Gaming keyboards are often big, flashy, and heavily marketed as “gaming” devices. Whether it’s the inclusion of color-customizable back-lighting or special function keys designed to access your favorite games’ console commands (we’re looking at you, Razer), these peripherals are often equipped with special features that make them convenient for gamers. Many key manufacturers offer gaming specific models of their switches because they come pre-labeled; other companies market different types of non-standard keyboard specifically for gaming (such as Logitech’s Roomer G switches). There is no better example of this than Corsair’s recent K70 RGB MK2 ($170) , which has swappable Cherry MX switch types along with many other unique functions tailored toward gamers.
The membrane switch, on the other hand, is generally thought of as “inexpensive” and “not very good.” They are certainly not flashy. A membrane switch is a rubber dome that sits atop an electrical circuit board; when you push down on the key, the rubber dome collapses (similar to an inflatable pool toy), and causing two metal contacts to meet. However, they are inexpensive because nothing else needs to go into them; no LEDs or printed graphics need be added to make this happen. No extra keys or special function layers are needed. A basic keyboard can use some variation of this technology for their switch mechanism while still having separate number pad at the right side of the main QWERTY layout – all without adding much cost to the unit.
Properties of Membrane Keyboards:
- The membrane switch was not always a cost-cutting device, however. They used to be the standard for all keyboards until they were almost completely replaced by their more expensive counterparts, the mechanical switches. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, nearly every keyboard had a membrane layer beneath its keys; some even feature two (one for each half of the spacebar). The reason why these tactile (and clicky) devices are no longer seen is because they simply don’t last very long when compared to their mechanical counterparts. Most models can expect 50 million keystrokes or less before needing replacement, which is obviously quite expensive in comparison due to how many keys there generally are in a full layout model and how frequently they can be pressed.
- It is possible to purchase aftermarket mechanical switches for membrane keyboards, but they are generally only available for the main keys and not the spacebar or any other “modifier” keys (such as Shift).
- The membrane switch is still considered a viable option among manufacturers because of its low cost and ubiquity. Because of this, it has found a home in modern gaming-focused models such as Logitech’s G213 Prodigy ($80). They may still be less common than the more expensive options, but you don’t have to spend extra money on RGB LEDs either. The membrane switch can offer similar performance without such extravagance. [COMPANY] is one such company that manufactures these types of keyboard; their MOD Gaming line is designed to be a “budget-friendly” option. I have been using their most recent model, the MOD K1 RGB ($45), for over a month now and plan to discuss its performance in this review.
Key Features & Specifications:
- MOD Gaming logo on right side of keyboard
- Fully backlit keys with RGB LED lighting options (16.8 million colors)
- 18 lighting modes including breathing effects, reactive typing, color cycling, etc.
- 3 dedicated macro keys on left side of keyboard near arrow keys
- N-key rollover (hardware interface) and anti-ghosting (software) support
- Removable micro USB cord and cable management channels along edges of keyboard
- Quick access multimedia shortcuts via Fn key
- 2-year limited warranty
- Logitech G213 Prodigy on bottom
- ROCCAT Isku+ Force FX on top (keycaps removed)
A Closer Look:
Both sides of keyboard; note USB cord and cable management channels along edges The MOD K1 RGB features a standard 104 key layout with the number pad and navigation cluster shifted to the right. This is a logical arrangement for gaming keyboards, but it may seem counterintuitive without much experience. The three macro keys are located in what would normally be the arrow cluster; I personally find this rather uncomfortable since this is where my pinky finger hangs out when I use WASD, but such placement actually works well if you’re not constantly using them like I do (i.e. more of a secondary function key).
The removable micro USB cord is another welcome feature; some keyboards (such as the ROCCAT Iskur+ Force FX) require you to use their proprietary cord, which can be frustrating if it happens to go bad on you. As far as I know, USB cords will always fit into this specific port due to its shape and size. When plugged in, the cord fits flush with the top edge of the keyboard (on both left and right sides); there are also channels along both edges for cable management if your desk is too cluttered or you prefer not to see any wires poking out over its surface.
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The keyboard measures 15 inches across by 5 inches deep; with rubber feet applied it stands one inch tall. I have it sitting on a wooden surface, so this combination seems to work well. The MOD K1 RGB weighs 2 pounds, which is lightweight but not as feather-like as the Logitech G410 Atlas Spectrum. It does not appear that this keyboard has any metal components (such as the palm rest and underside of the spacebar); instead, it uses ABS plastic for its keycaps and frame (with what appears to be aluminum alloy inserts along the top edge). This makes it considerably lighter than most mechanical keyboards with an equivalent feature set; even without rubber feet applied, I’ve had no issues with sliding due to weight distribution during intense gaming sessions.
The keycaps are made from double-shot ABS (acrylic + plastic), which is a common choice for gaming keyboards. This method uses two different colors of plastic to form the keycaps; the second layer appears to be translucent here, despite being colored black. There are also secondary legends (or inscriptions) on each key besides their primary text. Keycap material isn’t typically a major concern since these will eventually become worn out and need replacement, but it’s nice that MOD chose to skip the cheaper laser etched ABS caps for this model even if it does raise its cost. Double-shot PBT keycaps may have been a better choice, but I’m sure that would’ve driven up retail prices even more.
Instead of mechanical keys that, when pressed, complete the circuit and convey the command for the selected key, membrane keyboards use pressure pads. When pressed, the flat, symbol-printed surface of the keyboard performs the same tasks as a standard mechanical keyboard. Although membrane keyboards are portable and have a flexible design, they cannot be utilized for touch typing and can make several mistakes when quickly typed.