PolyCaps Keycap Sets

Why are Custom Mechanical Keyboards So Expensive?

In the wonderful world of custom mechanical keyboards, typing feels good, and gaming is even more fun because the keyboards are more tactile and tailored to your needs. This explains why most tech workaholics and game addicts have a deep affection for mechanical keyboards.

PolyCaps Keycap Sets

While custom mechanical keyboards can take your typing and gaming experience to the next level, it’s costly to get one of these bad boys on your desk. They can easily reach $500+.

Their higher pricing than ordinary keyboards makes you wonder:

  • Why exactly are custom mechanical keyboards so expensive?
  • Is spending hundreds of dollars on a keyboard worth it?

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a custom mechanical keyboard?

As the name suggests, a custom mechanical keyboard allows you to tailor it to your needs. You can customize it in many ways besides replacing the keycaps.

For example, you can customize how heavy it should be and the general design. In short, you can personalize the following components in a custom mechanical keyboard:

  • Keycaps
  • Stabilizers
  • Keyboard switches
  • Keyboard plate materials
  • The circuit board (PCB)
  • Modifications (i.e. adding/removing foam)

If you are a first-timer in building a custom keyboard, some companies sell “barebones” kits that include the PCB, plate, and body. If you are tech-savvy, some kits allow you to buy keyboard parts separately and assemble them yourself.

This allows you to create a truly custom keyboard you are proud of because it may be one of a kind. However, it will cost you an arm and a leg to have a custom keyboard on your desk. Here are the reasons why custom mechanical keyboards are so expensive.

How much does a mechanical keyboard cost?

Typically, the prices of mechanical keyboards range from $30 to $200 depending on the manufacturer and the components used.

This is a big price range! So why is the price of mechanical keyboards so different? Well, it all depends on what we get. In more expensive keyboards, we can expect much better components, backlight, better case, or even additional software.

Also, a common procedure to lower the price of the keyboard a bit is to use ABS keys instead of PBT. ABT keys are simpler and cheaper to produce, but after some time you may notice glowing abrasions. PBT keys are more expensive but much more durable.

Here’s what you should expect in a high-end keyboard:

  • good branded switches such as Cherry MX
  • good quality housing, e.g. aluminum
  • PBT keyscaps
  • RGB backlight
  • macro support and additional software

What can you expect in the cheapest keyboards:

  • unknown switches
  • plastic housing
  • ABS keycaps
  • no backlight or only white backlight
  • no macros and additional software

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that you have to pay for quality. Fortunately, as mechanical keyboards grew in popularity, their price has decreased significantly. Currently, we can buy a simple mechanical keyboard for just over 30 bucks. It may not be the pinnacle of engineering, but in my opinion, such keyboards are still better than the vast majority of membrane keyboards.

Why are mechanical keyboards so expensive?

More complicated construction

As I mentioned before, the main reason for this significant price difference is the difference in the structure of regular and mechanical keyboards. Mechanical is much more complicated and has more parts.

So how much is their structure different?

Klawiatury membranowe

Membrane keyboards are the most common type of keyboards today. Their main advantage is the price. Many years ago, they displaced mechanical keyboards from the market thanks to low production costs.

Until the 90s, most computers were equipped with mechanical keyboards. However, with the popularization of computers, the demand for cheap replacements, such as membrane keyboards, has increased. Today, both at home and in offices, you usually come across membrane keyboards.

The membrane keyboard consists of several layers of foil with printed tracks. On top of them there is an additional layer of rubber, on which the buttons are later placed. When the button is pressed, the circuit printed on the foils closes causing the signal to be sent.

Construction of such a keyboard is very simple. Thanks to the screen printing method, the application of tracks on the foil is very cheap. We also don’t have many parts here, which makes the assembly process very fast. All this translates into a low price.

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Membrane keyboards, however, are not free from disadvantages. In fact, their only advantage is the price. They’re very mushy when it comes to writing. As a user, you don’t feel when the button has been activated. It is very easy to unknowingly press several buttons at the same time. In general, the typing feeling itself is very bland and if you usually use a mechanical keyboard it will probably be annoying to you.

You must be aware of one big problem with membrane keyboards. The buttons on such keyboards do not have their own individual switches. This means that if you press several buttons at the same time, some of them may not be registered. This can be a very serious problem, especially if you are a gamer.

Mechanical keyboard

Mechanical keyboards are a completely different story. Such a keyboard consists of a PCB, on which switches are mounted, and on them the caps for the keys.

The most important thing in this case is that each key has its own dedicated switch. Thanks to this, by pressing several buttons at the same time, we guarantee that all of them will be registered.

