In recent months, I have had a new bad habit of impulsive shopping for gaming peripherals – from earcups to headsets, mousepads, mice, to mechanical keyboards and components (keycaps et al.). This bad habit has even made my credit card bill swell.
Instead of just ending up regretting it, I decided to share my experience that who knows will be of use to you too. So, without further ado, here are some upgrades you can make to make your mechanical keyboard more comfortable to use. Some of the information / upgrades that I have written here can also be used as a new consideration if you want to buy a completely new keyboard.
Replacing the Keycaps
Replacing keycaps may sound simple but it has some very significant repercussions with minimal effort. First, keycaps will have a big impact on your comfort in typing or playing games. Second, the keycaps will also affect the mechanical sound of your keyboard when used (especially when bottoming out). Third, no less important, keycaps really influence the appearance of your keyboard. Let’s discuss them one by one.
Keycaps are the keyboard components that your fingers come in contact with the most. The material (PBT, ABS, et al.) Of the keycaps will feel different on your fingers. Unless you join Group Buy for exclusive or limited edition keycaps, my advice is to look for keycaps with PBT ingredients. Apart from feeling more solid when squeezed, the finishing used in PBT keycaps is usually better for your fingers.
Apart from being more comfortable on your fingers, the PBT material will also provide a thicker sound when you are bottoming out. Remember, the thinner the walls of the sound cavity, the louder the sound will be. Therefore, ABS keycaps will usually provide a more hollow sound. You can also experiment with keycaps made from rubber or metal but, for me, PBT keycaps are the most ideal in terms of price, access, and convenience of use.
Did you know that keycaps actually come in different heights and shapes. The shape and height of the keycaps usually use the term “profile”. The OEM profile is the one most frequently used on all mass product keyboards. There is also a Cherry profile which is shorter but still angled / sculpted. If you are looking for a higher than OEM profile and still angled, SA profile could be your choice. Finally, there is the XDA profile which is shorter and flatter.
Apart from these 4 profiles, there are actually other variants (such as DSA, DCS, or others) however; From my experience of washing my eyes in the local online marketplace, the 4 profiles I mentioned first are the easiest to find (although the SA profile is not as easy as the other 3 profiles and the OEM profile is the easiest and cheapest).
Profile keycaps are also important to pay attention to because they will provide a different comfort and sound. For convenience of use, the height of the keycaps will greatly affect the orientation of the keys (assuming you no longer see the keyboard when using them) and how much power is needed for bottoming out. As for the sound, the higher the sound cavity, the louder the sound produced by the keycaps when bottoming out.
My advice, Cherry profile is the ideal one for you to look for – if you want to change from OEM and before trying other profiles. Cherry profiles are easier to use than OEMs because they are shorter so you’ll likely be bottoming out less often – unless you’re too brutal when using the keyboard. Due to its shorter length, the voice cavity of the cherry profile is narrower which will make your keyboard sound denser as well.
Unfortunately, there are some big drawbacks to Cherry profile compared to OEM. First, these keycaps are usually more expensive. Second, the keycaps variants are also much more limited. You’ll find it much harder to find cherry profile keycaps whose letters are translucent backlight than the OEM profile. As far as I know, none of the keycaps pudding uses a cherry profile.
However, these two shortcomings are not a problem considering the comfort and sound produced is much more important to me.
Oh yeah, before changing the keycaps, it’s also important to pay attention to the size and stem of the keycaps of the keyboard you are currently using. Not a few gaming keyboards don’t have a standard bottom row. Most Corsair keyboards, for example, don’t have a standard bottom row (except for the K100). Logitech G Pro also doesn’t have a standard bottom row. The standard bottom row size is 6.25u for the spacebar and 1.25u for the rest of the keys (CTRL, Win key, ALT, et al.). For more details, you can see in the image below.
The stem used is also important because you cannot attach the keycaps if the mounts are different. Currently, there are 2 switches that I remember not compatible with the Cherry MX stem, namely the Logitech Romer-G and the ASUS ROG RX switch.
Attaching the O-rings
After changing keycaps, another very easy way to do it is to add O-rings to your keycaps. Because the sound of the Blackwidow V3 is hollow, I actually have to find out what ways can be done to reduce the sound of a keyboard that is too noisy.
O-rings are extremely effective at eliminating bottoming out noise and installation is very easy. You only need to attach the rubber rings to the keycaps. The result is also effective because it completely eliminates bottoming out sound – sometimes someone needs 2-3 rings, sometimes only one ring is needed, depending on the row position of the keycaps. Although, ideally, I would prefer it if there is still a bottoming out sound but not too loud / hollow either.
Besides being able to eliminate bottoming out sound, O-rings can also shorten the bottoming out distance. However, this function is subjective depending on your taste. There are those who like long bottoming out distances and others like short distances. In addition to the changing bottoming out distance, another thing that is also subjective from using O-rings is the feel when bottoming out.
Although words cannot fully describe the taste, you can imagine the taste with and without using O-rings through the following explanation. Without O-rings, the feel you get when bottoming out is plastic to plastic (hard layer meets hard). With O-rings, the feel you get is rubber to plastic – soft against hard surface.
Some people really don’t like the feel that changes when using O-rings but I’m not bothered myself, although I can tell the difference. Plus, installing O-rings is the cheapest and easiest solution if you are bothered by the sound of bottoming out your current keyboard.
Oh yes, O-rings themselves also have thickness and color variants. My advice is to take a transparent color – who knows other colors will interfere with the LED backlight and take a thicker one because it won’t be too wasteful if 1 O-rings are not enough for certain keycaps.
Using a Long Mousepad
You may wonder why you use a mousepad for your keyboard. Before that, I didn’t feel the need either. But after I used a mousepad that was the size of a tablecloth under the keyboard (I used a Ducky Flipper Extra R – 800x350x3mm), I felt the mousepad was a little helpful in dampening keyboard vibrations.
Like the soundproofing problem which I will discuss in the next section, your table usually has a hard surface (wood, glass, metal) that is not able to withstand vibrations. While the mousepad has a softer surface – as long as it’s not a hard surface. That way, my keyboard doesn’t come into direct contact with the glass surface of my table and the vibrations between the two hard surfaces can be reduced.
Apart from the matter of reducing vibrations with the table, I feel that this long mousepad can also reduce the distance between the mouse and keyboard. The reason is, if you use a mousepad only for a mouse, you may not put the keyboard on a part of the mousepad because your keyboard is not flat.
However, the significance of using a mousepad for your keyboard is not as significant as using O-rings which can completely dampen the sound of bottoming out. However, using a mousepad under the keyboard seems to me quite a bit less sound and hassle-free – you just have to buy a long mouse pad and put it under the mouse and keyboard.
Those were 3 (relatively) easy things to do to make your keyboard more comfortable to use (including the sound problem because I’m not comfortable with a keyboard that’s too noisy).