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Things to Look for when Buying a Keyboard for Gaming

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Consoles are definitely one of the best ways to enjoy comfortable gaming but there are still many gamers out there who prefer to use a keyboard and mice for gaming on a powerful PC or desktop computer. The money is not the factor here but what matters the most are the gameplay experience and the feel. On the other hand, a gaming PC always has an edge over a console in terms of hardware and components. Not only can you install and fit in more powerful graphics cards and processors to your system for a cheaper price but you can also future proof your PC in case you want to upgrade it and make it even more powerful. Moreover, certain games require a powerful system for its full potential to be unlocked and these can only be achieved by a gaming PC.

Now when it comes to PC gaming, the keyboard and the mouse serve as the backbone. Other than the mouse, what type of gaming keyboard you use for your gaming heavily impacts the overall experience of gameplay and affects your agility, skills, and reaction time in-game. Thus choosing a good gaming keyboard not only will enhance your gaming experience but also definitely improve your gaming potential.

Earlier in the day, a gaming system did not have much to it. Just hook up a decent mouse and keyboard to your Dual-Core system and you are all ready to go and play games but as technology keeps advancing we are now stuck with a multitude of PC accessories including gaming keyboards designed and sold by thousands of different manufacturers.

Nowadays you can find tons of options when it comes to gaming keyboards, some look better than the other, some cost more, some have over the top aesthetics while some sport a minimalist look, and some come with backlit RGB LED lights and higher-end features for easier gameplay. It is very easy to get confused about which one to look for and what is best for you and this is where we come in. In this article, we provide you with a step-by-step guide and talk about the factors that you will need to consider before buying a gaming keyboard but before that let us talk about gaming keyboards themselves.

History of Gaming Keyboards

Put down a keyboard in front of a person who has never seen one in his entire life. What is he or she most likely to think it resembles?

A typewriter.

Typewriter-History-of-Gaming-Keyboards
Credit: Patrick Fore/Unsplash

Yes, that is where the inspiration for the first keyboard came from. Although they serve as the most notable ancestors of the keyboard and other key-based alphanumeric input devices, a big part of the idea behind desktops keyboards comes mostly from keypunches and teleprinter or teletypes,

During the 1860s and 1870s, people used devices similar to teleprinters to type and transfer text data from the stock markets at the same time to the stock ticker machines via telegraph lines so that they appear on the ticker tape. Later with the passage of time, these devices paved the way for the actual teleprinter that was developed by Charles Krum and Howard Krum during the first decade of the 1900s. A few other prototypes appeared during this time made by other individuals.

By the 1930s, the first keypunch machines appeared, and along with it appeared the standard typewriter after a while that allowed the user to type both alphabets and numbers and it was certainly a breakthrough in mechanical and computer engineering. Typewriters and teleprinters served as the staples for text-based data entry for a long while even during the 20th century. The very first computers featured typewriter keyboards that ran on electricity and the development of the BINAC and EINAC incorporated keypunch devices as the input and paper-based output device and a typewriter that works electromechanically for data entry on a magnetic tape respectively. From these came the keyboards

In the computing industry, the keyboard kept being the most used computer peripheral and one of the most integral parts of data input into machines until the mouse came along in the 1980s. At the beginning of the 2000s, SteelSeries saw the need for a special keyboard that catered to gamers and they came up with the SteelSeries Announces 7G Professional Gaming Keyboard which was probably the first mechanical gaming keyboard that was available for purchase.

What’s going on with Gaming Keyboards nowadays?

Modern-Gaming-Keyboards
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There is nothing much to talk about gaming keyboards in the current era since we will cover most of this in the rest of the article. With the passage of time, gaming keyboards underwent drastic changes in terms of feel, usability, and features. From incorporating LED RGB backlighting systems, special mechanical switches for different feedbacks, dedicated keys, and a compact design, a modern gaming keyboard has it all.

There are hundreds of different gaming keyboard manufacturers and some of the big ones include Razer, Corsair, Logitech, and many more. All of the manufacturers try to bring something new to the plate so that they can develop a keyboard that caters to the needs of specific types of players who play a certain genre or style of gaming. Keys with anti-ghosting features seems to be one of the best improvements in gaming keyboards allowing the users to press multiple keys at once with every one of the keypresses getting registered simultaneously. Also, many manufacturers use their own various key switches that offer gamers different types of feedback and experience while playing games.

Future of the Gaming Keyboards

Gaming-Keyboards
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With the growing popularity of gaming and games itself, the future of gaming keyboards looks brighter than ever. As of now, there is tough competition between the leading keyboard manufacturers which is a good sign as it marks that gaming keyboards will still be relevant in the future.

