Why mechanical keyboards are better than traditional membrane keypads

The loud clicking

I enjoy using a blue Cherry MX switch in my keyboard, which is regarded as one of the loudest solutions around. It's super loud, regardless as to which keyboard I opt to use. While this seemingly unnecessarily high level of audible clicking may put some people off — and infuriate housemates and family — I enjoy having a loud confirmation that keys have been pressed. If this sounds like a downside of mechanical switches, there are alternatives.

And if you don't know what switches are, be sure to read through our handy guide.

Using a keyboard with loud switches in a quiet office may be a bad idea unless you wish to engage in verbal combat with colleagues. They can also cause issues with recording voice through a microphone because the keyboard strokes are sometimes picked up in the audio. I managed to work around this by using a mount to place my condenser microphone above the keyboard, closer to my mouth, and then turning down sensitivity to help block out background noise.

But the clicking is there for good reason. I've learned to type by only pressing down on each key until I feel and hear it actuating, rather than mashing each key as far as it will go. In-game, it's a neat addition for reloading or using a skill, and moving a character now feels more physical thanks to the improved feedback. There's also the additional bonus of anti-ghosting technology that allows you to hit a number of keys simultaneously without the thing throwing a tantrum.

A sturdy beast

Tomoko Mechanical Keyboard

Tomoko Mechanical Keyboard

I've come to expect mechanical keyboards to be more durable than the traditional membrane counterparts. They're heavy, sturdy and could be used as a weapon to knock someone out with a blow. This is good for reliability and longevity, but also for general use. These keyboards won't move. For example, HyperX Alloy FPS (opens in new tab), Razer BlackWidow (opens in new tab), or even a more affordable Tomoko option (opens in new tab), fail to move through heavy use.

This longevity is shared by the switches underneath each key. Usually, they're certified and tested to last up to 50 million presses. And while they may initially cost more than a membrane keyboard, a mechanical solution will last longer — much longer. I'd rather not have to pick up a replacement keyboard more often than I do now, which is every five years or so. That said, it's absolutely possible to see a membrane keyboard lasting just as long. But mechanical switches offer the same experience on day 1,347 as they do on day one.

I've also found that spilling liquids on the boards doesn't cause permanent damage. Even though I may preach that one should never eat and drink in front of a computer — just take a break — I have managed to knock over a few cans, bottles and mugs while working. Taking all that into account, I never damaged a mechanical keyboard. They're also super easy to clean, and it's simple to blow out debris that accumulates beneath keys.

Mechanical keyboards aren't created equally

Mechanical Keyboard

Mechanical Keyboard

Thanks to the massive array of switches available, from ZF Electronics (Cherry MX) and competing parties, it's possible to pick up mechanical keyboards that feel and perform vastly different than others. Couple that with unique designs, formats and additional features, and you have a strong catalog of options to suit various needs and requirements. For example, the BlackWidow has programmable keys, macro buttons and a dedicated gaming mode switch that disables specific Windows shortcuts. The HyperX Alloy FPS has only a gaming mode.

Typing thousands of words each day and spending a good number of hours locked in some virtual world or another, I've never felt the need to turn back to membrane keyboards. I dig the mechanical experience and will continue to do so in the future with my current or replacement hardware.

