10 Reasons Why Most Gaming Keyboards Are Mechanical
- 1. A Rapid Input Registration Provides Faster Response Times
- 2. Mechanical Keyboards Offer a Helpful and Satisfying “Click”
- 3. Mechanical keyboards Embrace More Stylish Designs
- 4. They Have Customizable Keycaps and Switches
- 5. Necessary Stability and Durability Is Provided
- 6. Mechanical Keyboards Support N-Key Rollover
- 7. Mechanical Keyboards Allow for RGB Backlighting
- 8. They Offer Programmable and Macro Keys
- 9. Mechanical Keyboards Have Better Longevity
- 10. Their Reputation Precedes Them
If you’re in the market for a gaming keyboard, you might’ve noticed that almost all of them are mechanical. And naturally, you might wonder why that’s the case. As it turns out, mechanical keyboards provide numerous benefits to gamers than membrane keyboards don’t.
Here are 10 reasons why most gaming keyboards are mechanical:
- A rapid input registration provides faster response times.
- Mechanical keyboards offer a helpful and satisfying “click.”
- Mechanical keyboards embrace more stylish designs.
- They have customizable keycaps and switches.
- Necessary stability and durability is provided.
- Mechanical keyboards support n-key rollover.
- Mechanical keyboards allow for RGB backlighting.
- They offer programmable and macro keys.
- Mechanical keyboards have better longevity.
- Their reputation precedes them.
Below, we lay out the specifics of why mechanical keyboards are the standard for gaming. Even though they usually come at a higher price point, you’ll soon see they’re worth it for PC gamers. So, let’s dive in!
1. A Rapid Input Registration Provides Faster Response Times
For PC gamers, response time is critical. In multiplayer games especially, it can mean the difference between winning or losing a match.
This need for rapid input registration is part of the reason why most gaming keyboards are mechanical: they sport much quicker response times than their membrane-based counterparts.
Mechanical keyboards average about 6 to 15 milliseconds response times. Meanwhile, membrane keyboards hover around 15 to 30 milliseconds.
While there are fast membrane keyboards, mechanical ones are typically quicker.
As a result, mechanical is the go-to for professional esports competitions. After all, the athletes want to have the best tools available to help them perform.
Additionally, the slow latency of membrane-based devices might call into question the integrity of esports results. Would the other team have won if they used mechanical keyboards that better reflected their actual reaction times?
2. Mechanical Keyboards Offer a Helpful and Satisfying “Click”
The most iconic aspect of mechanical keyboards is the resounding click from their keys.
For many gamers, this satisfying and crisp clicking sound on its own is enough to buy one.
Reminiscent of typewriters, the sound of mechanical keyboards comes from the actuation of individual switches. Unlike membrane keyboards, mechanical ones don’t use rubber switch stoppers. As a result, there’s nothing that dampens the sound of them clicking into place.
In addition to being gratifying, the sound is also helpful.
For the visually impaired, the loud snap of keys helps users confirm input registration. In contrast, membrane keyboards (especially older ones) tend to have less auditory feedback.
This difference can be crucial in fast-paced games. After all, the last thing you want in the middle of a heated battle is to check your messages for typos.
However, the rich sound isn’t always a strength.
If you play PC games in the same room someone else sleeps, the loud clacking might bug them. Some mechanical keys are so loud; you can even hear them through doors and walls.
3. Mechanical keyboards Embrace More Stylish Designs
PC gamers are suckers for aesthetics (speaking as one myself). We love for our rigs and peripherals to have some unique flare to them, which is another reason why most gaming keyboards are mechanical.
Unlike membrane keyboards, mechanical ones come in a wider variety of styles to suit any gamer’s tastes.
Some of them are sleek and modern, like the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (available on Amazon.com). While others capture pop and retro aesthetics, like the Basaltech Steampunk Mechanical Keyboard (available on Amazon.com).
Part of their diversity is thanks to their hardware. Since they generally pack more onboard features for gamers than membrane devices, they have more to show.
