The best membrane keyboards can keep you nimble on the battlefield while still providing access to your media controls, individual key programming, and a plethora of RGB lighting effects. While not as fast as some of the smoothest mechanical keyboards on the market, these rubber-dome decks are still more than capable of keeping up with your faster-paced action titles. Not only that, but membrane keyboards are significantly cheaper than their mechanical counterparts. Yes, they won’t last as long and you are sacrificing the crisp clack of a mechanical key press, but if you’re playing with a smaller budget you’ll still find excellent value here.
We’ve had our hands on a wide range of membrane gaming keyboards, covering brands from SteelSeries to Razer, Corsair to Roccat. Many of these decks have made it to our roundup of the best gaming keyboards on the market right now, based on value for money and overall performance in the arena. Set against a backdrop of some seriously impressive decks, these keys still hold out well. That’s why we’ve put together this collection of the very best membrane keyboards available today.
Each model is put through a series of strenuous tests to make it here. We live with every keyboard that crosses our desks for weeks, if not months. Through work days, evening PC sessions, and stress-tests, we watch for durability, speed, ease of use, and comfort to make sure we’re recommending the best of the bunch.
The best membrane keyboards
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The Roccat Magma is our top pick for the best membrane keyboard on the market right now. Between a unique RGB color system, a whole second layer of macro options, and a feel of genuine quality in each keypress, the Magma impressed in our testing. There’s still more weight under each press when compared with a mechanical deck, but set against the membrane keyboard backdrop, this is a particularly satisfying model.
There’s just enough resistance to ensure typing is comfortable yet tactile, and you’ll still be able to tap away in a QTE without having to fight against a heavier actuation force. That’s what makes the Magma so special – we were able to spend all day typing on these membrane keys, something we would struggle to achieve without fatigue on other options.
On top of that smooth experience, you’re getting a full-sized deck with customizable RGB lighting and programmable macros for under $50 / £50. Membrane decks are cheap, but that’s still excellent – even in this arena. You’ll also find a detachable wrist rest included in that cost as well.
This is an all-rounder, perfect for anyone looking to spend a little more than bargain-bucket prices and still come away with solid value.
Read more: Roccat Magma review
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If you’re looking to save some space on your desktop, we’d recommend checking out the SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL. Smaller keyboards in this TKL form factor drop the number pad and a few function buttons to allow you more space to swing your mouse during more intense sessions. The best membrane keyboards in this size do so without sacrificing too many features, and that’s where the Apex 3 comes into its own.
Yes, in our testing we did find those membrane keys to be particularly heavy. Lighter typists beware, this isn’t going to be a twitch-reflex experience. However, in a TKL form factor it’s often the extra features which matter the most. The SteelSeries Swarm software allows you to completely reconfigure your keyboard’s macro options, but you can also assign programmed commands on the fly as well – a feature we rarely spot at this lower price point. That’s going to be integral to making the most of your TKL keyboard outside of gameplay – productivity uses are still catered for here.
Add 11 RGB lighting zones and dedicated media controls and you’ve got yourself a solid all-rounder here.
Read more: SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL review
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It’s well recognized that Razer keyboards are some of the best in the business, but top end models can reach as far as $250. It’s good to know that Razer also caters to the budget end of the price scale as well, with the Cynosa V2 representing the brand’s best membrane keyboard.
On a wider scale, however, the Razer Cynosa V2 is perfect for those who still want in-depth RGB customization options in their deck. Other models seem to drop per-key RGB illumination in favor of zoned lighting or single color options only. However, you’re still getting Razer’s full Chroma support here, which means you can set each key’s LED and have them match other Razer accessories to boot. That’s pretty rare to find on a membrane keyboard of this price point.
This is a low profile keyboard as well, which means you’re dropping some of the height in your keys. That makes for faster typing and some find it more tactile to boot. While we did notice a little creaking in our testing, we found that the speed and resistance behind each keypress was more than enough to make up for it. That low profile design goes a long way to still making this deck feel snappy and responsive, despite not offering mechanical switches.
Read more: Razer Cynosa V2 review
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You don’t need to sacrifice core gaming features just because you’re hunting down a membrane keyboard. In fact, the Corsair K55 RGB Pro excels in offering one of the most important features of all, still in a membrane deck. That’s macro programming. Many premium decks offer a whole range of macro options, from individually assignable keys to dedicated extra buttons. Where you prefer to place your macros is down to personal play style, but there’s plenty of functionality baked into Corsair’s entry.
