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Inside the world of mechanical keyboards with Malaysian custom keyboard builders

Inside the world of mechanical keyboards with Malaysian custom keyboard builders

Keeb on building

Text: Natalie Khoo

Video: Shu Faye Wong,
ThatKeyboardGirl,
Muhammad Heirzy for BURO Malaysia

Illustration: Sarah Tai for BURO Malaysia
Image: Shu Faye Wong
Image: ThatKeyboardGirl

We spoke to two custom keyboard builders, content creator Shu Faye Wong and ThatKeyboardGirl (AKA Sugar), on their hobby and their tips for those interested to get started

Chances are you’ve probably seen or heard a mechanical keyboard, even if you didn’t know it was one. Remember the ASMR typing videos you’ve scrolled through on TikTok? We’ll bet you those were mechanical keyboards. Or those aesthetic WFH setup and home office ideas you’ve searched up on Pinterest and Instagram? You’ve probably spotted mechanical keyboards there too. They’re the sturdy-looking “classic” (or retro, if you prefer) keyboards, as opposed to the flat, modern types.

To put it simply, a mechanical keyboard differs from a membrane keyboard and most other types of keyboards (a topic for another day) in that it has a switch underneath each key. These switches have a variety of responses, sounds, and travel times, which make them attractive to gamers, coders and/or typists.

Though they’ve been around for decades, mechanical keyboards are arguably more popular than ever right now. It’s not just the calming or euphoric ASMR effect and WFH-related factors that contribute to their popularity, but also the satisfaction of being able to customise a keyboard entirely to your liking.

Just ask our local mechanical keyboard community, which has been growing exponentially over the past year. We spoke to two custom keyboard builders, content creator Shu Faye Wong and ThatKeyboardGirl (AKA Sugar), on how they got started, why it’s so popular, and what their current go-to mechanical keyboard looks like.

Inside the world of mechanical keyboards with Malaysian custom keyboard builders (фото 4)

Shu Faye Wong

Inside the world of mechanical keyboards with Malaysian custom keyboard builders (фото 5)

BURO: When and how did you first develop an interest in mechanical keyboards?

Shu Faye: "I developed an interest in getting my first mechanical keyboard when I started playing PC games in college. Back then, it was very easy—just pick a colour and a switch and you’re good to go. I’ve been using mechanical keyboards ever since."

BURO: What got you into customising mechanical keyboards after that?

Shu Faye: "I became more interested in the custom scene when I noticed that my mechanical keyboard was slowly showing problems, and I wanted to get a new one. I was looking for a good one to get and my brother introduced me to custom mechanical keyboards through YouTube, and I was so impressed that I decided to build one myself instead of buying a pre-built one."

BURO: Mechanical keyboards seem to be getting more mainstream lately. Why do you think there’s a surge in interest and popularity for them?

Shu Faye: "I think it's because of the ASMR videos circulating online. Back then, it was just food ASMR or people randomly scratching oddly satisfying sounds, but now everyone just wants to listen to keyboards. I think it’s also because there are more budget/entry-level custom keyboards for people to purchase. Back then, there were very little and most of them are expensive so it only attracted a niche market. Now, you can get a hot-swappable keyboard (note: hot-swappable means that you can easily switch out the switches) for less than RM200! Not to mention, we’re in an era of gaming and it has been MCO season so many of us are stuck at home. I think many people would want to invest in a good keyboard to increase their productivity when working from home."

BURO: Do you think mechanical keyboards are just a trend or a growing movement? Why so?

Shu Faye: "I think it’s a growing movement, because I don’t think anyone who has a custom keyboard can go back to using a pre-built keyboard anymore. They just feel and sound drastically better, and everyone loves something that they can customise to suit them."

BURO: Any advice for those just starting out in customising mechanical keyboards?

Shu Faye: "Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Be patient and be careful while working on your keyboard. You will spend hours on it but the effort is worth it if done right. Oh, and yes, you don’t need more than one keyboard. Make sure you do some financial planning before you dive deep into this rabbit hole."

