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Mechanical vs Membrane Keyboard: Which is Best for Gaming

Mechanical vs Membrane Keyboard: Which is Best for Gaming?

As a gamer, every part of your battle station matters. Your monitor is the visual window into your gaming world. Your desktop PC is working hard behind the scenes to power all of your CPU-intensive triple-A (AAA) games. Your keyboard helps you react quickly to enemies on the screen. Plus, it’s not just crucial for success during gameplay, your keyboard is also essential for your non-gaming computing tasks.
As you search for keyboards, you’ll quickly run into a debate: mechanical vs membrane keyboards. There are benefits and drawbacks to each keyboard variety which are affected by variables such as your lifestyle, budget, and purpose for this oft-ignored but essential peripheral. Keep reading for our full guide to gaming keyboards and learn how to determine which one might be the best to outfit your battle station.

What are the pros and cons of mechanical keyboards?

In the debate between mechanical vs membrane keyboards, it’s first important to understand the difference between the two. A mechanical keyboard utilizes what’s called a mechanical switch. There are a variety of switches but typically, they use a metal spring since it has a long lifespan compared to other types of keyboard mechanisms.

Switch types

If you’ve decided on a mechanical keyboard, the next decision you’ll need to make is what kind of switch you want. There are three types of switches you can choose from: linear switches, tactile switches, and clicky switches [2].

Linear switches

Linear switches provide users with the same feeling from the second you press down on the key to when the key bottoms out. There is no noise or feedback when a user gets to the actuation point, the point at which the keypress gets registered. In terms of user experience, this means you’ll reach the bottom of each keypress every time.

Tactile switches

Tactile switches give you touch (or tactile) feedback when you hit the actuation point. When you press a key with a tactile switch, you’ll feel a small bump that alerts you to a successful key press.

Clicky switches

A clicky switch provides you with a satisfying click sound when the key hits the actuation point. The main benefit of clicky switches and tactile switches is that you don’t have to push the key all the way until it bottoms out. You can move on to your next action after your keypress is registered.

Pros of a mechanical keyboard

A mechanical keyboard is typically a sturdier variety that can last for years, even with lots of daily use. It’s all a matter of preference but if the benefits below appeal to you, it might be the right keyboard to complete your gaming rig or home office.

1. Long lifespan

One of the major benefits of a mechanical keyboard is they have a longer lifespan than other types of keyboards. These kinds of keyboards are tested to last 30 and 70 million keypresses. Comparatively, membrane keyboards will reach the end of their operational lifespan after around 5 million presses.

2. Durable

Another huge benefit to mechanical keyboards is that since they don’t wear out as fast, they feel like new for much longer than membrane keyboards. In most cases, keys won’t clatter or get stuck, even if your mechanical keyboard has seen better days.

3. Great feedback

A mechanical switch offers users a more satisfying typing experience thanks to the tactile feedback. Users also have the chance to create a more customized typing experience since these keyboards can be tweaked more than membrane keyboards.
For some switches, you can opt for more acoustic feedback. There are also switches built specifically for gaming while others are built specifically for typing and daily computing tasks. This allows you to choose the keyboard that suits your work or gaming requirements.

4. Stability

Mechanical keyboards have a robust design that offers you bountiful typing stability. It’s not going to slide around, even if you’re an aggressive typist.

Cons of a mechanical keyboard

There are also some drawbacks to mechanical keyboards you may want to take into consideration while you shop around for the right peripheral to add to your computer setup.

1. Noise

Mechanical keyboards can be quite loud due to their robust construction. This can be a problem if you are gaming in a central location of your home and there are others around who may not want to hear all of your keypresses, especially if you game late into the night.
Note: If that’s a worry for you, there are silent mechanical keyboards you can choose and add-ons you can purchase to help dampen the noise.

2. More expensive

Another drawback of mechanical keyboards is that they can be pricy. However, keep in mind that the price reflects the quality and longer lifespan you’ll enjoy with this type of keyboard.

3. Heavier

If you typically like to have your keyboard in your lap or you travel with your keyboard, a mechanical keyboard may not be the right choice for you. Because of its sturdier design, mechanical keyboards can be heavier overall which may make them awkward in some contexts.

What are the pros and cons of membrane keyboards?

Membrane keyboards are typically characterized by three different layers made of very flexible materials. The top of this keyboard consists of a membrane layer followed by an inert middle layer and another membrane layer at the bottom [3]. Under each layer is what’s called a conductive trace. A conductive trace is what triggers the letter or action onscreen during a keypress.

Flat membrane keyboard

There are two types of membrane designs. One is the flat key design. You can see this type of membrane keyboard on microwaves, some printers, and other tech devices. The keys in this design are printed on the same pad that you press to actuate the keypress. While this kind of membrane keyboard still uses a pressure pad, it provides users no significant tactile feedback, making it harder to use as a computer keyboard.

Dome switch membrane keyboard

The other type of membrane keyboard is called a dome switch keyboard which uses a dome with printed letters on the topmost layer [4]. In some cases, these letters are printed and in other cases, they are laser stretched. This is generally the type of keyboard that comes with your standard laptop.
Membrane keyboards all share the same single, soft rubbery layer instead of separate keys with their own respective parts like the setup on a mechanical keyboard.

