Why are Mechanical Keyboards Better for Gaming. What is a mechanical keyboard

They come in two main types, depending on the type of plastic used in their manufacture. ABS keys are easier to manufacture, and plastic lends itself to a wider range of colors, but less durable and prone to a shiny, worn-out appearance that you may recognize.

Membrane Keyboard vs Mechanical Keyboard: Which One You Should Use?

There are many ranges of keyboards from many different manufacturers, most of which are membrane or mechanical keyboards. Being a gamer and typist, I have used many different keyboards over the years, each with different advantages or disadvantages. Some feel good in my hands, some don’t. When you do a lot of work or play a lot, you need something that will work well for your fingers. Now, not all keyboards are the same considering some are better than others, even though they are similar. Today we are going to compare the membrane keyboard and the mechanical keyboard and give recommendations on who should use the membrane keyboard and who should use the mechanical keyboard.

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Membrane Keyboard

What is a Membrane Keyboard

Let’s move on to working with the first type of keyboard called a membrane, which uses 3 different layers that are very flexible. The first layer is called the top layer of the membrane and there is a conductive trace underneath the top. When a key is pressed, it slides through the second layer, which is made up of holes, allowing the thrust pads under each key to pass through and contact the conductive marks on top of the bottom diaphragm layer.

Diagram of a membrane keyboard. Photo by Fourohfour from Wikipedia

Two types of designs are used. One is the flat wrench that is commonly used in microwave ovens. The keys in this design are printed on the same pad, it still uses a pressure pad, but because it doesn’t provide a noticeable “physical feedback” it makes it difficult to use the computer’s keyboard which relies on physical feedback when you blink.

Another type, called a dome keyboard, uses a dome with letters printed on top, sometimes they are laser-printed or stretched. This type of keyboard uses a dome rubber or silicone keyboard as the top membrane layer. When the domes are pressed down, they collapse and the graphite under the dome completes the perimeter under the diaphragm insert, thus sending a key press signal.

Pros of Membrane Keyboards

  • Similar typing experience on a mechanical keyboard
  • Relatively quiet
  • More portable
  • Accessible

As membrane keyboards can be made of common materials and mature technology, a membrane keypad will be more affordable than a mechanical keypad which has the same functions.

Cons of Membrane Keyboards

  • Writing feels
  • Rollover key
  • Length of life
  • Cleaning

At first glance, some smaller layout sizes, such as 60% and 65%, may seem completely impractical. However, you might be surprised to know how little you use certain keys.

Different Kinds of Keyboards

Mechanical Keyboards

Mechanical keyboards are very traditional pieces of hardware. They are solid, with visible, clickable buttons. Mechanical keyboards are made of high-quality materials, and there are key switches under each key.

Membrane or Rubber-dome Keyboards

The membrane keypad is also called a rubber dome. Unlike a mechanical keyboard, the membrane keyboard relies on rubber domes that provide feedback. These keyboards consist of a rubber dome which, when pressed, completes the circuit on the keyboard’s PCB. Thanks to this simplified design, they are manufactured at modest prices and very affordable if you are shopping on a budget.

Dome Switch Keyboards

Dome switch keyboards are a mix of a flat diaphragm and a mechanical switch keyboard. Most of the lower-quality keyboards use this technology.

Scissor-switch Keyboards

A scissor-switch keyboard is the type of keyboard that is usually found on laptops. These keyboards use rubber domes and attach the keys to the keyboard with two plastic pieces that interlock like scissors (hence the name). Since these types of keyboards do not use spring-loaded switches and do not have customizable keys, they are not mechanical keyboards.

This technology allows you to reduce travel time and distance. This is called the activation distance. The activation distance is the distance the switch must press in order for the input to be recorded.

Mechanical Keyboards: Breaking down the Components

These keyboard switches consist of a keycap, spindle, and case. The key is the top of a letter or number. The stem is the part under the key that moves up and down when pressed. Finally, housing is the thing that brings it all together.

The loud “click” noise they make is largely defined by the loud “click” noise produced by the spring switch underneath. When you press a key, you will feel and hear the famous “click” sound, letting you know that the key has been pressed with enough force to register.

These mechanical keyboard switches are usually linear or tactile. The line switch must be pressed. On the other hand, touch switches are only half-pressed to activate, allowing you to type or enter commands much faster.

