I now that two Topre switch keyboards and two MX switch keyboards.
- 2×Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2
- 2×Truly Ergonomic (1 in Cherry MX Brown and 1 in Kailh MX Brown)
I feel that I can now make some statements as to my thoughts on the long term durability of the two key switches as they are found in these keyboards.
Bottom line, I'm afraid that I have to give the nod to Topre here, decidedly. This is not to say that either of them are a bad keyswitch or that they are failures waiting to happen. I have no trouble recommending MX Brown switches as the most generally accessible switch to anyone interested in getting into mechanical keyboards, and my current daily typer is the latest and greatest Truly Ergonomic keyboard.
However, in working with both of these keyboards over the course of years, and typing a significant amount on them, it has become clear that the design of the Topre switches lends itself better to long term keyswitch reliability.
I distinguish here reliability from key feel. Both of these keys break in and change their feel over time. The Topres become a little softer with a little less tactile feedback (a consequence of their use of a dome for tactility), while the MX switches begin to lose definition a bit and become a little more spongy and less tactile, as a result of their tactility being driven by those plastic switches that are constantly rubbed, and their main force driven by a spring.
Reliability, though, is not how well they hold up over the long term in feel, but how well they continue to consistently and accurately actuate consistent with the way they were at the beginning, after any break-in period.
Because of the capacitive nature of the Topre switches, they are theoretically more durable, but that has largely been a question to me of theory, because execution of theory often makes a bigger difference than theory.
In this case, however, the theory works out quite well. The main difference that I am seeing between the Topre and the MX switches in long term use is that the Topre switches continue to activate reliably with little cleaning and without a significant change in the point of actuation.
The MX switches, in particular my latest TEK that has been my daily typer, has had some issues with debris getting into the keyboard and causing certain keys to fail to reliably actuate in the same way that I am used to. This has not generally happened on the most high-frequency keys such as the normal letter E or something like that. However, I have seen this with the number keys and to some lesser degree the lower row. This means that it can be hard to ride the limits of how hard you have to press with some keys in order to make sure that you get a consistent actuation.
The Topre system, for whatever reason, seems to be a little more sealed or a little more resistant to dirt and debris getting into the action, and I've seen them work longer without needing to be cleaned. I have had to give my TEK spot cleaning in a few areas, which, to their credit, they have excellent instructions on how to do, in order to restore some reliability to the keys in those areas.
It seems that there is something to the capacitive switch after all. That doesn't mean that you should go drop all of your MX switches and immediately make the, um, switch to Topres. If you like your MXs then chances are you are not going to have too much trouble. However, if you do encounter issues, just be aware that they can happen and take the appropriate steps to maintain your mechanical keyboard so that the contacts can remain clean and provide a clear signal for actuation. Otherwise you may encounter situations where the contacts are hampered in some way by dust or debris and you lost precision in your keyboard.