Semi-Mechanical vs Mechanical Keyboards | What’s the Difference?


If you’re completely new to computer keyboards, it is possible that you might not be sure which kind you should get. There are so many different types of mechanical keyboards out there that finding a particular kind can be super difficult. The most popular types of keyboards in the market are one of two categories? Mechanical and Semi-Mechanical.

You might wonder which one out of Semi-Mechanical vs Mechanical keyboards are better and what’s the difference? Well, that is precisely what I’m here to tell you.

In this article, I’m going to talk about mechanical keyboards, semi-mechanical keyboards, what they have to offer, the difference between Mechanical and Semi-Mechanical keyboards, their features, pros and cons, and tell you which one is the better choice depending upon your preference and requirement. 

So, make sure you read this article till the very end before you make your buying decision. It will definitely come in handy later.

Semi-Mechanical vs Mechanical Keyboards  What's the Difference

What are Mechanical Keyboards?

Mechanical keyboards are keyboards with individual mechanical switches under each of the keys instead of rubber dome switches or a membrane plate under all the switches.

These keyboards have become incredibly popular and very common among computer users in the last few years. Especially in the gaming community and for programmers and typists, mechanical keyboards are a great option and are usually preferred over other keyboards.

Features of a Mechanical Keyboard

Now that we know what a mechanical keyboard is, what kind of features do they provide? Well, let’s take a look at some of the features and characteristics of mechanical switches to find out a bit more about them.

Types of Mechanical Switches

There are a lot of different variations of mechanical switches available in the market nowadays. But mainly, mechanical switches act differently depending upon their three types. So let’s take a look at them.

  • Linear SwitchesLinear mechanical switches are, as you’d guess, linear in terms of structure, and they emit no sound at all. However, the keypress is decent, there’s no feedback, and they’re preferred by gamers because of less actuation force requirement and quicker keypresses.
  • Tactile SwitchesTactile switches are heavier than linear switches and only need to be pressed halfway for actuation making for a responsive yet accurate keypress. The noise is intermediate, and the keypress is pretty decent.
  • Clicky Switches – The heaviest switches in the lineup are clicky switches. If you want a high-quality switch with a lot of tactile feedback, audible clicking noise, and pinpoint accuracy, clicky switches would definitely work out best for you.

High-quality Keypress Feel

Top 5 Best Membrane Keyboards as of... x
Top 5 Best Membrane Keyboards as of 2021

Typically, membrane keyboards give that mushy and basic keypress feel that just doesn’t quite feel satisfying and nice. This is precisely why I’m not a fan of membrane keyboards if I get a choice.

When it comes to individual mechanical switches, the feel is amazing. Whichever mechanical switch you might choose, there will be a distinct and clear keypress feel that makes the experience all the more exciting and satisfactory.

Responsiveness

Usually, membrane keyboards aren’t as responsive as you’d want them to be. They’re very generic and are registered not as fast as you’d like them to be if you’re a fast typist.

That’s where a mechanical keyboard is better. Tactile and clicky types of switches and optical-mechanical switches would be even faster and much quicker response time. The responsiveness of mechanical keyboards is pretty amazing.

Pros and Cons of Mechanical Keyboards

Mechanical keyboards have great features, but before you buy them, you should take a look at some of the pros and cons they might have. So let’s take a brief look at them.

ProsCons
Durability – Mechanical keyboards feature switches that are built for up to 100 million keystrokes if you’re buying from a reputed mechanical switch manufacturer like Cherry MX or similar. So, they’re quite durable.Expensive Price – One thing that mechanical keyboards are known for is being expensive. You can get a standard membrane keyboard for much cheaper than it.
Faster – Mechanical switches in keyboards tend to provide quicker actuation and overall registration and command approval, making the keypress much more responsive and faster than other keyboards.Loud click noise – No matter which kind of mechanical keyboard you might be using, there is a clicking noise to some extent which is especially loud in clicky mechanical keyboards.
Better Quality – If we talk about the overall quality of a mechanical keyboard, it is much better than other keyboards in comparison to components.Harder to clean – Mechanical keyboards have keycaps that are usually taller, which makes the gaps between them much more difficult to clean and keep maintained thoroughly.
Accuracy – As the keypress is much clearer and the actuation weight is more than other switches, mechanical keyboard switches tend to offer precision and accuracy of high quality.

What are Semi-Mechanical Keyboards?

Keyboards in which a few important keys with mechanical switches and all other keys are rubber dome or membrane are known as semi-mechanical keyboards. These keyboards tend to serve the purpose pretty well.

Over the last few years, since the rise of mechanical keyboards, a suitable alternative that offered just what the budget computer users needed arrived in the form of a semi-mechanical keyboard. That’s why I believe it is one of the better options in terms of keyboards nowadays.

Features of a Semi-Mechanical Keyboard

If you’re thinking about what kind of features a semi-mechanical keyboard holds within it, worry not because I’ve made a list of all the major features and characteristics you’re going to find in a semi-mechanical keyboard device. Instead, let’s take a look at them.

Special Mechanical Key Patterns

When it comes to semi-mechanical or half-mechanical keyboards, there are a few important and commonly used keys that are mechanical. In contrast, all the other parts of the keyboard are rubber dome switches.

There are different variations of such keyboards available in the market. In addition, these keyboards have special mechanical key patterns depending upon the requirement of the user.

