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So you're choosing a gaming keyboard

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Whether you’re working at the office or a hardcore gamer, the keyboard is an essential PC component companion. Gaming keyboards are a specialized keyboard option that caters more to the lay-out and demands of gamers with extra versatile features that many basic consumer keyboards just don’t hack. Some spend more of their time typing at one than they do getting sleep. That statement may sound ridiculous but for many dedicated users it is true.

Regardless of how you spend your time, if you like sleep as much as I crave sleep after a heavy gaming session then you wouldn’t spare the expense when buying a quality bed. So why do PC users who are willing to spend thousands on their perfectly customized computer often go cheap when it comes to their keyboard? Unbeknownst to them, without a little research they are missing out on a golden market of computing products that could open up the way they experience gaming and computer performance.

Mechanical versus membrane  

The header should be this section should be retitled “cheaper versus expensive” but there will be more on that later. Overall, if you’re browsing for a cheaper keyboard, it’s probably going to be a membrane. Membrane keyboards work via an electric current that is run through a plastic membrane; mechanical switches work because if mechanical switches beneath each key. While mechanical has a range of benefits over membrane, its biggest fault is in the price-tag itself.

If you’re serious about gaming then a mechanical keyboard is definitely your answer. Most only require half a press of the key to register a keystroke. As I mentioned in a previous paragraph, and unless your budget isn’t too restrained, a mechanical keyboard will be the cherry on your technological cake and will work wonders for your gaming productivity. Do yourself a favour and research now, not all two brands are the same and there are many choices as to what will suit you!

Virtual keyboards may also pop up on your radar. Although they look sleek and futuristic, the current technology has its limitations. The optics that they use to configure your keystrokes just aren’t developed enough as technology for the demand that gaming requires. They have their faults and can be fairly inaccurate but if you are looking for a cool, developing technology, then keep your eyes peeled for the avenues virtual keyboards may take.

 

Features

The majority of consumers buying a computer keep the brutish plastic of a keyboard that comes with their machines’ purchase. If you’re a gamer, you could just stick with this office-grade hardware and be content gaming with the equivalent of driving a Prius in the Grand Prix. Those that spend the extra buck investing in a keyboard for gaming and advanced computing will find that these devices are built with more durable materials and unlock features many users wouldn’t even consider.

Key Switches

The little switches that layer beneath every keyboard vary greatly with every type of keyboard. Many users won’t heed much to the differences but whatever type you choose can define your keyboard and impact the sensitivity, feedback, usability, durability, and even the devices lifespan. Gamers, take note:

Silicone dome switches are what most of us know when we autopsy our keyboards. Although perfectly fine, that’s all the response many gamers will feedback about these keyboards: “fine.” While gaming, you want the most sensitivity that a keyboard can produce in order to register all your activity. A silicone dome switch needs to be pushed down fully to push a response, which is fine for those that want to feel like they’re typing on a digital typewriter but for gamers this can be a moment of life or death for logging keystrokes.

By far the most renowned of keyboards of the gaming community are mechanical keyboards. If you’ve already got one then I presume you are reading this article for recreational purposes. Spring loaded key posts provide bouncing keys that are as sensitive as my ego. By far the most sensitive switch types, the user is granted swift responsiveness and faster typing that puts you in the front seat of your gaming experience. These gaming weapons are reliable and easy to maintain with inexpensive parts. Continue reading for a further discussion on the debates and perks of investing in a mechanical keyboard.

Most compact machine’s like laptops employ scissor switches. These fairly-priced keyboards often respond more sensitively than typical silicone so provide a faster keystroke that is less demanding on the user to gain a response in-game.

Polling rate

If you’re searching for the perfect gaming keyboard, learn this term. The responsiveness of a gaming keyboard is described as a polling rate: the frequency at which your keyboard delivers input to your PC from how often it checks the keyboards USB for data.

You want a keyboard that can match the rate of your monitor. Whilst a standard computer keyboard runs at 125Hz, for a decent gaming experience that reflects your performance then you’re looking for a polling rate of around 1,000Hz. Certain gaming keyboards have the option for multiple polling rate selections, giving options for customization depending on your gaming preferences and how you play.

Anti-Ghosting

Every gamer has experienced ghosting. You’re fighting back waves of enemies with multiple attacks. Pushing several buttons simultaneously, one of them doesn’t register when you push the key. Your defence fails. You die. Game over.

If you’re playing Dark Souls, this could also mean game over for your keyboard as you destroy it out of frustration. Ghosting is the frustrating miscommunication between keys that lead to a scenario such as this. A standard keyboard can handle three simultaneous strokes but a gamer is looking to get a minimum of five for the full potential of their skill without unnecessary interruptions. Keyboards with anti-ghosting functionality can reach between five to ten simultaneous keystrokes, so imagine the possibilities those bad boys could do to your gaming level.

Extra keys

It may seem like an odd, overlooked feature but the extra keys on a gaming keyboard allow for a multitude of abilities. Mega combos, beat downs, pausing, starting, accessing menus – more keys mean you can reprogram your device to be a fluid tool that reflect how you play with whatever gaming style suits you, for example with games such as Overwatch or World of Warcraft. Reprogrammable and extra keys also open up the option of CHOICE with where you place each button. You can figure out where best works configuring with the mouse and creates a gaming cluster that is more comfortable.

Certain “profile” gaming keyboards allow you to save various macros for different games, meaning you can record and save multiple profiles that save you time on having to constantly change up the button layout when you change from Destiny 2 to Player Unknown.

Backlighting

Gamers can choose to have no lights, a single glowing colour, or full RGB lit keyboards if they’re making their room look like a neo-noir Blade Runner rainbow. Whether you’re gaming in low light or playing into the early hours of the evening, a backlit gaming keyboard is both beneficial to your eyes and looks gorgeous as hell to your gaming set-up. Some models even allow for customization. But this isn’t just a pretty face, folks. A backlight glow makes it easy to coordinate your fingers as they rattle throughout the night, meaning you’ll never miss a key.

 

Pricing

Why spend more?

If you’ve already splashed out on an expensive custom-built PC or a high-grade computer to meet your gaming quota, logically you’re not going to get cheap just with the keyboard that will affect your entire experience. A £20 membrane keyboard just isn’t going to cut it. If you and your wallet is willing, anything over £100 is basically going to let you dwell into full RGB backlighting keyboards and advanced customizable models. Spending more opens up the avenues for a range of keys, macro keys, mechanical switches… whatever that little extra that you are looking for is, there’s a range out there open to you. However, these keyboards can peak above £150 so weigh your options before making a decision on just how important the varied features you need are required.

Why spend less?    

Here be membrane keyboards, gaming warriors. Anything below £100 may not feature all the advancements that pricier options may hold but there are still some real gems to be found in these sections. If you hope to find mechanical keyboards for cheaper, I recommend browsing through older models. Otherwise, search for membrane keyboards that can reflect what a mechanical keyboard gives you.