A vocal part of the keyboard community makes sure to pipe up whenever looking around online. If you’re looking up reviews, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be steered toward buying a mechanical keyboard. Not only this, they claim that mechanical keyboards are universally better than membranes.
While there may be some advantages one way or the other, it’s not as black and white as many may claim. Both technologies have been advancing, and there’s plenty to be impressed with. The strengths membrane keyboards are known for have only improved, while many cons have also been addressed.
But let’s get past the pleasantries and get straight into things.
Ok… What even is a Membrane Keyboard?
Membrane keyboards are what most people are familiar with and have used in most consumer goods. They’re extremely widespread, as membrane keyboards are cheap to produce and resistant to dirt and debris.
Membrane keyboards rely on a three-layer membrane: a top layer with conductors connected to each key, a central layer acting as a separator and having space for each key, and a bottom trace layer with broken connections. The top layer connects with the bottom as each key is pressed and sends the corresponding signal to your computer.
Now, this sounds like the same concept as a mechanical switch, which essentially is — the major difference in how these are implemented. But these are not mechanical. Membranes bend when they are pressed, leading to the connection being made. Mechanical keys actuate into position to bridge the connection by sliding.
This key difference is where almost all of the pros and cons of a membrane keyboard appear. No moving parts means almost no sound. Three thin membranes make for extremely low-profile keys. The closed membranes mean virtually no dirt and dust can penetrate, meaning cleaning is super easy.
Of course, we’ll go into more detail on what all this means later on, but for now, let’s look at some keyboards we think are great.
Our Top Picks for Best Membrane Keyboards
- Best Overall: CORSAIR K55 RGB PRO
- Best Runner-Up: Razer Ornata V3 X
- Best On the Go: Trueque Foldable Keyboard
- Best for Gamers: SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL
- Best Ergonomic: Logitech Wave Keys keyboard
- Best Wireless: Redragon K503
Best Overall: CORSAIR K55 RGB PRO
While CORSAIR is well known for its large variety of exceptional PC products, the K55 RGB PRO is no different. This is one of the few cases where you can have it all. This keyboard has standard IP42 protection, a detachable palm rest, customizable RGB, and plenty of macro and media keys.
Like many other keyboards on this list, you can expect this to be quiet, thanks to being a membrane board. You can control this keyboard through the CORSAIR iCUE software and even get Elgato integrations, making this a great pick for streamers!
|IP42 dust and water protection.
|Some users report issues with using configuration software.
|Software integrations with iCUE and Elgato.
|Fully customizable macro keys.
|It includes a helpful array of media controls
Check out the K55 RGB PRO on Amazon.
Best Runner-Up: Razer Ornata V3 X
Razer is a gamer’s brand, but gamers have high expectations, and the Ornata V3 X is here to deliver. Almost everything we loved about the K55 is here, but you won’t get any extra keys. You can also expect a built-in wrist rest, water resistance, and RGB.
This keyboard also offers a super low profile, which should help with ergonomics. You can also expect it to be fairly quiet due to its extra cushioned keys. Unfortunately, this loses the top spot because the spill resistance has no real rating, and the wrist rest is attached.
|Users report good build quality and quick setup.
|Non-detachable wrist rest might get in the way if it isn’t your preference.
|Strong Razer Chroma integrations.
|No official IP water or dust resistance rating.
|Users report a good build quality and quick setup.
Check out the Ornata V3 X on Amazon.
Best On the Go: Trueque Foldable
The Trueque Foldable Keyboard is the ultimate portable keyboard. This pick is quite different than anything else on this list, and it’s because of an extremely innovative design. The Trueque folds into a compact 6”x4”x3/4”, barely larger than your average flagship phone.
Unfolded, you get a full 12” keyboard with a numpad. That’s not all, as the numpad is actually a touchpad and can double as an included mouse. The Trueque connects via Bluetooth and can be paired with up to three items and a hot swap between channels.
|Extremely compact and lightweight.
|Might take a while to charge up fully.
|It might take a while to charge up fully.
|Only connects via Bluetooth.
|Supports multiple device connections and quick switching.
|Needs a flat surface.
|No official IP water or dust resistance rating.
Check out the Trueque Foldable Keyboard on Amazon.
Best for Gamers: SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL
Hardcore gamers can look forward to SteelSeries’ compact gaming board, the Apex 3 TKL. While this board wasn’t in our top spots, it still has a strong presence behind it. This keyboard is a tenkeyless compact board, which is great for those who want plenty of mouse space.
