Choosing Your Weapon: Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboards

What kind of keyboard is right for you?

The mechanical keyboard vs. membrane keyboard debate is awfully similar to another debate I often end up in: do you play fighting games with an arcade stick or a game pad?

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Are you less pro for using a membrane keyboard you picked up off the shelf at a retail store, or should you order an expensive mechanical keyboard? Do you need a mechanical keyboard? In the end, just like the arcade stick vs. gamepad debate, it all comes down to personal preference and your individual needs.

What is a mechanical keyboard?

Most keyboards available on the market use rubber domes to resist keystrokes, and use a membrane to record which key is pressed. These keyboards are easy and inexpensive to manufacture, making them very common.

A mechanical keyboard, on the other hand, uses mechanical switches on the underside of each key to record each keystroke. This generally results in a much more expensive keyboard, but there are some advantages to keep in mind.

 

Key Feel

Key feel is not a very precise term. It is basically defined as the way a key feels when you apply pressure and the speed at which it returns to its original position. If your keys feel soft and spongy when you press them, you are likely using a membrane keyboard.

Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, tend to have a very even resistance to pressure and bounce back to their starting position very quickly. They are also easily distinguished by the very audible clicking they produce.

Many people find the key feel of mechanical keyboards to be superior to membrane keyboards. I find typing on a mechanical keyboard to be much more satisfying. The tactile response of the switches give me a better indicator that I have successfully made each keystroke. Basically, it’s easier for me to type quickly and accurately with a mechanical keyboard.

 

Durability

When properly maintained, mechanical keyboards tend to last longer than membrane keyboards. They stand up better to repeated key presses than their membrane counterparts.

This all comes down to the design of the switches in mechanical keyboards. Since they generally use metal parts and metal on metal contacts, they just stand up better to repeated keystrokes.

If you spend a lot of time using your keyboard, be it for gaming or work, a mechanical keyboard is right up your alley.On the other hand, if you don’t use the keyboard very often, it may not be worth the increased price tag.

 

Maintenance

The keys on a membrane keyboard are often held on metal or plastic tabs. This makes the keys somewhat difficult to remove and even harder to put back on in some cases. The rubber domes that provide the resistance are also prone to attracting dirt. The result is a huge pain should you ever have to remove the keys to really clean your keyboard.

The keys on a mechanical keyboard are much easier to maintain. You can remove individual keys and the switches are completely self contained. They are easily removed and replaced should you need to clean them.

 
Customizability

Mechanical keyboards are incredibly easy to customize. Do you want to replace the key you use for potions with a little potion symbol key? Go nuts. There are tons of custom keys you can buy for your mechanical keyboard. And it’s as easy to install them as popping out the old key and snapping in the new one.

 

In Conclusion…

If you spend a lot of time sitting at a keyboard or playing games on the PC like I do, a mechanical keyboard is definitely worth the investment.

On the other hand, if you rarely use your keyboard for much more than browsing the internet or typing out the odd paper, the amount of use you get out of a mechanical keyboard may not justify the price tag attached to it. Mechanical keyboards are certainly right for me. Are they right for you?


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Author
Dallas Ward
I am a simple man with simple dreams. I one day wish to play all of my steam games. Yo videogames!