As mechanical keyboards have risen in popularity, we’ve seen a corresponding backlash from fans of membrane keyboards. Some hate the sound and feel of mechanical keyboards, while others think that spending £50 or £100 on a keyboard of any construction is simply outrageous. That’s perhaps why we’ve seen a fair few ‘membranical’ hybrids over the past few years, which attempt to bridge the gap between the two camps and deliver a winning combination of design, features and affordability.
That brings us to the subject of today’s review, the QPAD MK40. This hybrid board includes 105 membranical keys, 19-key rollover, compatibility with MX-type keycaps and backlighting for £42. After a few hours of testing, we’re ready to render a verdict.
Specs & Features
|Key switch||Membranical switch technology|
|N Key Roll Over||19 Key – N Key Roll Over|
|Key Strokes||8 Million|
|Lighting||Green, Yellow or Red (four levels)|
|Media Keys||Volume and media keys via Fn layer|
|Cable||1.8 meter PVC cable|
|Dimensions||Keyboard: 43.9 x 14 x 4.5cm (17.3 x 5.5 x 1.8 inch)|
|Wrist pad: 43.9 x 6.9 x 1.3cm (17.3 x 2.7 x 0.5 inch)|
The MK40 is a full-size membranical keyboard with a traditional 105-key layout; additional functions such as media controls, volume adjustments and lighting controls are available via a function layer. The MK40 feels reasonably durable, but does exhibit some deck flex which is worrying for a £50 keyboard.
The keyboard includes a relatively larger QPAD ‘Q’ brand mark in the upper right; the wrist rest also includes a QPAD wordmark. Other ornamentation includes a bevelled edge that runs the perimeter of the keyboard, adding a bit of visual flair. Otherwise, the keyboard is quite ordinary in appearance, with a nondescript look that would fit right into a standard office.
Looking at the back and bottom of the keyboard, there are no options for cable routing, key pulling or USB pass-through, but you can adjust the angle of the keyboard using the flip-out feet.
The typing and gaming experience on the MK40 is not great, unfortunately. Pressing down a key requires significant force and it bounces back slowly, making it easy to miss key strokes if your press is too light or you didn’t hit the keycap square on. The keys are loud too, with an artificial click accompanying each key press, which removes one of the biggest reasons that people go for membrane keyboards in the first place. While hybrids normally seek to provide the best points of both parents, we seem to have ended up with the worst of both worlds here.
The backlighting on the MK40 is also rather disappointing. It’s so dim that I couldn’t read the key legends at my normal seated typing position – even during a classically overcast British afternoon. There are only three colour options here – red, green or yellow – and none are particularly impressive. There are brightness settings (helpfully unlabelled on the keyboard; I had to check the manual to figure these out), but these just make the keyboard even dimmer. The backlighting is more helpful at night, but the limited colour options and low maximum brightness make for a pretty poor showing for a modern keyboard. These issues are exacerbated by the dark, small and thin legends on each key; other keyboards are much easier to read whether lit or unlit.
Credit where credit is due though, the MK40 does get some things right. The inclusion of 19-key rollover means that you can press down multiple keys at once and ensure they’re all registered, which is important in rhythm games, shooters and other titles. The switches also use Cherry MX-style stems, so you can install after-market keycaps without much difficulty. A palm rest is also included, which is a nice inclusion at this price point but not completely novel.
With proper mechanical keyboards available at much lower prices plus a wealth of better-feeling membrane keyboards, there’s no really no reason to consider the MK40. That’s a shame, as the previous QPAD keyboards we’ve tested have generally been strong options at reasonable price points.