Does it really matter whether you purchase a membrane or a mechanical keyboard? To a casual user who just wants to check emails or browse the internet every so often, probably not. If you use your keyboard daily for long intervals or a specialized purpose, however, what type of keyboard you choose can make a notable difference.
So what is the difference between membrane and mechanical keyboards?
Membrane keyboards are of a modern make: light, flexible, and economical for companies to produce. The majority of the built-in keyboards on laptops are membrane keyboards.
The interface of a membrane keyboard features relatively flat keys that overlay the underlying circuit board. These keyboards consist of three layers: a top and bottom membrane, as well as a middle layer that contains holes connecting to each key. When you press a key down, the two membrane layers touch and activate the circuits beneath.
The Pros of Membrane Keyboards
- These keyboards offer a quiet, unobtrusive typing experience that you may prefer if you are working in a public space or do not wish to disturb anyone nearby.
- Because of the lightweight plastic, rubber, and silicone that comprises most membrane keyboards, they are easy to transport and can make the ideal keyboard for you if you frequently travel with your computer.
- Membrane keyboards are also cheap to produce and buy, which makes them popular in both online and offline stores at the ideal price if you are on a budget.
The Cons of Membrane Keyboards
- Most membrane keyboards do not have removable keycaps, which makes cleaning dust, hair and other debris much more difficult.
- While the silence of these keyboards can be a plus, for some people it's a drawback. Without as much feel or sound when you press a key down, it can be harder to tell if you hit a key right. Additionally, keys do not always register if two different keys are pressed down at the same time. This can sometimes lead to missing letters here and there when you are typing quickly.
The design of mechanical keyboards is reminiscent of the old heavy keyboards of the past. Each keycap covers an individual underlying switch composed of a stem and spring that works separately from the ones next to it.
The Pros of Mechanical Keyboards
- When it comes to functionality, the mechanical keyboard is unbeatable. Each key is highly responsive and you do not always need to press them all the way down. As a bonus, the simple yet hardy design of this keyboard makes it last for years, even under heavy daily use.
- The keycaps of mechanical keyboards are often removable, which makes it relatively easy to take off the caps and clean the dust and dirt underneath, or to replace them with customizable keycaps of your choice.
The Cons of Mechanical Keyboards
- Mechanical keyboards are not as lightweight as their membrane counterparts, which could be a minor annoyance if you frequently move your computer to different locations.
- Since these keyboards contain more metal, they are not as cheap for companies to produce and as a result cost more money.
- The clickety-clack that many of us associate with typing is the trademark sound of the mechanical keyboard. Depending on your preferences, this feature could be a plus or an annoyance. Some typists prefer the distinct tap of each key while others may favor the relative silence of a membrane keyboard.
Whether you decide on a membrane or mechanical keyboard depends on what you typically use your computer for. If you are a light user who pulls out your computer infrequently, a membrane keyboard will suit you just fine. If you are a gamer, writer, or engage in any other typing-heavy activities, a mechanical keyboard will offer you the durability that you need.