Do you know the difference between a mechanical keyboard vs. a “normal” (membrane)?
The keyboard is the part of the computer that most people don’t pay the slightest attention to when shopping. You spend the least money on the keyboard; it just has to work. You can get a product that doesn’t meet your criteria in terms of quality or ergonomics, leading to severe frustrations.
Suppose you spend most of your time doing some serious work or playing your favorite games on the computer. In that case, you need to know the importance of choosing the right keyboard. Except for laptops, keyboards are an indispensable part of peripherals, whether they are hard-core gamers or office users. But, buying a keyboard can cause headaches, primarily because prices range from $ 10 and sometimes over $ 500.
What is the difference in this price range? Are expensive keyboards worth that much? I will answer below.
How to choose a keyboard?
If you aren’t a beginner, you can already experientially assess whether you have come across the right one when you press the keys on the keyboard for the first time. For both beginners and experienced computer users, the choice is enormous.
Before buying, most people want to be informed about different models and features. Prices are varied. You need to make sure you need some premium model that can cost as much as half your PC configuration. Therefore, if you want to ensure that you have chosen the right keyboard for yourself, it’s worth devoting more detail to this topic.
We don’t use the keyboard only for a computer or laptop. You can also connect the appropriate models to your smart TV or tablet. There are many different keyboards, and the goal is to find the one that best suits your needs.
Some general divisions would be:
- by key type
- according to the connection method
- according to the purpose
Keyboard by key type
There are two types of keyboards, given how the arranged keys look and function mechanically. Some rough divisions will be: membrane keyboards are quiet, while mechanical ones have that click feel at every keypress. Thus we can divide keyboards into mechanical and membrane.
The mechanical keyboard is recognizable because you feel a slight resistance to each key pressed when working with it, which signifies that it will react to your touch. It works on the principle of a spring-loaded switch that registers your touch. Regardless of the speed of your fingers, the mechanical keyboard catches every key pressed.
Thanks to quality switches, mechanical keyboards are usually more expensive and have better performance than membrane keyboards. Those who appreciate the benefits of mechanical keyboards are willing to pay more, although prices have recently become affordable.
Types of mechanical keyboards
We can divide mechanical keyboards according to the switches they use:
- The linear switches move under the user’s touch without causing any clicking sound. There’s no sound as feedback that you pressed a key. The button presses on the linear switches are smooth and fast, so they are a favorite among many gamers.
- Tactile switches provide feedback for each keystroke. As the keys move under user pressure somewhere in the middle of moving the key, the switch notifies that you press the key. This type of design is popular among professional users who write a lot.
- Click switches are more similar in design to tactile switches. Unlike mechanical keypads with tactile switches, keyboards will create a loud-click sound for each keystroke. It’s a matter of taste what one likes, but these are the noisiest mechanical keyboards.
Advantages of mechanical keyboards
- Mechanical keyboards are, in most cases, made of very high-quality components. They are solid constructions and, therefore, very durable.
- The standard mechanical keyboard would last between five and eight years (depending on the time and style of use).
- You have better options for customizing with mechanical keyboards because some models allow you to replace individual switches.
- The standard offer on all mechanical keyboards is a multi-level RGB backlight. Of course, you can turn it off if it bothers you during work or gaming.
- Switches on mechanical keyboards are more sensitive and precise than membrane switches.
- The typing experience on a mechanical keyboard is more enjoyable, especially for those who spend more time writing or gaming.
Disadvantages of mechanical keyboards
Before you start purchasing a mechanical keyboard, you need to know some of its shortcomings:
- They are louder compared to membrane keyboards. So if you prefer a quiet environment, have small children, or the like, it would be good to try the keyboard before buying.
- People who have typed on membrane keyboards for years will have trouble getting used to a different concept of mechanical keyboards.
- They are much bulkier and heavier than membrane keyboards
- Mechanical keyboards are more expensive than membrane keyboards. Wireless connectivity raises the price because it’s exclusive to such models.
Why are mechanical keyboards so expensive?
The answer lies in manufacturers looking to install only quality components in mechanical keyboards. The main goal is to last as long as possible under more difficult conditions of exploitation by gamers, writers, or programmers. The users also demand that the mechanical keyboards be of the highest quality. Typing on them must be comfortable and without fatigue, even after several hours of use.
Accessories, such as RGB lighting, programmable keys, interchangeable switches for each key according to your style, a more extended warranty, and the like, also affect the price. Since manufacturers need the best components for these additional options, mechanical keyboards can cost several hundred dollars.
