Even for those with only a minimal need to do so, having a good keyboard to rely upon is so important. Whether it’s looking at more classical keyboards or switching to the various great mechanical keyboards on the market today, knowing what options are open (and useful) to you is very important.
Some people find that using a modern keyboard can feel a little dull, without the same quality that we were once used to. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia factor, the lack of that click and crash that we are all so used to from a classic keyboard. At the moment, the market has two specific kinds of keyboards to pick from – membrane and mechanical options. Depending on what you use and what you tend to prefer (or at least what the profile of your hands prefers) you’ll find that getting the best keyboard can be quite a tough question to answer.
The Mechanical Keyboard Conundrum
When deciding whether to go membrane or mechanical, you have two major decisions to make. First off, though, it can help greatly to work out what the major difference between the two kinds of keyboard tends to be. Only then can you make a truly educational choice on what option is going to fit your own hands better.
A typical difference is that a mechanical keyboard actually uses physical switches underneath each key. This means that when you press it, a little mechanical tool comes to life under that key and tells the computer what has happened. Accordingly, it then prints the letter that you just hit.
By pressing the key, you are pressing the switch. By pressing the switch, you authorize that you want this letter to be printed. Whilst not exactly a major difference to what we are used to, it does have a subtle change in operation. The pushing of the key is supposed to make a letter pop up on the screen – that’s why you are here, right?
Well, the main difference is how it works under the hood. Membrane systems instead use small rubber switches underneath each of the keys, instead. So when you press that key, the rubber switch will push through a small hole in the membrane. This connects top, middle and bottom membranes together as one, and this creates the electrical circuit needed. Then, the keyboard sends the message to the PC. The PC will then print the letter that you just pressed on the screen – simple! Right?
The main difference then is the sound – that audible noise that lets us know we have pressed the right key. When using a membrane keyboard we lack that clear sound and signal to let us know that we did in fact, hit the key. Instead, we have to keep our eyes on the screen to make sure that every hit is picked up and that every key we press actually will appear in front of us.
With a mechanical keyboard, that changes. You hear every hit and hit every touch meaning that you know for sure whether or not you hit that key hard enough. This makes it easier for those used to mechanical keyboards to type with pace and accuracy.
If you are sick of membrane keyboards being too light and precious to pick up every stroke with accuracy, then you can make an adjustment quickly.
Why Going Mechanical Helps
Still not sure if you should be making the change? Are you worried that a mechanical keyboard might feel a little too tough on your fingers? Let’s look at the differences in each style.
- Mechanical keyboards feel quite different while typing on them. You get a much more satisfying (if somewhat more painful on the fingers after a few thousand words) sound from the keyboard when you hit those keys. When you get used to the precision and the feel of typing on a mechanical keyboard, a membrane keyboard can feel light and weak. That might be OK if you feel like your fingers cannot handle the constant back and forth of the mechanical keyboard, but not if you enjoy that particular feeling.
- There’s a better crunch on every key. Some people despise laptop keys as they tend to be too bouncy – it’s too easy to think you have hit a key. When you read back your content, though, it’s awash with errors and missing text. Using a mechanical keyboard removes that particular problem from the list of common issues. It’s too easy to tell when you hit a key on a mechanical keyboard as the sound it makes is so telling.
- Greater feedback. If you like the idea of the old typewriters giving you 100% feedback on every hit key, and not strokes of other keys being picked up, then this is the place to be. The loudness of every strike simply lets you know that you are on the right track. If you enjoy typing and really feeling every letter and every press of the key come through, then this is the ideal place to get started with. Other keyboards won’t offer the same depth and satisfaction as this is capable of.
- Longer lifespan. Another major impact of using a great mechanical keyboard is the lifespan. The membranes wear out faster and tend to be far less secure than the mechanical equivalents that so many of us are used to using today. On an average a mechanical keyboard can get as many as 50m presses before losing strength. For reference, a typical membrane keyboard is likely to last 15m presses. That is a pretty drastic drop and is likely to be a deciding factor when it comes to choosing keyboards to go with.
As you can see, the main difference is likely to come in the profile of every press. If you prefer a more certain and secure feeling behind every key press, then go for the mechanical keyboard. With so many great mechanical keyboards on the market today, finding one that you truly love isn’t going to be too tough.
Featured photo credit: afterpad.com via afterpad.com