If you are into games, you already know the two variants of keyboards—membrane and mechanical. Membrane keyboards are lower-end models, and mechanical keyboards are high-end, serious-looking models.
They both have their pros and cons. But for gaming only, a mechanical keyboard will always give you an edge over your opponent. They are expensive because their construction and framework are totally different from membrane keyboards.
- What is a Mechanical Keyboard?
- What is a Membrane Keyboard?
- Differences between Mechanical and Membrane Keyboard
- Which to Choose, a Mechanical or Membrane Keyboard?
- Mechanical Vs Membrane Keyboard FAQs
What is a Mechanical Keyboard?
Unlike membrane keyboards, mechanical keyboards have no silicon pads. They pretty much look like a typewriter of old.
Each key has its own housing, spring, and stem. They are highly audible and tactile. You can feel their key going down, hitting the base with a loud “clicking” sound. (However, there are exceptions which we will discuss below).
Mechanical keys are much more accurate and robust, and a standard mechanical keyboard can take over 10 million clicks. It means even if you press the keys ten thousand times daily, you can still use them for ten years. They are not only more accurate, but they also give a faster response too.
What are the Types of Mechanical Keyboards?
There are three primary types of mechanical keyboards: Linear, tactile and clicky.
Linear Switches: There are two colors which denote linear switches, which are red and black. Linear switches are most common among gamers because they are the most responsive yet quietest.
Tactile: The most common type of tactile switch is brown. Tactile switches have a tactile bump you can feel as you press it.
Clicky: Blue switches are the best example of clicky switches. As the name suggests, clicky switches produce a loud clicking sound when pressed or actuated.
Mechanical switches generally come in different colors like red, blue, brown, black and green, each representing the primary types of switches.
Each of these switches has different features, which include tactile feedback, time of response, actuation force and durability. The industry standard for mechanical switches is the German-engineered Cherry MX Switches.
Most tech enthusiasts prefer mechanical keyboards over membrane keyboards because of their durability, tactile feedback and versatility.
Pros and Cons of Mechanical Keyboard
Pros of Mechanical Keyboard
Here are some of the advantages of using mechanical keyboards:
Mechanical keyboards are exceptionally durable when compared to membrane keyboards. Mechanical keyboards don’t wear out fast, and their responsiveness remains unchanged for years. A mechanical keyboard can take over 30 to 70 million keypresses, sometimes even more. On the other hand, membrane keyboards will stop functioning after taking 5 million key presses.
N Key Rollover:
N-Key rollover is the number of key presses your computer can register at once. Usually, it is a 1 or 2-key rollover for an ordinary keyboard. This means if you press more than 2 keys at once, your computer won’t be able to track the additional keypresses. This issue is commonly known as “ghosting.”
Mechanical keyboards have independent key switches, which allow you to register N of keypresses at once. The crucial aspect is that each key’s feedback is not compromised.
Unlike membrane keyboards, where you cannot remove the keycaps, mechanical keyboards allow you to change them, making them highly customizable. You can remove the keycaps and exchange them with your favourite emoji or add stickers to improve the aesthetics.
A mechanical keyboard’s tactile feedback and responsiveness are extremely useful to serious gamers and professional programmers. Feedback frequently improves user satisfaction and typing accuracy.
Cons of Mechanical Keyboards
Mechanical keyboards are great for gaming and typing, but they also have some disadvantages:
Mechanical keyboards are louder, especially with clicky and tactile switches when compared to membrane keyboards. You can always buy silent mechanical keyboards with linear switches if you are sensitive to noise.
Generally, mechanical keyboards are a lot heavier when compared to membrane keyboards. So, portability can be an issue here.
Mechanical keyboards are expensive. But their prices are justified considering their durability, flexibility and functionality.
What is a Membrane Keyboard?
Membrane keyboards are inexpensive because they are easier to make. They have an interconnected membrane or silicon pad above which lies the keys. As you press a key, the padding goes down and makes an electrical contact to register a keystroke.
These silicon pads lack the sound of a distinct “click,” making it hard to be sure if you have fully pressed the key. When in a hurry, such spongy, mushy keys with low-tactile feedback are not good enough.
In short, membrane keyboards are affordable and versatile but suck at fast gaming and typing!
What are the Types of Membrane Keyboards?
Flat Membrane Keyboards:
Flat membrane keyboards feature a basic flat design with a pressure pad under every key. You can find them on microwaves, printers etc. They don’t have any tactile feedback, because of which they are not utilized as computer keyboards.
Dome Switch Membrane Keyboards:
As the name says, dome switch membrane keyboards use a layer of dome or silicone pads with printed letters. Modern-type keyboards use laser-printed letters, which don’t let them fade away soon.
The laptop you are currently using has a dome switch membrane keyboard.
Pros and Cons of Membrane Keyboard
When choosing between mechanical and membrane keyboards, take into account these advantages of the latter:
Pros of Membrane Keyboard
As you already know, mechanical keyboards make less noise when compared to mechanical keyboards. However, there are silent linear switch types of mechanical keyboards that make less noise and can be useful for office environments.
Their affordability is the main factor in their popularity, as was already mentioned. However, there is a quality compromise.
The majority of membrane keyboards are portable. As a result, they can be easily carried away, unlike mechanical keyboards. These portable keyboards can be used for remote work while travelling.
Cons of membrane keyboard
Some drawback of the membrane keyboard includes the following:
Membrane keyboards have a much shorter lifespan as compared to mechanical keyboards. On average, a membrane keyboard can last about 5 million keypresses which makes you concerned about their durability and reliability.
