Membrane Gaming Keyboards vs. Mechanical Gaming Keyboards – Tips To Choose the One That’s Right for You
If you had to ask people to choose between a mechanical and a membrane keyboard, most would prefer a mechanical keyboard. The general consensus is that your keyboard choice can make or break an immersive gaming experience. This article will take you through what you need to know to pick between membrane gaming keyboards vs. mechanical gaming keyboards.
The main differences between a membrane gaming keyboard and a mechanical gaming keyboard are the design and the mechanics of the keys. Membrane keyboards are less noisy, more portable, and have keys with a softer click. Mechanical keyboards have tactile keys with a clicky feel, N-key rollover, and are more durable.
What Is a Membrane Keyboard?
Using a membrane keyboard is very different from using a mechanical keyboard.
The keys on a membrane keyboard use pressure pads with outlines and symbols printed on a flat, flexible surface. There are two types of membrane keyboards - a flat key design used on electronics like microwaves, and a dome key switch design used on computer keyboards.
According to this post by Havit, the keys of a membrane keyboard are typically just outlines and symbols printed on a flat, flexible surface. This allows very little tactile feedback, if any, to be felt when pressing the keys.
The top membrane layer of the PC dome switch keyboard is a rubber or silicone keypad with domes. When the domes are pressed down, they compress, and the graphite behind the dome completes the circuit beneath the membrane pad, signaling that a key has been pressed. You can check out our article about how keyboards work for more details.
Advantages of Using a Membrane Keyboard
Although it might not seem like it, membrane keyboards offer different benefits than mechanical keyboards. These benefits are the reasons why some gamers prefer a membrane keyboard.
The advantages of membrane keyboards are that they are quieter, budget-friendly, and more portable than mechanical keyboards.
Consider the following pros of using a membrane gaming keyboard:
1. Less Noisy Than a Mechanical Keyboard
While fast-paced gaming on any keyboard can be noisy, membrane keyboards like this have a better reputation for lower key sounds than mechanical keyboards. Some mechanical keyboards, particularly those with blue switches, may be somewhat noisy, which may not be bad for some users but detrimental to the experience of others.
As membrane keyboards can be made with less expensive, and more readily available materials. A membrane keyboard will be more affordable than a mechanical keyboard with the same features that a mechanical keyboard could provide. Because of their basic design, they are inexpensive to build and maintain.
3. Softer & Spongier Typing Feeling
The dome switch membrane keyboard simulates the spring structure of a mechanical keyboard with a softer, spongy typing sensation. It uses rubber or silicone domes, giving this type of keyboard a solid tactile feel. Although there is a difference in typing experience between a membrane keyboard and a mechanical keyboard, the gap is closing as technology advances.
4. More Portable
Keyboards that are said to be portable are almost always membrane keyboards. Membrane keyboards are often manufactured using plastic, making them lighter than mechanical ones which have more metal components. Laptop users prefer using peripheral membrane keyboards like this because they are light enough to slip into a laptop backpack like this.
Make sure to read through our related article on how to find a laptop gaming keyboard too. You'll find a lot of useful tips and tricks on how to choose the right one.
Disadvantages of Using a Membrane Keyboard
While membrane keyboards offer some advantages, they also have certain disadvantages the majority of which are due to their design and build. Gamers generally prefer robust keyboards that can handle intense keystrokes for prolonged periods of time, making the predominantly plastic components of membrane keyboards ill-suited to the task.
The disadvantages of membrane keyboards are that they’re less durable, have a slower key response, and they lack key rollover compared to mechanical keyboards. The factors that make membrane keyboards more portable and affordable also make them more prone to wear and tear when used for gaming.
The following disadvantages may put you off using a membrane gaming keyboard:
Disadvantage 1. Less Durable Than Mechanical Keyboards
Despite having a lifespan of millions of key presses and lasting for years, a membrane keyboard can nevertheless wear out faster than a mechanical keyboard. When they do wear out, the membrane begins to feel mushy, causing the keys to lose feedback. Our article about how to fix a keyboard that isn’t working will walk you through troubleshooting steps to fix minor keyboard issues, assuming the keyboard isn’t beyond repair.
Make sure to also take a look at the different kinds of gaming keyboard dust covers you can choose from to help protect your keyboard too.