Switches are usually the most expensive component of a mechanical keyboard. In addition, until now the switches had to be soldered to the PCB, which was associated with a lot of work, and thus higher costs. Currently, we can find “hot swappable” keyboards on the market. They allow the installation of switches without soldering. This does not necessarily mean that such a keyboard will be cheaper, but it will make our lives easier in the future. If we want to replace the switches, we won’t have to play with the soldering iron 🙂

The great advantage of mechanical keyboards is the huge selection of different types of switches, each of which has different properties. Regardless of whether you prefer silent or clicky keyboards, linear or with a clear moment of button activation – you will always find something for yourself.

Scissor keyboards

Now that we’re talking about the different types of keyboards, I have to tell you that there is another type of keyboard – the scissor keyboard. This is the type of keyboard you’ll find most often in laptops.

In fact, its structure does not differ much from membrane keyboards. We still have foil layers with printed circuits. The only difference is the way the button is mounted. In these keyboards we have a scissor mechanism.

How scissor keyboards works
(source)

It provides greater stability, which in my opinion makes writing on them much more pleasant than on typical membrane keyboards. However, they are not as pleasant as mechanical keyboards. They still do not have a perceptible button actuation moment.

Typically, the key travel of such keyboards is small. As a result, the height of the keyboard itself is much smaller and it is more portable. That is why you will find them most often in laptops.

When it comes to their price, it is usually somewhere between membrane and mechanical keyboards.

More assembly work

We already know that mechanical keyboards are much more complex and have more parts. Here is another problem – someone has to put all these parts together.

In most mechanical keyboards, all switches are soldered to a PCB. As you already know, each button has a separate switch. This means that the soldering is a long and costly procedure.

Better quality

The biggest advantage of membrane keyboards is their low price. All thanks to the fact that they are mass-produced. However, this often brings with it quality problems. When it comes to build quality, mechanical keyboards almost always win.

I must also mention the durability of such keyboards here. Mechanical keyboard will serve us much longer than any other. Individual switches give us a guarantee for tens of millions of clicks (we cannot count on such assurances in the case of membrane keyboards).

Even if the switch itself fails, we can usually replace it relatively easily. Sometimes it will require a bit of manual skill because we will have to use a soldering iron, but it is not that complicated. If we have a hot-swappable keyboard, we won’t even need a soldering iron. We can simply pull out such a switch.

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Less availability

Mechanical keyboards have grown in popularity in the last few years. Thanks to this, the issue of accessibility is no longer such a big problem. A few years ago, however, we did not have that much choice when it comes to manufacturers of mechanical keyboards. If you know how the free market works, you realize that less competition usually results in a higher price 😉

Even today, mechanical keyboards are often not that mass produced. If we are interested in a specific model, we often have to check its availability with the manufacturer for weeks. Often, a given keyboard is also not available in our country and we have to import it. Of course, this also affects the price.

Customizastions

If you start reading too much about mechanical keyboards, you can easily find examples of people who have spent a fortune on their keyboard! Some can boast of keyboards that could cost them a cheap used car 🙂 You can find quite a few of these keyboards on sites like Reddit.

Where do such absurd prices come from? They mainly result from the fact that such people have assembled the keyboard from scratch, using the most expensive possible components they found on the market.

Usually, assembling a keyboard tailored to your needs carries a higher price. However, you can assemble a custom keyboard much cheaper.

However, if you’re just starting out, don’t worry about the stories of people who spent a fortune on custom keyboards. Premade keyboard will also serve you very well.

Is it worth buying a mechanical keyboard?

We already know why mechanical keyboards are so expensive. However, we still have to answer the question whether it is worth buying a mechanical keyboard.

If you have never tried to work on a mechanical keyboard, I sincerely encourage you to give it a chance. Personally, I think buying my first mechanical keyboard was one of the better investments for my computer stand.

If you only accept the higher price (which in the case of cheaper models is not that high any more) you can gain a lot.

It is worth buying a mechanical keyboard because it provides:

  • Better feeling – you will feel all buttons clearly. You can choose the type of switches to your needs. If you are a gamer, you can choose linear switches which are great for gaming. If you use the keyboard for work, you can choose blue or brown, thanks to which you will clearly feel each key and avoid many typos. That’s still not enough for you? You can choose from dozens of other types of switches until you find something perfectly suited to your needs.
  • No unregistered buttons – when you press several buttons at the same time, the keyboard will never lose any of them again. With a mechanical keyboard, you can confidently rank new ranks in your favorite games! 🙂
  • Durability – It’s true that you have to pay a bit more for a mechanical keyboard, but you can consider it an investment. Such keyboard will serve you longer than several membrane ones. Single switches guarantee you tens of millions of clicks. Even if your keyboard fails, repairing it probably won’t be that hard.
  • Modifications – when you buy a membrane keyboard, you stay with what you bought forever. In the case of mechanical keyboards, the purchase is just the beginning 🙂 You can make dozens of improvements – starting with replacing the keycaps, ending with replacing the switches themselves. As a result, you can get a keyboard that looks nothing like the original.

