Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Computer keyboards

Related to writing instruments but in a different category, typing is the most common method of writing for most people. So in a way, keyboards are part of the writing instruments we use on a daily basis. My first experience with a keyboard was with a vintage mechanical Compaq leaf spring. At that time membrane keyboards were everywhere on the market and for me were much cooler looking (mine was an old, big and noisy hunk of metal and plastic), some of them had multimedia keys or even short travel. So I put the keyboard in a bin and went out and bought the first of a series of crap membrane keyboards.

Recently seeing a surge in mechanical keyboard popularity I made the leap back to the mechanical side and bought a mechanical keyboard, the cheapest I could find, as I was unsure if it will be something that I will appreciate or even enjoy using. I was also skeptical about the noise mechanical keyboards make. Apparently after a certain age you are not as sensible to loud noises :), so I have to say I like it very much, even though it is a blue switch keyboard which is known for making lots of noise. Also, the board itself being a cheap one is hollow and amplifies the noises generated by the clicks and the keys bottoming out, and resonates a bin, "ping" which is a bit distracting. It is especially true for when I keep the feet up, and is less noticeable if the entire back is on the table and I put something between the table and the keyboard.

After using it for some time, I realized what crap of a keyboard I am working with every day. So I took it to work. I have to say, my colleagues were not so impressed by the clicks the keyboard makes, even though I took the time to explain how much cooler mechanical keyboards are and how better they feel to the fingers. So, long story short, I took it back home and went back to the membrane keyboard I was using until that point, because the blue switches were a bit overwhelming for an office environment. 

Because the feel of a rubber dome is so different* from a mechanical keyboard, I was curious if this makes any kind of impact in my typing ability.

Do mechanical keyboards have an effect on your typing speed?

* Many people refer to mechanical keyboards being mushy. It is hard to describe in words but, a rubber dome is like pressing on a sponge, while a mechanical keyboard has a very crisp feel, and you can feel the end of the travel very abruptly. Also, a blue or brown switch as a distinctive bump when the key registers (before bottoming out), and offers a very crisp sensation when the button hits the tactile bump and when it bottoms out.

I tested my typing speed on the following setups:

T-Dagger Bermuda blue switch mechanical keyboard / Rubber dome keyboard Dell KB1421 / Dell Laptop Latitude series 5501

I did 12 typing tests with all the aforementioned keyboards, and taking out from the average the slowest and fastest session. I did the testing using 10Fastfingers.com, top 200 English words.

  The detailed results are:


T-Dagger blue switches


Dell KB1421 membrane


Laptop Dell Latitude

WPMAccuracy
WPMAccuracy
WPMAccuracy

7494.40%
6693.00%
6991.80%

6187.10%
7192.20%
6992.00%

7595.40%
6591.60%
6993.30%

7595.40%
6994.50%
6791.30%

6989.40%
6692.00%
6986.90%

7595.60%
7297.60%
6592.10%

6584.60%
7295.70%
6289.90%

6990.30%
7197.00%
6892.20%

6389.30%
7191.00%
6891.40%

7495.60%
6793.10%
6591.50%
Average7091.70%
6993.80%
6791.20%


















Min5581.23%
6189.77%
6086.96%
Max7697.17%
7597.66%
7091.34%

I am accustomed to all the keyboards, and type of them almost daily. At this speed, I would be cataloged as an average or just above average typist. Of course, the "real" typing speed varies based on the complexity of the text, how familiar you are with the language you are typing in, the length of the text etc.

As you can see in the typing speed on all keyboards is rather similar, the mechanical having the highest average typing speed and the top typing speed (70 words per minute / 76 words per minute), followed closely by the membrane with an average of 69 WPM and a top speed of 75. Last place goes to the laptop switch keyboard that only offered me an average speed of 67 WPM and a max of 70 WPM.

Even though the speed doesn't vary much between keyboards, the typing feel and colleague's liking (or better said disliking) might.
To better explain this, I made this graph, where the vertical axis represents the satisfaction factor and on the horizontal axis the keyboards types are enumerated.

If you do not value being liked or having friends for that matter, you should go and buy a mechanical keyboard. For the rest of you, just keep using the keyboard you have, as it doesn't make much of a difference for most of you.

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