To a casual PC user, the keyboard is just another accessory that’s bundled with the machine. As long as the keys work and are comfortable, that’s usually more than enough.

Serious gamers are a different breed. Yes, they’ll settle for the bundled keyboard for a while, but that is usually short-lived as they upgrade to a more fancy one thinking it will improve their game.

Many gamers swear by mechanical keywords, which are usually pricier than conventional ones. But are mechanical keyboards really worth investing in, or is it more hype than anything?


Telling Them Apart

Customized Gaming Keyboard
Credits: VItsing .com

Without getting into too much technical jargon, a mechanical keyboard has a spring-loaded switch underneath every key. When you press the keys, you’ll hear “clicking” sounds confirming that your presses have been registered.

Normal keyboards are flatter and have simpler structures. They comprise the keycap, a membrane/rubber dome in the middle, and a printed circuit board (PCB) at the bottom. When you press a key, it makes contact with the keyboard circuit board beneath it and this signal is then transmitted to the computer screen as a character.


Difference Between Mechanical Keyboards and Normal Keyboards

Alongside structural differences, here are some key differences between the two keyboards:

1. Response Times

Response time or latency refers to the time it takes for a command to be executed once you press a key.

If you’re a competitive player, you’ll be looking for the shortest input delay there possibly is. For normal computer users, this “time” is more than short enough and passes unnoticed, but to a gamer, it can literally cost you a game.

Mechanical keyboards start registering the keypress before you fully press the key, reducing delays. According to Steelseries, mechanical keyboards average a response time of 6ms, and the company’s OmniPoint switch has an impressive 0.7ms response time.

These numbers are quite low compared to normal (membrane) keyboards that score 30-plus ms. Lower latency translates to quicker reactions, which means more wins and fewer deaths.

2. Consistency

Actuation is about the force you need to apply while pressing a key to ensure it’s recognized by the keyboard. Mechanical keyboards require the exact amount of force every time to register the keys, which makes for a consistent key press. It also requires less force to depress than standard keys, which experts say is more ergonomic.

This can't be said of membrane keyboards since actuation is not always exact. You may need to apply different amounts of force for different keys and experience ghosting sometimes.

If you’re playing rhythm games such as Osu, you’ll benefit greatly from the consistency of a mechanical keyboard.

3. Durability

There is a reason membrane keyboards are mass-produced and bundled with most PCs. They use cheaper materials and are inexpensive. An aftermarket option will set you back around $10. Unfortunately, rubber dome keyboards aren’t durable and many professional gamers often have to replace their keyboards every few months.

Mechanical keyboards use high-quality materials and are more expensive to manufacture. They cost upwards of $100 but to their credit last several years without losing their agility and accuracy.

Further, rubber dome keyboards are rated for 5 million to 10 million key presses in their lifespan. These may seem like a lot, but professional gamers and typists can easily reach this number within a couple of years. Now, compare that to the over 30 million keystrokes found in mechanical keyboards. The HP Omen Sequencer gaming keyboard, in particular, has a lifespan of 70 million key presses.

4. Customization

Customized Gaming Keyboard
Credits: steelseries .com

Sure, you may be able to customize the RGB lighting on your membrane gaming keyboard, but that may be as far as you can go. Mechanical keyboards allow you to further customize your rig by changing the keycaps to make it more personal.

You can find popular key caps on Amazon or Newegg, Novelty key caps on the Esc or Function keys can add flair to your keyboard. These keys are crafted by artists to resemble characters or animals and cost as much as an entire keyboard.


Is a Mechanical Keyboard Worth it?

From longevity to personalization, and consistent support during game plays, a mechanical keyboard is definitely worth the splurge, especially for hardcore gamers.

 

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