For gamers, semi-mechanical keyboards will have a mechanical WASD layout and mechanical arrow keys. At the same time, for a programmer or a typist, some special characters might also be added to the mix. This is one feature of semi-mechanical keyboards I really respect.

Key-click Experience

If we talk about a semi-mechanical keyboard’s mechanical keys, the keypress experience is amazing, tactile, and precise, but the other keys on a semi-mechanical keyboard aren’t that bad either.

In comparison to standard keyboards, the rubber dome switches on a half-mechanical keyboard are designed to give a mechanical feel and tactility, which makes them better than other keyboards.

Added Features

As keyboard enthusiasts, we always expect to get the most out of our keyboards. However, in today’s day and age, a keyboard isn’t good if it doesn’t have a bunch of extra features and elements.

Usually, semi-mechanical keyboards come with a lot of other features. A few names would be RGB, macro-programming, ergonomic solutions, customization tools, among other options as well.

Pros and Cons of Semi-Mechanical Keyboards

Now that we know what a semi-mechanical keyboard is and what it has to offer let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons it comes with before you make a final decision on it.

ProsCons
Affordable – One thing about semi-mechanical keyboards is that they’re quite affordable because of the fact that they only have a few fully mechanical keys on them.Not all switches are mechanical – A bummer that is quite obvious when you’re getting a semi-mechanical keyboard is that only a few clusters of switches are going to be mechanical, and the rest won’t be as good.
Good-quality Switches – Despite having only a few mechanical switches on them, semi-mechanical keyboards still have other switches which are better than standard membrane keyboard switches.Not Meant for a specific type of usage – Semi-mechanical keyboards are considered a single-stop generic solution for average computer usage, gaming, and typing needs. However, they’re not great for any specific kind of usage, which is tough.
Decent Keypress feel – The overall keypress feel of semi-mechanical switches is usually pretty amazing. This is because they have tactility and an accurate press to them, not comparable to mechanical switches but still good in their own right.
Faster than a regular keyboard – A regular membrane keyboard is not as fast as a semi-mechanical keyboard. The registration of the keys and the commands are sent and activated quicker because of the better switches used in these keyboards.

Mechanical vs Semi-Mechanical Keyboards: What’s the Difference?

Mechanical keyboards and semi-mechanical keyboards both have their ups and downs, but how do they fare when compared with each other? That’s what we’re here to find out. First, let’s take a look at the differences between a half-mechanical and a full-mechanical keyboard.

Keypress Experience

First off, the difference arrives when we talk about the keypress experience. In mechanical keyboards, since all the keys are individual mechanical keys with switches beneath them, they offer the same amount of tactility, precision, accuracy, and overall responsiveness.

But when it comes to semi-mechanical keyboards, only a few mechanical switches offer high-quality precision and tactility. The rest of the keys are, although better than average but still fade in comparison to mechanical keys when it comes to keypress experience. So, I’d say in this regard; mechanical keyboards are much superior to semi-mechanical keyboards.

Quality

If we take into account the quality of both kinds of keyboards, well, it depends on a few factors. Typically, mechanical keyboards are higher-quality because of the expensive mechanical switch inclusion, but semi-mechanical keyboards are pretty good in quality as well.

It also depends on the vendor and the manufacturer. For example, some keyboard manufacturers tend to include irrelevant features in mechanical keyboards and end up using cheap mechanical switches. The same can happen with semi-mechanical keyboards as well. But usually, premium keyboards are mostly mechanical, and you can see a lot of affordable but low-quality semi-mechanical pieces in the market right now.

Pricing

Pricing is a very important and often the most discussed difference between both mechanical and semi-mechanical keyboards. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to spend a lot on a keyboard.

If the budget of a keyboard enthusiast is low, mechanical keyboards can become difficult to buy. Whereas in a low budget, semi-mechanical keyboards can come in quite handy.

So, in terms of price, we can safely say that semi-mechanical keyboards are a better choice than mechanical keyboards. Still, if you have a larger budget, you should go for a mechanical keyboard as the overall keypress experience will be much better.

Usage

Who is a mechanical keyboard meant for? And what usage requirements do you need to have to get a semi-mechanical keyboard? Well, there’s a sure difference between them. 

Mechanical keyboards come in different switch types, and each switch serves a specific purpose very well. For example, linear switches are good for gaming; tactile switches are versatile, clicky switches are great for typists, so on and so forth.

But semi-mechanical keyboards are considered placeholders. This is because they’re good at generic usage. They’re not specially designed for a particular requirement. However, you can still use them for everything, just not get incredibly amazing results if that’s what you’re looking for.

Which One Should You Buy?

In my opinion, both mechanical and semi-mechanical keyboards fulfill their purposes, but in comparison, mechanical keyboards definitely come out on top. However, there’s a catch, and that catch is price.

If you’re someone who has a tight budget but still wants to get that mechanical feel, a semi-mechanical keyboard will do just well for you. But if you have the funds for it, a high-quality full-mechanical keyboard will be just fine for you. You’re going to absolutely love it.

Conclusion

Overall, mechanical keyboards are far better in terms of feel, quality, and keypress than semi-mechanical keyboards, but they’re more expensive as well. So, that’s one thing about them not many people like.

I hope you learned a lot about mechanical and semi-mechanical keyboards in this article and that you’re going to use this knowledge when you go out to buy one of these keyboards. Have a great keyboarding experience!

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