Choosing the Right Keyboard for Gaming
Gamers spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on their set up. When you consider how long many of us spend gaming it makes sense. Like any hobby or sport, the right equipment is key to high performance.
So why is it that gamers who spend hundreds of dollars on hard drives and graphics cards often skimp out when it comes to PC peripherals like keyboards and mice?
It just doesn’t make sense. Your keyboard and mouse are your input devices. They are your link to the character you’re controlling and you need them to be reliable, tactile, responsive.
One of the reasons why choosing a keyboard is so difficult is down to the sheer volume of keyboards on the market. There are hundreds of different kinds and variations at prices as low as a few bucks up to hundreds of dollars.
Luckily for you, we’re here to help you sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Mechanical Vs Membrane
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a mechanical keyboard or a membrane keyboard.
The difference between the kinds comes down to the operation and the price point.
Mechanical keyboards are more expensive because they cost more to produce. Membrane keyboards are simpler and cheaper.
Membrane keyboards are thinner and quieter. The keys rest on rubber domes. When a key is pressed, the membrane dome is depressed. Inside the dome is coated in graphite which connects with the circuit below each key.
When the circuit is completed, the computer knows what letter is typed.
In mechanical keyboards, the keycap essentially rests on a spring. When the key is pressed the spring compresses and a switch is closed telling the computer what key is pressed.
When you release the key the tension in the spring is released pushing the key back to its original position.
There are pros and cons to each type of keyboard. We’ve summarised these points in the tables below.
|Smoother, tactile response.||More expensive|
|Keys are removable allowing full access for cleaning.||Noisy, clacking sound when you type.|
|Longer life span thanks to a more durable construction.|
|Cheaper to produce and buy.||Rubber domes wear out more quickly.|
|Near silent operation.||Squishy response to typing.|
|Less force required to operate.||Keys can’t be removed easily for cleaning.|
Ultimately mechanical keyboards are the better option but the price tag can definitely be off putting.
Some people do prefer the softer and quieter membrane keyboards. If that is the case you can buy higher end membrane keyboards that are more tactile than standard office keyboards.
Size matters when it comes to keyboards. The shape and size of your keyboard can affect your comfort and your performance. In a world where milliseconds can mean the difference between winning and losing, it’s important to have whatever edge you can.
There are three main sizes you’ll want to consider when choosing your keyboard. The difference between them is all about the keys they offer.
Full size keyboards are the standard. They have all your letters, numbers, number pad, and function keys. These are wonderful if you’re in the office where you need to use the number pad for calculations or data input.
However, gaming doesn’t really rely on these keys. What they actually end up being is a waste of space. If you have a large desk and you don’t have to worry about squeezing things onto the desk then maybe a full sized keyboard isn’t too much of a problem.
You might also want to go with a full sized keyboard if you’re going to be using it for things other than gaming. You’ll have a perfectly sufficient experience and the flexibility to get all your work done.
The next step down is a TKL keyboard. This is a tenkeyless keyboard. As the name suggests it does not have the tenkeys which is another name for the number pad.
The benefit of this kind of keyboard is that it is smaller meaning you have more room for your monitors, speakers, and mouse.
The rest of the keyboard is intact, including the F buttons and media buttons.
Probobly the best keyboard size for gaming is the 60% keyboard. As you’ve probably guessed from the name, this keyboard only has 60% of the keys found on it’s full sized counterpart.
With 60% keyboards there is no number pad and the F buttons are removed. Making it significantly shorter and thinner than standard keyboards.
This gives you a lot more room to play with on your desk. It also allows you to have your mouse closer to your keyboard. This gives you a more natural positioning and can reduce arm and shoulder fatigue.
This is an important term you need to know when shopping for keyboards.
The polling rate is essentially the responsiveness of the keyboard, It refers to how often the computer checks for input from your computer and how quickly the keyboard can send information.
The higher the polling rate the better it is for gaming. Normal office computers run at around 125Hz but for gaming you want a keyboard with a polling rate of 1000Hz.
Sometimes you can get keyboards that allow you to adjust the polling rate to suit different games and playing styles.
Ghosting happens when your computer can’t make sense of simultaneous key pressing. This can really kill your experience and is frustrating beyond belief.
The computer becomes confused when multiple buttons are pressed. This can lead to your character doing random movements when they’re supposed to be shooting.
Most standard keyboards can handle up to three keys being pressed at the same time but for gaming, you want a minimum of 5. Keyboards with anti-ghosting features can handle between 5 and 10 simultaneous keys.
Backlit keys aren’t just an aesthetics choice. They can help reduce eye strain during long gaming sessions.
When you choose your keyboard you’ll need to choose whether you want a simple white light backlit keyboard or something a bit fancier.
RGB keyboards are really common. You’ll be able to find keyboards that can switch between different colors, stick with a single color, or do a bit of a light show.
Many RGB lit keyboards allow you to program the lighting so it displays in a particular pattern. For the most immersive experience, look for backlit keyboards that can mimic and reflect the events of the game.
This is the big question really. How much should you spend on a keyboard?
Well if you’re looking for a good quality, backlit, anti-ghosting, mechanical keyboard you can expect to pay about $100.
Keyboards in this price range will have an excellent tactile response, durable switches, and plenty of programmable options.
The opportunity to macro program keys for combo moves, media control, and menu access is really handy. It’s definitely worth the extra cost.
If you’re just getting into gaming and don’t want to splash a lot of cash, you could consider a membrane keyboard. It will do an adequate job but it won’t help you progress.
Imagine your keyboard as your access to the world of the game you’re playing. You want crystal clear access, you want full control. What you don’t want is a laggy, confused access point.
You can’t polish a turd, as my old man says. If you have a poor keyboard, there’s only so far you can go.
Paying a bit more for a quality keyboard will allow you to improve your scores and progress.