Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But that’s incorrect. When America’s cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces.
Prof. Wada (designer of HHKB)
As hardware enthusiasts we can agree and disagree simultaneously with the above. Especially with the part that names the PC as a consumable good, since the last decade in hardware demonstrated that upgrades are nowhere near as important as they were in the past. A PC assembled in 2013-2015 can still fulfil most of the mundane tasks and that includes games as well. Yes it is nice to have more cores, more RAM, more graphics power – but when is it not?
Circling back to the part that concerns us in the above motto we observe that keyboards found on the market today are indeed cheap. On the other hand we can find products that are by comparison extremely expensive. We have keyboards available for 10$ or less but also sold for double or triple that. What may seem outrageous is the keyboards costing fifty times that – or even more. So what’s the catch? We need to consider in this analysis that companies with such keyboards on offer – which may seem obscenely priced (albeit they sometimes come with even less buttons!) – are at times large companies which make a profit out of this and which sell enough products to justify their presence on the market. We also need to consider that the really expensive keyboards may have a different reason for the pricing – and these are not produced by companies but by individuals.
And we are not only discussing Logitech, Corsair, Razer, Kingston, ASUS, and Steelseries, but also PFU-Fujitsu, Leopold, Varmilo, Keychron, and Glorious.
There is also a relatively hidden niche of the peripheral scene. We can find here manufacturers of limited editions that can surpass by a wide margin products of the aforementioned companies in terms of quality and innovation. It is here where we find names like TGR, Keycult, RAMA, Singa, CannonKeys, Geonworks, OTD, Lin (or Lyn or Linworks), LZ, and others – and these guys usually just handle the design and manufacturing of the case and plates and sometimes the PCB. To which you need to add switches, stabilizers, and keycaps to obtain a functional keyboard.
So how do we navigate this ocean of information trying to find that interface that will last us decades? Of course we are not discussing required maintenance and not eating Cheetos on top of your keyboard. This is assuming that a keyboard that lasts is a keyboard with a much lower cost in time compared to the initial investment. And sometimes this investment can remain constant or can yield a profit. Do remember that this profit is not always measured in money – not spending large amounts of money on your medical bills because your keyboard helped alleviate and even eliminate your RSI is priceless. There are things that money can not buy.
The consumer will now be upset with me and demand an explanation as to why the stocks is usually depleted if looking beyond a regular prebuilt keyboard.
Dear reader, prepare yourself your favourite hot beverage and pick up a fluffy blanket. The answers will come as we head down the rabbit hole if you wish to see how deep it really goes.