You’re getting six additional buttons down the left side of the keyboard here, all fully dedicated to macro controls. Not only that, but you can assign these keys on the fly, a usually premium feature, or go more in-depth with Corsair’s iCue software instead.
Not only that, but the Corsair K55 RGB Pro is still a solid deck elsewhere. Some of the keys can feel a little spongey under-hand, but there’s still a nice snap here overall, and a fast debounce. That’s to be expected from the brand behind some of the fastest decks on the market, though. You’re also getting five-zone RGB lighting, a suite of dedicated media controls, and a detachable palm rest as well.
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We’re cheating a little here because the SteelSeries Apex 5 is a mecha-membrane keyboard. That means the switches retain that clack of a mechanical clicker but still offer the soft landing of a smooth membrane deck. The result is particularly satisfying tap. We tested the blue clicky variant for the maximum effect and were blown away by the speed and satisfaction under every press. If you prefer a lighter touch but still don’t want to go full-mechanical, this is the deck for you.
Of course, you’re spending a little more for the Apex 5 than you would other options on this list. However, the mecha-membrane switches under the hood are far more premium than the rubber domes on sub-$60 models, and you’re picking up some extra features for even more value as well.
There’s an OLED display up towards the top right corner (we did feel that this is a little under-utilized, but it will still display some neat stats in certain games), per-key RGB, a volume roller, and a detachable magnetic wrist rest as well. While keycaps are ABS, we were particularly impressed with the smoothness of the experience here. Every touch feels silky soft, but the curved shapes still ensure your grip is maintained throughout every battle. Combine that with a crisp clicker and this is a tactile dream.
Read more: SteelSeries Apex 5 review
Membrane keyboards vs mechanical keyboards
Membrane keyboards are excellent if you’re building a setup on a budget, but mechanical decks will offer up greater performance overall. That said, because of the additional cost of those individual switches, you may not find as many extra features like dedicated media controls, macro settings, per-key RGB lighting, or a wrist rest, in mechanical decks that cost significantly more. Still, both sides of the debate have their benefits and sacrifices, so it’s worth checking out the features of each below.
TL;DR: Mechanical vs Membrane keyboards compared
- More satisfying and tactile
- N-Key rollover
- More durable
- Softer typing feel
- Sometimes include more features
Is a membrane keyboard worth it?
If you’re looking for a cheap gaming keyboard under $100 / £100, then the vast majority of options open to you are going to be membrane. Because of the gaming-specific features, waterproofing, and rapidly improving keypress feel, a membrane keyboard is generally going to be worth it if you’re spending less than $60 / £60. You won’t find a mechanical keyboard this cheap, so this is only way to net these features.
Things muddy a little around the $70/£70 – $100/£100 mark. This is where hybrid keyboards and budget-minded mechanical decks come into play. In the case of the former, you’ll still find solid value in a mecha-membrane option, as long as it’s cheaper than finding the same additional features on a fully mechanical keyboard.
In the case of the latter, however, it’s worth weighing up what matters to you to find out if a membrane keyboard is worth it. If you’re looking for a luxury typing experience and long term durability, you will want to sacrifice some of those extra features for the mechanical switches. However, if you’re more concerned with fancy RGB settings, macro commands, and a wrist rest, a membrane keyboard will provide far better value.
How we test membrane keyboards
We test membrane keyboards in the exact same way we would test any mechanical deck. We live with every set of keys for at least two weeks – playing, working, and tinkering with each one until it becomes part of the furniture. That’s when we start putting it through its paces thoroughly, with typing tests and more intense gameplay scenarios to track response times, comfort, and key-spacing (and therefore precision). Throughout this time, we’re consistently checking corners, keycaps, bezels, and any additional wrist rests or riser feet for signs of wear and tear, or any durability concerns. You can find out more about how we test keyboards in the full GamesRadar+ Hardware Policy.
We’re also rounding up the best wireless gaming keyboards if you’re after something a little more premium. Or, if all this talk of switches has you keen, we’re also diving into the world of the best hot-swappable keyboards as well.