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A mechanical keyboard is a keyboard built with high quality, typically spring activated, key switches. These key switches vary based on the keyboard’s application or user preference.
Reddit's ELI5 Version: Mechanical Keyboard vs Normal Keyboard
A normal keyboard is a "membrane". Basically, when you press a key, it presses on a squishy rubber bubble underneath. When you push it down far enough, a pad on the inside of the bubble hits the circuit and triggers a key press. The bubble is what provides resistance and returns the key back to the normal position. Mechanical keyboards use a physical switch to trigger the keypress, and a spring to provide resistance/return to normal position. They trigger more reliably. The stroke and pressure is more consistent and can be changed to suit the user. Different switches can provide different feels (clicks, detents, smooth actuation). The mechanical switch wears out more slowly than a rubber membrane. They also have less wiggle in each key, thanks to how they're mounted in the switch. Generally, they're built more solidly (more metal, less plastic). It's sort of the difference between using a Bic pen and a Montblanc. They do the same job, but one is certainly more consistent, customized to you, and higher quality.
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