Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboard: Which One Should You Get?

I own both mechanical and membrane keyboards, both of which I have spent extensive time using. Now let’s talk about how they are different and which you should get to complete your gaming setup.

Mechanical keyboards have more customization and typically have a louder, faster design that attracts most gamers. However, membrane keyboards have a quieter, slimmer design that is appealing as well.

Now let’s go deeper into this comparison, comparing apples to apples to see which keyboard type is best in each category.

Mechanical Vs. Membrane Keyboard

What Keyboard Is Better For Typing?

This can be highly subjective. However, for typing, I much rather prefer the mechanical keyboard for several reasons.

Mechanical keyboards don’t require bottoming out to register every keypress. On a membrane keyboard, you have to fully press down every key to register a letter, also known as bottoming out a key.

When typing this can greatly slow me down because each keystroke takes more force. Instead of flowing from one key to the next, I have to press down each key with more pressure.

It isn’t as bad as it may sound. It’s not like you need to be a very strong person to press down the keys; it just isn’t as fluid for typing.

As for the actual feel, some people may be put off by the mushiness of membrane keyboards, but for typing, I actually like it.

For a long time, I only used a laptop with a membrane keyboard, so I became quite accustomed to the feeling.

But you should know they are mushier, and for typing, they aren’t the worst. That distinction belongs to mecha-membrane keyboards.

Also, the raised design of mechanical keyboards makes it easier for me to strike every key quickly.

The most annoying thing about mechanical keyboards is the constant mistyping you will have when first using one.

Since mechanical keyboards were made to be sensitive, you can quickly strike in the middle of two keys pressing each halfway and accidentally register two letters.

With a membrane keyboard, this is much less likely to happen since each key requires a full press to register a letter.

This makes the forceful key pressing more of a benefit if you find yourself frequently annoyed by this on mechanical keyboards.

Optical keyboards are different from both of these and typically have the issue of mistyping the most because of how little you have to press the keys to register clicks.

Optical keyboards have a lower actuation point than mechanical keyboards, meaning you have to press them even less to register a keypress.

This can be better for gaming since you get a quicker input time, but it is an annoyance for typing.

All in all, it’s subjective each keyboard has its tradeoffs. I can type much faster on a mechanical keyboard, and although I like the feel of a membrane keyboard, the speed of mechanical is better all around for what I do.

Which Keyboard Is Better For Constant Transport or Travel?

I would be motivated to say that membrane keyboards are better for travel. Whenever I put my mechanical keyboard into my backpack and move around, I frequently have keycaps falling off.

Membrane keyboards have keycaps that are much harder to pull off, thanks to their unique, durable design. For travel, that makes membrane keyboards at least more convenient.

Now, although I did mention the keycaps can get pulled off, I have yet to damage my mechanical keyboard in transport in a way that removes functionality from the board.

None of the actual switches that make the keyboard register clicks have snapped or broke in any way.

So really, this comes down to an inconvenience issue more than a destructive problem.

The one benefit I’ll give to mechanical keyboards in this situation is the wider variety of smaller keyboards that might fit better in a variety of bags.

For some reason, most membrane keyboards are a full 108 key design with a number pad and all the function keys on the top. I have yet to see a membrane keyboard that isn’t the full keyboard variety.

With mechanical keyboards, you have tenkeyless keyboards and 60% keyboards that are much smaller.

Tenkeyless keyboards don’t come with the number pad on the right side of the keyboard. 60% of keyboards don’t have a number pad or any of the function keys on the top, making for an ultra-compact design.

Either of these is better for smaller desks or smaller backpacks or bags for when you are traveling. I don’t need the number pad, so I would rather have the desk space back using a tenkeyless keyboard.

Which Keyboard Is Quieter?

This is easy because membrane keyboards are way quieter than mechanical keyboards, hands down.

Mechanical keyboards are known for their booming, clacking sound they make when you bottom them out as you type.

Many users of mechanical keyboards even like this noise because it represents when they have pressed a key successfully.

However, if you live with other people who can’t stand the loudness or aren’t comfortable with the keyboard’s loudness, that is a good enough reason to go with membrane keyboards.