When it comes to gaming, a gamepad or a controller is too restricting due to the availability of limited numbers of buttons. Moreover, analog sticks of controllers do not offer a great experience while playing first-person games like Call of Duty, CS: GO, or League of Legends where a mouse is required for camera control and a good gaming keyboard for LoL is a must for movement and execution of abilities during gameplay.

Even in the current era where we have moved on from physical keyboards to touchscreen, we are still dependent on the virtual keyboards on the screen to type in characters, alphabets, numbers, and symbols.

Who knows what the future holds, we might even get flat keyboards without any travel distance in the future or even something we cannot imagine. Although other input methods such as voice typing are already available they are not just as accurate as we want them to be and there is a lot that needs to be done with them before we can commit to them as our default input device and thus it seems highly unlikely that the use of gaming keyboards or keyboards, in general, will become obsolete in the near future.

Factors to look for when Buying a Keyboard for Gaming

Choosing the perfect gaming keyboard is not really an easy task no matter how much it may actually seem easy especially when there are hordes of gaming keyboard manufacturers that provide some of the best-in-class products. According to us, the following factors are some of the most important aspects of a gaming keyboard and one definitely needs to look at them before choosing one for their gaming setup.

Type of Switches

One of the easiest ways of categorizing gaming keyboards is according to the type of switches they use. Since most gaming keyboards are mechanical keyboards, they use a mechanical switch that is placed beneath every keycap. Whenever a key is pressed, the keystroke gets registered and the computer takes it as an input.

Keystroke is a very important thing to check whenever you are looking for a gaming keyboard for your computer or gaming rig. You never want a typewriter for gaming right? Do you?

We recommend visiting a store every time you want to buy a keyboard for a gaming system whether it be for you or your friend since it is easier to get an idea of how typing on the keyboard actually feels like when you can check it out yourself. Keys come in different shapes and sizes too and they offer a different kind of feel when they are pressed by the user. Some keys are very delicate, and soft and might have a short travel distance while there are keys that the user has to press harder to register a keystroke. Keyboards with hard keys generally have a greater travel distance.

Modern gaming keyboards generally can be categorized into 3 types according to the switching mechanism they use and they include Mechanical keyboards, Membrane keyboards, and Scissor-switch keyboards.

  • Membrane Keyboards

These types of keyboards do not use actual physical switches and generally make use of a synthetic membrane sheet to register each keystroke. Underneath the keys is placed a membrane that sometimes has a rubber dome under each keycap. When the keycap is pressed, the rubber dome is pressed onto the circuit board and the keystroke gets registered successfully. Nowadays membrane keyboards generally do incorporate these rubber dome switches. Since there are no actual moving mechanical parts there is little to no sound and therefore these keyboards perform very poorly in terms of providing audible feedback to the user. Gaming keyboards that fall under the cheaper price range generally utilize membrane switches and are not really cherished by professional gamers due to their lack of feedback and unsatisfactory responsiveness.

  • Scissor-Switch Keyboards

These types of switch keyboards are almost like an alternative to rubber dome switch keyboards and are generally found in laptops where the body of the device needs to as small as possible to render it portable. These switches are quite sensitive and the keyboards that use these have a short travel distance and hence a keystroke is easily registered even when the keycap is pressed lightly. The keycaps of these types of keyboards always look flattened out. Most premium laptops in the market and all the MacBooks from apple have scissor-switch keyboards that employ the scissor style switch.

  • Mechanical Switch Keyboards

No doubt the type of keyboard that is revered by the gamers for its excellent feedback, responsiveness, and tactile feel. Mechanical keyboards are actually the ones that used the oldest technology that involves a bunch of moving parts to constitute a switch that is placed under a keycap along with a spring. Most p[remium gaming keyboards employ mechanical switches to win over the gamers. The leading manufacturer of high-quality mechanical switches for gaming keyboards is Cherry MX. Most manufacturers do utilize the different types of switches from Cherry MX that are indicated by different colors. Each type of mechanical switch offers a different kind of tactile feedback or other types of response. Other companies such as Razer which is famous for its top-notch gaming accessories also manufacture some of the best premium mechanical gaming keyboards that utilize Razerís own mechanical switches.

Factors-to-look-for-when-Buying-a-Keyboard-for-Gaming
Credit: Editors Keys/Unsplash

Form Factor

Maybe not the most aspect you think about when you look for a gaming keyboard but believe us the size of the form factor of your keyboard matters depending upon the environment where you plan to use it. Maybe you need a gaming keyboard to use with your gaming laptop or you need one for LAN parties or your home gaming rig. Depending on the requirement, keyboards are mostly available in 3 sizes:

  • Full-Size or 100% Keyboards

They are not really called 100% keyboards but they are the most common ones found around homes and offices. They have the biggest form factor and have all the 101 keys that are found in a traditional keyboard and include a Numpad that allows the user to easily type in the numbers.. When it comes to a full-size gaming keyboard, it might have a few extra buttons for in-game action or easy access to multimedia settings. The large frame of full-size keyboards makes them a bit harder to carry around in laptop bags and other backpacks and hence gaming keyboards of these sizes are suitable for home gaming setups.

