What's the difference? Mechanical versus membrane keyboards





When shopping for a nice keyboard, you may come across both mechanical and membrane keyboards, but what's the difference? There are many things that contrast a mechanical keyboard from a membrane, and many prefer mechanical keyboards over membrane keyboards.


Mechanical keyboards work by having a key-switch on each key that registers keystrokes. This may not sound that remarkable, since you may already have a keyboard that, when you press a key, the computer recognizes that as a pressed key. There are three plastic membrane layers, and when a rubber dome underneath each key penetrates all three layers is when a signal is sent to the computer. There is only a certain amount of keystrokes a membrane keyboard can do per second, while there is no limit for a mechanical keyboard. This is great for typists and gamers, as a limit of keystrokes per second can become annoying.


Noise: Most mechanical keyboards each have a distinct sound and feel based on what keyswitch they use. For example, there is the Cherry MX Blue, which is a clicky switch that has a tactile bump when you press a key, and the Cherry MX Red, which is a quiet switch and is very easy to press down. There are many different switches, and the selling point for some is the noise that they make. Some keyboards, like the Razer Blackwidow with yellow switches, is very quiet and easy to press, while others like the Razer Huntsman Elite are very loud, and offer an audible click. This is not an option with membrane keyboards, as they all sound the same.


Customization: Mechanical keyboards are also very easy to customize. They have many options for keyswitches, and most gaming keyboards also have a feature called RGB, which is basically LED lighting on the keyboard that cycles through colors, which is a nice extra to have on a keyboard. If you buy a keyboard and don't like the look of the font on the keycaps, you can also buy new keycaps and put them on the keyboard instead, offering for many different types of keyboards. This is especially important for gamers, as you have that added bonus of replacing certain keys like WASD to make it look unique, and this is very easy to do. On a membrane keyboard, though, it is very hard to replace the three plastic sheets on the keyboard if a key goes bad, and there's no way to replace just a single key like you can do with a mechanical keyboard. It is also much more expensive to replace things on a membrane keyboard.


Price: Price is also an important factor when buying a keyboard. Yes, there are budget mechanical keyboards, but in general, membrane keyboards are much cheaper. If you are looking for a normal office or school keyboard with no extra features, then membrane might be the best fit. If you are a gamer or want something extra in your keyboard, mechanical is the way to go. There are many good budget mechanical keyboards, so stay tuned for our article about that.


Shape: The shape of membrane keyboards can sometimes be more ergonomic than mechanical keyboards. There are also ergonomic mechanical keyboards such as the Freestyle Edge from Kinesis, and some mechanical keyboards even come with a wrist rest for extra comfort. Mechanical keyboards, though, feel better for typists and gamers because of the tactile feel, and sometimes, the click on a keypress that the membrane keyboard does not offer. You can also customize your mechanical keyboard so it fits you best.


In conclusion, mechanical keyboards, even though they are pricier, offer many more features, and have much more customizability than a membrane keyboard. Membrane keyboards are cheaper, so they are more for office work, and definitely not gaming. The mechanical keyboard is better for gamers and typists.


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