Disadvantage 2. Key Response Can Feel Slow
The slow key response in membrane keyboards like this is caused by something called rebound time. This is the length of time the user must press a key before the keypress is registered, which is generally less than 100ms. Membrane keyboards’ rebound times are not as responsive as those of some mechanical keyboards. This means that keypresses are not registered quickly. This article from Dan Luu, previously an engineer at Twitter, provides a more in-depth explanation of what debouncing is.
Disadvantage 3. Membrane Keyboards usually Lack Key Rollover
If you are a fast-paced gamer, there will be moments when the keys you press do not register as they are hit because you did not press the key all the way down. This can happen more regularly if you’re using a membrane keyboard. Membrane keyboards like this often have a 3-key rollover, but only on particular keys, such as the WASD keys.
Disadvantage 4. Cleaning, Maintenance, and Customization are Not Easily Accessible
Mechanical keyboard keycaps may be removed to clean the keyboard. However, this is not the case with membrane keyboards. This makes cleaning a membrane keyboard more difficult since the keycaps are typically not detachable. This is also why one cannot easily customize membrane keyboards. Most operations or activities requiring removing keycaps or taking apart any part of a membrane keyboard would require a professional.
Read our article about how to replace keyboard switches on a mechanical keyboard if you want to clean or customize your mechanical keyboard.
What Is a Mechanical Keyboard?
Each key has its switch, which includes a base, spring, and stem. The most frequent switch colors are blue, red, brown, and black. Some require a particular amount of effort to be pressed, while others may be easily pressed while creating a louder clicking sound or with less obvious clicks. Mechanical keyboards typically include interchangeable keycaps, allowing users to customize their keyboards.
A mechanical keyboard is a physical keyboard that has individual springs and switches for each key instead of dome switches. Mechanical keyboards transmit typing signals through switches. There are several types of switches available, each of which performs differently.
Advantages of Using a Mechanical Keyboard
It is well known that mechanical keyboards are popular among gamers. Anybody spending time on a computer with a mechanical keyboard will have an improved experience. They sound different and the keys are easier to press than membrane keyboards.
The advantages of using a mechanical keyboard are N-key rollover, customization, and durability. Mechanical keyboards are generally manufactured with higher-quality materials that can withstand long hours of intense pressing which is why gamers tend to prefer them.
The following advantages are the reasons why gamers usually prefer mechanical gaming keyboards:
Advantage 1. N-Key Rollover
The number of keys a keyboard may register simultaneously is referred to as a key rollover. Mechanical keyboards like this typically enable you to press many keys at once. Some even allow you to press all keys simultaneously, this is called N-key rollover. This will benefit individuals who play keyboard games.
Even in the most challenging settings, you will probably never require more than a 10-key rollover. A mechanical keyboard like this with full N-key rollover can handle multiple keystrokes without faltering during gameplay.
Advantage 2. Customizability
This is more than just changing up your keycaps for something more colorful or convenient. You could choose how a mechanical keyboard sounds, how hard you press each key to activate it, how much that key resists with each push, how many keys you want, and many other features.
You may also remap your whole keyboard by removing any key's default functionality and assigning it an entirely different function. You can then add layers of macros and key combinations unique to you and your needs.
Advantage 3. Durability
Because mechanical keyboards lack a membrane, they wear out more slowly than membrane keyboards. To measure durability factors such as how many keystrokes a specific mechanical keyboard is rated for during its lifetime, are taken into consideration. Consider that the average keystroke per hour (KPH) is around 8,000 KPH, then multiply that by the number of hours gamers typically play over a few weeks, and you can see how rapidly those numbers climb. That is what makes a durable mechanical keyboard like this, a necessity for gamers.
Advantage 4. A Snappy & Clicky Typing Feeling
Gamers benefit from punchy and responsive keys because they are more responsive. This is perfect for gamers who need to press one or more keys simultaneously for shortcut functions. Our article about E-gaming keyboard shortcuts lists the most popular shortcut key combinations and when to use them. The tactile keys also give off a clicky sensation which many people find satisfying. As mentioned in this article by Corsair, your keyboard and its keycaps have to feel good and also look good.
Disadvantages of Using a Mechanical Keyboard
As great as mechanical keyboards seem, they also come with their downsides. It’s because of these downsides that some users may prefer the membrane keyboard over the mechanical one.
The disadvantages of mechanical keyboards are their high-price point, loud noise, and heaviness. Mechanical keyboards are made with silicone and metal components that make them more robust but also add to their overall weight.
