Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboard -Which is Better For Gaming?

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There are tons of factors that determine a gamer’s overall performance in the games they are playing. Of course, skill is the number one factor. However, the peripherals that they use also play a big part in optimizing their in-game performance.

The two types of keyboards most commonly used in gaming are mechanical keyboards and membrane keyboards. Mechanical keyboards are superior in almost every way. They feel better, look better, and have more variety. However, membrane keyboards are significantly more affordable and are better for more entry-level users. 

The two most essential gaming peripherals are the keyboard and mouse. And when it comes to gaming keyboards, mechanical keyboards have been the go-to for many of today’s gamers. However, mechanical keyboards are quite expensive, making them out of reach for gamers with a limited budget.

The next best alternative is membrane keyboards. However, most gamers ask whether or not membrane keyboards can perform to an acceptable level. In this article, we will be comparing the two types of keyboards for gaming.

We’ll go through the pros and cons of each keyboard type. And by the end of this article, consumers should be able to decide which keyboard best fits their use case and budget.

What are Mechanical Keyboards?

To quickly summarize mechanical keyboards, these are specialized keyboards that have a more complex structure compared to typical membrane keyboards. What makes them special is the mechanical keys found under each key. These give a more satisfying typing experience and significantly outlast membrane switches.

Most MX-style mechanical switches can last up to 50 million keystrokes. Membrane keyboards, on the other hand, can’t even get anywhere close to that figure.

Mechanical keyboards were originally introduced in the late 80s by keyboards such as the IBM Model M. They eventually got discontinued in favor of membrane keyboards in the late 90s. Up until 2010, they were a niche product that was only produced by a handful of companies.

Today, almost every gaming, consumer, and professional keyboard brand is producing mechanical keyboards. They have pretty much become the standard. They have also spawned high-end mechanical keyboards known as custom keyboards.

What Makes Mechanical Keyboards Good For Gaming?

Mechanical Keyboard Assembly

There are tons of reasons why mechanical keyboards are superior for gaming. Some of these include durability and reliability, better feel, variety of options, customizability, and N-Key Rollover.

As we have mentioned earlier, mechanical keyboards are simply built better. Aside from having longer-lasting switches, the rest of the construction of these keyboards is typically better. The case they are using is more solid, and there are more parts involved, such as the plate and stabilizers.

Mechanical keyboards also have a better feel. Each keystroke is more defined. And overall, gamers will be sure that when they press a key, it will register.

In addition, most gaming mechanical keyboards have a feature known as N-key rollover. To put it simply, it allows the keyboard to detect all keystrokes without getting confused. Gamers can press as many keys as they want, and they will all register in the exact order they were pressed.

Lastly, mechanical keyboards simply have more variety and customization options. Most brands are now producing mechanical keyboards, so consumers have plenty of designs to choose from. There are full-sized keyboards, TKL keyboards, 60% keyboards, etc.

The keycaps of most MX switch-styled mechanical keyboards can also be changed. There are plenty of designs offered by traditional gaming companies as well as high-end keycap manufacturers such as GMK and ePBT.

Downsides of Mechanical Keyboards for Gaming

Razer blackwidow tournament edition with micro usb cord
Razer blackwidow tournament edition with cord

Mechanical keyboards do not have a lot of downsides for gaming. However, there are some that are worth considering before buying them.

The first issue that a lot of mechanical keyboards suffer from is the noise that they produce. While a lot of gamers and enthusiasts have embraced the signature clack and thock sounds that they produce, there are still a number of gamers that prefer not having a noisy keyboard.

There are silent switches that are available. However, they are not universally available, and not all keyboard manufacturers include them in their keyboards.

The second biggest issue with mechanical keyboards is that most of them are not spill-resistant. Many gamers are known to have a drink by their side. And many of those drinks have found their way into mechanical keyboards.

There are ways to save your keyboard when these instances happen. However, the experience isn’t going to be pleasant.

Lastly, mechanical keyboards are expensive. There is simply no way to get around this. If you want to own a gaming mechanical keyboard, then you have to have the proper budget.

What are Membrane Keyboards?

Membrane Keyboard Internals
Membrane Keyboard Internal workings

The other type of keyboard that is commonly used for gaming is the membrane keyboard. These originally replaced mechanical keyboards in the 90s because they were more cost-efficient. They allowed manufacturers to mass-produce them and for regular consumers to afford them.

These are considered to be inferior to mechanical keyboards due to their structure. Each key is not handled by an individual switch. Instead, they all rely on a sheath of membrane found underneath the keyboard. We have a dedicated article that explains more about the mechanism behind membrane keyboards.

Today, membrane keyboards have been relegated into the entry-level offering of most gaming companies. They are also not used by professional gamers or high-profile streamers. They are simply there to fill in the void that mechanical keyboards left in the entry-level market.

What Makes Membrane Keyboards Good For Gaming?

G213 Gaming Keyboard & Mouse

Membrane keyboards have been associated with poor performance for gaming. However, this is simply not true. When done right, membrane keyboards can also achieve a good typing feel.

In fact, many of today’s gaming membrane keyboards are meant to mimic the sound and feel of mechanical keyboards. This means that companies have done a lot to improve the feel and accuracy of the keys of their membrane keyboard offerings.

In addition, most gaming membrane keyboards have the same layout and functionality as mechanical keyboards. They are even compatible with the same software that manufacturers use on their higher-end gaming keyboards. This means that gamers won’t be left out if they use a membrane keyboard.

Most membrane gaming keyboards also have anti-ghosting features, which ensure that there will be no ghost presses. They aren’t up to the same standard as the NKRO found on mechanical keyboards. However, they are better than having nothing at all.

And lastly, gaming membrane keyboards are more cost-effective than mechanical keyboards. This is quite significant since gamers will be able to invest in their other gear, including a high-performance gaming mouse and gaming headset/audiophile headphones.

Downsides of Membrane Keyboards for Gaming

There is a good reason why mechanical keyboards have replaced membrane keyboards. Their performance and reliability are simply better than membrane keyboards. There is also no way for them to last as long as mechanical keyboards.

Of course, this does not mean that membrane keyboards are bad. We have already outlined all the good points earlier. And overall, they are perfectly usable for gaming. However, when objectively looking at these two keyboards’ technologies, membrane keyboards simply fall flat.

In addition, membrane keyboards won’t have the same level of customizability as mechanical keyboards. There won’t be different switch options, and their aesthetics cannot be modified.

Of course, some of these cosmetic differences won’t affect your in-game performance. However, it is still something to consider especially when you are trying to match your keyboard with the rest of your gaming peripherals.

Which Keyboard Should You Buy?

The clear answer is mechanical keyboards. They are superior in every way, which is why they have essentially replaced membrane keyboards in the high-end gaming market. Of course, there are still some compelling reasons to go for membrane keyboards.

If you are a gamer on a budget or if you own an internet cafe, then membrane keyboards are the way to go. But for the rest of the gamers who are looking for a keyboard that will help them perform at their best, then we highly recommend directly investing in a high-quality mechanical keyboard.