how to pick a gaming keyboard

The Main Characteristics of a Gaming Keyboard

A modern gamer is equipped like a noble knight. Just like an expensive horse can’t have a cheap saddle and shiny sword is not to be put in a rusty scabbard, it would be a shame if you connected a bad keyboard to a top gaming system.

Assembling a gaming system used to mean buying a mouse and a keyboard along with some Pentium III Home Edition. Nowadays you are dazzled by hundreds of models produced by different manufacturers. The technologies, design and prices differ. You can choose from a variety of products ranging from the backlit top models to cold and minimalistic ones. Back in the day I got addicted to comfortable gaming using hardware and software. I can’t get rid of my habit playing like that to this day. Why? Well, look at what the gaming market has to offer to understand!

Types of Gaming Keyboards

Despite being so common and regular, a keyboard is not the simplest and most primitive thing. A common user isn’t likely to know that there are three types of keyboards:

  • Membrane

The technology of this keyboard is simple. There is a rubber membrane under each key which closes the contact on the typing plate. These keyboards are easy to make, hence their low price from ~$13. Best Membrane keyboard often lag, i.e. you press the button, but the contacts don’t close. Of course, there are quite expensive products made by top companies, but the problem is that the main drawbacks of this type of keyboards are caused by the technology itself and have nothing to do with the brand.

  • Mechanical

This is the most attractive option for a gamer. Its technology is the oldest one ever, as it is related to the ancient IBM systems. Their reliability is a benchmark to this day and it’s very hard to invent something better than that. There are 4 types of mechanisms, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. The prices start from ~$25. We’ll give you more details about picking the right mechanical keyboard in our review of the best mechanical gaming keyboards.

  • Scissor

This is a technology used in laptops mainly. Deep embedment of the keys is a typical feature of the design of such keyboards. Convenience is an individual matter here, but not that you can find scissor keyboards at a price starting from $25, which would be unreasonable since mechanical keyboards are most popular with the gamers. It would still be comfortable to play with them if you’ve bought a laptop.

To facilitate comparison, take a look at the chart below

Type

Hit (mlns)

The key stroke (Embedment depth)

Price

Game Play Comfort Level

Membrane

5

Deep

Low

Average

Mechanic

50

Deep

High

High

Scissor

10

Mediocre

High

High

Personal Opinion:

It is the mechanical keyboard which might as well become a gamers best choice. It is durable and will endure enough hits. Moreover, gaming hardware manufacturers tend to develop this very segment as there are fewer Best Membrane Keyboard for gaming and barely any scissor gaming ones.

Types of Gaming Keyboards Connection

As you know, there are two types of keyboard connection: wired and wireless ones.

Wired keyboards are the majority of keyboards available on the market. A keyboard is not a mouse, and only the most fastidious gamers will have a hard time playing with wires. Such keyboard doesn’t require constant monitoring of the battery charge and so you don’t risk finding yourself in an awkward position in the middle of an online battle.

There are two main types of wired connection:

  1. USB is a well-known and classic type of slot. However, it has certain drawbacks. The first and the foremost is that should the USB bus be overloaded with other connections, delays in hits are possible. The second one is that the number of simultaneous hits is restricted (the restriction varies depending on the model).

  2. PS/2 is a better type of connection which unfortunately has become obsolete and is, therefore, hard to find. High response is achieved through unlimited simultaneous hits. The second advantage is that the signal is transmitted through hardware interrupts rather than through hardware survey. Simply put, it provides for the instant reaction of the system to the hit ad guarantees no delays.

Personal Opinion:

Despite its drawbacks, USB is more popular and there are few complaints of a long response. Although PS/2 is very quick, you will barely encounter it. That’s why we’d rather pick USB and hedge against lags with special software.

Wireless connection allows for freedom of movement as you will have no problem lying in an armchair or in one of the best gaming chairs or on the sofa and tapping lazily. However, as we’ve mentioned, the biggest disadvantage of this type is that you have to recharge it.

Further reading: Best wireless gaming keyboards

Design and Material of a Gaming Keyboard’s Keys

This is aspect shouldn’t be overlooked when picking a gaming keyboard because a couple of months of severe online battles will wear out the low-grade plastic on your keyboard, and the ugly and nipped shine will appear, and the labels will rub off.

There are two types of plastic with long names which are used for manufacturing keys:

  1. ABS-plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, no, don’t even try saying that out loud)

  • It costs much

  • Doesn’t rub off, no unpleasant gloss appears in due course

  • It has increased temperature resistance (up to 300 ° F) and strength.

You’ll come across it in the top models. The price is justified for this level of quality as the keys won’t get worn out with time. Watch for that aspect if you’ve decided to invest much in a gaming keyboard.

  1. PBT-plastic (polybutylene terephthalate)

  • It is cheap and light

  • The characters can get erased and the keyboard becomes glossy

  • Will melt after a few hours in the sun

It is used in cut-rate and average models. Its drawbacks can be compromised with since it won’t be very hard to renew the keyboard with the printed stickers.

