There are two principles of how computer keyboards work and are constructed. When you look at the function of gaming keyboards, the term “membrane” is going to come up as well as the term “mechanical.” These two types of keyboards are not only different in construction, but they also provide a special gaming experience unique to each. But what is a membrane keyboard and are membrane keyboards good for gaming?
If you’ve spent a lot of time playing on a mechanical keyboard and you’re looking for a membrane one instead, it’s important to consider what they are and what you should look for when you’re buying your first one.
In this article, we want to briefly explain how membrane keys differ from mechanical keys, how they work, and what features of membrane keyboards you need to consider when buying one.
How do Membrane Keyboards Work?
In comparison to mechanical keyboards, membrane keyboards do not have physical switches underneath each keycap that tells the computer that a specific button has been pushed.
A Membranes Keyboard consists of Three Layers
If you disassemble a membrane keyboard to see how it works, you’ll find three layers.
- On top are the keys.
- Under that key layer is the actual membrane with built-in electrical contacts, each key has its contact.
- The bottom layer is an acid-etched circuit board with contact traces assigned to each key, these are interrupted, with no signal by default.
When you press a key, the membrane is pressed down and the electrically conductive contact in the membrane closes the traces on the circuit board so that the computer receives a signal for the corresponding button and can execute it.
How Do Keys Register on a Membrane Keyboard?
If you’re questioning what a membrane keyboard is, you’re undoubtedly wondering how each key that you push is registered and the answer is simple: with the help of the membranes and conductive traces. Each time that you press a key, it moves through the top and the second layer of membranes and this movement pushes the pressure pads to the conductive traces on the very bottom layer of membranes. This electrical synapse then alerts the computer that a specific key has been pushed.
What Type of Membrane Keyboards Exist?
In reality, there is only one type of membrane keyboard that you can use for computer gaming, however, there is a second type that is used for other electronic equipment such as kitchen scales, microwaves, and even stovetops. Unfortunately, the second type of membrane keyboard is never used for gaming, as it doesn’t offer any type of physical feedback, only a pressure pad. Imagine, you’re setting a timer on your microwave on an enhanced digital touchpad, and then picture yourself trying to type on the same surface, it would be relatively impossible.
For gaming, we have what is known as a dome switch keyboard. The “domes” also known as keycaps will have your letters either laser-engraved or printed on their surface and instead of having individual keys, as you would with a mechanical keyboard, it’s more of an entire plastic keyboard placed on top of the membrane layer.
What to Look for in a Membrane Keyboard
It’s important to note that if you’re thinking about what a membrane keyboard is, before getting into PC gaming, you’re going to want to try a mechanical keyboard first, as there are plenty of reasons as to why they are the gaming accessories of choice for professionals and beginners alike. However, if you are truly set on using a membrane keyboard there are a few very important features to look for, as they can make or break your gaming experience.
Strong Tactile Feedback
One of the first things you need to have is strong tactile feedback as, without it, you’ll never really know if you’re pressing the right keys, or pressing the right key with enough force for it to register. There are some companies that design membrane keyboards specifically for gaming that have a reliable amount of physical feedback, but with the quiet noise level that you would expect from a membrane keyboard.
Another huge reason why people opt for membrane keyboards for everyday use is that they are substantially lighter than mechanical keyboards. Most of the technology behind a membrane design is technological, rather than physical, and as a result, the product is substantially less heavy. This makes them the perfect partner for travel or if you have to commute to and from work every day.
The bridge between mechanical and membrane keyboards is always getting smaller, but at the end of the day, a membrane design should surely be less expensive than a mechanical keyboard. This is because, during the manufacturing process, membrane models are constructed using readily available materials and modern technology, which is simple to create and reproduce, as a result, lowering retail costs.
Easy Maintenance and Cleaning
It’s important to remember that accidents do happen and the last thing you’ll want to deal with is a spilled beverage that’s going to short circuit your keyboard and force you to pay for it to be replaced. Ideally, your membrane keyboard should come with some type of insulation to protect the conductive traces and membrane layers from liquids and if not, it should offer easy maintenance and cleaning instructions.
So, Are Membrane Keyboards Good for Gaming?
No matter how you look at it, each gamer is different, just as some gamers need a larger seat to sit in and others are fine in a standard size model. Everyone has their own array of needs and desires that their gaming equipment needs to have. You might find that although the majority of gamers prefer a mechanical input device, you might be in the market for a membrane design. There are plenty of benefits that membrane keyboards bring with them. Finding the perfect model for your needs can revolutionize the way you game.