarily for making the switches the vast majority of keyboards use (including some on this list), but its MX Silent board isn’t some afterthought. It’s rigged with Cherry’s patented MX Silent Black switches, which dampen the loud click with a small piece of rubber in the switch and some proprietary Cherry magic. The result is the quietest typing on this list, bar-none. The light, plasticky body is a mild drawback — it doesn’t feel as nice as other mechanical boards, and the Silent switches are non-tactile, so no bump. But at just over $100, its affordability makes the bruises more tolerable.