As gamers, the equipment we use highly dictates our gaming experience and how we perform.
Whether you play an MMORPG, RTS, FPS, or any other type of game, you never want to let your equipment slow you down.
Although the majority of hardcore gamers prefer mechanical keyboards, membrane keyboards are ideal for gaming as well. This is because membrane keywords produce less noise and are ergonomically designed in a way that helps you click the keys faster and easier. While not as durable, membrane keyboards are much more affordable.
In this in-depth guide, I’ll dive into:
- What membrane keyboards are
- The pros and cons of membrane keyboards
- Why membrane keyboards are good for gaming
- A comparison between membrane and mechanical keyboards
Let’s jump right in.
What Are Membrane Keyboards?
The keyboard market is divided into two variants: mechanical keyboards and membrane keyboards.
Membrane is essentially just a fancy word for standard keyboards. In fact, you’ve probably used dozens of membrane keyboards throughout your life and even have a few at home.
These keyboards are the ones you’ll find in a school computer lab, library, or office. Furthermore, most laptops use membrane keyboards.
But what exactly are membrane keyboards?
Although the construction of each membrane keyboard varies from model to model, they all use a single rubber-like membrane on what the keys are embedded in.
Each key lies over a different part of a three-layered membrane that is pressure-sensitive. If you apply pressure by pressing a key in a specific area, it registers as a keystroke. In essence, the keys on a membrane keyboard are all interconnected through the membrane.
On the other hand, the keys on mechanical keyboards are all separate moving parts. Each key has its own switch and register system.
Benefits of Membrane Keyboards
Now that we understand what membrane keyboards are, let’s discuss the benefits they offer.
Quiet Key Presses
Compared to the clickity-clack of some mechanical keyboards, membrane keyboards are typically quiet when typing.
This is especially useful for gamers who play in public or shared spaces. Bothering the people around you with a noisy keyboard is never ideal.
Membrane keyboards are usually inexpensive and accessible to all gamers. Since they are mass-produced and widely used, you can find a plethora of affordable membrane keyboards online or in-store.
Disadvantages of Membrane Keyboards
Let’s take a closer look at the disadvantages of membrane keyboards.
The main drawback people experience with membrane keyboards is the overall feel when they’re using them. Membrane keyboards are typically described as “mushy” and unappealing to type on.
A big issue with membrane keyboards is the fact that you have to bottom out every keystroke. For this reason, you may experience fatigue if you’re using a membrane keyboard for an extended period of time.
Since membrane keyboards don’t have individual key switches like mechanical keyboards do, they tend to break faster. Furthermore, membrane keyboards are hard to repair. If a single key breaks, you’ll most likely have to purchase a new keyboard.
Key rollover is when you can press multiple keys down at the same time while still being registered by the PC. Anti-ghosting is another common term for this.
Due to the nature of membrane keyboards and the combined register system, many membrane keyboards don’t allow you to press multiple keys at once. This can become a big problem for certain games.
However, there are membrane keyboards that specifically offer key rollover.
Lack of Customization
Since membrane keyboards come as a fully uniform unit, there’s not much you can do in terms of modifications and customization. At the most, you’ll be able to replace a keycap but will need the same exact model.
Can I Use a Membrane Keyboard for Gaming?
As I mentioned earlier, the best keyboard for you comes down to preference. Using a membrane keyboard to play video games is perfectly fine, and millions of gamers around the world do it.
If you do opt for a membrane keyboard, I recommend purchasing a high-quality one that’s made for gaming. The gaming membrane keyboards will have built-in key rollover and other features that enhance your gaming experience.
However, there may be a better option in the form of a mechanical keyboard. Unless you try, you’ll never actually know.
There’s a reason why the majority of professional gamers and streamers use mechanical keyboards. These are the people that play video games for a living and spend 10+ hours a day on their computers.
For this reason, I recommend visiting your local gaming or electronics store and experiencing what a mechanical keyboard feels like.
Before you grab your keys and go, there are a few key points you should know about mechanical keyboards.
What Are Mechanical Keyboards?
In mechanical keyboards, each key has its own switch underneath the keycap. The switch is a mechanical device that activates when it reaches a certain threshold.
There are a variety of different types of key switches defined by different characteristics:
- Travel time required to register a keypress
- The noise they create when pressed
- The keystroke resistance they provide
What Kind of Mechanical Keyboards Are There?
There are three types of mechanical switches. A term you should know is called the ‘actuation point’. The actuation point occurs when a keystroke is registered on the computer.
1. Linear Switches
Linear switches are categorized as smooth, consistent, and quiet.
These buttery smooth switches don’t offer any tactile feedback and feel the same from the moment you press the key down until it bottoms out. Tactile feedback is the small bump you experience as you’re pressing down a key.
The lack of tactile feedback during the actuation point can feel weird getting used to but is extremely addicting in the long run. Switching back to a tactile or clicky keyboard after using linear switches can be impossible.
As you’re browsing for a mechanical keyboard with linear switches, they are described by color.
- Red switch
- White switch
- Silver switch
- Yellow switch
- Black switch
Each color indicates a different actuation point. Furthermore, linear switches are the most silent out of all three mechanical switch types. There are some linear switches that even offer a ‘silent’ variant.
2. Tactile Switches
Tactile switches provide tactile feedback when you hit the actuation point. As you’re pressing the key down and feel a small bump, that’s when the keystroke is successfully registered on your computer.
These switches are louder than linear switches but not as loud as clicky switches. For beginner mechanical keyboard uses, tactile switches are a great introduction to the technology and will undoubtedly provide an upgrade to your current setup.
Common types of tactile switches include:
- Brown switch
- Clear switch
3. Clicky Switches
Clicky switches are exactly what the name entails. When hitting the actuation point, the key will produce a loud clicky sound. The tactile bump on clicky switches is also more apparent than tactical switches.
If you’re using your computer in a public space or see yourself getting annoyed by constant clicking, clicky switches are probably not for you.
Popular types of clicky switches include:
- Blue switch
- Green switch
Benefits of Mechanical Keyboards
Mechanical keyboards have a remarkably longer lifespan than membrane keyboards. Most mechanical switches are tested for 30 to 100 million keystrokes. Standard membrane keyboards offer a lifespan of around 5 million keystrokes.
Many mechanical keyboards offer the option of removing and switching out the keycaps.
The actual feel of using the keys is generally more pleasurable on a mechanical keyboard. Users typically have a better experience as they’re typing or gaming.
Mechanical keyboards are usually built with higher-quality materials. Although they are typically heavier, this allows them to stay in place without shifting around.
Disadvantages of Mechanical Keyboards
Although mechanical keyboards are typically louder than membrane keyboards, there are several options that provide a more silent experience
Mechanical keyboards, especially premium ones, can range well over $100. This can make it difficult for the average consumer to purchase one.
In summary, membrane keyboards are good for gaming and can even be fantastic depending on your personal preference.
However, I recommend that you try out a mechanical keyboard if you never have before. Mechanical keyboards can greatly improve your gaming experience and even your skill potential in certain situations.
Is It Hard Getting Used to a Mechanical Keyboard?
It can take anywhere from a day to a month to get used to a mechanical keyboard. As humans, we develop muscle memory extremely quickly. For this reason, you shouldn’t be worried if you’re trying a new type of keyboard out.
Are Keyboards Important in Gaming?
Keyboards, along with monitors and mice, are one of the most important and overlooked parts of gaming equipment. Although a good keyboard won’t magically improve your skill, it will enhance your experience and comfort.