Are custom mechanical keyboards for everyone?

Honestly, a custom mechanical keyboard has exciting perks, but it’s not for everyone. If you have a very tight budget, this hobby may not be for you.

The average cost of building a custom keyboard ranges between $200–$400 and can even go beyond $500. The devil is in the details. The exact price depends on how extensively you want to customize the keyboard.

Additionally, a custom keyboard may not be suitable for you if you don’t have enough time to put in the effort. Building a custom keyboard is a process. For example, it takes time to find the right parts you like, and assembling them is another process.

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Generally, if time and money are a big issue, building a custom keyboard might not be for you. But if you are an enthusiast willing to put in the effort and you are not on a tight budget, read on to find out if these keyboards are worth their high price.

Are custom mechanical keyboards worth it?

Building a genuinely personalized keyboard have dozens of aspects that can generally turn away light-hearted first-timers. Plus, the whole process involves a lot of money that many people may find difficult to spend on a keyboard.

So the big question is, are custom mechanical keyboards worth it?

Yes, they’re worth it! A custom mechanical keyboard is all about what you want and making it suitable for your needs. If you find production keyboards unsatisfactory such that they compromise your preferred design and typing experience, a custom mechanical keyboard is worth the money.

Custom keyboards give you massive control over all aspects that matter most in a keyboard—design, click-click sound, how fast the keys should respond in every stroke, and the casing material. As long as you understand what you are looking for, a custom mechanical keyboard is worth the effort and money.

Whether you want a mechanical keyboard for work or casual play, a custom keyboard is your best bet for luxury, visual appeal, and owning a one-of-kind product (it actually might be your unique masterpiece in the entire universe). That’s because you can customize every aspect to your liking.

Build your own custom keyboard to stand out from the crowd

Maybe you’re sick of your current keyboard. Or perhaps you broke your old “baby,” and now the keys are stuck and don’t work anymore. In that case, building your keyboard will help you create something unique and creative to express your personality.

You will tailor the keyboard to your needs and create something outstanding—no one else in the entire world will have a keyboard like yours. Start building it right now because it is worth the price and extra effort.

How much do mechanical keyboards cost?

Mechanical keyboards can range in price by quite a bit. Some of the more expensive keyboards are in the $200 dollar range, such as the Massdrop CTRL keyboard. The lower end mechanical keyboards are usually in the $30 range, such as the Redragon K552. There are big differences in the quality if you compare the expensive and cheap mechanical keyboards. For a decent mechanical keyboard, the price is usually around $80.

So why such a large price range? Well the more expensive mechanical keyboards tend to last longer and are made from better materials. Some of the main differences in the features and components are shown in the table below.

Components Expensive Mechanical Keyboard Cheap Mechanical Keyboard Material
Keyboard Case Aluminum Plastic
Keycaps PBT Plastic ABS Plastic
Switch Brand Cherry MX, Kailh, ZealPC Gateron, Outemu
Lighting RGB & Underlighting White lighting, No lighting

As you can see, expensive mechanical keyboards typically have an aluminum case, PBT keycaps, Cherry/Kailh/ZealPC switches, and RGB backlight. These features offer the best feel and durability and will make the typing experience as best as possible.

Cheap mechanical keyboards usually have a plastic case, ABS keycaps, off-brand switches, and minimal lighting options. These keyboards are still great and will offer an upgrade from rubber dome or scissor switch keyboards, but they tend to not be as good as the expensive ones. You’ll definitely notice a difference in the feel and quality.

Conclusion

We compared what makes mechanical keyboards more expensive than rubber dome and scissor switch keyboards. Some of the features include independent switch design, N-key rollover, and better quality and durability. We also compared the difference between expensive and cheap mechanical keyboards, with expensive mechanical keyboards offering a superior user experience and better quality as well.

While mechanical keyboards may cost more than other types of keyboards, we highly recommend trying one out for yourself. We believe you’ll impressed by the feel and want to give them a shot for yourself. We recommend looking at a mid-range keyboard such as the HyperX Alloy Origins Core for a high quality, mid-range priced keyboard. You can find one on Amazon for a really affordable price. We are a big fan of this keyboard, and think you’ll love it too.

Thanks for reading, and as always, happy typing!

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