Normal (Membrane) keyboards
Membrane keyboards are more widespread on the market than mechanical ones and are cheaper to produce. You will likely receive a membrane keyboard as a gift with any purchased prebuilt PC. Below the membrane keyboard key is a silicone membrane. It presses the layer below, which registers your touch of a key.
Advantages of membrane keyboards
- Due to this performance, they are usually light and quiet to use (there’s no click-back sound like mechanical ones), so they don’t bother you or the environment in which you work.
- They have little or no space between the keys, which contributes to easier maintenance and smaller dimensions when making compact models (for smart TV or tablet, etc.).
- Membrane keyboards are also suitable for WiFi or Bluetooth, i.e., they provide greater freedom of use on various occasions.
- It’s the most common choice of manufacturers for installation in laptops due to the short stroke of the keys and cheaper production.
Disadvantages of membrane keyboards
However, membrane keyboards are also not without flaws:
- Their shelf life is at most a couple of years ( installation of mostly cheap materials),
- Not suitable for hardened players and professionals who spend a lot of time gaming and typing code or text
- Players cannot customize the keys to their needs
Keyboards by connection type
How do you want to connect the keyboard to your PC? Over cable or wireless? Of course, cable-connected keyboards are the oldest form of connection to a computer. They are the most common on the market. If you want more freedom of connection, wireless keyboards are efficient because they have no cables.
Wired keyboards are the oldest form of connecting keyboards to a computer. The first IBM computer used a 5-pin DIN keyboard connector. Its successor is the PS / 2 port, and USB is widely used today. You can still find PS/2 ports on some motherboard models from various manufacturers.
A newer connection is via a USB cable to any USB port on the computer. Some call such keyboards – USB keyboards. It’s an easy way to connect, plug the USB cable into your computer, and they’re ready to go right away. This way of connecting is reliable and long-lasting because there’s no need for batteries like wireless keyboards.
The wireless keyboard certainly provides complete freedom of connecting the keyboard to the computer, laptop, smart TV, tablet, or phone.
Suppose you like a neat desk in front and behind your computer, without disturbing cables. In that case, you should choose a wireless keyboard and mouse. Each wireless keyboard has one or more batteries (replacement or rechargeable) that allow it to work. You can connect to any device in infrared, Bluetooth, or WiFi.
The Bluetooth wireless keyboard provides a reasonably reliable connection and is an effortless connection procedure. Only the device to which it connects (laptop, pc, tablet, tv, telephone) must have a built-in Bluetooth receiver. Another common way to connect is via a 2.4Ghz WiFi network. With such a keyboard comes a small USB transmitter that we must plug into the USB port of the desired device.
Types of keyboards according to their purpose
Every computer user should initially decide what primarily will use their keyboard. A professional user, who makes a living from writing or coding, will opt for a good ergonomically designed keyboard. In that way, he will do his job as quickly and comfortably as possible. Gamers want even more:
- RGB illumination,
- Programmable macro keys,
- Hot-swappable switches,
- Preferably to have sound control, extra USB ports, an audio port for headphones,
- Resistant to accidental spillage of liquids etc.
Such keyboards usually have a gaming suffix for which we immediately know the target group of users. They are smaller than standard (typically don’t have a numeric part) and are exclusively for gaming (TKL or 60% keyboards). They have an ergonomic design (for example, armrests) to make multiple hours of use as comfortable as possible.
The W-A-S-D keys on individual keyboards come in a variety of colors. As the development of games has progressed, so have the features of gaming keyboards. Manufacturers strive to make as many exciting and customizable keyboards as possible based on player preferences. Thus are mainly designed for first or third-person games and various online multiplayer variants.
A waterproof keyboard is a particular type of gaming device that’s resistant to damage that could cause liquid spillage (water, juice, beer) in the heat of gaming. Illuminated gaming keyboards are ideal for playing games at night, as the backlight under the keys contributes to the visibility and gaming atmosphere. With most modern keyboards, lighting comes in various colors and lighting levels.
Whether you are a gamer or a professional user, choose a mechanical keyboard vs a normal one to improve your user experience on a computer. Besides quality crafts, they also have many advanced options and last longer than membrane ones. The downside is that you have to set aside more money.
On the other hand, normal (membrane) keyboards are cheaper to purchase, have better connection options with different devices, and are much quieter than mechanical keyboards. Of course, it’s not worth throwing money at an über mechanical keyboard just because it has a handful of options that won’t make you a better gamer.
Consider your actual needs, look at your planned budget and make the right choice based on the text above. Please leave a comment if you need some help choosing a suitable keyboard for your needs. If you’re still unsure, check out this guide to selecting the best gaming keyboard under $50 and the best gaming keyboard under $100.