Far more than a simple way to type, keyboards are the holy grail of gamers the world over. After all, a missed key press can be the difference between winning and losing a game, and a good keyboard transforms everyday typing tasks. OK, so we might be exaggerating a little here here, but nonetheless – keyboards matter.
How to choose a gaming keyboard
One, consider your budget. For this article we’ll be looking at mechanical keyboards. Mechanical keyboards are freestanding and considered the very best for gaming. In other words, they’re not the sort bundled with your laptop. However, they do tend to be more expensive than your traditional keyboard.
Two, ask yourself this: how often am I going to be gaming? Keyboards that use Cherry MX Red switches are great for intensive sessions, but less good at fulfilling everyday typing. We’ll go into the different switch-types below, but this is worth bearing in mind.
Why are mechanical keyboards better for gaming?
Mechanical keyboards have an edge over membrane keyboards – the type you typically find bundled with your new computer or connected to your laptop.
There are a few reasons why mechanical keyboards are better for gaming:
- They’re far more durable and able to withstand the rigours of extended gaming sessions.
- They’re easy to customise; you can remove keys and swap them out for new ones.
- They’re more tactile. Each key on a mechanical keyboard lies on top of a switch designed to instantly register your input. In comparison, a membrane keyboard offers a set of keys situated on top of pressure pads. Comparing both, the former will feel precise, while the latter will feel “mushy”.
- They tend to be bigger, giving you more surface area to get the button press right every time.
What are keyboard switches – and are there different types?
Image credit: hyperxgaming.com
Keyboard switches are metal placements that go under each key. Switches come in different colours, and the colour determines the rigidity and feeling you’re going to get when pressing the keys.
- Blues produce the clickety-clack sound that mimics an old typewriter.
- Blues are the most common switch type. Each key press leaves you with the feeling you’ve “bumped” the key: tactile feedback makes this popular with typists.
- Red switches are completely free-moving. There’s no feedback bump, nor is there the clickety-clack sound.
- Reds are favoured by gamers.
- Browns don’t produce an audible clickety-clack sound but do give you tactile feedback.
- They’re considered soft and easy to type with.
- Blacks are one of the oldest models on the market.
- Blacks are the stiffest to type with and are typically used for real-time strategy games where keyboard presses don’t need to be fast, but do need to be accurate.
Last year Razer has introduced a new, fifth innovation to the market. Optomechanical switches rely on light rather than a physical piece of metal to register inputs. More on this later.
Right, with the groundwork out of the way, let’s round up some great keyboards that are all available to buy at the time of writing.
Alienware is an established gaming brand. The company was founded in 1996 for the explicit purpose of giving PC gamers the best computers and accessories on the market.
The AW510K is a newer keyboard from the brand, and though gamers are its primary audience, it doubles as a very good everyday keyboard too.
Some key points:
- The keyboard uses low-profile Cherry MX Red switches, which take a light touch to depress so you can respond and react quickly.
- The keys are tactile and quiet, making the AW510K handy to use at night.
Plus, reviews have broadly been positive. Gamesradar awarded it 4 out of 5 stars in its February 2020 review.
“It's satisfying to use and more than worthy of your consideration as a result, particularly if you're thinking about building a full Alienware setup,” Gamesradar wrote.
The G513 is a refined gaming keyboard with a 3.2-inch wrist pad to boot.
The G513 uses Logitech Romer-G switches, which are a variant of the Cherry MX Browns. You can also opt for linear red switches. Reds have no bump and demand that you push the key all the way down before an input registers; this smooth key stroke is something some gamers prefer.
No matter which switch you opt for, all G513s run the Logitech Gaming Software program, an app that’ll let you adjust illumination, key inputs and more. The program is designed to be very easy to use.
Trusted Reviews dubbed the G513 a “top-end luxury keyboard for gamers who demand the best tools for gaming.”
The Huntsman. It’s a name that spells intent. And that’s before we even get to the keyboard.
If speed is your thing the Huntsman delivers it in spades. TechRadar calls it the fastest keyboard they’ve ever used, all thanks to Razer’s optomechanical switch, which uses light to register your key inputs as opposed to a physical metal switch. Without physical components that can go wrong, the Huntsman is built to last, and is capable of withstanding 100 million keystrokes – a staggering number.
SteelSeries Apex Pro
If your pockets are deep, the SteelSeries Apex Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a premium mechanical keyboard aimed squarely at serious gamers. You can actually set the actuation (how far down you need to press a key before it registers) for every single key. That's serious customisation
The Apex Pro’s aircraft-grade aluminium body is built to last. Storage grooves for cables and variable height adjustment make it a savvy piece of design.
It's also got an OLED screen that'll let you control your PC more easily. You can change your settings, pump up the volume, even check messages on Discord.
TechRadar said: "The SteelSeries Apex Pro, with its custom actuation and comfy magnetic switches, is one of the best gaming keyboards on the market. And, when you add the svelte aesthetic and slick OLED display, it's easy to recommend to anyone."
Want more? Why not browse our range of gaming keyboards, where you’ll find dozens of great products to choose from. Alternatively, discover more about the five great products above by clicking on the hyperlinked titles.
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