Gaming keyboard lighting

Customization Options

One of the great things about mechanical keyboards is that they are highly customizable. In addition to replacing the switches, depending on the model, you can get a keyboard with any 10 – 20 programmable keys. They can also be customized with the backlit keys that are backlit with LEDs.

The keycaps can also be replaced with better quality caps with more durable plastics or letters that can be significantly more abused before they wear out. You can add designs, colors, name and logo personalization! Thanks to mechanical keyboards, the possibilities are endless.

If you’re ready to start your search, you’ve come to the right place! At Patriot Memory, we have a wide range of options to choose from. Take a look!


Looking through the best mechanical keyboard reviews, the main concern is usually getting a good keyboard that will last longer, especially if you will use it regularly. Mechanical keyboards are durable despite the manufacturer because they use mechanical switches that are certified to be durable. They are highly resistant to repeated impacts as they use metal on metal contact points, making them able to withstand over 50 million keystrokes compared to cleaning mechanical keyboards. The rolled-up rubber domes and sticky keycaps make regular keyboards easily damaged.

The most important aspect to pay attention to when choosing a keyboard is the feel and resistance of the keys. If you value the solid click that comes with a mechanical keyboard, you might not like the mushy and spongy feel of a regular keyboard. This is because the rubber dome beneath the regular keys of the keyboard provides non-linear resistance to pressure, giving the impression of wobbling. The problem with mechanical keys is the audible noise they make when clicked, although there are people who find the feeling pleasant.

N-Key rollover

Mechanical keyboards allow you to press more keys at the same time compared to a regular membrane keyboard. This means you will have no problem using a mechanical keyboard to get a good gaming experience. You get good mechanical gaming keyboards even if you’re on a budget.

The keyboards are susceptible to dust, spills and dirt, so they should be cleaned and maintained from time to time. While regular keyboards are very prone to getting dirty due to sticky rubber, removing and cleaning them is very problematic compared to mechanical keyboards. Mechanical keyboards are therefore easy to maintain as it takes no time to separate, clean and reattach standalone switches and flat plastic.

nupha nutype macbook pro black mechanical keyboard

Photo: Kevin Raposo / KnowTechie

The shape factor is categorized on a scale based on the included key sets. The full-size keyboard has separate keys for all the popular ones: alphanumeric, numeric keypad, function keys, navigation keys, and modifier keys.

The Plethora Of Key Switch Types

Perhaps the most obvious difference between a mechanical keyboard and a “normal” keyboard is the switches.

There are tons of different mechanical switches for keyboards. They are most easily classified according to the physical shape and the fixation of the stem. The latter is the protruding handle to which the keys stick. The “type” of a switch is a characteristic of the switch itself – usually classified as “linear”, “clicking”, or “tactile’.

Physical Switch Differences

From a distance, the most common physical switch type is “Cherry MX” as well as numerous Cherry MX clones.

Historically, due to patents, the manufacturer Cherry was the only brand that was able to make switches with their mounting system. Now their patent has expired, there are many other manufacturers offering comparable and compatible switches for less.

Nowadays, you don’t have to hang up to buy a board with original Cherry brand switches. I would say there are brands that are much more progressive and innovative in switch development these days. Kailh is a Chinese brand that not only produces comparable MX handle switches with color markings (such as “blue”, “green”, “red” etc.) to get closer to the equivalent Cherry switch (we will discuss the color markings for switches in a moment), but they also manufacture “box” switches that are dust and water resistant IP56, and “speed” switches designed for gamers. They have a shorter path, resulting in a faster switch actuation. Hence the nickname “Speed.

Choice of Kailh

Kailh produces comparable and often more interesting switches than the original Cherry models. (big preview)

There are also many other good types of key switches that have nothing to do with Cherry – Topre is a personal favorite. Topre Switches are designed and built in Japan and give you a great tactile experience that some people swear by. However, they are expensive and then less common.

If you want a decent idea of ​​the most popular options, take a look at the list available in the Keyswitch guide on a mechanical keyboard store.

Key switches – especially Cherry MX and variants – are usually color coded; for example, “Blue” or “Brown”. Different types of switches are assigned different colors; most often it is a linear, tactile or clickable switch.

In trying to describe in words the way a key switch might seem like an exercise in vain, I’m going to do it anyway.

