I've always liked to examine and to describe to you the gadgets which are made for gamers. And today this is going to be just the case. Let’s talk about gaming keypads: Logitech G13, Razer Orbweaver, Razer Nostromo, Razer Tartarus.

Let's start with an answer to this question: What is a keypad? It's not a piece of keyboard, as it might seem at first glance, but a fully independent device which makes a gamer's life easier and provides for additional comfort when playing.

It is here that you need to mind the word "gaming," because when it comes to a regular keyboard, you know that you can use it for actual playing, which would be painful and inconvenient yet still possible. As for the keypads, a non-gaming version of a keypad is simply a numeric keypad on your keyboard which is likely to be to your right at the moment. The only thing you can play using this are probably some math games.

For us gamers, a keypad is truly a majestic tool. Isn't its ease of taps, hand comfort and full relaxation a true fairy tale? Today we'll learn to choose a comfortable and useful device, identify who needs this gadget, give an overview of the model range, and pick the best products.

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE A GAMING KEYPAD?

I wouldn't have been bothered by such issues if after surfing the web I hadn't found out that no one had touched upon such questions, despite some obvious need for doing so.

The following criteria will guide you:

  • Set of keys. This is the amount of buttons that would be optimal for gaming.

Nowadays, the range of this parameter is quite wide. You can rarely come across a set of 8-9 keys. Some sets reach 60-70 keys. Of course, the notion of a keypad itself is very relative, but personally I think that the latter sets fit more into a category of keyboards. I would recommend purchasing a 20-25 buttons keypad. Fewer buttons are unlikely to suffice unless you're using it as intended (we'll talk about that later), and more buttons will only distract you and resemble a traditional keyboard.

  • Ergonomics is a straight-out and solid aspect

Your hand should be placed on the keypad perfectly and not get tired, even after a night raid which lasts until the following evening. That's why you're buying a keypad! The model should initially fit your anatomical features which would then make it unique, or it should be adjusted (which is more appropriate). The more axes of settings are available, the better it is for you.

  • Profiling is a desirable option

Let's say you want to play multiple characters during a game. With profiling, you won't have to change your layout and create new binds each time you re-log. Having set everything up once, you would be able to easily switch between your profiles with a strike of a key. The same goes for other games. When your gameplay in DotA ends successfully (which is natural since there are only crabs around you!) the subsequent logging into WoW - where a party if complete and you're the only one missing - becomes just a matter of pressing a button rather than setting everything up from scratch.

  • Extra functions will always come in handy

Modular buttons, analog control sticks, removable panels, and other features will contribute to your better comfort and to gaining maximum pleasure.

Models which are over-tuned are not worth buying. A keypad should be a keypad - not a printer, a scanner, a mixer, a beer can opener etc. But this is something you should mind in future: today's market is doing just fine. But we still have to figure out who would need such a device. In fact, it will suit everyone, but then the question of necessity arises. I'll explain…

The keypads will reveal themselves and unlock their potential in the best way in MMORPG and MOBA games and in RPGs, and some arcades among single-player games. These are the games where there's magic, i.e. a huge range of various spells, hits, stands etc, which have to be used in a row with the right binding and at a countdown. Here, everything will be at your fingertips and you don't need to set up any combinations of keys, since everything will have been bound beforehand, and the only thing you need to do is click.

If you're playing WoW or Dota, or maybe even LoL, then I strongly recommend you to buy such a device. With it, the game is transformed and your perception changes. But bear in mind that you would still have to use your standard keyboard for chatting, there's nothing to be done about it.

Other genres of games don't dictate such a strong need for this device. Say, in racing it simply wouldn't unlock its potential... Buying a separate keypad for mere 6-7 buttons? Saving and buying a PC racing wheel is better. Nevertheless, this judgment is as subjective as the rest of this web-portal, so if you really want to buy it, then go ahead.

Let's move on the model range and apply our newly-acquired skills in choosing a perfect keypad. I'll say in advance that there won't be any surprises today. The keypad market is dominated by the same companies which dominate other gaming gadget markets - which are Razer and Logitech.

REVIEW OF THE BEST KEYPADS

Logitech G13 Programmable Gameboard

Logitech G13 Programmable GameboardWe might as well begin with a Swiss manufacturer. Logitech is a company associated with quality and excellent execution. This time is no different. Customer care has always been a competitive edge of this brand. First of all, this is obvious from the efforts of engineers and designers which worked on the ergonomics.