Many gamers prefer a mouse and keyboard combo like this because of its affordability.
There are a few disadvantages that may deter gamers from using mechanical gaming keyboards:
Disadvantage 1. High-Price Point
Mechanical keyboards like this require more expensive materials and technology. Therefore, they will cost more than a membrane keyboard. You could still find mechanical keyboards that are comparatively cheaper, but you would be sacrificing quality for cost.
Mechanical keyboards range in price from around $60 to over $200. And if you're willing to settle for an older model, you'll spend even less. Pricing differences exist between well-known and generic brands and full-size keyboards with and without RGB lighting. Our article about RGB keyboards explains the benefits and features that these keyboards offer.
Disadvantage 2. Noisy
A mechanical keyboard’s loudness is determined by the switches used, such as blues like this, which may be rather loud. If you're in a public place, other people will hear you typing unless you are behind closed doors. Some typists don't mind and even enjoy the clicking sound. On the other hand, membrane keyboards offer the quietest switches since they feature rubber or silicone cushioning, which mechanical keyboards often lack.
You may also find interest in our related articles explaining how to choose the best gaming keyboard switches for your needs as well as which gaming keyboards are best for typing. Be sure to read those related articles for more details.
Disadvantage 3. Heavy
Depending on how you use it, the weight of a mechanical keyboard like this might be an advantage or a drawback. Mechanical keyboards are often hefty, preventing the keyboard from moving around your desk while gaming. While this may be a plus for some, it may be a disadvantage for others who move their keyboards around while traveling or switching between PCs.
Summary of Membrane Vs. Mechanical Keyboards
|Feature That Is Important To You||Which Keyboard Type Is Best - Membrane Or Mechanical?||Example From Amazon|
|Quiet Keystrokes||Membrane||Fiodio Rainbow Membrane Gaming Keyboard|
|Affordability||Membrane||Redragon K511 PRO RGB Gaming Keyboard|
|Soft, Spongy Key Feedback||Membrane||HyperX Alloy Core RGB – Membrane Gaming Keyboard|
|Durable and Long Lasting||Mechanical||Razer BlackWidow V3 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard|
|Customization and Personalization Options||Mechanical||Womier XVX K61 60% Mechanical Keyboard|
|N-Key Rollover and Fast Response Time||Mechanical||HP Pavilion Gaming Wired Mechanical Keyboard|
Make sure to also take a look at our related article with tips on how to choose the best keyboard for gaming. That article is full of tips and tricks to help you make an informed decision.
Tips To Choose Between a Membrane Keyboard vs. a Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming
Membrane keyboards are best suited to people who prefer a quiet work or gaming environment. Mechanical keyboards are the preferred choice for people who like the loud click of each key being typed.
To choose between a membrane keyboard and a mechanical keyboard, first, decide on the price point and desired typing feeling. Choose a membrane keyboard for a noiseless keyboard option, if budget is a priority, or for soft-feel keys. Choose a mechanical keyboard if customization, N-key rollover, and durability are a priority.
These tips will help you if you are undecided on whether to buy a mechanical or membrane keyboard for gaming:
Tip 1. Choose a Membrane Keyboard If You Have a Shared Office Space or Don’t Like Noisy Keyboards.
It may be more appropriate to use a membrane keyboard if you’re working in a shared office space. Most membrane keyboards are designed without flashing lights and loud key clicks. If you are an avid gamer, you might want to avoid using a mechanical keyboard for work because the lights and clicks from a mechanical keyboard may distract your fellow workers. If however you only have a mechanical keyboard and don’t want to purchase an additional membrane keyboard then read our guide on how to make a mechanical keyboard quieter.
Tip 2. If Your Budget Is a Priority, Choose a Membrane Keyboard
If you’re fresh into PC gaming or maybe just getting introduced to gaming as a hobby, you might want to avoid splurging on a mechanical gaming keyboard. Using a membrane keyboard to play games would allow you to learn the ropes without spending too much money on new equipment. You might also find out along the way that gaming or PC gaming just isn’t for you and then you would be happy you avoided spending so much on an accessory you didn’t need. If you’re on a budget you can check out our article on the seven best gaming keyboards for under 150$.
