Kinetic Labs Octopus PBT Keycaps
The perfect setup for your gaming sessions is never complete without a highly compatible and effective keyboard. When shopping for computer accessories, it is important to watch out for the quality of the keyboard you go for, just as you would be intentional about looking out for features like display quality, monitor process rate, processor speed, RAM and storage space, and mouse precision in your computer or laptop.
Where keyboards are concerned, there are several features and factors to also watch out for as they go a long way to impact your experience when gaming. This article suffices as an essential guide to help you identify these keyboards and choose the right gaming keyboard for yourself.
Processor speed and operating system upgradability are important features to look out for when choosing computers for gaming. But what features should you look out for when buying a smaller but equally important accessory like a keyboard? Here are the top 5 features you should look out for before giving your money away:
Moon V2 Linear Switches
There are two main key technologies keyboards operate with: mechanical keys and membrane keys. Mechanical keyboards utilize mechanical switches and are preferred for gaming over membrane switches. This is because mechanical switches offer a tactile feel and faster response time compared to membrane switches. They are also known for other benefits, such as precision, durability, N-key rollover support, and the ability to minimize ghosting.
Traditional mechanical keyboards grant you that an audible sound when you use them, and will easily let you know when a press has been registered. You can also customize them to achieve an even more precise feel and sound-- for example, if you want a silent linear keyboard build, you can use silent linear switches. They are, however, more expensive than membrane keyboards.
Gamers love mechanical keyboards most for their speed, precision, and tactile feel, and they are designed to optimize comfort and sound. In fact, there are mechanical keyboards that have been designed to limit the actuation force required and offer you more comfort as you hit the keys.
In the realm of mechanical keyboard switches, there are three technologies on the market: metal-leaf, optical, and hall-effect. Metal leaf switches are the most common, and they use a metal leaf inside the switch to close a circuit when pressed, thus sending a signal to the computer that a key has been pressed. Optical switches use light to indicate actuation. Finally, hall-effect switches use magnets to indicate actuation. Although the type of switch generally doesn't matter for gaming, one advantage that optical and hall-effect switches have over metal leaf switches is that their actuation distance can be configured using software, whereas metal-leaf switches have a fixed actuation.
Salmon Tactile Switches
Mechanical switches also come in three main types: linear, tactile, and clicky. Each switch type differs in terms of how much tactile feel (or lack of) and response experience they give when you hit a key. Clicky switches have the loudest feedback and come with an audible click when a press has been registered. Tactile switches are slightly less loud and will give a slight bump midway through the press. Linear switches are the quietest and will give no feedback. Most gamers find themselves using one of these three or interplaying their use per time and across different keys.
But who says you can’t use membrane keyboards for gaming (if you want to)? You will just have to be highly picky in your choice of a membrane keyboard. Some newer models of this keyboard type have been specifically designed to provide a quality experience to users when gaming.
Keep Wrists Elevated When Typing
Ghosting is a problem that occurs when some key presses are not recognized when many keys are pressed simultaneously. The anti-ghosting feature allows the keyboard to recognize multiple simultaneous key presses and ensures that all the keys you press are registered. This is a crucial feature to gaming as it prevents input lag and missed commands. It does not matter the type and model of keyboard you go for, anti-ghosting is a must feature that a gaming keyboard should have.
Octopus PBT Keycaps with Pastel Cloud Desk Mat
It is not just enough that a keyboard recognizes multiple key presses and registers them, it is also important that the presses are registered in the right order, even if they are pressed in just split milliseconds apart. N-key rollover is the feature that allows for this. No matter how many keys you have pressed simultaneously, a keyboard with N-key rollover will pick each function and command in the right order.
As a competitive gamer, you will find yourself pressing many keys at once. This is not a common experience with other computer users unless it is a fast typing spree. Gaming may even require two competitors to use the same keyboard at once for navigation. In such situations, speed and accuracy are very important, even as multiple keys are being hit per time.
N-key rollover and anti-ghosting are features that are better pronounced in mechanical keyboards. This is because each key is separated and recognized distinctly by the operating system during every press. You will however find the precision of the N-key rollover and anti-ghosting features varying across different mechanical keyboards. If you are a very fast and competitive gamer, who needs to send commands to your computer as fast as possible, you'd definitely want to go for keyboards with very accurate and fast key rollover features. If you're curious about a more technical dive of mechanical keyboard PCBs, take a look at my article on the technical aspects of keyboard PCBs.
The “N” here indicates the specific number of simultaneous key presses the keyboard can register per time. The higher the number of keys, the more accurate the keyboard will be during multiple presses.
Programmable keys allow you to assign specific actions or macros to individual keys, which can give you a competitive edge when gaming as navigation becomes easier and faster for you. Some gaming keyboards also offer software that allows for the customization of key functions, lighting, and other settings to fit your specific gaming preferences.