Pros of a membrane keyboard

Many computer users prefer the feel and relative quiet of membrane keyboards. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why membrane keyboards might be your pick for gaming and general computing.

1. Satisfying feedback

One of the typical characteristics of a membrane keyboard is the crisp response associated with them. While they don’t have the same physical feedback of mechanical keyboards, some models do offer a similar tactile response.

2. Quiet

Another benefit of a membrane keyboard is that it’s quiet, even during moments of high-intensity typing. This is a great choice in open-office environments where noise levels need to be kept to a minimum because every small noise adds up. It also helps if you rely on conference calls to collaborate with clients or colleagues. Taking notes with a mechanical keyboard right next to the microphone might just drive everyone on the call crazy.

3. Variety

In terms of accessibility in the marketplace, there are still more variants of membrane keyboards available. This makes it easier for users to find the right keyboard.

4. Economical

Membrane keyboards also tend to be more affordable because they’re constructed from easily available materials.

5. Small and compact

If you regularly travel with a keyboard, it’s probably going to be a little easier for you to invest in a membrane keyboard since they’re lightweight and compact. They make a great travel companion and are easier and less costly to replace if they are lost or damaged in transit.

Cons of a membrane keyboard

A membrane keyboard isn’t for everyone, especially if you prefer more physical feedback and a durable setup.

1. Not as sturdy

While the membranes on this keyboard are flexible, they’re not as long-lasting as the components of a mechanical keyboard.

2. Harder to replace a part

If one component stops working on a membrane keyboard, it usually means you have to replace the entire keyboard.

3. Shorter lifespan

Membrane keyboards typically have a shorter lifespan since they’re not as robust as mechanical keyboards.

What is the best keyboard for gaming?

After reading about the differences between mechanical and membrane keyboards, you might be curious about which one is best for you. By and large, gamers tend to favor mechanical keyboards because they offer a more durable, faster gaming experience.
Professional gamers helped to popularize mechanical keyboards, but the newest models - which offer tactile and auditory feedback - also made them a more practical choice outside of the influence of professional gamers. Mechanical keyboards are built with gamers in mind since they can recognize a large number of keypress inputs simultaneously (also known as N-key rollover). For gamers, this means more accurate, precise gaming [5].

What are the best mechanical gaming keyboards?

HP OMEN Sequencer keyboard

If you’re ready to invest in a mechanical keyboard, you may want to consider the HP OMEN Sequencer keyboard. This capable device enables you to strike faster than your opponent, giving you an amazing tactical edge. In fact, you can enable a 0.2 millisecond response time which is ten times faster than traditional mechanical switches. As for durability, you’ll be able to use this keyboard through 70 million clicks.
Speed and behind-the-scenes power aren’t everything, but luckily this keyboard delivers on every front. Each key is individually backlit and offers users up to 16.8 million RGB colors so you can express your personal aesthetic.
There’s also a one-year limited warranty for total peace of mind that your product will stand up to the rigors of any game you play. Powered by optical-mechanical switch technology, the HP OMEN Sequencer keyboard could be the crowning jewel to the serious gamer’s battle station.

HP Pavilion gaming keyboard 500

For a more budget-friendly option, users can also opt for the HP Pavilion gaming keyboard 500. It’s a nimble and silent mechanical keyboard designed from bottom to top to improve your gaming experience. Response time is incredibly important when you’re trying to break into professional gaming. In fact, milliseconds could be what separates you from a win or a loss.
With those kinds of margins, it is abundantly clear that your gaming keyboard is crucial to your success. The RGB LED backlighting helps you quickly identify what keys you need to press and boasts a floating key design. You can customize the colors so it reflects your personal preference. Every time you power on, your gaming rig will shine the colors that uniquely represent you, your tribe, or your team.

HP OMEN keyboard 1100

Another great option for serious gamers is the HP OMEN keyboard 1100. With N-key rollover capability, you can press any number of keys at once and they’ll all be registered. You’ll never experience a misstep in a game because your keyboard will handle those simultaneous keypresses.
It also boasts anti-ghosting technology to ensure the accuracy of your keypresses every single time you power up to play your favorite triple-A (AAA) games.

Takeaways: a keyboard for every type of user

If you’ve ever borrowed a keyboard from a friend or a colleague, you know that alien, unfamiliar feeling that comes with a device you’ve never used before. Maybe the physical feedback was off or perhaps you missed keypresses, had a slow response time, or the keys were just a little too spread out and inconvenient. Keyboards make a huge difference in the enjoyment of our computing experience.
When you’re deciding between a membrane vs mechanical keyboard, it can be a little confusing determining what’s best for you. If you prefer a lightweight, compact keyboard that works better for traveling and doesn’t take up a lot of real estate on your desk, a membrane keyboard might be the right solution.
And if you’re a gamer looking for a reliable, sturdy device that can handle a lot of gaming abuse day in and day out, a mechanical keyboard will be a better choice. Mechanical keyboards also offer more variation in their feedback, actuation, and response times which may help you react more quickly to in-game stimuli.
Whether you’re looking for a gaming keyboard or a regular keyboard for daily computing, the HP Store accessories page has a range of options to help you make the most of your day.
About the Author: Michelle Wilson is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Michelle is a content creation specialist writing for a variety of industries, including tech trends and media news.
[2] Mechanical Keyboard; Switch Types

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