Logitech G13 Gameboard is the #1 Best Seller among gaming keypads in the PC Gaming Keyboards category.

It hasn't got any extra features, such as individual adjustment of hand placement, but you'll do great without it. And no, I won't contradict myself and lie to you – it will indeed be better if the settings are precise. But this device would suit most, if not everyone. The memory allows having five profiles. This is just what I was explaining above: You bind your profiles once and then you just switch between them. By the way, the memory contains a number of pre-settings for the most popular games - if they suit you, consider that the Swiss manufacturer has done all the work for you. 25 programmable keys for complete freedom of action will be at your disposal.

Forget about having to record the macros along with programming-level issues. Everything is much simpler here - macros can be easily recorded even without having to pause the game. Cool thing it is! Suppose you had a bind for quick healing, for example, but you ran out of bandages. In this situation instead of letting a useful button stay idle, you would simply assign new rules to it.

The illumination does not corrode your eyes and can be adjusted to your liking. Different colors may be chosen for different profiles for easier navigation. There's also a small LCD screen. This is a simple setting yielding serious results. Game statistics or messages can be output there. An analog stick which can be assigned any function should not be overlooked either.

The average price for the keypad Logitech G13 is ~$58.15. This isn't the cheapest keypad, but I believe it's worth it. Over 90% of those who bought it agree with me. What did the rest not like? The reviews are chaotic, and I was unable to identify any common issues. However, I noticed that very often the reviewers compare this keypad with a certain Belkin n52te, which we will discuss later on. Is this promotion or a mere coincidence? Time will show that. But now you can read over 1,000 customer reviews on Amazon.com to decide is it worth to purchase Logitech G13.

Our Personal Experience

We’ve tested it for about a week, and the screen seemed interesting only for the first couple of days. You get used to it afterwards and your eyes will ignore the useful information output there. This is undoubtedly a helpful feature, but it hasn’t been entirely thought through as it is not easy to play and glance at your wrist simultaneously.

We also didn’t like the rest much. It’s straight, isn’t bent and the coolness of the metallic “G13” plaque is not too pleasant for the wrist.

Price: ~$58.15 Check the current price

Razer Tartarus Gaming Keypad

Razer Tartarus Gaming Keypad

Razer dominates the keypad market, and so we will examine the models in the order of their development. It would be logical to begin with Razer Nostroma, as it is a model which has a firm foothold over the market just like the company with the same name. However, the Razer Tartarus is superior to its predecessor in all aspects, and the latter has consequently been almost withdrawn from the market. Thus there's no point in elaborating. Tartarus may become a great gift or a personal investment at a cost of ~$58.89.

The main panel has 15 buttons, and overall there are 25 fully programmable buttons. Ergonomics has been upgraded in comparison with the previous model. You're getting a customizable platform which may be fixed in two positions and may be individually adjusted.

The illumination is also customizable and may be adapted to your liking. In general, illumination is basically a must for keypads. This is a device designed exclusively for gaming and it is supposed to help and please you. When you're playing at night, it can even save both your character's (since you won't miss the keys and will be able to jump left instead of taking out a grenade and blowing it up in your hands) and your own (as you won't have to turn on the lights, and your family won't yell at you for gaming at 3 a.m.) lives.

The manufacturer of Razer Tartarus draws your attention to the cable and to the gold-plated USB plug. Yes, this feature extends the operation period and has a positive impact on functionality. However, unlike mice, the keypads are not the type of device which moves around a lot, so such measures are not really necessary here.

Everything is not amiss, though the online Synapse service is always down, it crashes and doesn't recover. I've encountered the same problem in my reviews of the mice and keyboards. If you're interested in saving your profiles online, then this device is a big no-no. Otherwise, this is a good pick.

Price: ~$58.89 Check the current price

Our Personal Experience

This is a perfect substitute for those who are looking for a quality keypad at an affordable price. Should our Nostromo fail, it will be replaced by Tartarus. This device is not equipped with an expensive mechanic keypad. It is instead rid of the annoying tapping sound. With that being said, its ergonomics and usability are not inferior to those of a more expensive keypad.

Razer Orbweaver Elite PC Gaming Keypad

Razer Orbweaver Elite PC Gaming Keypad

Now this is a serious bid for success. The price segment, of course, is different: It costs from ~$81.15, but the parameters overall are completely different. The mechanics are the coolest thing here. The keys are finally mechanical, which is great. I have earlier described in details the differences between the mechanical and membrane keyboards in the review of the best gaming keyboards.