It’s also popular amongst some streamers because mechanical keyboards are so loud it can annoy some viewers. In this case, a membrane keyboard can be much more subtle and shouldn’t be heard nearly as much.

A word of warning, though, you shouldn’t go for a mecha-membrane keyboard if you are looking for quietness.

We talk more about this below, but mecha-membrane keyboards were built to have a membrane keyboard’s typing experience, but with a mechanical keyboard’s audio feedback.

Which Keyboard Is Better For Gaming?

Mechanical keyboards are going to better for gaming because of their sensitivity and N-key rollover.

Many membrane keyboards lack N-key rollover, but it is crucial in games that require you to press multiple buttons at once.

N-key rollover is the ability to be pressing multiple buttons at once and having them all registering.

So, for example, imagine you are playing Battlefield, and you are sprinting diagonally and press your reload button.

In this situation, you are pressing about four buttons and about three buttons at once, so you would want a keyboard that can register all of them at the exact time you are pressing them.

This seems simple, but it is often overlooked by many keyboard buyers that don’t know to look for it and the manufacturers of these keyboards.

Other than that, the mechanical switches’ sensitivity makes these keyboards better for gaming because you don’t have to bottom out your keys to register a button press.

With many switches, you can press them down well before bottoming them out and have that button press registered.

Some people even go as far as training themselves to only press keys down halfway to gain a speed advantage in games.

Personally, what I like most about mechanical keyboards for gaming is how smooth it feels and how much easier it is on my fingers.

The force it takes to bottom out keys on a membrane keyboard continuously can make my fingers quite tired after a few hours of gaming.

Whereas, with a mechanical keyboard, I can go for nearly double that time without feeling it.

My recommendation for gaming is to use a mechanical keyboard. However, if you are still on the fence, I recommend you go to a store like Best Buy or some other tech store and give each keyboard type a try for yourself.

Which Keyboard Is Going To Last The Longest?

The mechanical keyboard is supposed to last much longer than the membrane keyboard based on the keystroke test, usually by a margin of tens of millions of keystrokes.

However, we are still talking about millions of keystrokes, and how long a keyboard lasts can vary depending on the unit.

There are plenty of people with old membrane keyboards that have lasted ten years and plenty of people that got mechanical keyboards that couldn’t last a few months.

Other than the keystroke test, we have liquid resistance when you may knock over an energy drink, water, soda, etc.

Both membrane and mechanical keyboards can have this, but you will have to seek it out specifically as not all keyboards will have it.

Even some very high-end keyboards will leave this feature out, so if you need this because you often knock over liquids on your desk, this can be excellent security to have in your keyboard.

Lastly, longevity when talking in terms of durability is leaning in favor of mechanical keyboards.

Mechanical keyboards usually are built from very strong metal or aluminum materials with a sturdy backplate that doesn’t bend.

Membrane keyboards are usually built with plastic, which, even if it is durable for plastic, doesn’t quite compare to metal.

When I move around my mechanical keyboard, its heavy build gives me more comfort when I accidentally hit it against something while moving it.

Being something that is primarily used at a desk, this isn’t as important to be durable. Still, if you travel or eventually move it, you can feel more confident that a mechanical keyboard can stay intact.

Which One Has More Customization Of Looks And Performance?

The mechanical keyboard wins again! With mechanical keyboards that are hot-swappable, you can easily change the switches for any other switch that is compatible with your board.

The switches are color-coded, but each has different noises, feeling, and performance when it comes to typing.

The standard options are

  • Cherry MX Red,
  • Cherry MX Brown,
  • Cherry MX Blue,
  • Cherry MX Black,
  • Cherry MX Green,
  • Cherry MX Silver,
  • Cherry MX Clear,
  • Cherry MX Yellow,
  • and the list goes on.

The two most common reasons for changing switches are when they break or when you buy a keyboard, and the switches that were installed weren’t the feeling you were looking for.

Instead of worrying about refunds or accepting the keyboard’s quality isn’t up to your liking, you can simply order new switches online and use a unique tool to replace them.

One word of warning, though, not all keyboards can have their switches swapped out. The keyboard must be hot-swappable, which is usually advertised as a selling point if it is.

