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?
- Membrane Keyboard
- What is a Membrane Keyboard
- Pros of Membrane Keyboards
- Cons of Membrane Keyboards
- Different Kinds of Keyboards
- Mechanical Keyboards
- Membrane or Rubber-dome Keyboards
- Dome Switch Keyboards
- Scissor-switch Keyboards
- Mechanical Keyboards: Breaking down the Components
- Customization Options
- N-Key rollover
- The Plethora Of Key Switch Types
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.
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
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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’.