For gamers, every peripheral matters, even the often overlooked gaming keyboard. There is a sea of options to go for with keyboards. Do you go wireless? Do you go for mechanical vs membrane, which is best for gaming? Well, we aim to get to the bottom of this today and find out if there is any difference between the highly popular mechanical gaming keyboards or those older, more affordable membrane models.
One side offers precision and responsiveness while the other offers a quieter, no-frills, cheaper alternative. Can the difference between these two types of keyboards even be noticed by you, the consumer?
When we are talking about mechanical or membrane in the context of a keyboard it is referring to the switches that are on that particular board. A switch is responsible for registering the keypress and sending that information to your PC. Each switch type brings its own pros and cons, so as long as you know what you need as a gamer, the decision is going to be straight forward.
You will have come across lingo around switches when buying a new keyboard or researching online. Switches are usually referring to a mechanical keyboard as mechanical boards feature, you guessed it, mechanical switches. These types of switches use a metal spring and tend to offer a greater life span than the membrane counterparts.
Membrane switches aren’t really switches in the same sense and can often be referred to as dome switches too.
Membrane Gaming Keyboards
So what is a membrane keyboard? A membrane board uses three layers in its design. These flexible layers can flex under pressure from a keypress, with there being a conductive trace under the top layer.
When a key is pressed on a membrane board, it moves through to the second layer, which is made up of holes that allow the pressure pads under the key to pass through. This makes contact with the conductive traces at the bottom, ultimately registering a keypress.
When it comes to gaming keyboards you will often find the membrane switches to be dome, as this type of design provides the typist/ gamer with greater feedback than the alternative flat design you see on number pads like on your microwave. This dome-design uses silicone or rubber and is usually marked as spill-resistant as there is a protective layer between the internals and outside. That being said, membrane keyboards are harder to clean and can often be destroyed if a sugary drink is spilled.
While mechanical keyboards rule the roost in 2020, there are a fair amount of gamers and typists that still prefer the mushy feel of the membrane keyboard. The fact of the matter is, mechanical boards are not only quite loud, but they are also expensive too. Many find the membrane board less satisfying to type on than mechanical, but this is subjective and is always going to be down to what you prefer.
Aside from cleaning issues, the membrane keyboards can lack the same durability and longevity of the mechanical counterparts. Over time, the silicone layer will flatten, leaving you with a keyboard that can fail to register keypresses and that is not OK when gaming.
Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
The more popular option among gamers these days is the mechanical keyboard. This type of board uses switches to send the signal to your PC. Every key on a mechanical board will have its own switch, which in turn has a stem on top. When a key is pressed the stem goes down and a keypress is registered.
The most common style among mechanical keyboards is known as Cherry MX or MX style switches from other brands that can accommodate for the same style keycaps. Each switch has different characteristics, including feel, actuation pressure, and responsiveness.
People tend to favor mechanical because of the satisfying feel and the variety in the switches for different manufactured boards. The main types are linear, tactile, and clicky. These different types of switches are usually listed as colors for some manufacturers or labeled as the three types above.
Linear switches make the least amount of noise for these mechanical types but there are mechanical switches that are listed as silent, although these are not as common. Linears make a slight noise when actuated and are known for being the most responsive, making them popular among gamers.
Tactile switches are exactly as they sound, these have a tactile bump that you can feel when actuated, giving you a clear indication that a keypress has occurred.
Clicky switches are as they sound, noisy, and make an audible click when actuated, that some find very satisfying to use. That being said, if you type a lot or are planning on using this keyboard in an office you may want to reconsider as your colleagues will end up hating you. If you are a streamer if it probably best to avoid clicky switches as even the best microphones in the world may struggle to stop these being picked up.
As mentioned, gamers tend to favor linear switches, as these are the most responsive and that is all that matters when you are playing but some gamers get on just fine with different switches and membrane keyboards, showing that it’s not all about the fastest finger first with a keyboard.
Professional esports players helped popularize the mechanical keyboard and to be fair, this is a good thing. Mechanical keyboards are a better option vs membrane. Mechanical keyboards are easy to clean, customizable, and generally much more satisfying to use. Membrane, however, tends to have shorter lifespans and feature a mushy feel when typing but are also much more affordable products.
The differences between the two keyboards lay beneath the surface and what you go for is ultimately down to personal preference.