Are Mechanical Keyboard Much Better Than Membrane Ones?

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The answer may be more complicated than a keypress!

Story Highlights
  • Mechanical keyboards differ from membrane keyboards structurally.
  • Membrane keyboards are slightly behind mechanical ones in typing, but the difference is more obvious in games.
  • Even if it may feel slightly different, it may just be a placebo effect.
  • The difference between high-end membrane keyboards and mechanical keyboards is so tiny only those performing keypresses in milliseconds can reap the benefit.

The common consensus is that certain circumstances aside, mechanical keyboards always have an edge over membrane ones. While that’s certainly true in most cases, especially when talking about games, is the edge they provide really enough to justify such an investment?


What’s The Difference?

Key switches
Key switches (Image by Tech4gamers)
 

Put simply, there’s just one difference between mechanical and membrane keyboards: their structure. Mechanical keyboards utilize key switches, whereas membrane keyboards use a three-layer model. These switches register keystrokes when a separate physical mechanism is pressed, resulting in satisfying tactile feedback and a distinct clicky sound. This feedback helps you register a keypress without waiting to see it on the screen, reducing the risk of misinputs.


Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboards

To anyone who’s done research on what keyboard to get, there’s rarely a case where a membrane keyboard is found superior. Edge cases and certain circumstances aside, a mechanical keyboard almost always provides a better experience. It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t always need an expensive keyboard. Whether or not the amount of money spent is worth the improvement depends entirely on what you wish to do and your preferences.


Typing

YouTube video

If you spend the majority of your time typing, a low-end keyboard might not be good for you. While a mechanical keyboard can 100% make your typing life easier, the difference between a mechanical keyboard vs. high-end membrane keyboards isn’t that much, at least in typing. A mechanical keyboard can provide better feedback and allow for more control over your key presses, but most higher-end membrane keyboards now also provide the latter, so it isn’t that big a factor.


Gaming

Valorant Gameplay (Image By Tech4Gamers)
Valorant Gameplay using Corsair K70 Core (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Gaming is where the difference starts becoming clearer. For more casual gamers, a membrane keyboard can do the job just fine. However, if you’re a tryhard who needs to do pixel-perfect inputs, even the most expensive membrane keyboards just aren’t built for them. If your main games include fast first-person shooters like Valorant or games that require complex key combinations like DOTA, a mechanical keyboard might be a worthy investment.


How Much Of An Advantage Is There?

I did say mechanical keyboards provide an edge in gaming, but a lot of people overestimate what they do. Or, more specifically, they overestimate their own gaming ability. If you’re not at a rank like Radiant in Valo, chances are the differences would be barely noticeable. It’s only at that top level of play where every millisecond matters that you absolutely need a good mechanical keyboard to stay competitive.

Even if you spend the majority of your time gaming, chances are you won’t be able to utilize the advantage provided by the best keyboards. If you can get the features you want at a lower price point on a better-quality membrane keyboard, a cheaper mechanical keyboard won’t be a good investment. A keyboard only really elevates your gameplay if you cannot improve in other places, i.e. a faster connection or better specs on your PC.


Some Features To Keep An Eye on

Corsair K100 RGB - USB Host Port
Corsair K100 RGB (Image by T4G)

Instead of comparing mechanical vs. membrane keyboards, it’d be much better to look for features that can actually smoothen your gameplay. These are:

  • Keystroke Latency: It doesn’t matter how fast a tap registers on your keyboard if it doesn’t also go through to the computer. A keyboard with zero debounce, such as the Corsair K100, can provide much better results than a more expensive keyboard with worse latency. 
  • Specific Useful Features: If you’re certain what you want a keyboard for, prioritizing those features can help you get your dream keyboard for a lot cheaper. For example, having the Corsair K70 Core‘s control wheel can make video editing a lot easier.

Should You Get A Mechanical Keyboard?

Whether the advantage provided will be worth it or not, all that really matters is preference. I don’t think I really need a mechanical keyboard, but the tactile feedback and the sound of mechanical switches aren’t something I’m comfortable leaving. In the end, performance is only half of the equation; if you like a mechanical keyboard and have the budget for it, you should get it!


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