Once you’ve joined the mechanical keyboard family, the next step to making your setup truly your own is by adding some accessories.
Choices range from keycaps to switches, to aesthetic cables and desk mats. There are numerous options to position your mechanical keyboard setup to match your personality; here is our list of must-have products that are sure to elevate any gaming setup.
When it comes to stepping into the world of mechanical keyboard accessorizing, swapping out the very thing you type on day in and day out is a great place to start—keycaps.
Keycaps are the plastic covering on top of each key switch that identifies the letter or symbol input into the computer. Most users are familiar with stock or OEM keycaps, but keycaps can differ in several ways.
One core variation is keycap material. Most keycaps are ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), a recyclable plastic that produces a soft, smooth sound upon keycap actuation. A popular manufacturer of ABS keycaps is GMK. GMK issues custom keycaps with unique designs and patterns, typically with a higher quality finish than regular ABS keycaps.
The next popular choice is PBT (polybutylene terephthalate), a thermoplastic that’s harder and produces a more tactile sound. PBT tends to be built to a higher quality, holding up longer over time—a solid choice for most gaming setups.
A common way of distinguishing keycaps is the keycap profile. A keycap profile is whether the overall shape of the keys are sculpted or uniform. A uniform keycap features a flat surface, while a sculpted keycap has a slight angle to assist with typing.
All of this plays into the feel, ergonomics, and styling of each keycap profile. A few keycap profile examples include Cherry profile, DSA profile, KAT profile, SA profile, and more. Generally, the ideal keycap profile for gaming is Cherry profile as they are sculpted for an efficient and comfortable feel. However, there’s always personal preferences.
Artisan keycaps are a fun way to make a keyboard look one-of-a-kind. Ranging from 3D-printed, solid-color caps to hand-sculpted and painted caps, artisan keycaps come in a wide variety of shapes, styles, colors, and textures. Themes range from pop culture, video games, cartoon characters, cute animals, to you name it—there’s no limit to design possibility.
Keep in mind, artisan keycaps often cost a pretty penny, considering the sheer amount of detail that goes into many of them. If you’re looking to add that ‘wow factor’ amongst your inner circle of gaming friends, artisan keycaps are the accessory for the job.
If you’re planning on swapping out your keycaps at any point, keycap pullers are essential. They help blaze through the pulling process and minimize any potential damage along the way. As an added bonus, many gaming keyboards come with one right out of the box.
If you’re skeptical about investing in one, try pulling off a few keycaps with your fingers—it’s a frustrating endeavor.
Switches are the mechanisms under the keycaps on any given keyboard, registering each press of a keystroke. It’s in switches that clear variation in typing and gaming experience emerges.
There are three main types of keyboard switches: linear, tactile, and clicky. Variation occurs in terms of auditory feedback, tactile feedback, and the force required to activate the switch.
Linear switches produce a smooth, consistent actuation without any tactile feedback. They’re like standard keyboard switches, in that they don’t have any audible bump or click with each keystroke of the key. Many users argue that linear switches are ideal for gaming.
Tactile switches provide tactile feedback. They’re ideal for typing because you receive a slight indication of each keypress without needing to bottom out the keys. Upon key actuation, tactile switches provide a noticeable bump during the middle of travel to let you know that keypress registered.
Lastly, clicky switches are a sub-set type of switch that produce a tactile bump and loud audible click with each keystroke. They’ve very similar to tactile, just with an added audible click.
Switch o-rings are a practical accessory that serves several purposes for mechanical keyboards. For starters, o-rings dampen the clicking sound from keys bottoming out, which helps minimize sound in close-quarter environments like workplaces. Also, o-rings account for less travel distance between keystroke activation, meaning keystrokes function quicker and stealthier for gamers and typists alike.
Here’s an excellent option for keyboard enthusiasts who aren’t entirely sold on the differing switch options for mechanical keyboards. Switch sampler kits are pre-organized bundles that include different switch types in terms of design, manufacturer, and overall feel—all put together in a neat package, ready for testing.
A switch sampler kit is a great way to try before you buy. Investing in one helps with the confidence of committing to a specific typing style because at the end of the day, feel and personal preference goes a long way—especially for gamers.
Just like how using a keycap puller is essential, investing in a switch puller is a must-have for efficient switch removal, especially considering how fixed switches tend to sit within keyboards. Without a keycap puller, removing every switch can be challenging. Using the right tools for the job is always a good idea.
As time goes on, keyboard switches might not behave as they once did and can begin producing a squeaky-like or noisy overall sound due to friction build-up over time—especially for gamers who often use the same switches (WASD) during each gaming session. Lube helps to mitigate that.
Switch lube quietens the component, makes the parts operate smoother and more efficiently, and helps with overall longevity.
If you’re looking to add further aesthetics to your keyboard, an aviator cable might be your answer. Aviator cables are a premium connection alternative compared to standard keyboard-to-computer connectivity. They’re made of copper material on the inside with paracord and woven plastic on the outside, offering an unmatched degree of aesthetics.
If by chance you use multiple keyboards, swapping out your keyboard with an aviator cable proves convenient. They’re practical as well, allowing a bit of play in the length of the cable, all the while looking neat and orderly—thanks to the cool, uniform layout. Just make sure your keyboard has a detachable cable and not a fixed connection.
Wrist rests are a must-have for users and gamers alike who clock in countless hours before their keyboard, especially if your keyboard sits high up—which many mechanical keyboards do.
Because they’re typically made of padded foam, wrist rests provide added wrist support. Also, they vary in firmness: some wrist pads that are too soft might not offer enough wrist support, while firmer wrist pads might become uncomfortable over extended periods.
Mousepads aren’t the only option for desk pads, because desk mats are an excellent upgrade to any setup, serving a variety of benefits. Desk mats often come in larger sizes, allowing users to place both their keyboard and mouse on the surface with lots of extra real-estate for additional peripherals—like if a headset stand wants to climb aboard.
Besides being aesthetically pleasing, desk mats provide sound dampening for keyboards, to help alleviate vibrations, rattles, and general daily-use movement, which is good news for gamers. In terms of overall feel and practicality, the benefits of using a desk mat shouldn’t be overlooked.
Mechanical keyboard accessories provide an endless supply of options for enthusiasts and gamers alike, so there’s no shortage of ways to make your setup completely your own.
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