No N-key rollover:
Because membrane keyboards don’t have individual switches under their keypads, you cannot register multiple keypresses simultaneously. It raises a big concern when it comes to playing games.
Membrane keyboards are also less precise than mechanical keyboards. It is due to the single-layer circuit beneath each key and more actuation pressure.
Hard to clean and customization:
Membrane keyboards are hard to clean because you cannot remove the rubber dome stitches. At the same time, it makes customization limited.
Differences between Mechanical and Membrane Keyboard
Here are some things to think about while choosing between mechanical and membrane keyboards:
Your budget is the main deciding factor of the type of keyboard you buy. You already know that the starting price of a mechanical keyboard is much higher than that of a membrane keyboard, mainly due to its build quality and mechanics.
As a result, many people buy membrane keyboards because of their lower prices. However, that doesn’t mean that there are no budget-friendly mechanical keyboards. Some mechanical keyboards are priced competitively with the market for membrane keyboards. But it’s always worth paying the extra money for better-quality mechanical keyboards.
The overall market for a basic membrane keyboard is typically lighter and more portable than mechanical keyboards. However, mechanical keyboards come in various shapes and designs, including 60% keyboards that are also light in weight, compact and easier to travel with.
3. Typing experience
You should go for a mechanical keyboard if you are a fan of its responsiveness, and tactile feedback and clicking sound that it makes.
Due to the superior typing experience that a mechanical keyboard delivers, serious gamers and professional programmers favour it over membrane keyboards.
On a membrane board, you may expect a fairly consistent experience with each actuation. On the other hand, mechanical switches will provide you with distinctive feedback with each key press.
You must select the keyboard based on how you personally prefer to use it.
4. Aesthetics and customization
Do you enjoy modifying your gadgets and tech? Do you want to customize your keyboard? If yes, then you should definitely opt for a mechanical keyboard.
Being heterogeneous in nature, the entire build of a membrane keyboard can be altered. The case, circuit board, and stabilizers can be customized from the keycaps to the switches. Moreover, most mechanical keyboards feature RGB lighting, which is embedded inside and enhances overall aesthetic appeal.
Of course, the keyboard that best meets your needs is the one that is ideal for you.
For a software programmer who does long coding sessions, typing fatigue is a high priority. There are plenty of great membrane as well as mechanical options for you.
For a professional gamer who values tactical feedback and fast reaction time, a mechanical keyboard would be the best. And for an avid typist who needs each key’s clicky sound and responsiveness, we recommend going for a mechanical keyboard. Usually, membrane keyboards are only good for regular users.
Mechanical keyboards clearly win if you’re looking for something high-end and durable, clocking roughly 70 million keystrokes instead of an average of 5 million keystrokes for a typical membrane keyboard.
Since key presses on a membrane keyboard are generally silent, but those on a mechanical keyboard create loud noises, mechanical might not be the ideal choice if seated in an office setting where noise levels must be kept to a minimum.
But you can use mechanical keyboards with quiet switches, typically linear ones that produce less noise.
Which to Choose, a Mechanical or Membrane Keyboard?
- If it’s for serious gaming, mechanical keyboards are definitely better than membrane ones. There are mechanical keyboards with light, quiet and linear switches ( Cherry MX red, Cherry MX speed), which are excellent for gaming. They have lower actuation points ( the distance travelled by a key to register a keystroke) and anti-ghosting (the number of keypresses the computer can register at a time).
- In fact, mechanical switches are also a better choice if you type a lot. These will last much longer compared to a membrane keyboard. For example, the Cherry MX Blue switches are best for typing. They give heavy, clicky and tactile feedback to the user so as to reduce the chances of accidental clicks.
- If you are bothered by the clicking sound, there are quieter mechanical switches ( Cherry MX Black, Cherry MX Brown). They are great at both typing and gaming.
- Membrane keyboards are only a good choice for a regular user. And someone who likes the squishy and silent clicks. Since you won’t use the keyboard much, it will be wise not to choose a mechanical keyboard and save some of your money as they don’t come cheap.
Mechanical Vs Membrane Keyboard FAQs
Ans: Mechanical keyboards are faster at registering a keystroke because they require less actuation force while registering a key. It can even register a key with a halfway press. So, it can increase typing speed and improve the experience.
Ans: The most comfortable keyboard to type on is subjective and can vary depending on individual preferences. However, most typists prefer mechanical keyboards because of their precision, responsiveness and durability. For example, Cherry MX Brown or Topre switches are known for their tactile feedback and relatively lighter actuation force, making them comfortable for extended typing sessions.
Ans: Mechanical switches are available in various types, including tactile, linear, and clicky switches. You should choose one depending on your preferences and needs,
Tactile switches provide a tactile bump when the key is actuated, giving you a physical indication that the keypress has been registered. Linear switches have a smooth and consistent feel throughout the keystroke without any tactile bump. Clicky switches have both a tactile bump and an audible click, providing satisfying feedback. Consider whether you prefer a switch with or without tactile feedback based on your personal preference.
Ans: You can choose linear mechanical switches which produce less noise. Linear mechanical keyboards are precise, comfortable and will last much longer than a membrane keyboard.
When it’s time to decide, try to balance the price with the features that are important to you. For the best bang for your buck, get a mechanical keyboard and ensure it has the right number of programmable keys. It’s worth mentioning that mechanical keyboards are not only for gamers but also excellent for any professional set-up. If you are restricted to budget and are a regular PC user, you can go for membrane keyboards. Just keep in mind membrane keyboards are not that long-lasting. Paying the premium prices for better quality will always make a difference.