Mechanical vs membrane keyboards: What’s the difference?

  • Keycaps 101
  • Posted by: carson-rutz
  • Apr 29, 2022

You've been around long enough in the world of keycaps, switches, and keyboards to have heard the two terms: "Mechanical keyboards" and "Membrane keyboards".

The debate about which one is superior: Membrane vs Mechanical keyboards are always the talk of the town.

So, can the old man Membrane beat the rookie Mechanical? In this thorough comparison, we cover all angles as we analyze the differences between these two keyboard types to help you make the right choice.

Brief overview of Membrane keyboards

When keytop areas are pressed, electrical contact is made between the keyboard surface and the underlying circuits. These models were widely used in consumer electronics devices and were used with some early 1980s home computers.

What is a Membrane Keyboard?

Mechanical Vs. Membrane Keyboards: Standard membrane-type keysets
Membrane Keyboards: Standard membrane-type keysets

A membrane keyboard has keys that are not separated, are covered by transparent, soft plastic, and move very little. These keyboards are made up of a rubber dome that, when pressed, completes a circuit on the keyboard's circuit board. Because of their simple design, they are manufactured at low costs and are very affordable if you are shopping on a budget.

The benefits of such a keyboard include portability and protection from damage and dirt. However, they are not popular due to inaccuracy and slow typing speed.

Pros of Membrane Keyboards

Membrane Keyboard made by Cherry.
Membrane Keyboard made by Cherry


This is the best thing for comparing membrane vs mechanical keyboards: connected settings are incredibly commercial and cheap. They are pretty flexible on the tooling and materials to make.


If you’re working in an office, this keyboard type is more appropriate. They tend to sound much more subtle and do not disturb your surrounding.

You can hear the differences between the membrane and mechanical keyboard sounding here:


They are quite light and compact in design - rendering them a portability bonus point. These keyboards require less money and effort to ship around and set up.

Cons of Membrane Keyboards

Standard membrane keyboard
Standard membrane keyboard

Typing experience

Membrane vs mechanical keyboards comparison heavily concerned with typing. Membrane keyboards have a "mushy-inducing” keystroke, one of their significant drawbacks. Because they lack key rollover, membrane-type keyboards are poor choices if you type quickly or play games.

Key Rollover

Key rollover is a game-changer. This feature enables your keyboard to detect multiple key presses simultaneously, useful when playing with input combos. 

Keyboards will lag behind their inputs if key rollover is not enabled. Hence, the lack of this feature makes the membrane keyboard not ideal for fast typers. 


Membrane Keyboard vs Mechanical Keyboard - which one is more durable? Membrane keyboards have a lifespan of about 5 million keystrokes on average - which is ¼ of the most common mechanical board. Therefore, you might have to switch to a new board faster than you think. Not a good investment if you’re a frequent typers.


The density of the setup gets on your nerve real fast. They are harder to break down and clean up - an actual pain-enduring process.



  • Budget-friendly
  • Quiet operation, beneficial in quiet environments or when working close to others
  • Lightweight and compact for portability or space-saving purposes
  • Short lifespan
  • Lack of tactile feedback and key rollover, result in a less enjoyable typing experience
  • Not ideal for those who require fast and responsive typing and gaming.
  • Hard to clean and care

Brief overview of Mechanical keyboards

This keyboard model was first released in early 2000. Each key on a mechanical keyboard has its switch. When you press the key far enough and engage its switch, it registers as a keystroke.

What is a mechanical keyboard?

Mechanical keyboards have individual switches beneath each key, making them more durable, easier to repair, and more customizable than the membrane, scissor, or butterfly keyboards—and, in many cases, more comfortable mechanical keyboards are more durable.

They can significantly increase productivity for programmers and people who type a lot - a winning point in the membrane vs mechanical keyboards debate. They are, however, more expensive and frequently loud.

Keyboard switches
Mechanical keyboard switches

Pros of mechanical keyboards

Increased Lifespan

Mechanical keyboards have a much longer lifespan. Most mechanical switches have been tested for 30 to 70 million key presses.


Durability is one of the most pinpoints in the membrane vs mechanical keyboards consideration. Mechanical switches last longer, but they also wear out less frequently. Even after several years, typing on a mechanical keyboard feels like doing it for the first time. There are no clattering keys or stuck keys.

Feedback/Improved Typing Experience

A mechanical switch provides far more customization options than a simple rubber dome. So it's not surprising that there are numerous switch types with varying characteristics. Hence this point belongs to the mechanical type in the Membrane vs Mechanical Keyboard comparison.

Some switches have a detectable actuation point, while others provide acoustic feedback. There are switches explicitly designed for gaming and switches designed expressly for typing. More information on this can be found in the Switch Types article.


Although a keyboard's sound may be a disadvantage for some, many people enjoy the click sound of pressed keys.

The sound here refers to the famous keypress sound. If you want the mechanical keyboard experience but dislike the sound, you can opt for Silent Switch Mechanical Keyboards, which produce little to no noise. That is the advantage of customization. You can either purchase a new Quiet Keyboard or replace the current switches with silent switches.


What about the ability to set a different program for Membrane keyboards and Mechanical keyboards? 

Many mechanical keyboards are programmable, allowing you to assign functions to the keys. Simply put, you can program any key to output whatever you want. 

For example, if your "Insert" key is broken and you still want it, you can simply program another keyword with a specific group of keys to function as the "Insert" button. This is obviously for power users, but it's a great feature to be able to program your keyboard to output whatever you want.

High Robustness/Stability

Mechanical keyboards are much heavier than membrane or scissor keyboards. As a result, they are more stable and will not shift as quickly. Mechanical or membrane keyboard? If you want your keyboard to last longer, you know the answer.