  • A linear switch is like a linear animation, there are no curves, you press and the resistance is constant until the switch ‘pops out’.
  • The touch switch is more like an easyInQuart animation curve; there is something like a bump at the top that you have to overcome and then it slides down like a linear switch until it reaches the bottom. That little touch of tactile resistance at the top of a key press is what gives them the label of “touch’.
  • The clickable switch is a bit simpler to communicate. It has a similar type of ridge on the top as a tactile switch, but makes an audible click when triggered (or in both directions for the Kailh Box Whites, for example).

Keyboard Layouts And Sizes

After discussing the thorny issue of switches, let’s move on to the next wall of acronyms and abbreviations. They are related to the keyboard layout.

Keyboard Sizes

The keyboard layout is most often defined by its size. Transition from the smallest to the largest:

  • a diminutive “40%” layout in which multiple keys are doubled requiring an additional key to be pressed next to the desired one. Unless you have a specific reason to have one, I cannot recommend this layout for practical reasons;
  • “60%” typically normal key layout with no dedicated set of arrow keys, home / end / page up and page down keys, or function keys;
  • “65%” compact like 60% but usually containing at least a cluster of arrows;
  • “75%” usually represents a separate order of functions;
  • “TKL” “Ten Key-Less” is a more conventional layout, think of a “normal” keyboard without a numeric keypad section;
  • Full size; a typical keyboard layout with function keys, a numeric keypad, and a cluster of arrows.

To get a good idea of ​​the many variations of the layout check out this guide on Drop.

Note: There are popular layouts that distinguish between these sizes. For example, the Happy Hacking Keyboard chip, or “HHKB” as it is often referred to, is a chip that is more than 20 years old and was originally designed for UNIX users. It remains immensely popular as it was designed around the philosophy of keeping your hands in the home row, something that is perpetuating among Vim users today.

HHKB has a 60% wide layout with no function keys and a backspace directly above the back

The legendary HHKB keyboard has its own, often mimicked, 60% layout. (big preview)

Ergonomic Keyboards

Some people come across mechanical keyboards in search of a more ergonomic keyboard. One area where mechanical keyboards can fairly boast some bragging rights is the variety of ergonomic boards and layouts on offer.

For example, consider the Ergodox EZ. This keyboard is completely split (albeit with the exception of the cable connecting the two halves) and enjoys the increasingly popular “hotswap” circuit board function. This means you can easily swap one batch of mechanical switches for another, depending on your preference. It is definitely a good thing.

It often starts with mechanical keyboards favoring one type of switch, and then over time you start to prefer another. This way, you don’t have to buy a brand new keyboard; just replace the switches. Ergodox EZ is also completely programmable, meaning you can customize any key to do whatever you want. The layout choices are really almost endless.

ErgoDox EZ is a keyboard divided into two halves for better ergonomics

The ErgoDox EZ is an ergonomic split keyboard with a fully programmable PCB and hot-swappable PCB. (big preview)

The initial layout of the ErgoDox EZ is in itself, certainly unconventional. It’s not just a getting used to partition, the Ergodox EZ also has an “ortho-line” key layout, rejecting the staggered key layout we are used to (back to typewriters where key layout was a mechanical necessity). Fortunately, Ergodox EZ also supports software that teaches and tests your accuracy and ultimately improves your typing speed.

The weight of a mechanical keyboard can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you use it. Mechanical keyboards are usually heavy, which helps to prevent the keyboard from sliding across your desk while you type.

What benefits do mechanical keyboards offer?

Mechanical keyboards provide a more tactile feedback so you can conveniently tell if a key has been registered or not with the click sound and feel mid-journey. This results in comfortable typing that is also precise. Since you can press a key halfway and still register it, users are less likely to make typos on mechanical keyboards when they get used to it, especially when touch typing (typing without looking at the keyboard, relying solely on muscle memory).

In addition to a better typing experience, some mechanical keyboards also offer customization options where every key on the keyboard can be removed and replaced. This allows gamers to, for example, replace the “WASD” and other gaming keys with a different colored surface. The ability to replace individual keys on these boards also means users don’t have to throw away the keyboard when a single key stops working.

Another less-talked about aspect of mechanical keyboards is the build quality which is far superior to standard membrane / rubber keyboards. The mechanical nature of the switches ensures that mechanical keyboards will last for years and will look and feel just as good all the time.

So, why isn’t everyone upgrading to mechanical keyboards?

There are also a lot of downsides to using mechanical keyboards that don’t make them perfect for everyone. Mechanical keyboards are usually expensive compared to a membrane keyboard. They are also bulky and heavy thanks to mechanical switches and can even weigh twice as much as a regular keyboard.