Tip 3. Try a Membrane Keyboard If You Like Softer, Spongy Keys
Membrane keyboards contain a rubbery layer on each key that creates a cushioned feel to each keystroke. If you enjoy this type of squishy feedback, the membrane keyboard may be right for you. A mechanical keyboard delivers a more haptic feel to each keystroke. Nonetheless, because membrane keyboards rely on plastic keycaps striking rubber domes, the soft silicone rubber degrades over time. This could lead to an inconsistent feel from key to key as some keys become softer than others.
Tip 4. Look For a Mechanical Keyboard If You Want a Durable and Long-Lasting Keyboard
Membrane keyboards rely on plastic keycaps hitting rubber domes, so the soft silicone rubber eventually degrades. This shortens the overall lifespan of a keyboard over time with continued use. Since contact is made on the bottom of the switch, underneath the rubber dome, each switch must be pressed to the very bottom. As the silicone is worn out, the rubber dome may even tear or lose the ability to depress the contacts underneath that make the key work.
Membrane keyboards are cheaper so you will get to save money, but you will have a product that’s easily breakable.
Tip 5. Buy a Mechanical Keyboard If You Want Customization and Personalization Options
The sheer level of customization available with mechanical keyboards like this is one of their most enticing qualities. While there are many wonderful pre-built choices available, including those from major gaming manufacturers, the world of custom keyboards is what makes mechanical keyboards a true passion. Everything from the case material and color to the plate material, keycaps and switches, and even creating your own code to program your keyboard is available. Mechanical keyboards provide you with a wealth of alternatives and the ability to choose as explained in this video tutorial by Hipyo Tech.
The switches are easily replaceable, and you don't even need to know how to solder them. Hot-swappable switch sockets let you quickly remove the switches with a keycap puller like this and plug in a fresh set for a different typing experience. These options are not available with a membrane keyboard. Read our article that compares gaming keyboards vs. regular keyboards to learn more about other customizations you can perform.
Tip 6. Opt for a Mechanical Keyboard if N-Key Rollover and Fast Response Time Are Important to You
Each plastic keycap on a mechanical keyboard covers an actual switch that moves up and down. It can be activated not just when you press the key all the way down, but also when you only press it partially. As a consequence, you can type more quickly and comfortably on these keyboards.
Mechanical keyboards are well-known for having N-key rollover, but membrane keyboards do not, owing to manufacturing limits. As mentioned in this article by Das Keyboard, pressing multiple keys on a membrane keyboard can result in ghosting or phantom presses.
Tip 7. Buy a Mechanical Keyboard if You don’t want to Over-Complicate Things.
Even if money were not an issue, you may consider getting a membrane keyboard if you know you don't require a mechanical keyboard. As the saying goes, "Sometimes, more is less". If you don't require the extra functions that a mechanical keyboard provides, you could be shooting yourself in the foot by overloading yourself with so many complex features that you don't understand.
Similarly, you might be interested in learning how to choose between an external vs. laptop keyboard. Be sure to take a look at our tips to help you choose the right one.
Is a Membrane Keyboard Good For Gaming? What to Look For In a Membrane Gaming Keyboard
You can use a membrane keyboard for gaming, but it's crucial to understand what you're getting into when you choose one of these less expensive models. After all, mechanical switches are what distinguish the best gaming keyboards from the rest.
A membrane keyboard with anti-ghosting technology, a spill-resistant design, and keys that are quiet can be good for gaming. A membrane keyboard with at least a 10-key rollover will probably be sufficient for most gaming scenarios.
If you don't want a mechanical keyboard, it's good to know that a membrane keyboard is still a viable option for gaming.
We have already discussed the differences between mechanical vs. membrane keyboards and if you are leaning towards membrane keyboards, these tips will be useful:
Tip 1. Look For a Membrane Gaming Keyboard That Has At Least a 10-Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting Technology
If you’re a fan of membrane keyboards and want N-key rollover, you might have difficulty finding the perfect keyboard for yourself. There aren’t a lot of popular and high-quality options available. Most of what can easily be found on high-quality keyboards are 10-key rollovers. Usually, with cheaper keyboards, your rollover is limited to 6 keys like with this one. Computers can only achieve hardware N-key rollover via a PS/2 connection.
Make sure to research the keyboard to ensure it has anti-ghosting technology. You can use an online keyboard tester like this one from Microsoft to check the presence of anti-ghosting technology on the keyboard.
Tip 2. Choose a Brand That Tests Their Keyboards’ Longevity and Protects and Reinforces Their Hardware With Spill-Resistant Designs For Better Durability.
