Mechani-cool Keyboards

I recently bought a mechanical keyboard for preorder from 8BitDo! It's a special keyboard, too!

A mechanical keyboard from 8BitDo with the same colors as a Nintendo Entertainment System
Beautifully retro

I've been eyeing mechanical keyboards for a while, having researched all kinds of ways to customize them. This actually started out as an attempt to find the quietest keyboard that wouldn't bother my poor wife with the annoying key-clicking caused by its switches.

Unfortunately, custom mechanical keyboards are expensive. If you want a good keyboard, you're pretty much expected to shell out at least $300. Many "budget" and "cheap" (as in low-quality) keyboards are usually $100, and don't come in a lot of interesting colors other than white or black.

An option would be to buy a cheap keyboard and then switch out the keycaps. However, keycaps can range from $30-$100 dollars depending on what colors/patterns you want. Also, the keyboard will likely have tactile and clicky switches, making them quite loud. If you want to make the keyboard quieter, you would have to buy linear switches, which can range from $50-100 depending on the brand and how many you want. Not to mention that you have to make sure that the keyboard is hotswappable, which usually adds more to the price tag.

Some quick definitions regarding custom keyboards:

  • Keycaps: The pieces on the keyboard that display letters, numbers, etc.

  • Switches: The pieces that send signals to your computer when you press on a keyboard. Usually comes in three types: Linear, tactile, and clicky

  • Linear switches: Switches that provide a smooth keypress throughout

  • Tactile switches: Switches that provide a slight bump when pressing on a key. Can help others tell if they pressed down on a key.

  • Clicky switches: Switches that provide a slight click when pressing on a key. Can help others tell if they pressed down on a key.

  • Hotswap: A feature in keyboards that allows switches to be swapped for another switch. Usually keyboard switches are soldered onto the circuit board.

So, if I were to buy a hotswappable keyboard, and I wanted to change its keycaps to fit a certain aesthetic and change the switches to be quieter, at best, my total would be $180 for the absolute cheapest custom keyboard possible. This was definitely not a hobby I want anted to get into, but I still wanted to own one (for a reasonable price) and at least attempt to customize it to be the quietest keyboard!

You can imagine my excitement upon seeing 8BitDo's keyboard! Not only is it $100, but it already comes with beautiful keycaps and some extra features that you don't often see on cheaper keyboards, and is hotswappable! The only extra thing I'd have to buy are the switches. The ones I am looking for are around $70 after tax and shipping, but otherwise, I'd have a pretty good and quiet keyboard at $170! It's still a bit pricey, but I expected 8BitDo's keyboard to at least be $150! Even if the keyboard doesn't turn out absolutely perfect, at least it's still a really cool keyboard!

I might update this blog entry with my progress in customizing the keyboard, but we'll have to see. Thanks for reading!

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