Lets go old school

I am spending most of the days in front of the computer. Writing emails, code and the odd blog post. I came to realize that I don’t spend any effort in having a good writing experience. So lately I decided that I should treat my self and get hold of a great keyboard. This turned out to be a challenging task to complete, there is so much to choose from. There are tons of different makes and models, colors and switches. Not easy at all!

Sometimes you are lucky. A coworker had a small pad with different keyboard switches on so I could try them out. It is important to know how they feel and sound, something that you can’t really understand by visiting a website or watching a movie clip. My choice landed on the Cherry MX-brown switches. For the non mechanical keyboard initiated there three types of Cherry MX-switches that are generally available on most of-the-shelf keyboards.

Blue – this is a linear switch. That means that there is an even pressure from the start until the bottom. These switches also provides a distinct “click” sound when pressed.

Red – another linear switch. These are without the “click” sound that the blue has. They are still emitting a bit of sound but they are less noisy. There is a version of these called silent red that are pretty quiet.

Brown – is a non linear switch. It has a little “bump” when you press them down. This provides a bit more tactile response compared to linear switches. Sound wise they are very similar to the reds.

The reason I chose the brown is the more tactile response they have. The bump is nothing you really feel or take notice of when writing on it as usual but is noticeable when you compare them side by side. You will however get a better feeling for if you pressed enough or not.

Old typewriter
Old typer with very mechanical keys

Mechanical vs traditional keyboard

Mechanical keyboards was the standard in the past but was exchanged for the now more popular “rubber dome” or “membrane” keyboards. These are constructed differently and with that also have different properties and feel to the user. They are less tactile and usually have softer sound coming out from them. They also have different expected lifetime. Now this is usually not a specifically big problem – you do not wear out that many keyboards in you life. The mechanical keyboards live longer – each individual switch can be pressed many more times compared to membrane keyboard. On most mechanical keyboards you can also change the switches if you need. The mechanical keyboards are a bit more expensive to produce and that makes them more expensive to buy.

When I started to look around I didn’t know to much about the different models and switches but interesting enough a lot of people out there is spending a lot of time on this – even building their own keyboards from scratch. Buying single switches and 3d printing key caps and keyboard frames. I was definitely not going there, I was mainly looking to improve my writing experience, not find a new hobby project. I decided to look around for an off-the-shelf keyboard. Being from Sweden and wanting a Swedish keyboard layout limited my choice somewhat.

The Ducky One 2 TKL

In the end I chose the Ducky One 2 back-lit TKL keyboard. It is a normal sized keyboard but without the numpad. This makes it just a bit smaller but still has full keys for the arrows, pg up / pg down keys. This keyboard, as you can hear from the name is also back-lit. This is a function I like since I am often writing in the mornings and in the evenings and I like to have only soft light in the room. Being able to have a soft glow from the keyboard is something I appreciate. Even though I seldom look at the keyboard when I use it.

The keyboard was well packed and it came with a removable USB cable, 10 extra key caps and a special tool to remove the key caps from the switch and a manual. The extra keys gives you the opportunity to customize your keyboards looks very easily. Even before I had tried my new keyboard I choose to switch my escape key and the arrow keys from being black to be reddish. I looked through the manual but it was not very useful since it was written in Chinese.

Of course I knew that the keyboard was back-lit but I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed I could change the way the keyboard was back-lit in. A normal keyboard offers to have the lights on or off since the whole keyboard is lit using one or two leds and then distributing the light over the keyboard using a big piece of plastic (a light carrier). The keys in this keyboard are all individually lit. Ducky has used this to give you options for how the light should be used.

Animation of keyboard effects

The keys can of course all be on or off as expected – but other effects are available too. Such as; lightning they key you just pressed and then fade the light out over 2-3 seconds. Another one is to let the light circle out from the key you just pressed giving the impression of an explosion or a drop of water hitting a blank water surface. My favorite is to use the matrix one – keys are randomly lit up and then faded out. It resembles the matrix text flow effect. Perfect to give a non distracting glow when writing.

Thoughts so far

This post is not a review per say but just a short description of the new keyboard I bought. I am pretty happy with it so far. I like the feeling to write on it even though I need to get just to use a full size keyboard and not a keyboard where they keys are more closely put together. I am totally in love with the back light functionality and the tactile response of they keys.

The cons so far is that it is a bit louder than expected. It is probably something I will get used to. But if I am to do any type of screen recording I will not be able to use this keyboard at the same time. And the final con, the most sever one, is the mockery given from the spouse. A quote to picture the low level on the comments:

You could have asked my mom! She probably have an old keyboard from the 1970 laying around.

I will not let that discourage the use of my new keyboard – she is just jealous! And with that I end this post.