Some complex games require you to type in many commands and make some very complex settings per time while gaming. You would mostly need to use your mouse to make these navigations and fix the right settings. A keyboard with a programmable feature can, however, let you program whole complex commands or macros to specially designate keys. Simply tap on one pre-programmed key and you have the right setting you need per time to game better. This feature not only offers you convenience, but also grants you speed, thereby making you more competitive in your game.
Mechanical keyboards even take customization to a whole new level, as you can change your switches to achieve a specific tactile feel on different keys. For example, you might want a softer hit for your WASD keys while you want your space bar to hit with that heavy thock. All you need to do to achieve this is to change a couple of switches underneath each keycap and there you go! The most popular software for configuring custom keyboards is VIA / QMK.
If you're new to VIA, check out my article on how to use QMK and VIA.
Backlighting is an important feature for gamers who want to play in low-light conditions or in the dark. If you are the kind of gamer that loves to be involved in other activities during the day and game away at night, then a keyboard with backlighting is something to go for. That way, you can see the keys and options on your keyboard without necessarily having to switch on the lights in your space at night.
Backlit RGB Mechanical Keyboard
There are different types of lighting options too. Single-color backlight illuminates the keys in just one color across the keyboard while the RGB backlight can light up the keyboard in multiple colors at a time. RGB lighting is a more popular option as it allows for better customization and personalization in terms of color hue, intensity, and range across the keyboard. For example, you will be able to set your keyboard to assign certain color hues to specific keys (also called keyboards with per-key RGB) for easier identification of their use and faster navigation. These are minute details that can bring all the difference to your gaming experience and make you more competitive.
Asides from the top features already highlighted, there are other factors you need to consider to guide you in making the best picks for your gaming needs. Keyboards come in a variety of designs and models to meet individual needs and attend to each gamer's unique situation. Mind you, there are other keyboard designs and models created to appeal to other users who are not gamers. That said, not every keyboard will be the right match for you, even when it seems to have all of the features you are looking out for. Here are 6 more factors you should consider before finally deciding to take that keyboard home:
Octopus and Whale PBT Keycaps on Different Keyboard Layouts
Keyboards in a range of sizes, but they mostly will either be full-size, 65%, or tenkeyless. Whether or not a keyboard has a number pad is what will mostly determine its final size. Full-size keyboards have a numbers pad but tenkeyless keyboards do not. The numbers pad is mostly not a requirement for gaming. A tenkeyless keyboard contains all of the most important keys for gaming, including the full QWERTY section, the function keys, and the four directional cursor keys. It then offers you a smaller keyboard size that will fit on a small desk and will even fit easily on your lap, depending on where your gaming session meets you. Also, smaller keyboards allow you to reach your mouse easily without overstretching your arms.
Keyboard sizes will also vary depending on the overall size of the computer when using a laptop. This is an important consideration to make when you use a laptop for gaming and you are not interested in purchasing an additional independent keyboard to use with it. If you go for a small laptop, you will end up with a small-sized keyboard, and vice versa.
Keyboards are generally one of the most durable computer accessories. You will find many of them surviving many years of use, even after the user has replaced other components of the computer severally. However, gaming requires more intense use of the keyboard than most other computer activities. Durability is therefore a top factor to consider as a gamer as some keyboards may not be able to withstand the intense and hectic use typical to gaming sessions.
Considering all of the repeated and forceful key presses that occur during gaming, a sturdy and well-built keyboard will be able to last longer and withstand the wear and tear of your intense gaming sessions. You should look out for keyboards with metal frames or reinforced plastic frames, and most preferably, opt for keyboards that have been specifically designed for gaming since they will have been reinforced to withstand such wear and tear.
Another major factor that will determine a keyboard's resistance to wear and tear is the material the keycaps are made from. Keycaps are either made from PBT plastic or ABS plastic. PBT keycaps are preferred for gaming as they are physically stronger, don't get glossy with use, can withstand high temperatures, and are more resistant to solvents.
However, there are situations when ABS plastic will be preferable, such as when backlighting is a key feature to the gamer. ABS plastic allows for higher reflection of the backlight for better brightness since it is a thinner kind of plastic. ABS is also a softer plastic that results in a milder hit and softer sound when you strike your keyboard.
One other important durability component of keyboards to note is how fast the character on each key can fade away. There are different methods of applying or "stamping" characters to each keycap and each method will determine how long before the character fades away. Sublime print and laser-burned characters take longer to fade than ordinarily printed characters. However, it can be harder to read laser-burned characters, especially when you are not familiar with the positioning of each key yet. The most durable type of legends are double-shot legends, as the legends are made of plastic themselves.
Mind you, you can always buy sticker-printed characters that you can use to label your keys when any character fades. But again, these stickers will fade quickly and can impact the overall feel of your fingers on each key.
It is also true that certain brands of keyboards tend to last longer than others. One of the ways you can ascertain this is by looking up reviews online on each type of keyboard you develop an interest in. Most times, the reviews you find online will be enough to inform you about the durability and build quality of a keyboard.
