After way too many hours watching videos and reading articles, reviews, and blogs, I've finally managed to decide which mechanical keyboard and switches to buy.
This post is part of a four part series, The Ultimate Keyboard.
When I started looking for a new keyboard earlier this month, I thought I needed a full-size keyboard with mechanical Cherry MX switches. But as I journeyed into to the intricate world of mechanical keyboards, I discovered a lot of options I didn’t even know existed, both in terms of mechanical keyboard switches, and keyboard sizes and layouts.
The number of choices are overwhelming, to say the least. But through a rigorous and highly scientific process1, I’ve been able to narrow everything down to a particular keyboard and set of switches.
The ortholinear layout and 40% form factor of the Planck EZ immediately appealed to me, and the more research I did, the more sure I got that it was the keyboard I wanted. One challenge with this particular keyboard, however, is that I have to re-learn how to type. But when I observed the way I type today, I realized that I don’t actually touch-type properly now!
I don’t have my fingers on the typical
JKLØ2 starting position, and I move my hands a lot more than I should. My WPM isn’t too bad, but I have a rather high error rate, which means I often reach for the
Backspace key. I’ve got tiny hands, and on my full-size Apple keyboard I can’t reach
Backspace without moving my right arm. This, again, contributes to my high error rate, because my hand doesn’t always return to the correct position on the keyboard after correcting my previous error, which leads to even more errors.
Another thing I observed is that I never use the modifier keys, like the
SHIFT key, on the right hand side of the keyboard. Instead, I always use the modifiers keys on the left hand side. Because of that, I twist and turn my left fingers, wrist and shoulder a lot more than I have to.
On a 40% keyboard, no key is more than one finger movement away from the touch starting position. This should dramatically reduce the stress and strain on my fingers, wrists and even shoulders. It means I have to re-learn to type on a keyboard, but that’s apparently long overdue anyway. I might even go all-in, and learn an alternative and more effective keyboard layout like Dvorak, Workman, Colemak, or something else entirely.
There aren’t many 40% ortholinear keyboards available. As far as I can tell, there are only two, the OLKB Planck and the Planck EZ. In the end, I settled for the Planck EZ because it’s manufactured by a company that ships a few other well-known keyboards. So, yesterday, I ordered a Planck EZ from ZSA Technology Labs.
Yesterday, I also had the opportunity to test no less than 81 different mechanical keyboard switches. I’d already decided that I wanted a linear switch, so the number of relevant switches wasn’t as high as 81. Also, the backlit version of the Planck EZ only comes with Kailh Silver, Kailh Box Red or Kailh Box Black switches out of the box. And only the Kailh Box Black and the Kailh Box Red switches were in the collection I got to test.
Both of the switches felt nice, although a little noisy. In the end, I configured my Planck EZ with Kailh Silver switches, even though I’ve never actually tried them. The reason is that they have the lowest actuation force of the three available switches.
Among the switches I got to try was a Zeal PC Sakurio. It felt absolutely amazing. Smooth, light, and almost totally silent. So I took advantage of the fact that the switches on the Planck EZ can be replaced, and ordered a set of Sakurio switches. Another benefit of using the Planck EZ is that it’s small, which means that I only had to order 48 switches.
Good Times Ahead?
The Planck EZ and the Sakurio switches better turn out to revolutionize my typing experience, because this adventure got expensive as fuck. With postage, packing, taxes, and fees, the keyboard and the switches have set me back $400, which is a hell of a lot more than I’d normally pay for, well, pretty much anything.
The Sakurio switches will arrive in a couple of days, while the keyboard delivery has a lead time of about three week according to ZSA’s FAQ. So by the end of November, I should be sitting down with my shiny Planck EZ to install the Sakurio switches.
Putting “conclusion” in this post’s title is misleading. This is only the beginning what I imagine will be a long, and most likely infuriatingly frustrating, but ultimately very rewarding journey of re-learning how to type on a keyboard.
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