Mechanical vs membrane keyboards – Which should you go for?

When you’re looking for the best keyboard, it can be pretty difficult to know which one is right for you. There are more options out there on the market now than ever, and between them, you may not know which one to go with.

And when it comes to online gaming, the two most popular types of keyboard are mechanical and membrane. The name refers to the style of key that the keyboard uses, and although it does give a clue to how they work, it’s not a full explanation.

If you’re trying to work out if one keyboard is better than the other, then we’ll run through how they both work, and whether one can give you an advantage.

Mechanical vs membrane keyboards

The truth is that it really comes down to preference when deciding between a mechanical or membrane keyboard. Mechanical keyboards tend to be more popular amongst competitive gamers, with their tactile feedback enabling super fast reactions to gameplay.

In comparison to this, there are some users and even gamers that prefer to use a membrane keyboard instead. They’re definitely more common, and in the last few decades with laptops becoming the norm for most people, many of us use a membrane keyboard on a regular basis.

There are benefits to both styles of keyboard, and at the end of the day, some people just prefer one over the other. But, here’s the most common reasons why someone may pick mechanical over membrane, and vice versa.

Mechanical keyboards

mechanical-keyboard

When you’re thinking about the old school keyboard that you’d use with your personal computer, the likelihood is that you’d be thinking of a mechanical keyboard.

In the past, they were the most common type of keyboard by a long way. Over the last few decades, rubber dome or membrane keyboards have become more popular.

But, there are still many fans that wouldn’t use anything else than a mechanical keyboard, especially for gaming. One of the main reasons for this is key rollover, which is essentially the amount of keys that you can press at the same time.

Most mechanical keyboards have N-key rollover, which means you can press unlimited keys simultaneously and have them register. For gaming sessions, you can see how this would be advantageous. Some membranes only allow you to press two or three keys at once.

Mechanical keyboard users tend to be pretty passionate about them, and there’s a few more reasons for this.

Mechanical keyboard switches

The main advantage of opting to use a mechanical keyboard is the switch design that they utilize. There are different types of mechanical switch, but for the most part, they all provide a similar experience which is quite a bit different to other keyboard types.

Each of the keys has its own individual key cap, and when you press it down, it pushes down the switch beneath the key cap. Because these switches are raised up, it makes it much easier to press a key switch down.

mechanical-switch

You don’t necessarily need to press it all the way down to register a key press either. This is one of the main reasons why gamers like mechanical keyboards – you can easily press a key without having to punch it down, enabling you to quickly navigate around the keyboard.

More feedback

So, we know the main reason that gamers and even regular typists may prefer to opt for a mechanical keyboard. But, that’s not the only reason why they may opt for one.

As well as being able to type faster, you actually get a lot more feedback when you use a mechanical keyboard. This feedback or increased resistance when you press the key is something you’ll need to get used to if you haven’t had it before.

With some models, you can even get ones that click every time that you press the key. This style of switch is aptly referred to as a “clicky switch”, and many gamers prefer this style.

Easy replacements

mechanical-keys

One of the best things about mechanical keyboards is that all of the keys are individual from each other.

This means that if you have a problem with one key on your board, it’s confined to just that one key. You can go ahead and get a new switch or new keycap, and easily fix any problems that you have.

With other types like membrane keyboard, if you have a problem with one key, you’ll need to replace the whole membrane sheet. This can be pretty frustrating if you do find that one of your keys isn’t working properly.

Plus, another reason why people like the ability to replace the keys separately is that it allows for easy customization. You can get different colours for your keycaps, which is pretty cool in comparison to relatively boring rubber dome keyboards.

These are the main advantages of mechanical keyboards, and it’s pretty easy to see why they’re popular. But, they’re not the only type of keyboard out there.

Membrane keyboards

membrane

Whilst some folks prefer to go back to using the original mechanical design, there are also those that are happier with a membrane keyboard. At the end of the day, it really comes down to your own personal preference, and it can be difficult to know which is better for you without using one.

Many of the more commonly used keyboards on the market are different variations of membrane keyboard. This includes the popular Magic keyboard from Apple.

Though they do all use the same membrane layers underneath the surface of your keyboard, they can have quite different functionality. They tend to have one single membrane sheet which covers all the keys, so there’s no option to replace individual keys.

An example of this is the scissor-switch, which uses a scissor mechanism beneath the key when you press down on it. There’s also the butterfly switch, which you’ll find used in many of the Macbooks released over the past ten years. The brand tended to switch between the two.

Keeping costs down

Probably the main reason that membrane keyboards have become as popular as they are today is that they’re reasonably priced.

Because they only rely on two main sheets of membrane with a spacer in the middle, they can be constructed for a fairly cheap price. This is opposed to the mechanical keyboard which needs each key created individually.

When you press down on one of the keys on a membrane keyboard, you’re simply completely the circuit that’s located beneath them. Although they may seem complex, they’re actually a fairly simple device.

Silence is golden

As well as the pricing of membrane keyboards, another reason why many people like them is that they provide a very quiet experience when using them.

Not all membrane keyboards are quite, but in comparison to a clicky mechanical switch, you’re definitely going to notice the difference.

For those looking for a silent typing experience, then membrane is going to be the best that you’ll find. Though some people don’t like the shallow depth that membrane keyboards usually have, there are definitely a few benefits to using them.

Conclusion

It’s impossible to say which one is better out of the two, because it’s really just a completely subjective opinion on the matter.

Though mechanical keyboards are definitely the more popular of the two for gamers, some people like to stick with a membrane model instead. For casual users, a membrane keyboard is likely to be the better choice, as that’s what many of us are more used to nowadays.

However, most prefer to go mechanical for a better gaming experience. It could be worth giving a mechanical a try if you’re an avid gamer, or even if you just type a lot of content on a regular basis.

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve. I've worked for the past 8 years in a major furniture retailer in the UK, so I know my way around a desk or two. On the weekends, I spend time with my kids or I'm probably outside in the garden doing something or other!

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