The stiffness of a key will help you tell the cheap plastic apart from the expensive one. If you feel that it is stiff and quite massive for a key, it is for sure ABS. If you can’t physically feel the device, pay attention to the brand and the price, as all the products made by top manufacturers (Razer,Steelseries,Logitech, etc.) have their keys made of ABS plastic specifically.

As for the application of characters to the keys, there is a variety of methods:

  • Print. Most keyboards’ characters are printed. They are applied on certain stickers which you can easily feel with your fingers. The main drawback is that these stickers usually get erased. However, their inexpensiveness and colored print have made them market leaders. Moreover, buying a set of stickers will help you renew your old keyboard.

  • Laser burn. The idea is obvious. The keys of such keyboard will be a little rough to touch. The only available color is the color of burnt plastic, black. The burnt characters will take a very long time to erase, yet the characters’ clarity leaves much to be desired.

  • Sublime print. The main principle is that the paint is turned into vapor and is then injected deep into the plastic. The characters applied with this method will stay intact for quite a long time, and the keys will remain smooth, without any roughness. This technology is only used on the keyboards of light colors because applying the paint that is darker than plastic is pointless.

  • Two-component molding. A key consists of two parts, the base and the top which has the character on it. such keyboards are most durable and most expensive, so you’ll only encounter this technology in the top models.

Personal Opinion:

Print and two-component molding are your best options to opt for. The former is affordable and won’t incur additional costs. Once it gets worn out, you can simply renew the stickers. The latter is more advanced and expensive, but we can call it ever-lasting without a twinge of conscience. So if you can afford it, pick the two-component molding keyboards. I can add from my experience that if you are neat enough and if you don’t spill food and drink all over the keyboard, don’t use sandpaper on it and overall are careful with it, a sticker option will also be quite durable. That’s why the choice is all about the aesthetics for many users.

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover. What to Look For When Picking a Gaming Keyboard?

Just like any other gaming device, a keyboard has become an object of designers’ creativity, that’s why ergonomics and catchy design are the two inherent attributes of a key representative of the gaming arsenal. What are some fundamental aspects to pay attention to? There are few of them.

  • Manufacturer

Sad as it is, the biggest chunk of most models’ price structure is occupied by the brand name and not by quality. The good news is that 9 out of 10 brand name hardware items are of great quality indeed. Using this guide will help you indemnify yourself against the impact of brand names and aggressive marketing.

  • Ergonomics

Comfort is the key to productive gaming. That’s why even the most marketed model made of the high-grade materials will hardly bring you any great moments if it is not convenient. Gaming keyboards (just like other gaming hardware) have certain perks and features, such as wrist stands which will save your wrists from freezing after several hours of intense game play.

Smart key location is also typical of many products. By that we mean rubberized WASD keys or the absence of a treacherous win key next to ctrl (which can be hit at the worst moment and which will minimize the active window). You know how it happens: you run on and on, you want to sit, but instead of sitting down you find yourself staring at your desktop. Upon expanding the window, you’ll find the angry message from your teammates about missing the checkpoint. At that moment, you probably don’t think highly of the device’s designers.

Very few manufacturers tailor design to the gaming needs. Quite on the contrary, most models are now available in the more or less classic style without losing any of their coolness or convenience. By the way, we recommend you to avoid having various trash options such as wheels, obscure (and not needed) multimedia buttons which not only spoil the appearance of a keyboard but also contribute to its price increase. A single player’s best choice will be a minimalistic gaming keyboard. As for the online players, things are not that simple here. MOBA professionals massively switch to keypads or use MOBA mice encompassing sufficient amount of keys. That’s why the choice is entirely up to you: if other keys don’t disturb you, don’t bother and choose the classic version of the keyboard.

  • Extra keys/scrolls/screens

Refertothepreviouspoint, thesamegoesforthisone. If you’re not used to using extra features, such as info screens and various trackers, and the game play doesn’t require them, then why overpay hundreds of bucks for useless options?

  • Keyboard illumination

Mostmodelsareequippedwithbrightbacklighting. The number of colors is usually about 16 million, so you won’t have a hard time picking the right color. Also, dynamic illumination is available for certain models. The idea is the following: if you catch a bullet, the keys turn red. The more tuned the illumination is, the higher the price, by the way so it might seem more feasible to opt for a simpler model (without dynamic illumination, for example) and save some money.

  • Special software

Dont disregard the software. It doesn’t really inflate the price, but the drivers do facilitate your life. They will allow reprogramming the keys and saving different configuration profiles, which are especially useful if a few people use the keyboard.

Now that we have figured out the main aspects of choosing a gaming keyboard, things don’t seem that complicated, do they? Once you pick the type that suits you, you are welcome to to study our catalogue for more knowledge! Choose the best quality devices at the top of any rating!