Trying to choose between a mechanical keyboard (the type of keyboard in which each key incorporates its own switch mechanism) and a membrane or chiclet keyboard (the usual sort of keyboard, which has a silicone or rubber mat underneath each key)?
We argue that mechanical keyboards are superior, and below is our shortlist of four reasons why!
Superior feel and feedback
The first reason that mechanical keyboards are better–for many aficionados of mechanical keyboards, the primary reason–is that mechanical keyboards are far superior to type on than membrane and chiclet keyboards.
With mechanical keyboards, you get a crisp, clean feel with every keypress, thanks to the complete switch system underpinning each key. Each key moves significantly (i.e. you get more “key travel” with these kinds of keyboards) whereas the keys in membrane and chiclet keyboards move far less.
As a result, the feedback provided by mechanical keyboards is both audible as well as physical, since pressing the mechanism results in a ‘click’. It’s easy to both hear and feel when you’ve pressed a mechanical keyboard’s keys properly. This is a definite boon for a wide range of users–you won’t need to keep looking at the keys to knowing that you’ve pressed them the right way. You’ll see it on the screen!
By stark contrast, membrane and chiclet keyboards feel far less sharp and crisp. Even the best ones tend to confer a more mushy feel than mechanical keyboards, which can make them much less satisfying to type on than their mechanical equivalents.
Excellent reaction time
Secondly, and as a result of the first advantage, typists and gamers using mechanical keyboards can end up enjoying much faster reaction times than users of most competing membrane or chiclet keyboards.
Even the best membrane keyboards can suffer from input delay or the delay between the time that keys are pressed and the time your desired reaction takes place. This delay is minimized with mechanical keyboards. By contrast, a mechanical keyboard can be as much as 20ms faster than a membrane or chiclet keyboard.
This may be negligible when typing, but when it comes to gaming this can spell the difference between victory and defeat!
The third reason for mechanical keyboards’ superiority is that they can be customized just the way you like them. Because each key overlies its own switch mechanism, practically every key in a mechanical keyboard can be replaced with another key.
This means that, aside from being able to replace keys if and when they wear out, you can also swap them out to improve how your keyboard looks. There are many examples of customized mechanical keyboards that can be viewed online, and quite a few are testaments to the creativity, style, and character of their owners.
In conjunction with this, because mechanical keyboards’ keys are so easily swappable, the keyboards themselves can last for years, even decades in some instances. Most membrane keyboards are good for, on average, 1 million keystrokes, although some particularly well-constructed ones can last for quite a bit longer, say, up to 10 million keystrokes. By contrast, mechanical keyboards can last for as much as 70 million keystrokes.
Lastly, mechanical keyboards are usually larger and heftier than membrane and chiclet keyboards. This might be seen as a disadvantage by those who prefer slimmer and lighter keyboards, but it helps make them more stable when being used (especially by gamers) and thus more apt to last longer.