There are many keyboard brands today, and they each come with promises of what to expect from their products. It’s important to ensure that the brand you want to get tests its products rigorously. If the product comes with a warranty, it’s often a sign of a reliable brand.
You should also check to see whether the keyboard has been strengthened with spill-resistant features for increased durability. If you do ever spill liquid on your keyboard then our article about how to clean a keyboard after a spill will walk you through the process of properly cleaning your keyboard.
Tip 3. If You’re Choosing a Membrane Keyboard for Its Quietness, Make Sure It Is As Quiet as You Want It To Be
As discussed above, the rubber domes in a membrane keyboard, allow for quiet keypresses. However, the amount of noise a membrane keyboard varies among brands and models. Most manufacturers highlight the amount of noise the keys would make in the specifications of the keyboard. If it’s not included, a good option is to look it up online. You can check product reviews of the keyboard to see if the sound of the keys was also reviewed.
This product manual from Razer is a good example of what companies publish to let consumers know more about their products.
Summary of Membrane Keyboard Features
|Membrane Keyboard||Which features makes it suitable for gaming||Price|
|Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS Challenger Prime 3||Has key rollover and anti-ghosting technology||~$40|
|Corsair K68 RGB gaming keyboard||Is well-tested by the manufacturer and has a spill-resistant design||~$120|
|Philips Wired Gaming Keyboard with Mouse||Very quiet||~$30|
You may also be interested in learning how to choose the fastest gaming keyboard. If so, be sure to read our related article to find out more.
Which Mechanical Keyboard Is Best for Gaming? Features To Look For in a Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Choosing the best mechanical keyboard for your gaming requirements is a subjective process. Most gamers prefer mechanical keyboards because they are more tactile, robust, and speedier. They are wonderful for gaming for various reasons and are a lot of fun to play with. While mechanical keyboards are more costly than membrane keyboards, they are well worth the extra money.
To find a mechanical keyboard that is best for gaming, buy a keyboard with an N-key rollover, tactile switches, and programmable keys. Mechanical keyboards with RGB lighting are also popular with gamers because of their additional customization features.
These tips will help you choose a mechanical gaming keyboard:
Tip 1. Look For a Mechanical Gaming Keyboard With N-Key Rollover
N-key rollover can be very helpful in gaming. In the middle of a game, you want to ensure that all of your keystrokes register so you can use the controls as accurately as possible. If the system only captures half of your keystrokes, your performance will decrease. N-key rollover is also quite handy for people who type quickly enough that they need to push two keys almost simultaneously. This function is available on many mechanical keyboards, so make sure to read the product description before purchasing.
Tip 2. Determine What Type Of Switches You Want - Linear, Tactile, Or Clicky
As previously noted, several types of mechanical keyboard switches are available. You can select from tactile like these, linear like these, or clicky switches like these. You can utilize a tactile switch if you like getting feedback from your keyboard. You can use linear switches if you want a smooth keypress. If you have a habit of pressing down hard on your keys, a sturdy switch might help protect your fingertips from damage.
There are several methods to modify your keyboard with various kinds of switches. Some mechanical keyboards allow you to replace the switches using a switch puller. They are commonly referred to as hot-swappable keyboards. If you’d like to know which switches to use, check out our article on the ten best keyboard switches for mechanical keyboards.
Tip 3. Find a Programmable Mechanical Keyboard If You Want To Customize the Key Actions.
The ability to program certain keys is a fantastic feature included with some mechanical keyboards. This allows you to assign commands and shortcuts to certain keys. If you often use a certain key combination, you may assign it to a programmable key. It makes it easy and quick to access in the middle of an activity.
You may also change the arrangement of the controls in specific games to make them more efficient, which boosts your competitiveness. As mentioned in this post from HP, peripherals like your keyboard are essential for your gaming experience. When choosing a mechanical keyboard, ensure that it includes customizable keys like this one, as not all keyboards have this feature.
Summary of Mechanical Keyboard Features
|Mechanical Keyboard||Which feature makes it suitable for gaming||Price|
|Hp Omen Encoder Customizable Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||N-Key Rollover||~$80|
|Redragon K631 Castor 65% Wired Rgb Gaming Keyboard||Hot Swappable Switches||~$50|
|Corsair K95 Rgb Platinum Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||Programmable Keys||~$200|