You can sensibly feel both pressure and recoil, and thus you manage the gameplay to the fullest extent. This keypad will serve you for any occasion. There are 20 buttons on the main panel, and in general Razer Orbweaver has 30 programmable buttons. The amplitude and accessibility of control goes off-scale but is not excessive.

The ergonomics are excellent. The hand stand can be adjusted along 3 axes, and clearly, everyone can make it as convenient and comfortable as it can be. Moreover, the panel itself is slightly bent which provides for better access to all the keys and fewer moves necessary. Various perks, such as illumination or simple profile management are still there (by the way, there are 8 profiles). The device itself is manufactured out of matte, non-slipping plastic.

According to the customer feedback, the Synapse program is the only problem of Razer. The service is generally either not working or working terribly. The management has never considered to shut it down or to fix it – which is in vain. I'll sum up by saying that if you would like to play some shooters, this model will be the best. The mechanics gives a wonderful response.

Our Personal Experience

We have seriously considered switching to this device from our dear Nostromo, but haven’t dared. Surely, the tactile perception and the response of the keys lead to fruitful results, but we really disliked the annoying tapping sound of the keys and overpricing of the keypad.

We can’t but mention the horrible software for this keypad. Razer Synapse is the worst product of this American corporation. This cloud software is completely useless as it is impossible to properly save and download gaming profiles from the server. Only those profiles and macros that were pre-installed work properly.

Price: from ~$81.15 Check the current price

Razer Nostromo PC Gaming Keypad

This is a legendary keypad created by an American manufacturer. It was a real breakthrough of the gaming equipment market in 2011 and became Razer’s best selling device as it overtook the incredibly popular Naga mouse.

Razer Nostromo PC Gaming Keypad

The gadget is equipped with the membrane keys (there are 16 macro-oriented keys). The keys are covered with a special soft-touch fabric on top; the wrist rest has special rubberized coating with long service life. The rest has a special bending for the left arm which its competitive edge. Moreover, the rest can be adjusted to your palm’s length.

The focal feature of this keypad is the unlimited length of a macro to be recorded. For its launch year (2011) this perk was a real breakthrough! Some claimed that it was cheating as a dozen of consecutive spells could be programmed on one key in any MMORG.

Nostromo supports up to 20 gaming profiles and allows instant switching between them. There is a special dim backlighting which will let you play in complete darkness.

Our Personal Experience

The author of this article bought Razer Nostromo right after its launch. The first couple of weeks were rather difficult, as it was hard to get rid of the habit of using a regular keyboard and it was difficult to get used to the macros.

After that, when he got used to Nostromo and the macros were recorded and assigned to the keys, a miracle occurred. A druid on the WOW began to perform extraordinarily, the game play pace has become three times as rapid and he only had to strike a single key and wait a dozen of seconds for killing some mobs.

The following stats illustrate the device’s durability: the author played in a clan for two years with you, raided up-level bosses, had PVP battles for a few hours each day, and played Dota 2 for over 1000 hours. Razer Nostromo has never let him down all this time. The mechanical keys are still perfectly smooth and only the rest’s surface has darkened a bit.

Price: ~$299.95 Check the current price

СOMPARATIVE TABLE

  Logitech G13 Razer Tartarus Razer Orbweaver Razer Nostromo
The number of regular keys 22 15 20 16
The number of extra keys 8 4 2 4
The number of profiles available Unlimited (cloud storage is used) 20, other users' profiles can be downloaded 20, other users' profiles can be downloaded 20
Keypad type Membrane Membrane Mechanical Membrane

Joystick available

YES YES YES YES
Backlighting available Yes (16 mln colors) Yes (16.8 mln colors) Yes (1 colors) Yes (1 colors)

Scrolling wheel available

YES YES YES YES
PC connection USB USB USB USB
Additional options A customizable LCD screen Chroma technology for setting any color of backlighting Unique mechanical keyboard, and unique tactile sensations Playing in the darkness
Price

~$58.15

~$58.89

from ~$81.15

~$299.95

 

Summarizing!

I recommend choosing a keypad out of the suggested models. First of all, these products are tested by the market, and second of all, they are manufactured by popular and worthy companies.

You may also pay attention to Delux T9 46-Key Wired Gaming Keyboard for ~$33.98, but I wouldn't recommend doing so. This  model is difficult or impossible to program. And this function should not be overlooked, as it is a primary one. We buy keypads just for modeling a perfect set of keys which is always at our fingertips.

You'll make a right choice if you base it on my advice!