In addition, mechanical keyboards produce more sound than membrane keyboards thanks to the click switches. However, this does not apply to all switches. Blue Switches, the most popular mechanical keyboard switches, are famous for their loud clicking sound that can quickly irritate you as well as your colleagues sitting nearby.

This is why Blue-switch mechanical keyboards aren’t good office keyboards. However, you can consider brown or red switches for a weaker sound (also at the cost of less tactile feedback).

Try to ignore it. The best strategy for your first mech board (if you go for the hot swap route) is to guess with a few fairly inexpensive Cherry MXs and schedule your upgrades when you have a sense of your preference.

A Vapor World

It’s buried here somewhere, maybe many places on the web, the Holy Grail, potentially your own perfection.

Take a look at NovelKeys.com for example. You’ll find tons of eye candy on their website, but almost zero inventory. It is common in this world. It’s vaporware, a market that has emerged from loosely related groups of enthusiasts who scoured the planet for parts and posted builds and mods on Usenet forums in time before most people knew about the internet.

These groups kept mechanical keyboards alive when they were phased out by major computer manufacturers. In most communities it has developed in the same chaotic, proto-crowd-funding way that the internet has become more ubiquitous.

So remember right from the start that cool kids don’t really care too much about making sure you can tell the difference between what’s in stock, what’s part of a group purchase, and what’s already sold out. Product lines are in a constant state of flow between financing, production and distribution. The further you go towards the end board, the more likely you’ll find yourself in the group of buying that perfect set of keys.

At this point, everything is slipping. By the time you receive what you ordered, your wish list may already have changed.

Mech Board Basics

But here, too, your creativity gets involved. Once you learn to look through sliding windows and start visualizing the board, it will work for you.

Are you looking for something small that you can easily shuffle or throw in a backpack; Or maybe you need a control center for a massive PC setup with two or three monitors? The difference is a matter of form.

The shape factor is categorized on a scale based on the included key sets. The full-size keyboard has separate keys for all the popular ones: alphanumeric, numeric keypad, function keys, navigation keys, and modifier keys.

From there, it scales as a percentage, not based on the exact number of keys, but on the sets of keys that have been excluded. On smaller keyboards, you can still access the missing keys using layers (basically the extra shift keys).

There are also unconventional form factors. Ortho-linear layouts replace the stepped structure of normal keyboards in favor of a built-in mesh structure which is said to be more ergonomic. You can also come across several split keyboards, even arched or bowl-shaped.

Another important consideration is programmability. If you can customize the layout of the keys and write macros that are useful for your workflow, definitely make sure your keyboard has a built-in processor and check the manufacturer-provided software to “flash” the keyboard with the customized firmware.

This brings us to the keys; it’s the part you touch that (usually) has letters and numbers printed on it.

Artisan keys are just the tip of the iceberg of customization options. Photo: KBDfans.com

They come in two main types, depending on the type of plastic used in their manufacture. ABS keys are easier to manufacture, and plastic lends itself to a wider range of colors, but less durable and prone to a shiny, worn-out appearance that you may recognize.

PBT keycaps are made of thicker, more durable plastic and have a solid (or stiff) feel and a more consistent texture.

As you browse, remember that you need to make sure the keystroke sets match your whiteboard’s layout.

Finally, there are key switches, small, modular mechanisms that convert keystrokes into electrical current. Cherry MX switches have been around since pre-internet days and are still the most common as they are inexpensive, reliable, and fast. For several dozen years, players have been using them to gain a competitive advantage.

In recent years, other manufacturers have cloned the MX profile and refined the mechanism using different materials to make it sound “better” or write smoother.

Key switches such as the Gateron Telios are designed to improve your keystroke experience. KBDfans.com

Switches are generally characterized as linear or tactile, loud or silent. If you intend to use your keyboard in an office or cafe where the constant clattering of the keyboard can irritate your neighbors, definitely choose something that says “silent”.

Sense is harder to pin down. Whether it’s better smooth or tactile is completely subjective, and you won’t really be able to say what you like or not without actually typing on them.

Try to ignore it. The best strategy for your first mech board (if you go for the hot swap route) is to guess with a few fairly inexpensive Cherry MXs and schedule your upgrades when you have a sense of your preference.