That’s why you’ll find many mechanical keyboards sporting glowing knobs and dials.
Some high-end ones like the SteelSeries Apex 7 (available on Amazon.com) even possess tiny onboard screens! The Apex 7’s OLED display is handy for adjusting settings without tabbing out of games. Not to mention you can view Discord messages or loop your favorite gifs.
Want to spice up your keyboard’s design? Or just get something that’s unique? With all the different looks available, you shouldn’t have trouble finding one that speaks to you.
4. They Have Customizable Keycaps and Switches
Mechanical keyboards aren’t just versatile in their features, but also when it comes to individual keys.
More specifically, they’re designed so that owners can easily remove and replace keycaps as they please – though you do need specific tools. This modular quality means that gamers can switch out their default keycaps if they find more appealing sets. Or replace the most used buttons on their keyboard when they start showing some wear.
Transparent caps are a particularly popular option. The way they allow RGB backlight to pass through them adds striking highlights to WASD or arrow keys. However, gamers don’t just customize their keys for style. You can also change your key switches to find the ones that feel the best to you.
Cherry MX Switches
Cherry MX switches are generally considered the gold standard of mechanical keyboard switches. They come in various types to suit your tactile and auditory tastes.
For gaming, this modularity is invaluable. Membrane keyboards aren’t able to switch out components nearly as quickly or easily.
Still, how do you know which Cherry MX switch is best for your gaming experience?
Below is a brief rundown of the different types of Cherry MX switches:
- Cherry MX Red – These are the most common type of Cherry MX switches found in gaming keyboards. Gamers prize them for their low actuation force and linear movement, both critical for fast-paced FPS titles.
- Cherry MX Black – The Cherry MX Black is similar to Cherry MX Red but requires more actuation force. They’re better suited for strategy games where you might accidentally press buttons you don’t want to.
- Cherry MX Brown – Cherry MX Brown switches are much quieter than other Cherry MX switches but still have that distinct “clicky” feeling. Excellent for more muted PC gaming.
- Cherry MX Blue – These switches are beloved for their extra crisp and loud “click.” While the noise may annoy some, it’s trendy among typists.
Remember that despite their colors, you won’t see your switches unless you use transparent keycaps.
5. Necessary Stability and Durability Is Provided
Think back to your school days for a second. At some point, you likely used an old membrane keyboard. You might even remember how it wobbled under your wrists or just felt flimsy to type on.
This “cheap” feeling of membrane keyboards is due to their plastic and rubber construction. It’s also why they almost always cost less than their mechanical counterparts.
Conversely, mechanical keyboards are known for being much more heavy and durable.
Some, like the Steelseries Apex 7, pack impressive aluminum alloy frames. In addition to being more durable than plastic, these frames also better stabilize your keyboard during gameplay.
Many other mechanical keyboards also sport metal or metallic exteriors. Beyond adding a smooth texture, metallic plating also reduces the visibility of scratches and dings.
Not to mention metal stands can withstand much more weight than plastic ones.
Something about their stability and heft just makes these devices feel better. And their metallic construction also makes them more hardy to wear and tear.
As a result, mechanical construction is the standard for high-end gaming keyboards.
6. Mechanical Keyboards Support N-Key Rollover
Mechanical keyboards have a significant technical strength over membrane keyboards when it comes to gaming: key rollover.
Many membrane keyboards support what’s known as 3-key rollover. Basically, this means the device can register three different key presses at once max. If you press a fourth key, the action either won’t register or would result in ghosting.
In contrast, high-end mechanical keyboards typically rock n-key rollover.
N-key rollover, abbreviated as NKRO, refers to a keyboard’s ability to scan every button press individually.
Meaning even if you pushed every single button, your keyboard could still register them all. Though, notable exceptions sometimes apply to buttons like Shift and Ctrl.
So what makes this better for gaming exactly?
In some FPS titles, players have to execute complex movements that require multiple key presses.