This board isn’t entirely devoid of quality of life; it still has some media keys and configurable RGB. Neither of these features is the board’s focus, but they’re implemented well. Thanks to anti-ghosting keys and a brand known for its gaming peripherals, you can expect this to work great for any gaming session.
|IP32 water and dust resistance so you don’t need to worry about it breaking from being too dirty.
|It has virtually no ergonomics or wrist rest.
|Tenkeyless compact design means it won’t take up a ton of space on your desk.
|Multi-function media keys.
Check out the Apex 3 TKL on Amazon.
Best Ergonomic: Logitech Wave Keys
- Comes with a layered memory foam wrist rest
- Customizable macro keys
- Dongle and Bluetooth connections are available
- Made with certified post-consumer recycled plastic
Logitech Wave Keys keyboard combines ergonomics without dismissing familiarity. When you think ergonomics, it’s almost expected you’ll have to get something that looks like alien technology. Ergonomic keyboards have been beginning to lose this stigma, but they can still be distracting.
The Wave Keys is deceptively normal looking but still focuses on ergonomics. It has a layered memory foam wrist rest for a great base support, and the curved keyframe prevents your hands from being stuck at an uncomfortable angle.
|Ergonomic design with a normal layout.
|There is no lighting.
|Built-in memory foam wrist rest.
|No dedicated media/macro keys.
|Customizable macro keys.
|No official IP water or dust resistance rating.
|Dongle and Bluetooth connections are available.
Check out the Logitech Wave Keys keyboard on Amazon.
Best Wireless: Redragon K503
Wireless gaming setups don’t have to lose out on a good keyboard with the Redragon K503. This keyboard has some of everything we loved in our overall and runner-up boards. It’s got RBG, media controls, and quiet keys.
The RGB isn’t as configurable and only has 7 different major modes, but you can still configure these without software. You also have a standard array of media keys and can expect anti-ghosting.
|Long battery life with RGB, longer without.
|There are very limited RGB controls.
|N-key rollover for worry-free wireless gaming.
|It has a helpful array of media keys.
Check out the Redragon K503 on Amazon.
What to Know Before Buying a Membrane Keyboard?
Membrane keyboards get a lot of hate, but that’s from a very vocal minority. Most people use one unknowingly or prefer it to the sound of a mechanical keyboard. Membrane keyboards are popular for their quiet operation and lightweight design.
There are a lot of stigmas around membranes. The most common complaints are that membrane keys feel mushy and won’t last long. While this may have been a problem in the past, it isn’t as true today.
Many membrane keyboards have improved their design to provide a more tactile feel and increase their longevity and wear resistance. You should be able to expect a long and consistent life out of any membrane boards you buy today, and if not, check if your warranty is still in place.
You should also know you won’t have as many customization options because membrane keyboards can’t have individually backlit keys. Your RBG will still look great, but some effects aren’t possible.
Membrane keyboards are also quiet. Membranes are soft plastic bending, while mechanical keys are hard plastic clicking together. This alone means most membranes will be near silent, so claims of extra silence should be doubted without proof.
Another thing is that membrane keyboards wear faster than mechanical keyboards, and you can expect them to last for less than a mechanical switch. But this isn’t as bad when you put it into context. Most membrane keyboards are rated for between 5 million and 20 million keypresses, and mechanical boards can be between 30 million and 100 million.
This sounds like a huge disparity, but remember, this number goes for each key. People have reported their 5 million press membrane boards lasting well past this expectancy. Modern manufacturing processes mean that unless you’re very rough, your keyboard shouldn’t break.
Using a Membrane Keyboard: What it’s Like?
Membrane keyboards are not significantly worse than mechanical keyboards. Like anything, both options have pros and cons, and with something like this, personal preference overrides whatever the “correct” answer is.
If you like a softer typing experience, then the cushioned feel of membrane keys feels just right. This is also likely to be the typing experience most people are accustomed to. Most schools, libraries, and offices will use membrane boards because they’re affordable, and the reliability issues are overblown.
In the worst-case scenario, if you run into any issues, most companies can offer warranties and will cover the minor damage due to wear and tear.
Membrane keyboards are snappy, and low-profile keys have a particularly small travel distance to activate. You also won’t have to press nearly as much as with a mechanical keyboard. It’s not like mechanical keyboards require a lot of force, but you could describe mechanical keystrokes as decisive, while a membrane keyboard is more fluid.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©History-Computer.com/Tyler Von Harz.