How to Choose a Gaming Keyboard
Posted by Aziz Saigal on
As a modern gamer, you need all the right tools for success. If you’re going to have a top tier gaming system and gaming mouse, you’re going to need also want a quality gaming keyboard to pair with your awesome gaming rig.
Technology has come a long way, especially in the increasing growth of the gaming industry. With an overload of quality products from different manufacturers, gamers now have an abundant of keyboards to choose from to fit their customized gaming styles.
Things to look for when Keyboard Shopping
When looking for the right keyboard, there’s a lot to consider. With so many keyboards in the market today, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re choosing the right product that fits your needs.
Different keyboards serve different functions. Are you the type of gamer that prefers larger keyboards?
Do you value macros and easy to reach keys?
Or are you simply a gamer who values ergonomics and comfort while gaming.
Here are some factors to consider when deciding on your next gaming keyboard.
As you may have noticed, the size of keyboards vary. This is especially true with laptops where the size of the screen is the deciding factor. A keyboard is considered “full size” when it has 104 or 105 keys, including the full QWERTY section, number pad, dedicated function keys, and the four directional cursor keys.
Full-sized keyboards are the most extensive style and may be too large for the size of your gaming surface. Some gamers will choose to forego the number pad because it can feel like it puts too much space between the keys they use with their left hand and their space for their mouse. On the other hand, if the number pad is crucial for you, you’ll want to go with the full-sized keyboard.
If you choose to go the route with a missing number pad, a “tenkeyless” size is the right choice for you. It will be a much more manageable size and will still retain all the essential keys. Most gamers find that the “tenkeyless” size works just fine.
When it comes to gaming, comfort is super important. Most gaming keyboards come with wrist stands, which will keep your wrists from cramping after hours of intense gaming.
Another common trait you’ll see are convenient key locations like rubberized WASD keys or the absence of the windows key by the control key, which can be highly disruptive if pressed during a heated gaming session.
As a single-player, what you want to do is go with a minimalistic, classic choice. Avoid wheels, mysterious multimedia buttons that clutter up the look of the keyboard, and contribute to unnecessarily high prices.
Gaming Keyboard and Connection
There are two types of keyboard connection, wired and wireless. Wired keyboards are the most common kind of keyboard available. These keyboards won’t require you to continually monitor the battery charge to make sure your game isn’t ruined by the computer suddenly going black.
There are two kinds of wired connection:
- The universally recognized USB slot: Although it is a common method of connection, this method has a few drawbacks. You’d face the main issue because you may experience delays in hits if the USB bus became overloaded with other connections. The second problem is that the number of simultaneous hits is restricted when using a USB connection.
- The PS/2 is a better type of connection, but it is hard to locate because it has become obsolete. This method of connection allows for simultaneous hits, resulting in a high response.
A Gaming Keyboard’s Keys
Don’t overlook any aspect of choosing a gaming keyboard. The material of the keys and design of the hardware are essential parts of the keyboard and its functionality that will affect your game. After a significant amount of time using your keyboard, low-quality keys will wear out, and the labels will fade.
There are two types of plastic used in keys:
- The first one is called ABS Plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene).
- It’s pricey
- Doesn’t rub off
- It has a high-temperature resistance of up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and durability.
- The second is PBT Plastic (polybutylene terephthalate)
- It’s low quality and light
- The characters get erased
- Will melt after only a few hours in the sun
There are also various methods that can be used for the application of characters to the keys:
- Print: You’ll find that most keyboards’ characters are printed. They’re applied to stickers that can be easily peeled off. Due to their affordability, they have become the most popular method of labeling keyboard keys. If this is what you have, you can buy a set of stickers and replace them when yours start to peel.
- Laser burn: These characters are lasered into the keys. Although these characters will take a long time to fade, they aren’t always the easiest to read.
- Sublime Print: With this method, the paint is turned into vapor and then injected into the plastic. This application technique produces a very durable result. The characters will take a long while to fade, and the keys are smooth.
- Two-component Molding: This is when a key consists of two parts. There are the base and the top, which is where the character’s located.
Kinds of Keyboards
Mechanical vs. Membrane
Membrane keyboards are relatively inexpensive to manufacture and facilitate the use of thin designs. There’s a rubber or silicone layer that acts as a spring of sorts and the electrical contact. Membrane keyboards are versatile but lack that “click” sound we’re all used to, which makes it a little challenging to know when you’ve pressed the key to the point that it registers with your computer. Most gamers don’t appreciate the spongy feel and prefer a different kind of keyboard.
Mechanical keyboards are a more traditional model of keyboard. Under each key is a dedicated mechanical switch. These switches have their housings, springs, and stems, resulting in a “click” that is highly audible and can be felt as you type. There are three kinds of crucial switches with three different click types depending on how much you want to feel.
If you’re a serious gamer, chances are you’re going to want a mechanical keyboard. They’re more accurate, give better feedback, and are the most durable kind of keyboard. Statistically, they can handle about 40-50 million clicks before they need to be replaced.
A Keyboard’s Customization and Macro Buttons
The next point to look out for is a keyboard’s customization and macro buttons. The right gaming keyboard can give you just a straight edge against your opponents. Some gaming keyboards come with a set of controls that can be programmed to activate in-game macros, or in other words, a predefined combination of commands. For example, in some complex games, you need to type in commands and use your mouse to then click on an icon to activate a macro. When you assign macros to a keyboard macro button, all you need to do is hit a single key to perform the same action. Do you see the advantage? It is a huge convenience to have this feature at your disposal.
Mechanical keyboards will also allow you to change out the switches under each key for further customization. If you want a softer spring under the WASD keys but more of a click on the spacebar key, that’s doable.
N-Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting Features
When using a keyboard for everyday activities, it’s rare to be pressing more than one key simultaneously unless you’re using the shift key. In contrast, when gaming, you’re pressing keys simultaneously all the time, and accuracy matters.
Gaming keyboards are built to withstand a specific number of simultaneous presses. This is known as “n-key rollover.” Here, the letter n stands for the number of keys that can be pressed simultaneously. The higher the “n” number, the more the keyboard will be able to handle. If you’re a competitive gamer or play games where two players use the keyboard simultaneously, a high n-key rollover is paramount.
Another thing that can happen to regular keyboards is key ghosting. This happens when you press specific keys simultaneously or in rapid succession, and the keyboard registers a press on an adjacent key that was never pressed. Although this isn’t a big deal in everyday keyboard activities, it could cost you the match when gaming.
In summary, you want a gaming keyboard that has a high n-key rollover and anti-ghosting features. Anything less may result in frustrating gaming sessions.
You’ve probably seen those gaming keyboards with dazzling rainbow lights and visual effects. Most models are equipped with bright backlighting. Although the lights may seem like they’re all for the show, there’s a lot more that goes into the lights than just catching the eye.
You can customize your keyboard to designate certain light colors to specific parts of the keyboard. This will help you keep track of what keys are where and what their functions are. The more you can use these lights as a reference, the quicker and more accurately you can play, making all the difference.
The Bottom Line
Now that you have all this knowledge, you’re ready to pick out a keyboard that’s perfect for you and your gaming needs. Even better, here at Patriot Memory, we have a wide array of choices for you to choose from. Take a look!