Mechanical keyboards have seen a resurgence in popularity among typists, gamers, and computer enthusiasts in recent years. But what exactly sets them apart from the more common membrane keyboards found on most consumer devices? In this article, we’ll highlight 5 key differences that make keyboards unique. Understanding these distinctions can help you decide if making the switch to a custom mechanical keyboard is right for your needs.
One of the biggest advantages of mechanical keyboards is their durability. It uses separate switches under each key, with springs and metal contact leaves giving each key its own distinct feel and response. This construction makes them much more durable than membrane keyboards. Membrane keyboards have a single rubber sheet under the keys to register key presses. Over time, the thin rubber membrane can wear out in spots. It can withstand tens of millions of keystrokes over the lifespan of the keyboard. Their durable build makes them a long-term investment for serious typists.
2: Tactile Feedback
Mechanical keyboard switches come in a variety of types, most of which provide enhanced tactile feedback. This means you feel a noticeable “bump” when the switch actuates and registers your key press when you are pressing the keycaps. The tactile bump provides satisfying physical keyboard feedback, almost like using a classic typewriter. Membrane keyboards can feel “mushy” by comparison, without that definitive registration point telling you your press registered. The customization options around tactile response make keyboards appealing for gaming and typing “feel”.
3: Customizable Experience
The different mechanical keyboard switch types allow for a highly customizable experience. Common options include linear switches for fast, consistent action, tactile switches for physical feedback, and clicky switches which add an audible “click” sound on the tactile bump. The availability of O-ring sound dampeners also lets you fine-tune the volume of the keyboard. On the other hand, membrane keyboards offer limited customization around the feel or sound profile. This better meets the preference diversity among serious keyboard users.
4: Faster Inputs
Mechanical keyboard construction allows for faster signal inputs compared to membrane options. This makes them highly appealing for intense gaming, where split-second responsiveness can impact performance. Because you must press mechanical switches farther down for actuation, key presses happen faster with less travel distance required. Mechanical keyboards also allow for n-key rollover, where each keypress can register independently no matter how many keys are held down at once. For games requiring multiple simultaneous key inputs, it offers the best performance.
5: Long-Term Cost Efficiency
While mechanical have higher upfront costs, their long lifespan ultimately makes them more cost efficient long term. Considering their average lifespan of 50 million keystrokes or 10+ years of life, save the need to replace keyboards over and over. Serious typists and gamers get more value from the durable construction despite paying more initially. Meanwhile, cheaper membrane keyboards wear out much faster, requiring frequent replacement purchases over the years. All those replacement costs add up fast.
The unique tactile feedback, customization potential, swift performance inputs, and long-term durability set mechanical keyboards apart from the more common membrane keyboard design. Mechanical options beat out membrane keyboards in the most important areas for enthusiasts, gamers, and professional typists. If keyboard performance matters to you and you’re willing to pay more upfront for a better experience, there’s no beating what a high-end mechanical keyboard provides over its extra-long usable life. Consider keyboards if you’re hardcore about your computer input device.