Hot-swappable keyboards make it much easier to replace switches and don’t require any soldering that regular keyboards might if you wanted to change the switches out.

You can change the switches on some non-hot-swappable keyboards, however, it will require special equipment, experience soldering, and overall takes much longer to do.

Before buying your new mechanical keyboard it can be a good idea to get a switch testing kit to see which switch type feels the best for you beforehand.

Switch testing kits are a neat tool that gives you one of each type of switch so you can press down each type and find one you like best.

This is the switch testing kit that we recommend (link to Amazon), so if you want to try all the Cherry MX switches before you buy your new keyboard, this is a great, inexpensive way to find your perfect switch.

Other than changing the switches, many mechanical keyboards have a wide variety of keycaps you can get to change the look and feel of your keyboard.

The two primary materials used in keycaps are ABS and PBT. PBT is going to be the higher quality, thicker keycap that provides a better feel.

ABS is the more commonly used, cheaper keycap that doesn’t feel great but allows for more light to shine through for a better look.

If you want to see a full comparison of PBT vs. ABS keycaps, this website covers the topic fantastically.

Of course, there are various color options for keycaps that can make any keyboard look entirely different and looking exactly how you want them.

Lastly, there are some super cool custom keycaps that have different unique looks that add some character to your keyboard.

For example, this Game Of Thrones key of the House Targaryen (link to Amazon), and this one of the Overwatch Logo (link to Amazon).

Typically these are put on the ESC key or another key you don’t use often. This is purely so when you are looking for a key, you don’t have to remember that the T key is The Witcher logo.

Membrane keyboards don’t have this customization, so whatever you get is whatever you are stuck with on both the feel of the keys and the keycaps.

Which Keyboard Is Best For Wireless Functionality?

For wireless functionality, this leans in favor of mechanical keyboards because there are way more options to choose from.

Unfortunately, there are very few membrane gaming keyboards available, so shopping for the best features isn’t much an option.

However, mechanical keyboards have a whole ton of wireless options due to the much more immense popularity.

If you were to look up wireless gaming keyboards on any site, there would be tons of choices, but they will mostly be mechanical.

What Is The Difference Between Membrane, Mecha-Membrane, and Mechanical?

Mecha-Membrane keyboards are the compromise product that takes some popular features from mechanical keyboards but is still mostly a membrane keyboard in makeup.

Mecha-Membrane keyboards are a product of Razer that is supposed to give the loud, clicky feedback of a mechanical keyboard, with the key structure of a membrane that requires a firm press for each button.

I have the Razer Ornata Chroma V2, and it does sound and even feel different to a certain extent. However, to me, it doesn’t resemble what a mechanical keyboard is like at all.

If you are getting a membrane keyboard for it’s quietness, the mecha-membrane is not for you.

Mecha-membranes were designed to have louder audio feedback with every click to simulate what you get with a mechanical keyboard.

Even though, at the point of making that noise, your keypress may not be registered. On a mechanical keyboard, you hear the audio feedback when the keypress is registered, but that is not guaranteed on a mecha-membrane.

Chances are, if you are buying a quieter keyboard because someone else in the house hates the loudness of a mechanical keyboard, they likely won’t be happy with the loudness of a mecha-membrane keyboard either.

Ultimately, it isn’t worth it at the moment either. You have to pay more for a mecha-membrane keyboard. However, it’s louder and for me, I would rather have the feel of a regular membrane keyboard.

The only positive of the mecha-membrane is the feedback, which, as we discussed, could be a drawback because of how loud it is.

What’s The Difference Between Optical And Mechanical Keyboards?

Chances are if you are shopping around for new keyboards, you likely see a lot more optical switches out there.

Structurally, mechanical and optical keyboards look very similar and will have large keycaps, a heavier frame, and switches.

However, optical switches take advantage of beams of light within the keyboard to register clicks, which leads to a much faster registering of your keypresses and less input lag.

Mechanical switches use a spring to connect to the circuit board when the key is pressed, which then registers the keypress with the computer. Electricity is what’s essentially used to register clicks.

Optical switches use a constant beam of light within each switch. When the switch is pressed, the block on the light before is removed, and the beam of light will continue to register with your computer.

This provides a lower actuation point and makes it take much less force and movement of the key to register a keypress.