Wired Octopus PBT Keycaps
Your keyboard can either be wired or wireless. Wireless keyboards connect directly to your computer through a cable (USB mostly) while wireless keyboards connect through other means like Bluetooth, radio frequency (RF), and infrared (IR).
Each connectivity type comes with its perks and which you go for should totally depend on your unique needs and personal preferences. Wireless keyboards allow for free movement and comfort as you can always keep a distance from your screen and even relax on your couch while playing your favorite game. However, they will call for frequent battery change, depending on how heavy and frequently you use them. Mind you, you wouldn’t want any of your gaming sessions to be suddenly ruined by a drained keyboard.
Wired keyboards, on the other hand, allow for the best precision and speed as it is possible to experience slight input and response lag with a wireless keyboard. This can be a concern when playing highly competitive games. Power and battery use is also not a concern with wired keyboards since their power source is coming directly from the computer. But then, wired keyboards will call for frequent desk maintenance and cable management, especially if you have to transport your computer and its accessories very often. See my article on choosing between wireless and wired keyboards.
Comfort is super important to gaming, considering all the intensity and rigor that comes with it. You don’t want to end a gaming session that has lasted for hours, not only feeling burnt up but also cramped in all the muscles of your fingers and wrists. Ergonomic components, like wrist rests ensure your wrists have a comfortable spot on the keyboard to rest on, thereby preventing strain and fatigue.
There are also subtle ergonomic components you may want to consider, such as rubberized WASD keys for comfortable navigation and ease on your fingertips. You might also want to go for a keyboard whose Windows key is not directly beside the control key. This is because mistakenly hitting the Windows key during a gaming session can be highly disruptive and might even lose you points in your game.
Generally, where keys and ergonomics are concerned, you want to go for a non-complicated keyboard, one that contains just the keys you need, and nothing more. You should avoid complex keyboards with all the mysterious and cramped multimedia buttons scattered across the keyboard unless you're also a DJ 😉. Not only will such unnecessary keys make it harder to find your way around keys and entering commands, but they will also contribute to you paying a high price for the keyboard.
This is where all other factors such as shape, color, and keyboard illumination come in. You might be picky about the color of your keyboard, its shape, its size against other components of your computer, and even the kind of illumination it exudes and how that syncs with your room theme.
Corn, Whale and Octopus PBT Keycap Aesthetics
Different keyboards will offer you different things in terms of aesthetics so you will have to take time finding a model and design that matches what you are looking for in a keyboard. You may also be able to perform some level of customization yourself to improve aesthetics. For example, you can program the RGB illumination on a keyboard to whatever color hues you want, but that's of course if the keyboard has such an illumination feature. Most other customization processes you can perform on a keyboard will not impact aesthetics but will only ensure you get a smoother, easier, and more immersive experience when using the keyboard.
If you are looking for the best-customized experience, right from the nature of the switches on each key to the final outlook of the keyboard, you might want to go for a custom-built keyboard model specially made for you and your needs. Of course, such a keyboard will be more expensive than mass-produced ones. However, with mass-produced keyboards, you will not have to keep searching until you find what you’re looking for.
Gaming keyboards can be quite a thing when it comes to how much you get to spend on purchasing them. But considering how much value and amazing features they offer, gamers have come to love them so much that many will not even bat an eye before putting the cash on their favorite keyboard.
Of course, you do not want to empty your bank account simply because a keyboard ticks all the boxes on your list, and even when you are choosing to, it is still important to ensure that you have gone for the best value that is commensurate to the money you are giving away.
For every extra feature, a keyboard comes with, its price jumps a bit higher. Mechanical keyboards, which are the heartthrob of all gamers are generally more expensive than membrane ones, and the more customizable a keyboard is, the more expensive it becomes.
As with every other item on stall shelves, you will also find models and brands that are expensive, simply just for their name sake. You can show your loyalty to whatever brand by going for their keyboard irrespective of the cost, or you might just want to go for what your budget can afford at the time.
It is also important to truthfully assess your situation. How much of a gamer are you? are you a casual gamer who games only when they remember or a gaming aficionado and hardcore lover who games every other time of the day and is seeking the latest features for an even more smoother and immersive experience? If you are a casual gamer, it might not be necessary to spend so much on high-end keyboards with features you might never use and might still be able to afford to use on a less-expensive keyboard.
No matter the case, it helps to have a budget and estimate before leaving the house or surfing on that e-commerce site, so you don’t go overboard. When shopping online, you can use filters to sift keyboard options according to your budget. And when shopping physically, you could just let an attendant know your budget, so that shopping is easier and faster for you.
There are so many keyboards out there that it can be stressful determining which to go for. The features and factors highlighted here are the most important considerations to make for choosing the best keyboard – one that not only meets your budget but also meets your gaming needs.
Now that you know what to look out for, you can go ahead to make the right pick for yourself!