When it comes to keyboards, there are two main types: mechanical and membrane. Mechanical keyboards have individual keys made from a solid piece of plastic, often made of plastic plate. The membrane key on the other hand has a coating on it that allows it to use a touch sensor so that you can depress a key without actually making contact with the key itself. The advantage to this is that when the key is depressed, a current is sent to the plate through the touch sensor, which then activates the key switch, sending a signal to your computer or laptop to activate it.
In recent years, though, new technologies have arisen that provide us with key switches that utilize technology called key-switch modules. A key-switch module basically takes a binary combination (usually, a “1” and a “0”) and sends that out as a sound through the use of a transducer to detect the pressure change that is occurring. With these types of key switches, what actually determines whether the key is depressed or not is the amount of force that is exerted on the key switch by the actuation force. So, if you had a mechanical keyboard, what this translates to is: if you press a key, does the mechanical key switch to send a signal to the computer?
Well, the short answer to this is: no. Key-switch modules have been developed that are capable of doing this, but what this means is that you will have to buy a whole new keyboard or key-switch in order to use them. And if you’re looking for a membrane-capable key switch, you’re out of luck – there just isn’t any type of membrane-capable key-switch out there, at least not at a price that most consumers can easily afford. However, if you really want the kind of performance that a good-quality membrane key switch can give you, then you’re going to have to get a mechanical key-switch.
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that this is somehow “better” than a membrane-capable mechanical keyboard – as if somehow, using a mechanical keyboard gives you some sort of raw edge that other keyboards don’t have. This is simply not true. The truth is, a mechanical keyboard does not provide any sort of edge, because it relies on perfectly-crafted, high-quality parts. These parts are typically much more expensive than those found in a cheap membrane-based keyboard. But beyond this, the only real difference between a mechanical keyboard and a cheap membrane keyboard is the level of customization available with them.
When you have a set of keys that has a unique arrangement and combination of holes, this is called a key-switch. In a mechanical keyboard, each key switch is engineered to be different (hence the term “key-switch”). The exact same mechanism (same type of mechanical key-switch) is used in both types of key-switches – the difference is only in how they are placed together. In a membrane-based keyboard, the holes are positioned so that the key-switch can act as a spring that can exert force when pressed, and release upon release – making the key-switch act somewhat like a push-button.
Of course, the actual position and shape of the holes in the key-switch are not important; what’s important is the amount of force which is exerted upon each key-switch. Again, this is determined by the different types of key-switches. For instance, in a set of standard Cherry MX key-switches, the distance between holes in the switch is relatively small. Thus, the force that is placed upon each key-switch is very similar. However, a custom-made, one-of-a-kind key-switch from a company such as Logitech or Geeks Keyboard would present an entirely different scenario, as it will have a significantly greater distance between the holes.