Although this may mean you can get faster input in-game on each keypress, it also makes mistyping much more frequent.

If you do a lot of typing, you may become annoyed with the low actuation point. If you accidentally partially press another key, it is much more likely to register with an optical keyboard.

They both feel similar in some ways; however, when I was using each keyboard type, I noticed the bottoming out was much shorter on the optical keyboard.

The mechanical keyboard allowed me to press down each key much further, whereas the optical keyboard felt like it was cutting each keypress short.

I can appreciate the higher speed that optical keyboards have for gaming and recommend it for dedicated gamers.

However, I do prefer the feel of the mechanical keyboard. With how much time I spend typing, I mistype much less on a mechanical keyboard.

So if you game a lot, the speed benefit of an optical keyboard makes it worth it, but if you type a lot, I recommend that you go with a mechanical keyboard as it makes writing much more effortless.

The optical switch tech is becoming more mainstream as now companies like Razer, Corsair, Redragon, and ROCCAT have an optical keyboard variation.

I bought my optical keyboard from one of the first people to make optical keyboards, and that is the Bloody Brand Keyboard.

You can read my review of this keyboard here.

If you want to try optical switches before buying them, you can go to a local tech store and try them out. Unfortunately, there is no way to get a switch testing kit for optical switches at the moment.

Which Keyboard Should You Get?

Although this is entirely subjective, here is the simplest way to guide you in the direction you’d like the most.

If you want the quietest keyboard on the market, get a membrane keyboard as they will be as quiet as you can get.

Most membrane keyboards will make next to no noise, but at the very least, they won’t be heard nearly as loud by anyone in a 10-20 foot radius.

If you aren’t bothered by the more mushy feel and are willing to compromise performance in games and possibly speed while typing for silence, the membrane keyboard is for you.

I recommend the mechanical keyboard if you want the best performance for typing and fantastic performance in games.

You have a wide variety of customization in both feel and appearance, so you can choose and fine-tune any keyboard to be precisely what you need.

The low actuation point and no need to bottom out the key with every press to register the press makes keypresses register faster on-screen, making in-game moves faster.

The significant trade-off here is noise. There will be a lot of clicking and clacking with a keyboard, so as long as you and anyone else that is going to exist near your keyboard are okay with that, that shouldn’t be an issue.

If you or someone you live with can’t handle a mechanical keyboard’s loudness, I wouldn’t recommend getting one because it will drive a said person crazy.

Lastly, we have two variations of mechanical and membrane.

Starting with optical keyboards, they are a variety of mechanical keyboards and are even more sensitive.

This makes optical keyboards the best for performance in games as you potentially can have a split second advantage over regular mechanical keyboard users.

They still have the loudness of mechanical keyboards, so if you or someone you live with doesn’t like it, you shouldn’t get one. Also, these are very sensitive and can take some time to adjust to typing on.

It took me a few months of typing on my optical keyboard to get used to the sensitivity and to greatly reduce the rate at which I mistype. However, at first, it can be quite disruptive to your writing flow which may be a turn-off for extensive writers.

So if you type a lot and don’t mind the sound, go for a mechanical. However, if you don’t type a lot and want the speeds greater than most of your opponents in games, optical keyboards are for you.

Finally, we have mecha-membrane keyboards, which are a variety of membrane and mechanical keyboards.

I can’t recommend this to anyone except people who like the audio feedback of mechanical keyboards but the feel of typing on a membrane.

Mecha-membrane keyboards still feel very different from a membrane keyboard. They have a mushiness quality to them, but you can also feel a click as you type.

They are suitable for typing but are still loud. Mecha-membrane is unique, so this is a style of keyboard I would recommend you try in store before you buy.

In fact, I recommend that for all the keyboard types on this list. If you can find a way to test them before you buy them, that is the only way you can see which feels and sounds right to you.

Keyboards and mice are two of the most subjective things in any setup, so trying them to see if YOU like it is essential.


I've been a PC gamer and builder for around 3 years now but my love for gaming spans many years all the way back to the Nintendo 64! Getting into PC gaming there was a lot of information that was hard to understand so I made it my mission to make PC gaming easy!

Recent Posts