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For regular computer users, the type of keyboard doesn’t hold great value. They mostly write a few emails and do some Google searches. But keyboards are essential when the user is a hardcore gamer or an enthusiastic programmer. The need for a comfortable peripheral then arises, offering numerous features. Unless you’re well aware of the different functions each type offers, it can be challenging to choose a keyboard.
It is unfair to assume that mechanical keyboards have a better performance because it really comes down to application. There are advantages and drawbacks for mechanical and normal keyboards, making them serve varying purposes in different work fields.
To get you up to speed on the subject, we have compared both types with their pros and cons. By the end of the article, you’ll fully understand which keyboard type would best fit your requirements.
1. Mechanical Keyboards
Mechanical keyboards have switches under each key. These can be of three types: linear, tactile, and clicky. The difference between the switches is the amount of force you need for a keypress that determines their registration, feedback, and the amount of noise they create.
The keycaps are exchangeable, letting you explore your style and customize accordingly. Mechanical keyboards are usually heavy unless the specific product has an intentionally lightweight design.
A major benefit of such keyboards is that they are incredibly durable and can even last a lifetime if you take good care of them. With excellent tactility, the feedback stays the same as it was on day one. If the symbols on keycaps start fading or, in rare cases, the switch performs suboptimally, you can replace them.
Mechanical keyboards are great for long typing sessions. You don’t have to push the keys all the way in for the action to register. It is ideal for programmers and gamers since only half a keypress could get their work done.
In most mechanical keyboards, the limit for keypresses is usually 50 million. However, it can even go up to 80 million keystrokes in certain newer and more expensive models.
Another extraordinary feature is the n-key rollover. This allows you to press an unlimited number of keys simultaneously without worrying about their registration. Also, it is very easy to clean as most of the components are removable.
2. Normal Keyboards
The keyboards that you usually get in laptops are what we call membrane keyboards. They are also separately built for users that prefer to use this kind with their PC. Their construction involves the same three layers placed on top of each other and stretched across the whole area. So the keys are present on a single sheet rather than being individually planted.
The topmost layer has a dome-shaped membrane with symbols imprinted or lasered onto the surface. The membrane underneath consists of rubber or silicon, generating a soft keypress.
The membrane keyboards are extremely quiet, the best option in soothing environments. However, they are capable of providing recognizable feedback due to the spring mechanism.
This type of keyboard typically uses economical materials in its construction. The plastic construction makes it extremely lightweight and lets you carry the peripheral wherever you go. Hence the price is never the problem.
However, its usage hinders the typing speed of most people and is not ideal for long typing sessions. This is because you need to press the keys fully for your actions to be registered. Similarly, you’re only allowed to press a couple of keys at a time since the key rollover is limited.
Over time, the keys can lose their feedback, and the membrane can also wear out. The number of allowed keystrokes is 5 million, which will make you buy a new keyboard every couple of years. The cleaning process is very challenging since you can’t remove any of the components.
Differences Between the Two Keyboards
Normal and mechanical keyboards have a surprisingly large number of differences. First is the components in construction. Membrane keyboards use a single sheet of a membrane with keys placed on top. Meanwhile, mechanical keyboards have individually placed keys with separate switches underneath.
Membrane keyboards are quieter, cheaper, and less durable. They lack the tactile feedback and bump produced midway when pressed. You can press the keys as hard as you like on a mechanical keyboard, whereas the same operation would instantly damage the membrane keyboard.
Normal keyboards are ideal for office environments or surroundings where the clicky switch can even last a lifetime and can be disturbing. However, you can’t use them while gaming or typing intensely. A mechanical keyboard would be the best option in such circumstances since they also offer low latency and shorter actuation.
One massive difference between the two is the maximum number of allowed keystrokes – around 5 million for membrane keyboards and up to 80 million for mechanical ones.
Unlike mechanical keyboards, the keycaps in normal keyboards are not removable. Therefore, the cleaning process of a mechanical keyboard is much easier.
Additional perks you usually get in mechanical keyboards are customizable backlights, remapping of keys, installed software, and onboard memory.
Similarities Between the Two Keyboards
While they differ in application areas, there are several similarities between the mechanical and a non-mechanical keyboard. Their mainframes use similar materials in their manufacture, which may vary depending on the price. The cheaper ones may use low-quality plastic while you’d get an excellent build as you go up the prize wheel.
Another similar feature is the form factor. Whether the keyboard is of mechanical or membrane type, companies produce them with differing form percentages. With a decreasing percentage, the design becomes more and more compact, and hence the portability increases. Tenkeyless is a version available for both types of keyboards.
The ANSI, ISO, and JIS are the three main layout options for both mechanical and membrane keyboards. The QWERTY and DVORAK layout added are also available for all keyboards, regardless of type.
Both mechanical and membrane keyboards come with advantages and disadvantages, and they cater to different audiences. Their primary function is the same. However, the types differ in certain features.
The membrane keyboard has a more minimalistic design, while the mechanical keyboard can even be customized to your style.
What you are going to use the keyboard for should be your deciding factor. This article should help you understand the differences between the two. Hopefully, now you know which type of keyboard will best suit your needs and are ready to make your choice. Happy shopping!