If you’re pressing W to move forward and Q to sprint, a 2-key rollover (2KRO) keyboard wouldn’t be able to support anything else. Your jump or dive timing would thus take a major hit.
Similarly, MMO titles might require players to press multiple keys at once to optimally cast their abilities.
N-key rollover is easy to overlook. This article may even be the first time you’ve read about it. But the difference it makes in PC gaming, especially in FPS and MMORPG titles, can be astounding.
7. Mechanical Keyboards Allow for RGB Backlighting
Mechanical keyboards are known for their stylish and vibrant RGB backlights, a feature that’s comparatively uncommon for membrane keyboards.
RGB lighting is something gamers tend to love. In addition to the gorgeous blend of hues it provides, these lighting systems are typically customizable.
But is there any way it applies directly to gaming?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
Mechanical keyboards with RGB lighting often have game sync capabilities. This feature programs your keyboard’s illumination to reflect what’s happening in compatible games.
Sometimes this is purely aesthetic, such as the spectrum matching the color scheme of your character. Other times, it can clue you in on in-game queues and status effects (such as your keyboard glowing green if your character gets poisoned).
Dynamic RGB lighting is another reason why mechanical keyboards are superior for gaming.
While membrane keyboards sometimes have it, it’s usually of lesser quality due to mechanical keyboards’ superior hardware.
8. They Offer Programmable and Macro Keys
Ever played a game where the fun is dampened by having to mash repetitive combos? Or because you have to reach across your keyboard to hit the right buttons?
Programmable keys help solve these issues. And while you can find them on membrane keyboards, they’re more common on mechanical ones. Plus, mechanical n-key rollover helps support their functionality.
There are primarily two ways you can use programmable keys for gaming.
Firstly, you can map them to create “new” custom buttons in games.
The Logitech G910 Orion (available on Amazon.com) has five extra keys on the side numbered G1 to G5,and allows you to remap your key bindings so that one of those buttons opens your map or inventory in-game. This is handy in MMORPGs, where most keys already serve a function.
However, you could also map them to specific macro functions. For instance, to mine copper in a game, you press Q to equip your pickaxe, E to start picking it, and then V to loot the copper.
Or, you could program a macro key to execute all of those functions in that order. Instead of pressing all three keys, you would just need to push that single macro key.
9. Mechanical Keyboards Have Better Longevity
Another reason why most gaming keyboards are mechanical is longevity.
Earlier, we covered that mechanical keyboards are more stable and scratch-resistant. But you might not know they also last longer than membrane keyboards.
And it’s not even a close contest.
For most membrane keyboards, you can expect the keys to last around 3-5 million presses. Past that point, the switch will likely die or at least need a new cap.
In comparison, mechanical keys on average last anywhere from 30-50 million presses. The Cherry MX switches we mentioned earlier even have a manufacturer guarantee of at least 50 million presses. But they can easily last longer.
In other words, mechanical keys might last you up to 10x longer than membrane ones.
As a result, gamers get far more long-term durability out of mechanical keyboards. Especially if the games you play use WASD-based control schemes, or if they require lots of key mashing in general.
10. Their Reputation Precedes Them
It might sound funny. But one of the biggest reasons gaming keyboards are usually mechanical is that gamers associate mechanical keyboards with gaming.
Despite being around for decades, mechanical keyboards only recently became synonymous with PC gaming.
But now that they are, gamers often tout them as the superior keyboard option. It only takes a quick internet search to find PC enthusiasts singing the praises of mechanical keyboards on forums and blogs.
And companies like Corsair and Razer know this.
Hoping to cash in on this perception, keyboard manufacturers primarily design their gaming apparatuses to be mechanical.
Plus, many consumers like the “status” that comes with owning a high-end mechanical keyboard.
Plenty of people buy them primarily to show off to friends or on social media. Much like how you would flaunt an exotic car or watch. And it makes sense when you consider how pricey and flashy these keyboards can be.