New Analog Keyboard Switches Promise Lifespan of 1 Billion Presses
By Ryan Whitwam on July 16, 2019 at 11:00 am 13 Comments
The world of custom mechanical keyboards is more vibrant and varied than ever before, but most of the switches in those fancy boards still use the same contact leaf mechanisms that have existed for decades. Input Club, the designers behind keyboards like the WhiteFox and Kira, have just launched a Kickstarter to produce a new kind of switch. The “Keystone” keyboard ships with the unique SILO switches, which use magnets instead of metal contacts.
Mechanical keyboard switches usually have lifetimes measured in millions of presses, but that’s just how long the contacts physically work. The feel of the switch may change over time. Hall-effect switches have existed for years, but they’ve always been expensive and incompatible with most modern keyboards. The SILOs are a new variant of Hall effect switches that can produce true analog input.
Input Club says SILO switches should have a lifespan of around a billion presses (the designers are still actively testing that), dramatically more than the best current keyboard switches. That’s thanks to the removal of the metal contact leaf and bottom pins. The switches consist of the housing, a spring, and a stem that moves up and down with a magnet. The Keystone and SILO switches are hot-swappable because there are no metal contacts attached to the PCB.
Similar to the optical switches in the Wooting One, the Keystone keyboard registers presses based on the movement of the magnets inside the switches. Therefore, you can modify how the switches perform. If you want the switches to be quicker, you can move the actuation point higher on the press. You could also make a half-press do something different than a full press. Input Club also developed a feature called AI Enabled Adaptive Typing for the Keystone. As you type, the keyboardSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce keeps track of how hard you press each switch. Eventually, it tweaks the actuation point to be more comfortable based on your personal typing habits.
The Keystone runs Input Club’s Keyboard Layout Language (KLL) firmware. There are no desktop components to install just to make your keyboard work properly. Once you program your preferences and flash the board, it’ll work the same way on all devices. The keyboard and software are fully open source, and there will be a new project called HID.io to make custom game and program settings for the Keystone’s analog switches.
The Keystone comes in tenkeyless and full-size versions, priced at $150 and $180, respectively. It comes with your choice of linear or tactile SILO switches. The clicky “beam spring” variants are an extra $39, but they’ll be easy to add to the hot-swappable board. This is a Kickstarter, so you should always exercise caution. That said, I’ve used several Input Club devices, and they’ve always met or exceeded my expectations. The campaign runs for 30 days and aims to pull in $35,000.