Mechanical And Non-Mechanical Keyboard Differences

Whether you use your PC for work or for gaming, this applies to you. The peripherals that we use are not only a reflection of our personalities but they can also impact the efficiency of whatever we are doing.

Both keyboards have something to offer but what are the differences between these two?

The main difference between a non-mechanical and a mechanical keyboard is how each key is activated. Also, the way the keyboard sends information when you activate any given key. A mechanical keyboard uses a mechanical switch while a non-mechanical keyboard uses a membrane.

I honestly wish it was that simple but it is not. There is a lot to discuss when thinking about the differences between these two keyboards. In this article, we are not going to only take a look at the differences between them.

We are also going to go in-depth into this topic and as a bonus, we will discuss what a hybrid keyboard is. So, keep reading.

Macro photo of mechanical keyboard. Focus on the letter R and F keys. The letters are etched on black plastic keycaps to reveal the led backlight. Other keys are out of focus in the background.

The Main Difference Between Mechanical And Non-mechanical Keyboards

As we have established, the biggest difference between a non-mechanical and a mechanical keyboard is the fact that a mechanical keyboard uses a switch instead of a membrane.

What does all of this mean though? What kind of an impact does it have on the keyboard or how the keyboard is used?

In order to understand this, we need to first understand what the switch is in a mechanical keyboard. We also need to understand what the membrane is in a non-mechanical keyboard. Let’s take a look.

The Switch explained

With a mechanical keyboard, each key will have a switch. Think of it as a light switch.

These are pressed up against the bottom of the key and when you press down on the mechanical keyboard, there will be an actuation point. This point is where at a certain depth, the switch will “switch” and will relay that signal to the computer.

Basically, the best thing for you to do is to think of a mechanical switch as a light switch.

The Membrane Explained

A membrane keyboard, also known as a non-mechanical keyboard, has a circuit board with a silicone membrane on top. when you press down with the key it presses down on the silicone. This then touches down on the circuit board which creates a small electrical current. 

Wherever you press on the circuit board, that will determine what character you are pressing.

This is why if your keyboard starts to get damaged you can sometimes type one character and another one will constantly pop-up. It is because there is a problem with the circuit board.

Mechanical Keyboards VS Non-mechanical: Which Is Best For Gaming?

Mechanical keyboards are better for gaming. Great, now I’ve answered that question in the first sentence and I don’t know what else to speak about. Maybe I could speak about why a mechanical keyboard is better than a non-mechanical one for gaming.

A non-mechanical keyboard uses a membrane therefore it uses a circuit board underneath the silicone. The circuit boards need to relay information to your PC.

The circuit boards in this keyboard cannot be too expensive, after all, most people don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for a non-gaming keyboard.

So, the circuit boards cannot relay too much information to your PC fast enough and that is where the mechanical switch comes in.

You also need to consider that with a mechanical keyboard you have a lot more precision and you have a lot more accuracy that comes with using a switch instead of a membrane.

Mechanical keyboards are also much faster at relaying information to your computer. Once the switch gets “flipped”, the information is immediately sent. This all happens lightning-quick and even though membrane keyboards are fast, they are not nearly as fast as mechanical keyboards.

Do Pro Gamers Use Mechanical Keyboards?

This is a question that we get asked a lot, especially because we cover a lot of the E-sport scene. However, it is not an easy question to answer because everybody has their preferences. Even though some pro gamers have skills that don’t seem human, they are actually human after all.

With all of that nonsense out of the way, I can say from what I’ve seen, most pro gamers do use mechanical keyboards. However, they use very specialized speed switches.

A pro gamer will often rely on the feedback, precision, accuracy, and most of all, the speed of a good mechanical keyboard.

Are Non-mechanical Keyboards Better For Work?

The answer to this question completely depends. If I am being honest, while I’m working I love using mechanical keyboards but if I have three people next to me using one, I will probably smash my keyboard out of frustration.

I’m just joking. I’m actually a very calm person but it would annoy me quite a lot.

So, I would say that mechanical keyboards are great to work on. In fact, they are better than non-mechanical keyboards. The problem is in offices. Due to the noise, they are not ideal unless the company shells out a lot of money for silent switches which in most cases, won’t happen.

For typing, a mechanical keyboard offers great feedback and is a lot better in my experience than a normal membrane keyboard.

What Is The Price Difference?

For both types of keyboards, you get cheap, mid-range, and premium versions. Obviously, a premium version of a non-mechanical keyboard will be more expensive than a cheap mechanical keyboard.

With that being said, within each range, a mechanical keyboard will always be more pricey than a non-mechanical keyboard. This is also because mechanical keyboards often have RGB lighting and other features that are tailored towards gamers.

It would be impossible to give a full price breakdown because of all the variables. What we can say is that you can pick up a non-mechanical keyboard for a few dollars in some cases. The cheapest mechanical keyboard will set you back at least $25.

Even then, that is the cheapest quality. 

What is A Hybrid Keyboard?

So what if I told you that you can buy a hybrid keyboard that is both a mechanical one and a non-mechanical one. If it is your first time hearing about it, I understand, it might not make that much sense. Don’t worry it’s actually pretty simple.

A hybrid between these two keyboards is a keyboard that has the tall keys that a mechanical keyboard has but uses membrane. I like to think of it as a mechanical keyboard where the switch doesn’t work because that’s technically what it is.

The key will travel down as if it were a mechanical keyboard. However, there is no switch that switches at an actuation point. The key will just travel all the way down until it presses on the membrane.

This sends a small signal in the form of an electrical current.

This means that you don’t get most of the functionality of a mechanical keyboard but you do get a lot more feedback than if you were just using a normal membrane keyboard. So hybrids are good for gaming if you are on a budget.


At the end of the day, whatever keyboard you choose to use is what is best for you. I am just glad that now you should know the differences between the two and you can probably make a good decision on which to get. 

At least, that was my goal when writing this article. I will admit that I have a heavy bias towards gaming peripherals. However, that bias is warranted and mechanical keyboards will always be better than non-mechanical ones.

Except of course, if you work in a busy office where noise might be an issue.

Continue Reading:

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David Sacks

Dave is a PC and console gamer who got his first console in 1995. He plays FPS games and sports games but also loves ESO. Dave has worked in IT for the last 7 years.

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