While there are many types of keyboards, not all use the same components or layouts. Some can be described as mechanical, semi-mechanical, solid state, or some combination of these!
The term “mechanical” is typically associated with typewriters and computer keyboard designs that have switch-based input (something called an action) and detachable ink cartridges or fluid pens. This article will discuss more about those!
That being said, the term “semi-mechanical” has become popularised in recent years. A semi-mechanical keyboard uses haptic feedback instead of switches to activate keys. Haptic feedback comes from sensors that pick up when a key is pressed down and then released, creating a sense of touch for the user.
This article will talk about the differences between both types of keyboards and which one is better.
What are semi-mechanical keyboards?
Most keyboard types these days are either fully mechanical or fully solid state, but some have moved into the semi-mechanical category. These can be described as having both!
Semi-mechanicals combine the springy action of a traditional switch with an additional element: The membrane. A membrane is like a piece of paper that covers up part of the key top. When you press down on the key, it presses onto the membrane to close it and activate the letter/digit printed underneath.
The difference between this type of switch and normal switches is what layer the key touches. In a standard switch, there’s a separate membrane that goes alongside the keytop. This allows for more durable clicks, but also heavier keys due to the extra thickness.
By instead using two layers of pressed metal sandwiched together, they can achieve the same feel while keeping the weight lighter. Because the layers don’t separate easily.
These features make them much nicer to use than regular switches, but not quite as sturdy. They will last longer than most, however!
Heavier switches mean slightly slower typing speed, but overall smoother touch feedback and quieter operation.
Difference between a mechanical and a semi-mechanical keyboard
The difference between a mechanical keyboard and a semi-mechanical keyboard is how the keys are operated. With a fully mechanical keyboard, every key requires two things to happen: for it to be pressed and then released.
When typing fast, this can become very difficult to do efficiently. Because you have to re-position your hands frequently to hit each key, your rate of speed drops drastically.
This is why most people use computer keyboards that are semi-mechanical. On these types of keyboards, some parts are still solid and true mechanical switches, but the plastic or rubber part that connects the button to the rest of the switch is not.
This allows for more stable positioning of the hand as well as faster typing because you don’t have to worry about losing contact with the keyboard. However, they are slightly slower due to the additional material needed in the switch.
Who should get a mechanical keyboard?
If you are new to keyboards, or feel that your current one is getting low on life then it is time to consider investing in a good quality mechanical keyboard. They can be expensive at first but will reward you with better performance for years to come!
There are several different types of mechanical key switches. Each type has its pros and cons depending on what someone looking to switch feels is important in a keyboard.
Some people love how fast their keys bounce off the surface which makes typing faster, however, this may hurt your hand as they need to press down harder to achieve the same result.
Another bad thing about these quick drop downs is that there is less tactile feedback, or feeling of the button being pressed. This can make using a mechanical keyboard more difficult at times if needed.
If you are looking to try out the technology before buying, there are many cheap mechanical keyboards around that offer decent quality.
What are some benefits of a mechanical keyboard?
One major benefit is the feel. Due to the way keyboards work, there are two types — fully solid key switches and vacuum membrane switches.
Fully solid switches require an additional switch that lies between the key top and the rest of the board. This adds more weight to the keys which helps create a feeling similar to typing on touch screen phones. Some people say this feels too heavy or strong-feeling, but most find it pleasing.
Vacuum membrane switches use a capacitive element to activate the button. A cavity in the base plate holds a small amount of air, creating a space where the membrane can sit. When a key is pressed, the membrane is squeezed out of the hole and contact with the surface of the baseplate is lost. Then as the key is released, the membrane springs back into place filling the empty area again.
This repeated action creates the smooth feel we all desire while typing.
What are some disadvantages of a mechanical keyboard?
One disadvantage is that you have to purchase extra switches, which can add up quickly if you are buying lots of keyboards.
Another drawback is that it is more expensive than regular non-mechanical keyboards! This is due to the additional cost for the switch types and the tooling used to make them.
There are also temperature differences when using a computer in warm or hot environments. Due to the nature of the keycaps being solid pieces, they will heat up faster than traditional plastic keys. This could cause your hand to burn slightly from touching the hot surface for too long!
Last, but not least, there is no way to easily change the color of the top layer of the keycap. If an individual wanted to paint their caps, they would have to do so themselves, which takes time and effort.
What are some differences between regular and ghosting keyboards?
A mechanical keyboard is made of fully solid, tactile switches. These switches feel good as they type on you.
The switch types that most people speak about are the springboard (aka Cherry), brownish Washable, Staggered Row, and row-majeur. Each one has its own unique feeling and actuation speed!
A semi-mechanical or hybrid keyboard uses additional components to make it function like a mechanical keyboard. The top plate is usually plastic with some features designed to look like a mechanical keycap. This way, users can have all the benefits of a quality mechanical keyboard without having to buy one new.
Who should get a ghosting keyboard?
When talking about the best mechanical keyboards, one of the most important features to look at is whether or not they have backlighting. Many people love having easy access to all of the keys, especially in dark environments.
Ghosting is an option that many manufacturers offer with their keyboards. This allows for each individual key to be replaced with a normal switch, but with some added touches.
The switches used in these improved quality versions of the keyboard are heavier than typical tactile switches. These heavier switches take longer to actuate, which was designed to help reduce unintentional presses.
However, this additional time can be annoying when you want to hit a quick button or tap out a text message quickly. Some brands make it easier to turn off ghosting, by allowing users to do so directly from the settings.
What are some reasons why people buy keyboards?
The most common reason people choose an ergonomic keyboard is because they want to type for longer periods of time without getting muscle pain or fatigue. By using an ergonomic keyboard, you can comfortably type for much longer than you could before!
There have also been many studies that show linkages between your body position while typing and health conditions like carpel tunnel syndrome. Choosing an ergonomic keyboard will help prevent these from occurring.
Another reason to consider buying an ergonomic keyboard is due to the growing evidence that links repetitive hand motions with chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Ergonomics play a large part in helping mitigate the risk of developing these diseases. By changing how your hands are positioned when typing, you reduce the stress on your joints and muscles. Therefore, preventing potential illness.