Choosing a Switch

So you know what size you want your board to be, but how do you want to type on the keyboard? Cherry’s main mechanical switch patents expired a few years ago, so there are tons of clone switches that are Cherry compatible. The vast majority of boards use Cherry and Cherry clone switches, so let’s move on to those.


Your first task should be to get a switch tester. You can get one for under $ 20 on Amazon, which has all the main Cherry variants: Blue, Green, Brown, Transparent, Red, and Black. These switches come in three different varieties: clickable (blue and green), tactile (brown and transparent), and linear (black and red). Each of these categories is divided into a heavier and lighter version. Here is a chart with the weights of each. Note: The “color codes” of clone switches are usually the same for switches with the same properties.

I can’t say which switches you prefer, but I will notice that heavy engineers tend to use tactile and click switches, but black is also often chosen. However, don’t make the final decision yet. Your goal should be to figure out what type of shift you like and what weight is best for you. Cherry isn’t the only game in town anymore, so you can mix and match some of these properties to find the perfect switch.

Some of the most popular Cherry compatible switches are from Gateron and Kailh, but recently even smaller manufacturers have come out doing innovative things. As long as the switches in question are offered by a reputable dealer, you should be fine. Even cheap mechanical switches will do better than a broken membrane keyboard.

Kailh x Novelkeys Box Switch Pale blue.

If you think you like touch switches, you might consider trying the Topre plank. There are very few Topre dome switch testers, so you may have to jump in with a real keyboard like the HHKB2. Remember that if you fall in love with Topre it limits your choice of boards and keys. It also means you will spend a lot more on the keyboard.

Picking a Board

Now you know what pieces you want, so finding the right board is challenging. Let me say straight away that I believe you should avoid the “game oriented” boards. They try to lure you in with the flashy lights and brands you know, but they require annoying, flawed PC software and often use inferior components. Likewise, you can just search for “mechanical keyboard” on Amazon and find lots of cheap devices that are sure to input text. They just won’t sound or look very good when you do it. Presumably, if you’ve read a thousand words about keyboards to get to this point, you’re at least a little bit discerning. So let’s talk about what you should consider buying.

Drop Alt with Carbon SA keycaps.

A good starting point is Drop, formerly Massdrop. They offer a range of semi-custom keyboards, such as the 65 percent Alt and Ctrl without ten keys. The Drop even has a tiny 60 percent board called Carina. Unlike other high-end boards, you can usually just order one and have it on hand a week later. These boards cost anywhere from $ 100 to $ 200 as a hull kit, but don’t require soldering – they’re known as hot swappers. Drop will sell circuit board switches, or you can buy your own from other retailers.

GMMK is one of the more popular names for mechanical keyboards, but the company has moved away from its purely gaming roots to offer surprisingly high-end features for the mech enthusiast. The GMMK Pro is a 75% keyboard with a rotary knob, gasket mount, and hot-swap support. If you want something pre-built for a minimum of hassle, there are well-known options like Anne Pro 2 and Das Keyboard 4.

Fancy custom switches known as Sacred Pandas.

If you want your typing experience to be something special, there’s almost no limit to how far you can go – the popular Twitch streamer posted the news in 2020, spending $ 3,500 on a custom version. But why would you want to build a keyboard? With a custom whiteboard, you can select switches, materials, colors and functions along the way to create the perfect typing experience. Plus, most of the cool, innovative switches in the keyboard world aren’t used in retail keyboards.

The aforementioned Zealio switches are popular and come in many variants. There are also many Kailh switches that offer extra spring loads and click designs that don’t have a Cherry counterpart – check out the selection with retailers like NovelKeys. What about the parts and key sets themselves? NovelKeys has a few of these, but there are many other reputable custom disc vendors such as Omnikey, CannonKeys, TheKeyCompany, and KBDfans. All of these pages have a handful of stuff ready to be shipped, but to get the best gear you’ll need to queue up.

Specially painted CA66 with DSA Galaxy Grade.

Group shopping is a necessary evil in the keyboard space. As they are niche devices, their continuous production is not profitable. Group purchase is a bit like pre-order where everyone pays up front and then the product is produced and shipped. The main difference is that the money you pay the sellers is actually used to pay for the production. It is the buyer (you) that takes the risk. If the people leading the group screw up, you may be left with something that doesn’t work as expected. Some of the best keyboards you can get are also the ones I consider fully custom. This means you need to know how to solder them in order to put them together. It is not as difficult as it may seem, but you will have to invest in additional equipment and consumables.

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