Whether you work from home or spend hours gaming at your computer, the right keyboard is essential for overall performance. But what keyboard options are available — and which option is best?
Mechanical and membrane keyboards are the most popular types you’re likely to encounter. To clear up any confusion surrounding these terms, we’ve created this in-depth guide on what makes each unique and which is best for your budget and needs.
Read on to see which one is the key to better performance — a mechanical vs. membrane keyboard.
Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboard: What’s the Difference?
Here’s a quick look at how a mechanical keyboard differs from a membrane keyboard.
|Mechanical Keyboard||Membrane Keyboard|
|Feel||Classic switch actuation||Have a “mushy” feel|
|Noise level||Quiet to audible “click”||Quiet thanks to rubber dome|
|Price||More expensive||Easier to find affordable options|
|Weight||Heavier than membrane keyboards||Lightweight, making them fairly portable|
|Lifespan||Longer lifespan||Shorter lifespan|
Mechanical Keyboard Basics
Although mechanical vs. membrane keyboards each boast unique features, the main difference comes down to how they feel.
As you might expect, mechanical keyboards feature spring-loaded mechanical switches reminiscent of classic typewriters. These mechanical switches come with different specifications that alter their overall feel. Here are the most common types:
- Tactile switches provide excellent sensory feedback, presenting a tangible bump when pressed.
- Clicky switches build on tactile switches, adding in a loud, audible noise when pressed.
- Linear switches are smooth the touch, with minimal sensory feedback.
These are currently the most common switch options, though the technology continues to change as keyboards improve over time.
Mechanical keyboards tick all the boxes when considering performance, either for general computing or gaming. However, they are often louder than membrane keyboards and have a higher price tag. The advantage of buying a reliable mechanical keyboard is that it can last you a lifetime with proper care.
Mechanical Keyboard Features
- Excellent feedback – Mechanical keyboards offer variable sensory feedback.
- Key rollover – With this feature, keyboards can successfully detect several key functions at the same time. This is valuable for fast typists and intricate games with lots of combos.
- Unique key-feel – Mechanical keyboards boast spring-loaded switches with thick ABS or PBT keycaps.
- Customization – With mechanical keyboards, you can often change switches and keycaps. There are endless options available online, allowing you to find the perfect look and feel for yourself.
Cons of Using a Mechanical Keyboard
- Depending on the model, mechanical keyboards can be expensive.
- The design of mechanical keyboards makes them a louder option.
Mechanical Keyboards To Check Out
- SteelSeries Apex Pro | Amazon ($175) – For gaming, this is one of the best full-size mechanical keyboards on the market. The Apex Pro is the first-of-its-kind, featuring 8x faster response, 5x faster actuation, and twice the durability. This keyboard’s mechanical switches are adjustable and customizable, allowing you to set keys exactly how you want them. The price tag is $175.
- Ducky One 2 | Amazon ($119) – If you’re looking for the ultimate mechanical keyboard, the Ducky One 2 is it. Available in several sizes, this keyboard features double-shot seamless keycaps that are durable and reliable. The three-level angle stand optimizes comfort, and the keyboard itself can handle a six-key rollover. Get it for $119.
- Razer BlackWidow V3 Pro | Amazon ($229) – This wireless keyboard is versatile and allows for plenty of customization. It features full-height keys and best-in-class switches. Pick one up for $229.
Read More: The Best Mechanical Keyboards of 2022
Membrane Keyboard Basics
Most standard keyboards, including integrated laptop and office keyboards, are membrane keyboards. There are several types of membrane keyboards, but they all use rubber domes that compress when actuated.
Standard membrane keyboards come with most pre-built PCs. This type of keyboard has raised individual keys. In contrast, scissor-switch membrane keyboards have flat keys that snap into place. These are commonly used on laptop keyboards.
Both variants cost significantly less than mechanical keyboards, and you can find a full-size membrane keyboard with backlighting for under $20. However, these aren’t likely to last longer than a few years. Fortunately, you can also find higher-end membrane keyboards that offer additional features for better performance and durability. Of course, you’ll have to pay up for that.
Membrane Keyboard Features
- Quiet operation – Membrane keyboards are often quieter than mechanical keyboards.
- Spill-resistant – There are many spill-resistant membrane keyboards on the market, expanding their longevity.
Cons of Using a Membrane Keyboard
- Harder to clean – When compared to mechanical keyboards, they’re more challenging to clean. However, they’re still more resilient to liquid and dirt.
- Parts can’t be replaced – This means that membrane keyboards tend to have a shorter lifespan.
Membrane Keyboards To Check Out
- Razer Ornata Chroma Gaming Keyboard | Amazon ($100) – This membrane keyboard is a hybrid, offering an option where “membrane meets mechanical.” Users enjoy this keyboard’s soft-touch yet crisp click, and the mid-height keycaps allow for faster actuation. One of the greatest selling features of this keyboard is its customizable lighting with 16.8 million color options. At around $100, this is one of the more expensive membrane keyboards on the market.
- Logitech G213 Membrane Keyboard | Amazon ($70) – Being up to four times faster than standard models, the G213 is designed to deliver superior performance and a more tactile response. Users appreciate the spill-resistant feature and integrated palm rest. There are dedicated media controls and customizable options available. The average price for this keyboard is $70.
- Rii RK100+ Multiple Color Keyboard | Amazon ($18.99) – The Rii RK100+ delivers the feel of a semi-mechanical keyboard at a great price. Weighing under two pounds, it’s light and highly portable. This keyboard automatically enters sleeping mode after ten minutes without operation. Get it for as low as $18.99 on Amazon.
Are Mechanical and Membrane Keyboards Interchangeable?
Although mechanical and membrane keyboards technically serve the same purpose, bridging the gap between you and your computer, you cannot change a membrane keyboard into a mechanical keyboard without changing the board.
If you currently have a membrane keyboard and want a mechanical keyboard, you’re better off purchasing a mechanical keyboard than attempting to convert your existing model.
Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboards FAQs
In this section, we’ll answer some of the web’s burning questions about mechanical vs. membrane keyboards.
1. What is the most significant difference between mechanical and membrane keyboards?
The main difference comes down to feel. You’ll notice a smushy feel when using a membrane keyboard. Mechanical keyboards work off individual switches instead of pressure pads.
2. Why would you want a mechanical keyboard over a membrane keyboard?
People who seek mechanical keyboards often spend a lot of time typing. That’s because mechanical keyboards allow you to type faster and more accurately. This option is also ideal for gamers and those involved in coding.
3. How does the price of mechanical keyboards differ from membrane keyboards?
Mechanical keyboards are more expensive than membrane keyboards. Mechanical keyboards range from $50 to $100, with top keyboards selling for around $150. In contrast, you can get a membrane keyboard for under $20. However, there are also membrane keyboards designed for gaming over $100.
Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboard: Which One Should You Buy?
The best mechanical vs. membrane keyboard for you will depend on what you plan on using it for. If you spend a lot of time typing or want a keyboard for gaming, a mechanical keyboard is likely the best bet.
If you need a keyboard for simple tasks and only type once in a while, a membrane keyboard can be a better option, particularly if you’re on a budget. This option is more affordable and should get most jobs done just fine.
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