Mechanical Keyboard VS. Membrane Keyboard

What is Mechanical Keyboard?

A mechanical keyboard uses actual, physical switches underneath the keys to determining when the user has pushed a key. Press a key, and you press its switch down. Press the switch down, and the keyboard sends a signal to the PC telling it that you pressed that key.

Most keyboards are composed of a set of three plastic membranes, with rubber dome-shaped switches underneath each key.

Press a key, and the rubber switch pushes through a hole in the middle membrane to connect the top and bottom membranes, which creates an electrical circuit that causes the keyboard to send the input to your PC.

This keyboard design is inexpensive and spill-resistant, but it doesn’t give you as much tactile or audible feedback when you press a key, which can change the way you type.

mechanical keyboard          mechanical keyboard

Mechanical switch keyboards use separate complete switches underneath every key. Each switch is composed of a base, a spring, and a stem.

Depending on the shape of the stem, such keyboards have varying actuation and travel distance. Switches also come in three variants, linear with consistent resistance and tactile with a non-audible bump or with an audible click.

Depending on the resistance of the spring, the key requires different amounts of pressure to actuate. Mechanical keyboards allow for the removal and replacement of keycaps.

The major current mechanical switch producer is Cherry. Alps Electric, a former major producer, ended production in the early 2000s.

Companies such as Cooler Master, Corsair, Razer, Thermaltake, Logitech and SteelSeries offer a variety of mechanical model keyboards targeted towards gamers.

Pros of mechanical keyboards
  • Removable Keycaps                                                        
  • Durability
  • Different Typing Style
  • Easier to Clean
  • Tactility
  • Key Rollover
  Cons of mechanical keyboards
  • More expensive
  • Heavy
  • Loud Keystroke voice

What is Membrane Keyboard?

There are two types of membrane-based keyboards, flat-panel membrane keyboards, and full-travel membrane keyboards.

Flat-panel membrane keyboards are most often found on appliances like microwave ovens or photocopiers. A common design consists of three layers.

membrane keyboard                            membrane keyboard

The top layer has the labels printed on its front and conductive stripes printed on the back. Under this, it has a spacer layer, which holds the front and back layer apart so that they do not normally make electrical contact. The back layer has conductive stripes printed perpendicularly to those of the front layer. When placed together, the stripes form a grid. When the user pushes down at a particular position, their finger pushes the front layer down through the spacer layer to close a circuit at one of the intersections of the grid. This indicates to the computer or keyboard control processor that a particular button has been pressed.

Generally, flat-panel membrane keyboards do not produce a noticeable physical feedback. Therefore, devices using these issue a beep or flash a light when the key is pressed.

They are often used in harsh environments where water- or leak-proofing is desirable. Although used in the early days of the personal computer (on the Sinclair ZX80, ZX81 and Atari 400), they have been supplanted by the more tactile dome and mechanical switch keyboards.

Full-travel membrane-based keyboards are the most common computer keyboards today. They have one-piece plastic keytop/switch plungers which press down on a membrane to actuate a contact in an electrical switch matrix.

Pros of Membrane Keyboards
  • Similar typing experience to mechanical keyboard
  • Relatively Quiet
  • More Portable
  • Affordable
Cons of Membrane Keyboards
  • Typing Feels
  • Lifespan
  • Harder to Clean

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Nirmal Kalthiya

I am the Founder of SoftMunch.com which will provide you all types of tech related information. Right now I am pursuing my Information Technology Engineering Degree. I like to know about new technologies and innovative things. If you also want to know about it please subscribe our daily newsletter.

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