Are laptop keyboards mechanical or membrane?

This is one of those questions that I’d never really thought about.

It just turned up in a random web search and it made me wonder – are laptop keyboards mechanical or membrane?

Because I’d always simply assumed they used membrane keyboards for the sake of saving space.

So let’s find out whether I was right or not.

Short answer

The majority of laptops use membrane or rubber-dome keyboards because they occupy less physical space and also weigh far less because they lack the switches used in mechanical keyboards.

Long answer

Although the majority of laptop keyboards use membrane keyboards, there are laptops that feature mechanical keyboards instead of the usual rubber-dome or membrane type.

And the first of these was released onto the market in 2015.

What won’t surprise many of you to learn is that the same laptops with these mechanical keyboards are designed for gaming.

Gamers expect their laptops to perform as well as their desktop PC buddies – there was no more lugging of a heavy desktop PC to a LAN party.

But while gaming laptops have made huge technological advances in the last 20 years, their keyboards never quite hit the mark with gamers.

That’s because a membrane keyboard does not offer the same tactile response as a mechanical keyboard does.

So the challenge was to create a keyboard that offered the same amount of travel as a mechanical keyboard but without the oversized keys and switches found on a mechanical keyboard because:

  1. That would increase the physical size of the laptop
  2. It would require other sub-keyboard components to be further miniaturized or moved
  3. The laptop itself would be physically heavier i.e. some desktop mechanical keyboards weigh more than the average laptop.

After all, you don’t want to end up with a laptop that looks like a 1950s typewriter.

The solution

The ultimate solution to the problem was to simply design a new way for a mechanical switch to operate.

The team of designers at Cherry (the grandparents of the mechanical keyboard) came up with the answer in the form of a brand new type of keyboard switch inspired by the gull-wing doors found on cars.

Instead of the physical height required for a download linear action with a regular mechanical switch, this newly designed switch flattens out to each side as the key is depressed.

So the end user enjoys the look and feel of a mechanical keyword switch but without the extra weight or physical space that a regular mechanical switch would require.

Mechanical keyboards have been developed by Cherry for Alienware laptops, Omron for Gigabyte AORUS laptops but you’ll also find them on laptops from MSI and others.

Laptops for writers

An untapped market for laptops with mechanical keyboards is…well…anyone who has to type a lot, which includes journalist, authors, technical writers, etc.

They prefer using mechanical keyboards because they are more precise, offer a more comfortable typing experience, and are better suited to long stints at a keyboard i.e. they’re more ergonomic.

So, while laptops with mechanical keyboards will be popular with gamers, there are a lot of writers out there who’ll want to get their hands on one too.

Wrapping it up

I learned something new today and that is that some laptops do come fitted with mechanical keyboards.

And, yes, they do offer backlighting – just like your desktop mechanical.

Just bear in mind that even with the clever switch design, a gaming laptop with this type of keyboard is going to weigh a lot more than a standard Chromebook or travel laptop.

These laptops are designed more as portable desktop PCs than the kind of laptop you’d take with you while traveling the world as a digital nomad.

It’s worth bearing that in mind.

Scroll to Top