Increased N-Key Rollover

NKRO, which stands for N-Key Rollover, is a feature found on high-end keyboards that detects all simultaneous key presses.

In general, the NKRO of membrane and other keyboards is not higher, which means they can only detect a few key presses simultaneously, usually around 3-6 keys at once if pressed can be registered. However, in Mechanical Keyboards, somewhere around ten keys at once, if prompted, can be registered, which is one of the best benefits of mechanical keyboards for gamers.


The mechanical keyboard has more anti-ghosting keys than the membrane keyboard, with 104 anti-ghosting keys.

Cons of mechanical keyboards

Back-lit mechanical keyset
Back-lit mechanical keyset

Sound Pressure Level

Mechanical keyboards are typically louder than other types of keyboards. If that bothers you, you can either choose a silent mechanical keyboard or use O-Rings to reduce the sound level of your keyboard.


If you’re having a tight budget, which one to choose, a mechanical or membrane keyboard? Mechanical keyboards are generally more costly than membrane keyboards. However, you should think of it as an investment; if you take care of your keyboard, you won't need to replace it for a long time.

Extremely Heavy

More weight improves stability, making transporting the keyboard-less comfortable. Furthermore, the weight can be bothersome if you want to use the keyboard on your lap.



  • Longer lifetime
  • Durable without any wear and tear over time
  • Extensive customization options with multiple switch options
  • Allow for programmable macros
  • More stable
  • Increased Key rollover and anti-ghosting for accurate input combos
  • Higher price
  • Produce more noise, not great for those working in shared spaces or quiet environments
  • Bulkier and heavier, which limits their portability and takes up more desk space
  • Require time to get used to

Key Differences between Membrane and Mechanical Keyboards

Typing Experience

A membrane keyboard generally delivers a soft typing experience with shorter key travel and less distinct tactile feedback. The keys frequently seem mushier or spongier when pressed. Besides, the lower actuation force is relatively consistent as the rubber domes give a uniform resistance. As a result, the keystroke will be lighter and easier.

On the other hand, mechanical keyboards provide a more satisfying and responsive typing experience with a pronounced key feel and noticeable feedback.

Notably, mechanical keyboards offer numerous switch options, each comes with different actuation forces. This way, you can choose a switch that best suits your preferences and typing style.

Mechanical keyboards beat membrane keyboards in typing customization
Mechanical keyboards beat membrane keyboards in typing customization


Obviously, membrane keyboards are often less durable than their mechanical counterparts. They last 5 million keystrokes, which is far fewer than mechanical keyboards with a rating of 30 to 70 million keystrokes,

Membrane keyboards include a rubber dome or silicone membrane under each key, which can degrade over time. The rubber domes may lose their responsiveness, which will make the keys less sensitive or functional.

In contrast, mechanical keyboards feature a more robust build made of high-quality materials. They aim to endure continuous heavy use.

Customization Options

Mechanical keyboards boast more flexible customization possibilities compared to membrane keyboards.

Due to the flat design, keycaps on membrane keyboards are often difficult to remove or replace. Customization options may be limited to stickers or overlays applied on top of the existing keycaps.

Mechanical keyboards are easier to customize than membrane keyboards
Mechanical keyboards are easier to customize than membrane keyboards

That's why a lot of keyboard fans have now switched to mechanical keyboards to unleash their creativity and showcase personal tastes.

It makes sense that keycaps on mechanical keyboards can be easily removed and replaced with various colors, materials, profiles and even custom artisan keycaps.

Noise Level

Membrane keyboards are quieter than mechanical keyboards since they don't include individual mechanical switches. Therefore, each keypress is typically soft and not as loud.

However, it's worth noting that mechanical keyboards offer many switch types, with which you can tailor the noise level to your preferences. For example, linear switches create less noise while tactile and clicky switches can produce audible sound during typing.

Mechanical vs membrane keyboards: Which should you choose?

Who should buy a membrane keyboard?

Membrane Keyboard and Mechanical Keyboard have both advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you as the owner to pick out the one that fits your interests the best.

If you're on a tight budget or only plan on typing once in a while, a membrane keyboard is a way to go when you are unsure about purchasing membrane vs mechanical keyboards. They're less expensive and still provide a good typing experience (to a degree), but the lack of key rollover makes them poor choices if you type quickly or play games. 

A membrane gaming keyboard is preferable if you:

  • Work in an office.
  • Save up for PC-gaming compartments.
  • Playing normal-speed, non-combative games.
  • Won't be typing for long periods.

Who should buy a mechanical keyboard?

Will a mechanical keyboard allow you to type faster? Well, yes, after you've gotten used to it, although your fingers travel further on each keypress when compared to a laptop keyboard. 

You will undoubtedly be more accurate than using a flat chiclet or rubber dome keyboard. The additional feedback will train your muscle memory. The high-profile keys with deeper travel and molded tops that "welcome" your fingers are more accessible to hit (even if you must lift your fingers slightly higher) than on a flat keyboard.

If you are looking for a mechanical keyboard, we recommend that you:

  • Type for extended periods regularly.
  • Don't mind spending a little more for a longer-term investment.
  • Are you playing fast-paced games or competitively.
  • Want to personalize your keyboard.

Bottom line

Keyboards are classified based on the switch technology they employ, and they can fit into two major groups: Membrane vs mechanical keyboards. Continue reading to learn more about each. Initially, the keyboard's primary function is typing, but they are now used by gamers, editors, and other professionals for various tasks.

You know how vital your peripherals are to your gaming experience as a gamer. And you're probably aware that having the right keyboard can make or break the experience. However, you may be unaware that you have more options in the matter.

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