Mechanical keyboards aren't for everyone, though. If you simply are happy with a rubber dome keyboard then there's really no point looking to invest some more money. For everyone else, I absolutely recommend picking one up in a store for a quick typing session. Regardless of whether or not mechanical keyboards are for you, they're becoming more and more common. In fact, Razer's new Blade Pro comes with what the company says is the first true mechanical keyboard on a laptop.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • Mechanical keyboards aren't for everyone, though. If you simply are happy with a rubber dome keyboard then there's really no point looking to invest some more money - agreed, saved me 100 bucks!
  • $100? they can be had for much less. They are superior in pretty much every way.
  • nah, i hate the clicking sound of it. Iam a bit older gammer (since 1985) so I used to have the very first keyboards available and they had the same annoying clicking sound as those fancy mechanicals one. Never again.
  • I agree with you. I don't want to have a loud keyboard. If you're gaming with a headset it probably isn't an issue, but I don't want to go back to the loud keyboards of the past.
  • You'd be surprised how quiet many of them are now. The Logitech one I have (g910) is quiter than the membrane one I use at my office. If it wasn't so expensive I'd probably buy a second one and use it for work.
  • Totally agree... loud clicking keyboards feel like using ancient technology. I still dream of finding a silent mouse...
  • only Cherry MX Blue make sound the other make sound because the keycap land on keyboard frame you can use O-Rings if you want them complety silent
  • Plus, the fact that they are not ergonomic. Only ergonomic mechanical keyboards I've seen so far are ridiculously expensive, somewhere around the 300$ and even those have 2-3 star reviews (which is not encouraging given the high pricetag)
  • I couldn't explain to you why mechanical is better, but after reading so much about it, a few months ago I got myself an Eagle Z77 for $35, backlit mechanical keyboard. The 1st day was funny, reminiscent of the 90s. 2 days later, I was a full convert to mechanical keyboards - there's no going back. My hands get less tired, gaming is more comfortable and precise... There's just no comparison. Who knew the membrane keyboards I had been using through the 2000s and much of 2010s were SO bad. Live and learn...
  • Is there a 104 key version?
  • I think most brands have 104key versions :)
  • I'm considering getting one as soon as funds allow
  • Consider that there are some chinese knockoffs that are quite affordable. I have a Redragon Kuamra, you can find it on amazon for 40$ or less. (I had luck and found it new on a fleamarket for 18$) Also, there are other brands that are a bit cheaper and will give you the same experience. You don't have to go expensive in order to enjoy the experience :)
  • Clunk clunk clunk
  • i use my Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard since 2003  i get as a gift the Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 so i started to use it. The 1st day was awesome lights RGB,the sound but after 1 week my baby came back to my PC. I cant write in these things or play games (Lineage2,Total War,HotS) i cant tell that the razer isnt good but i will not buy any keyboard before my baby dies...(14 years and i dont have seen any problems)
  • This is honestly the biggest reason (alongside trackpads) for me never having liked laptops as I find the keyboards horrible compared to mechanical keyboards (especially as someone who can touch type). The Surface Book is honestly the first laptop I've enjoyed typing on, although I still prefer a full keyboard any day (lack of number pad and fn keys being a big reason why). I still have a PS/2 keyboard as they still work really well and don't take up a handy USB port!
  • Have you tried tilting the laptop keyboard? I hate them as well but find if I can tilt it a little it's an improvement.
  • I love my Corsair Strafe with Cherry MX brown switches. I'll never go back to membrane. Its more comfortable to type on I type faster and more accurate It is without a doubt better built and sturdy. Brown switches are super fast, relatively quite (no audible click)
  • At first, my fetish was the old ibm m keyboards that I never got the chance to own. Those metallic spring sounds really hit the sweet spot for me Then, computers got rid of those PS/2 ports.... And the rest are history Fast forward to 2015 where my hands are sore from carpal-tunnel syndrome. After corrective surgeries for both hand, my physio recommend me to use a mechanical keyboard to ease the pain Bought me one from Ducky (model called Zero) since I really don't like those fancy RGB lights, and fell in love ever since That keyboard haven't failed me yet, but if I do need to replace it, I might go for the tenkeyless one instead
  • I have a 10 keyless and they rock until you need to play any sort of macro type game.  And worse are the 68 keys, though they are great for saving space
  • I have a CMStorm TK w/ Cherrry MX green switches.  Clicky, long travel but I know I pushed the key without a doubt and very few mistakes.  Apperently I am the only person that likes these switches as they are really hard to find.  My other mechanical is an RGB  clone type green switch which isn't nearly as good :/
  • The old IBM keyboards were deadly accurate both as a WPM standard and weapon standard.  But they felt good to type on.  I got one years ago that was USB and if it was backlit I would still be using it.
  • Unicomp ( https://www.pckeyboard.com/ ) makes the IBM style keyboards, though I don't think they've a backlit model, but they do make USB models.
  • Loud clickers are ********
  • you know membrane keyboard make sounds to because they are not the switchies themselves doing the sound(except Cherry MX Blue) but they keycap touching the keyboard which sound can eliminate with the use of O-Rings
  • I went from a Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 keyboard (non mechanical), which I loved until it didnt love the beverage I spilled on it, to a Razer Blackwidow Stealth. Honestly I love both and the clicking is hardly noticable on the Stealth. However, if I was to have my dream keyboard it would be to marry those 2 and have a ergo mechanical offspring. The alt key feels to cramped on a standard keyboard among others quirks that makes the ergo feel way more comftrable.
  • Am I really that old? Mechanical keyboards for me are traditional keyboards. Membrane keyboards came much later. Didn't they? My first keyboard was a TVSE Gold keyboard and it was mechanical.
  • Razer Black Windows Chrome V1. Love it. I like the tactile feel and sound of typing. If only my laptop keyboard were mechanical. Sigh. 
  • Anybody know what keyboard is featured on the hero image for "best gaming keyboards" post? WC doesn't have comments enabled on this other post (link), so I'm asking here. ​Doesn't seem to match the look of any of the ones listed within the piece...and it looks reallllly sleek.
  • In case anyone else wondered, turns out the one in the image is the Razer Ornata Chroma​. I've been looking for a sleek backlit desktop keyboard (hoping Microsoft would release one themselves) and although this is meant for gamers, it looks extraordinarily sharp while accomplishing a hybrid of mechanical and membrane tech. Not looking at all for gaming use, simply something sleek and backlit.
  • I still don't get all this hype behind mechanical keyboards. 20 years ago we were all using mechanical keyboards. The loud click, awkward weight, and long key travel distance are exactly why people switched to membrane keyboards in flocks later. I for one will never go back to those old days... BTW, why aren't people reviving mechnical mice yet? You know, the kind with a rubber ball in it that has to be taken out and wiped clean every once in a while, and a mouse matt with sufficient friction is absolutely necessary.  
  • I think it's because mechanical keyboards are more reliable and durable in the long run (tho I think that is relative. 2 50$ membrane keyboards might last as long as one 100$ mechanical keyboard) Most people nowdays never tried old mechanical keyboards so they never experienced the satisfaction of typing on one, and now that they can they decide to go for them. Still, it's a matter of taste. Some have a taste for them and some are not, I myself am undecided. I love the "clack" feel, but I hate the lack of ergonomics (and the price) Concerning the mouse question... I think it's simply because they sucked xD
  • We mostly use cheap membrane keyboards (20 or 30 dollar Logitech). Sure, some fail prematurely, but most are replaced after 5 years. Not because they break but because they're too gross to keep around anymore (and we have a 5 year replacement cycle on the PC anyways). We also have some folks that pay extra to use mechanical or oddball ergos. I've been here almost 20 years with over 2000 users - that's roughly 8,000 keyboards - and I've never seen this fabled 2:1 failure rate of one type over another. If it is true, you're talking a lifecycle longer than anyone would reasonably want to suffer. They all last pretty darn well. Seriously - have you ever cleaned a 10 or 15 year old keyboard? Yikes!