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Stay away from knock-off mechanical switches!

Meh-canical

Look, there’s nothing more we geeks like more than our PCs. I’d yell “PC master race” like the rest of the team, but I have a mental age of more than 13 or 16 in old-man Ed’s case. One aspect of my home PC that was bugging me for a long time now was the keyboard. I used to have a good old TVS Gold, but it got stolen! I’ve been making do with a membrane keyboard for ages now and decided enough was enough. It was time to upgrade to one of these new-fangled RGB mechanical deals. I am after all a keyboard worrier (no that’s not a typo).

Now, if you know anything about me, you know I’m El Cheapo, so the most expensive models were out of the question. I’ve always believed that there are good products at cheaper prices to be found, and I try and find them. I fail more often than not, but hey, someone in the team has to be the cheap one who tries everything on a budget, right? The test centre boys told me to only buy genuine Cherry MX mechanical switches, but I wasn’t going to spend more on my keyboard than I did my monitor!

Avoiding genuine switches like Cherry can cost you later in performance

I decided to get a keyboard with the cheaper Kailh Brown switches. I prefer brown mechanical switches because they give me the feedback of mechanical switches, but without the clickety-clack sounds that drive my family insane. In fact, even with the brown switches, they decided to play their own version of Big Brother and vote me out of the house. It’s a good thing I bought the TV because as soon as I said “Sure, I’ll move out and take my 65-inch curved UHD with me”, everyone very quickly decided they actually liked my new keyboard!

So happy was I with my new keyboard, I decided to take on extra work, just because I loved typing on it. Alas, not even a month in, and the troubles began. I started noticing multiple characters being registered even if I tapped the key once. At first, I thought I was trying to type too fast, and tried slowing down and being gentler on the keys. No luck. Soon it was so bad, that I had to switch back to my membrane keyboard, and that’s like test driving a Ferrari for a month, and then coming back to your battered old Fiat. I’ll reconnect it and type the next paragraph on it to illustrate:

Annd here we have itt. My woonderrful allmosst neew meechaanicall keyboard. If you’re gettingg annooyeed readingg this, imagine how irritating it iis when you’re not a touch typist and look at your keyboaard when you tyype. Often I’d finnd myself a paragrapph in and would get high blood pressurre looking at the sheer amount of fixes I had to makee.

I’m actually paid to not make typos, and you can see how my new keyboard was not just a waste but was proving to be detrimental to my work! Most people rage quit games when they’re losing, but it got so bad that I was rage quitting Google Docs!
Determined to see what the problem was, I started some research and found a software called Switch Hitter.

Switch Hitter: a very tongue in cheek name…

It tests your keyboard when you type and checks for “chatter”. Chatter is basically what happens when you press a key once, but because of a fault in the physical switch, it registers two key presses. If you press a key as fast as you can on a fully functional keyboard, you’re rarely ever going to register key presses 30 ms or less apart. Thus, if you set the chatter threshold to 30 ms in Switch Hitter and type away normally, trying to use all keys, you get an idea of which switches are problematic.

The image alongside is my brand new keyboard. The red keys are keys that registered chatter. If I wasn’t sending this darn thing back to the manufacturers, I’d smash it in two! If you have a mechanical keyboard, try this yourself by going here and getting the software.

I want to believe that it’s just this unit that’s faulty, but Robert and Abhijit are also facing similar problems with their Kailh switches, all from different brands. Other friends have the same problem with Outemu Blue switches as well, but after a year, not a month! There are people using the TVS Gold for nearly two decades now, and I’m stuck with this pile of dung! Have you faced similar issues? Tell me at booman@digit.in.

Boo Man

Boo Man

I hate everything. Including this author description.