Some people say mechanical keyboards are too loud to use at work, is the improved typing experience worth the noise? How much louder are mechanical keyboards, and are they always louder than regular keyboards?
Are mechanical keyboards always loud?
Nope! – When most people think of a mechanical keyboard they imagine the classic loud clicky noise the keys make. Some find the clicks satisfying, others find it drives them crazy. It’s a common misconception that mechanical keyboards are always loud, there are many quiet switches to choose from to soften the noise.
Mechanical keyboard switches
How loud a mechanical keyboard is comes down to what “switch” the keys are using, some switches being very loud, some being only slightly louder than a regular membrane keyboard. Each key switch has its own set of properties and which type you should use will come down to preference. These properties being: sound, tactile feel, linear feel, and actuation force.
Tactile switches are responsible for the famous clicky sound you hear with most mechanical keyboards. The tactile switch has a bump you will feel while pressing down the key, this bump represents the “actuation point” which is the exact point the computer will type the character. Tactile keys are great for increasing your typing speed because the actuation point lets you know exactly when to release the key.
Linear switches don’t have any bumps to represent the actuation point, the result of this is that they are always quieter than tactile switches. These keys still provide a smooth and easy typing experience. If you like the idea of owning a mechanical keyboard while keeping the noise down, linear keys are perfect.
The weight represented in grams refers to the force needed to press down the key. If you are worried about hand pains I would recommend avoiding key switches with high resistance. The resistance is measured in grams, the average key switch usually requires 45g to press, the higher and lower ends being 25g and up to 70g.
Should you use a mechanical keyboard at work?
The answer will always be case by case, it’s up to you to assess your work environment and decide if it’s appropriate or not. Using a quiet linear switch drastically decreases the volume of your mechanical keyboard, if you’re in a cubicle or your own office then I don’t think you’ll be bothering anyone using linear keys. If you work in an open office space it all depends on how loud the environment is in the first place, if it’s quiet with little talking or typing then I would recommend asking around, find out if people would mind you using a mechanical keyboard. If your office space it already loud with a lot of talking and typing, I would imagine using a linear switch mechanical keyboard is not going to change anything. To be safe you could bring in the keyboard just for a day to test the waters.
In my opinion how you type can be more relevant than what type of keyboard you have, someone who slams their keys on a regular keyboard will most likely make more noise than a sensible typist on a mechanical keyboard.
Quiet mechanical keyboards
If you’re looking for a quiet mechanical keyboard you should go with linear key switches. Linear key switches don’t have tactile bumps which are responsible for the clicky sound, don’t worry they still feel great to type with. There are a bunch of linear key switches to choose from, the most popular by far being the Cherry MX Reds. If you’re not interested in tactile switches and prefer peace and quiet, I would 100% recommend you to choose the Cherry MX Reds as an entry to mechanical keyboards!
Key switch testers
When you’re unsure which key switch to choose you could buy a mechanical key switch tester. A key switch tester is a small pretend keyboard that usually has between 5-10 key types on it They are used to replicate and test the feel and sound of different key switches. I would recommend buying one with all of the Cherry MX colors as they are the most common switch types.
You could also find videos on Youtube of people doing sound tests for different key types. You should try to stick to one channel or video to compare the sounds. Swapping between different Youtube channels won’t give you a realistic test as they are most likely using different microphones than each other.
It comes down to what switches you are willing to use and how loud your work environment is. Using the information on this page you should be able to determine whether you should use a mechanical keyboard at your work or not.