Following the previous mouse and monitor article, we’re left with keyboards in order to round up the most basic of computer peripherals. Keyboards have been subject to great debate in recent years. The technology beneath those clicky sounds has drastically evolved, with stuff like analog buttons becoming a popular option. Same as before, the choice is highly dependent on the budget of your build. Do you know what to look for when you set your mind on finishing that build?
When it comes to keyboard technology, there are two main paths to choose from. The older membrane keyboards and the mechanical keyboards. For the sake of ease, I’ll split the article into two sections; one for the membrane and one for the mechanical type.
Old School But Not Forgotten
Membrane keyboards are my personal favorite, as they feature some impressive tech. And they’re much more customizable, but to me, nothing beats the near silent strokes of the membrane keyboard.
The basic principle of operation behind membrane boards is fairly straightforward. Peel off the plastic, wooden, metal or shell and you’ll find a rubber mat and three see-through PVC layers. Two of the layers feature conductive traces, while the middle layer is just a divider filled with holes. Once you press the springy rubber mat with your button of choice, the two conductive layers on the button connect through the hole in the divider and a signal is sent through the keyboard’s microcontroller to your PC.
Depending on the manufacturer, membrane keyboards can be with or without a metal backing plate. If they have it, you can think of it as a negative reference for the controller board. And if it’s without it, then you can hack it as much as you want since the controller doesn’t need a negative reference. The latter is my keyboard of choice as I plan to make it virtually silent.
In my opinion, membrane boards are perfect for those that play games that don’t require precise input, and if you’re typing a lot or if you generally press the keys often. The rubber mat has a nice and predictive feel that you get used to fast. In general, they’re rugged and straight to the point. Price wise, it depends on the manufacturer, but overall they tend to be cheaper the mechanical ones.
The New Kid On The Keyboard Block
Sound wise, modern-day mechanical keyboards are the complete opposite to membrane keyboards, with actual matrix arranged switches responsible for the clicky sound. With mechanical keyboards, you can throw away the word simplicity since they have a whole plethora of customization options.
Switches come in several flavors, with red, blue and black being the most common ones. The color is there to denote the hardness of the spring that returns the key. Depending on your preference, you can change the switches in a plug and play manner, as they’re all interchangeable. Speaking of interchangeability, the caps on the keys can be swapped out very easily, meaning that the creative spirit in you can come alive on a new level.
The mechanical keyboard is not just colorful switches and clicky sounds. The switches can be pressure sensitive, making them behave like analog buttons and feature tactile feedback on key press. They’re great for people like writers and gamers that use the keys often since the switch can register a key without it being pressed completely.
Silent Or Clicky?
Ultimately, it all boils down to your personal preference. Mechanical keyboards are heavy, expensive and often noisy, but natively feature extensive customization. Most of them come waterproof out of the box and they’re great for heavy keyboard users.
Thanks to their construction, with the switches featuring springs instead of the springy rubber mat, they can last quite a while without feeling different. Mechanical keyboards also have something called n-key rollover, allowing you to press as many keys at the same time as you want.
Membrane keyboards are the most basic keyboards you can get. They’re light and portable. Compared to mechanical keyboards, they can be cheaper and devoid of the many customization options.
If your budget allows for it and you don’t mind the near mouse level clicks, go for the mechanical since it’s worth it in the long run. However, if you’d rather save a couple of bucks and need something to transfer your keystrokes to the screen, membrane is the way to go.