BURO: What are three of your favourite mechanical keyboard accounts to follow on Instagram?

Shu Faye: "@mochi.crafts@valasupply@alexotos."

Watch the video below to find out Shu Faye’s current go-to mechanical keyboard and how she has customised it.

Follow Shu Faye on Instagram and Twitch for more updates and custom mechanical keyboard builds. 

Inside the world of mechanical keyboards with Malaysian custom keyboard builders (фото 9)

ThatKeyboardGirl (AKA Sugar)

Inside the world of mechanical keyboards with Malaysian custom keyboard builders (фото 10)

BURO: When and how did you first develop an interest in mechanical keyboards?

Sugar: "I've been gaming since I was a kid, but never owned a gaming set-up at home until 2015. That's when I bought my first mechanical keyboard, a Razer Blackwidow, which I used for only two months, followed by the mechanical keyboard that I used until 2020 and is still with me today although I don't use it anymore—the Corsair K70 with Cherry MX reds."

BURO: What got you into customising mechanical keyboards after that?

Sugar: "I only got into this customising hobby in October 2020, when I was upgrading my computer set-up during the lockdown and I wanted to make everything unique and for my keyboard to match my sakura and turquoise theme. I started looking around YouTube, Instagram, Shopee and Lazada and I was amazed at just how much customisation you could do with mechanical keyboards, from the case to the switches to the keycaps to even getting a matching custom cable to connect the keyboard to your PC (unlike my Corsair, which comes with an undetachable/built-in cable)."

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Sugar's current go-to keyboard. 

BURO: Mechanical keyboards seem to be getting more mainstream lately. Why do you think there’s a surge in interest and popularity for them?

Sugar: "I think it's because we're all stuck at home due to the pandemic and most of our work and social interactions are confined to our desks. There are way more options for mechanical keyboards versus normal membrane/stock keyboards and seriously, it's really easy to 'get poisoned' or 'fall down the rabbit hole' of mechanical keyboards once you see how beautiful they can look and how good they can sound. I also believe the majority of mechanical keyboard users are gamers too, and even though I firmly subscribe to the belief that skill trumps peripherals—a mechanical keyboard's response rate/latency rate definitely beats a membrane keyboard any day. To add to this, the streaming platform Twitch has been growing fast and many of the biggest gaming streamers use mechanical keyboards as well (Ninja, xQcow, Shroud, Pokimane)."

BURO: Do you think mechanical keyboards are just a trend or a growing movement? Why so?

Sugar: "I definitely think that it is a growing movement. I would go as far as to say once you go mechanical keyboard, you can never go back. Seriously. I should just send you guys a fully modified custom mechanical keyboard to try out and you can tell me if you can go back to using a normal keyboard after. It is so easy to get influenced into getting one after seeing your favourite streamer, Instagram influencer, colleague or friend use one. One of the most often heard phrases I get from people who see a custom mechanical keyboard is 'what keyboard is that?' followed by 'where can I get one?'”.

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Some of Sugar's custom keyboard commissions. 

BURO: Any advice for those just starting out in customising mechanical keyboards?

Sugar: "I would say please watch YouTube videos on customising mechanical keyboards. I started out watching Taekeyboards and I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for his tutorials. Also, if you have any questions regarding custom keyboards, there are quite a few streamers who can answer your questions, in real-time and live. It's really important to try to know as much as possible before buying parts because it is an expensive hobby and even the so called 'basics' can be pretty wide. Rorokeyboards and iamElvn are two local Twitch streamers who answer questions well and are very experienced in building mechanical keyboards—go bother them with your questions!"

BURO: What are three of your favourite mechanical keyboard accounts to follow on Instagram?

Sugar: "@justkeys@hexakeys@grldtmk."

Watch the video below to find out Sugar's current go-to mechanical keyboard and how she has customised it.

Follow Sugar on Instagram and Twitch for more updates and custom mechanical keyboard builds.

For more insider stories, head over here.