  • TenKeyLess or 80% Keyboards

These keyboards have 10 fewer keys than a standard-sized keyboard which you could have easily guessed by the name and the ones missing include the entire Numpad. These sized keyboards are really ideal when you need to carry your keyboard around with you in a backpack or along with your laptop.

  • Compact or 60% Keyboards

Perhaps the best choice for gamers who need to travel a lot since these keyboards have the smallest frame out of the three. You get a very small compact keyboard by sacrificing the function keys, the Numpad, and even the arrow keys. Unfortunately, this gaming keyboard size is not fit for everybody since some genre of games requires the arrow keys to be played correctly.

Connectivity

wired-vs-wireless-keyboard
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The first thing that you do when you get a new keyboard is connect it to your computer, and what kind of connectivity your keyboard utilizes is really important when you do not know what kind of games will you be playing later on.

The truth is, most gamers actually like their gaming keyboard tethered to their computers and hence you will find tons of premium options out there that incorporate wired connectivity instead of a wireless one.

Although the gameplay is not very much affected by the type of connectivity option that you go for, but each of the options does have an edge over the other one. Keyboards nowadays are mostly available in 2 connectivity options:

  • Wired

These keyboards just as it sounds, come with an attached wire to it that has either plugs into a PS/2 port or a USB port. The ones that use the PS/2 connectivity options are legacy devices and they are now obsolete and therefore most of the gaming keyboard that you will find on the internet and on the market will typically have a USB connectivity option.

Wired keyboards are the easiest to set up since all you need to do is plug the end of the wire into the port. On the downside, the probable issues that you might run into are the wire getting stuck to or getting tangled with other peripherals and equipment in your gaming setup and the fact that you have a limited range of use that is dictated by the length of the wire.

  • Wireless

Wireless keyboards are a bit costlier but they do get some plus points due to the fact that you have a longer range of use and also the fact that there is no wire to cause any type of interruption or obstruction while you are playing your games. Some wireless keyboards also use different wireless technology, for example, some Logitech keyboards use a Unifying Receiver to connect to the computer or laptop. Wireless keyboards come with a Bluetooth adapter that fits into a USB port and all you need to do is to wait for the drivers to finish installing. Wireless keyboards are more portable too. The only minor issue is the fact that you will have to change the battery once in a while. The Logitech G613 Gaming Wireless Mechanical Keyboard is a great option to go with.

How to Avoid Wrist Pain with Gaming Keyboards?

How-to-Avoid-Wrist-Pain-with-Gaming-Keyboards
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The only thing holding you back from becoming a better gamer is the practice but you never want to tire out your hands so much that you develop wrist pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. Remember, consistency is key and you get better with time.

Here we provide you with a few tips that might be beneficial if you experience wrist pain while using your gaming keyboard or want to prevent it from happening.

  • Make sure that you have a keyboard with a wrist pad

Although not all of them but some gaming keyboards come with a dedicated or detachable wristpad that helps you keep your hand in a more natural angle position while cushioning it while you type of the keyboard or while you are playing games. In case your keyboard does not have a wrist pad or wrist rest, buy one. Wrist pads are available at cheap prices online, make sure you get one if you suffer from wrist pain while playing.

  • Posture

It is very important that you maintain the correct posture while you game for long hours on your PC. An incorrect posture of your hands and your back will not only lead to wrist problems but might also cause you to develop serious spinal injuries. We recommend getting a good gaming chair or at least a comfortable one and adjust its height so so that you can sit with the right posture.

  • Take breaks and stretch

No matter how good a thigh is, too much of anything is always harmful and so is with gaming. To avoid wrist pain from gaming on the keyboard, we advise taking a short 5-minute break after each hour of gameplay. Take the time to relax a bit and stretch your arms and fingers if you can. This prevents any risk of injury by preventing your muscles to tire out from excessive movement during intense gameplay.

Final Words

When it comes to a gamer, a modern gaming setup is built like a monument and treated like a shrine and it would be a shame to pair a cheap and useless keyboard with a powerful gaming beast which is your gaming rig. It is almost like buying a beautiful sharp sword just to pair it up with an old dull and battered shield.

Most people do not consider a keyboard to be an integral part of a gaming system but trust us, we gamers know that a good keyboard is a great addition to our arsenal and how much it matters when it comes to actual gameplay. The keyboard that you need is a gaming keyboard that fits your budget and gaming style and it is one of the most important aspects to keep in mind while buying one. Finally, after following the guide, pick the one that speaks to you the most because there is nothing above personal preference.

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