Those who truly use keyboards for specific purposes know that not all keyboards are the same. Mechanical keyboards differ from membrane keyboards in so many ways. Either keyboards also offer numerous benefits alongside some cons. How do you know which one you should use?
Below we have explained each of these keyboards in detail to give you a clearer picture of what you should know.
What is a Membrane Keyboard
A membrane keyboard is the more common keyboard that everybody knows and most people use. It’s the regular keyboard that comes with computers and PCs. It is easily identifiable with its three elements made of very flexible, inexpensive material.
This inexpensive material makes them so cheap and common, unlike its counterpart. Generally, membrane keyboards are also more quiet and more portable than the mechanical keyboard, which we will examine later.
A membrane keyboard has three layers—the top membrane layer, the inner middle layer, and the bottom membrane layer. Beneath each layer, you have what is called a Conductive trace or PCB. This PCB initiates the letter’s output or key on the screen.
Here is how it works:
There’s a circuit beneath a layer of rubber. On top of this rubber is where the keys or buttons sit. This is the visible part we all can see. Pressing the keys applies pressure on the rubber layer beneath, activating the circuit. Once this happens, the circuit pushes information to the CPU then the output becomes visible on the screen.
The Membrane Keyboard comes in two types:
- Flat Key Membrane Keyboard
This is a flat keyboard design where the letters on the keys are printed on the same pad you press the keys. These ones are commonly used on devices like printers and microwaves. This keyboard still inputs letters and symbols using a pressure pad but doesn’t give you tactile feedback. This makes it quite challenging to use on devices like a computer.
- Dome Switch Membrane Keyboard
This type of keyboard has keys that are dome-like. On these domes, the letters are printed or laser stretched. It is the regular type of keyboard that comes with most types of laptops or computers.
Membrane keyboards have one thing in common; they have a single rubber layer beneath their keys. This is different from mechanical keyboards, which have separate key parts.
Membrane Keyboard Benefits
Membrane keyboards are not as unusable as you think. In fact, they have some great benefits that may sway you over to choose to buy one.
- Good Enough Feedback
Dome membrane keyboards are a little similar to mechanical keyboards and can be a good substitute. It gives bumpy feedback when you press on the keys, which can be good enough if you like keyboards that give feedback.
- Less Noise
These types of keyboards are way less noisy than mechanical keyboards. If you like keyboards that do not make noise, a membrane keyboard is a good choice. It’s pretty noiseless even during high-intensity typing, unlike the clicky, tactile mechanical keyboard version.
- Smaller and Lightweight
These keyboards are great for you if you‘re a regular traveler. You don’t need to worry about the heavy weight during your tips because they are compact and easily fit into small bags or luggage. You can also easily replace them if you mistakenly destroy or lose them.
A membrane keyboard doesn’t cost as much as a mechanical keyboard. The materials and parts used to make them do not cost as much because they are quite common. This is what makes it more affordable.
Membrane Keyboard Drawbacks
A membrane keyboard may not be ideal for everybody. It may not have some features and functions of a mechanical keyboard. Let’s looks at a few possible ones here:
- Effortful Typing
A membrane keyboard needs more effort when you type, which is not great for people who type at a long stretch. It causes fatigue and wrist pain after long hours of use.
- Cleaning Difficulty
Membrane keyboard keycaps are not easily removable; this makes it difficult to clean.
- Lesser Lifespan
When a membrane keyboard has lasted for some years, the keys tend to lose their feedback. This makes the typing experience less enjoyable.
- Parts are Hard to Replace
The parts of a membrane keyboard are usually tricky to remove. If one part gets destroyed, you may need to get a new keyboard entirely.
What is a Mechanical Keyboard
A mechanical keyboard is a keyboard with spring-loaded switches beneath the cap and uses individual switches for each of the keys. Unlike the membrane keyboard, this one has a mechanism on its side that presses on a circuit. This circuit sends information to the CPU, which then reflects the key pressed on the screen.
Mechanical keyboards use mechanical switches, and there are different types of these mechanical switches. A switch is made up of a base, a spring, and a stem. They generally offer the same function but operate in different ways. Let’s examine some switches below:
- Linear Switches: This switch has a linear feel when you press on the keys. This means that pressing a key feels the same from the top straight to the bottom. There is no bump, click or feedback when you press it. It is the quietest of all the switches, and you only know a key has been registered when you see the feedback on the screen. This also means that when you press a key it usually touches the bottom.
- Tactile Switches: For this switch, you get a touch response when you press on the keys. You feel a small bump when you press on a key that tells you that you have inserted a keystroke.
- Clicky Switches: This type of keyboard switch gives a click when you press on the keys. The best part about this is that you don’t need to press on a key to the bottom to register a key.
Mechanical Keyboard Benefits
A mechanical keyboard has many benefits. Generally, they are quite sturdy and last for lengthy periods than regular keyboards. If you’re considering getting a mechanical keyboard, some of its benefits may help you decide.
- Durability and Longer Lifespan
Like we said earlier, a mechanical keyboard is strong and long-lasting. They offer you more keystrokes than regular keyboards, between 30 – 70 million as tested. Standard keyboards only give you about 5 million key presses. They also last for many more years than a membrane keyboard. They don’t get stuck or hooked no matter how long you have had them.
- Impeccable Feedback
Unlike membrane keyboards, you have various switches for mechanical keyboards that offer different types of feedback. The linear, tactile, and clicky switches all have different responses when you press on them, so you can select the one you like based on your needs and preferences.
- Less Fatigue
Mechanical keyboards take away the stress that comes with typing for long periods. Many mechanical keyboard switches are very responsive to touch, detecting each keypress even at the slightest touch. This is very good for gamers and professional typists as they do not have to guess whether a keystroke has been registered. The tactile feedback or bump tells you that you’re good to go.
Mechanical keyboards have a lot of weight, which helps them to stay in place when you type. It reduces the risk of being pushed around, distracting you when typing or gaming.
These types of keyboards are very accurate and precise. It doesn’t matter how many keys you press down at once; each of them will be registered onscreen. This mankes it very good for gamers who have to use so many keys at once during their gaming sessions.
Mechanical Keyboard Drawbacks
While mechanical keyboards may seem like they may win the people’s choice awards ‘Best Keyboard’ category, it’s not without its drawbacks.
With all the many features that a mechanical keyboard offers, including durability and lifespan, it’s only natural that it comes at a jawbreaking price. Many mechanical keyboards are quite costlier than regular membrane keyboards.
Mechanical keyboards can be noisy, even up to the frustration of others. Some are so noisy that it is not advisable to use them in public. However, with some noise drowning modifications like O-rings and foam pads, you can reduce the noise to a minimum.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Keyboard
Seeing as both keyboards offer some sort of benefit, how do you know which one to choose? See our helpful guide below:
- The need for the keyboard: What do you need the keyboard for? Mechanical keyboards are the best choice for gamers and professional typists. A membrane keyboard, however, is oftentimes for a regular PC user.
- Your budget: Both keyboards have varying prices, with the mechanical keyboard topping the price charts. Choose a keyboard based on how much you are willing to pay for it.
- Portability: Do you travel or move about with your keyboard often? A heavy mechanical keyboard may not be a desirable choice.
A keyboard is part of the experience of using a computer, and so it is necessary to have an enjoyable experience. While a membrane keyboard is excellent for regular use, if you’re looking for an enhanced keyboard experience with seamless feedback and faster response, you should cast your gaze towards a mechanical keyboard. All in all, keep in mind our top three things to consider when buying a keyboard to help you make a good purchase.