Keyboards are the fundamental way we engage with PCs, meaning that it is perhaps the single most important piece of kit for a PC gamer—well, at least duking it out with a mouse for the top spot. This means that a great keyboard is a must-have for any PC gamer, or, come to think of it, any intensive PC user, period.
When prowling for the best Gaming Keyboard for your setup, there are a whole host of important features to consider; here are the seven which we consider before every single purchase.
Keyboards come in a range of sizes, from “full size” keyboards—including a full QWERTY layout alongside alphanumeric, function keys, directional arrows and a number pad—way down to 60% keyboards which just about squeeze in QWERTY, numbers and the standard functions (control, enter, etc).
When it comes to gaming, size can matter—for example if you are an MMO gamer in need of plenty of hotkey slots a larger keyboard can be a great help. But far more important than size is feel. With the keyboard’s keys providing the angle, amount of resistance and feedback you like the most. Speaking of which, let’s talk about…
Underneath every single key on every keyboard is a physical switch. These will most often fall into one of two categories: mechanical or membrane switches.
Mechanical switches are great thanks to their durability and wide range of options. These also can provide the satisfyingly “clicky” sound which has become so sought after in keyboard design (although there are quiet alternatives).
Membrane switches are must less durable (with a lifespan somewhere between 1 and 5 million keystrokes, compared to mechanicals’ 50+ million. However, they are much quieter and often quite a bit cheaper.
When it comes to switches, it’s all about feel. So you need to get your hands typing on at least a couple of the options before making a full decision.
3. Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting
Key rollover refers to the amount of key presses that the keyboard can register in any one moment. In everyday use, we rarely use more than two keypresses at a time, but when it comes to gaming we repeatedly will be pressing 4+ buttons. And if you’re playing local multiplayer, that can quickly shoot up into double digits. Thus gaming keyboards all want quite high key rollover.
Keyboard ghosting is the phenomenon when multiple keys are pressed resulting in the keyboard wrongly interpreting a press of an adjacent key. This is a big no-no for gaming, so make sure to find a keyboard with anti-ghosting. Especially if you’re an FPS gamer.
4. Macros and Customisation
As any experienced gamer will know, setting the right control scheme can give you the edge. That is why macros and customisable keys can give you a hardware-driven edge in game—especially in MOBA or MMO titles.
Programmable macros can reduce complex actions to a single keypress. Take, for example, if you need to type a command or use multiple button combinations to set of a specific skill, with a macro-enabled keyboard you can reduce all that to a single keypress allowing you to shoot of high level skills (or just quick jokes) at the touch of a button.
5. Build Quality
There’s no beating around the bush; a good quality product will last. This is especially important for gamers who will often find themselves mashing keys in a frenzy.
Most gaming keyboards will be built with this in mind with features like metal backplates (Which reinforce the key-bed) and ultra-durable keycaps.
As a rule of thumb, we would avoid PVC keycaps—made out of the same material as PVC piping—as these quickly show wear and tear. Stronger materials like ABS are more resistant to force and finger oils which can otherwise quickly degrade your keyboard.
Good looks go far. This is especially the case for gamers looking to create a chic setup. While they may initially seem surplus, do spend some time finding a keyboard whose aesthetic resonates with you. Whether that be customisable, LED backlighting, a minimalist colour palette or even unique keycaps. Ultimately, it will be a joy to use a keyboard you love the look of.
But, of course, don’t let looks have you sacrifice on quality—that’s why this point is number 6, not number 1.
As with any purchase, price is going to be one of the largest factors effecting your final decision. While we’d never encourage blowing your savings on a keyboard there are two factors worth considering here.
Firstly, ensure you buy a keyboard of high enough quality that you won’t need to buy another (at least in the foreseeable future). This means ensuring it has all the ideal functionality and durability for your use case.
Secondly, it’s worth considering the rest of your setup. For example do you have a good gaming mouse? A great mousemat? Good speakers or a punchy headset? How about a mic? Ultimately, there’s a lot that goes into a great gaming setup, meaning you don’t want to blow your budget on a single part of that setup.
Keyboards are the heart and soul of PC gaming, meaning its incredibly important to find one you enjoy using. We hope these seven key questions will help you secure the perfect keyboard for your gaming setup.