Things To Consider Before Buying A Gaming Keyboard In 2023

Updated On: 09/20/2023
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Are you in the market for a new gaming keyboard? Undoubtedly, it could be a game-changer for your whole PC experience. The right keyboard can boost your accuracy, speed, and gaming enjoyment.

But before you get dazzled by snazzy design features or overwhelmed by technical specifications, there are several things to consider before buying a gaming keyboard.

To start with, understanding your specific needs can make this decision all the more easier. Are you looking at daily use or only weekend gaming sessions? Do you need hardcore performance, or will something simpler suffice?

It's essential to get a clear idea about what you’re looking for before making that investment. With many options available on the market, we aim to help you make the best-informed decision possible.

Things To Consider Before Buying A Gaming Keyboard

Things To Consider Before Buying A Gaming Keyboard

Looking to level up your gaming experience with a new keyboard? The selection process can feel overwhelming with so many models and features on the market.

Beyond just the price point, several key factors can help determine which gaming keyboard is best aligned with your requirements.

Switch Type (Mechanical/Membrane/Scissor)

One of the main features to consider before buying a gaming keyboard is the switch type: Mechanical, Membrane, or Scissor.

Mechanical keyboards are known for their distinct tactile feel. Each keypress activates a mechanical switch, leading to accurate and speedy typing. Besides being durable, they might be noisy depending on the type of switch used inside.

Membrane keyboards operate differently. Pressing a key pushes down a rubber dome, triggering the circuit underneath to register the keypress. This type overall is quieter and less expensive but maybe less responsive and slower than mechanical keyboards.

Scissor keyboards are more aligned with laptop users. These contain a plastic material arranged in a scissor-like shape that gives them their name. When you press the key, this plastic 'scissors' collapses inwards, making for quieter typing with shorter keys than most conventional keyboards.

Key Rollover & Anti-Ghosting Features

Have you ever experienced a situation where you're pressing multiple keys simultaneously, and some don't register? That's what Key Rollover (KRO) and anti-ghosting features aim to prevent.

Key rollover refers to the number of keys your keyboard can recognize simultaneously. So, when it's listed as '6-KRO,' you can press six keys, and they'll all register correctly.

What about ghosting? Pressing multiple keys simultaneously and an unpressed key register (ghost key) is called 'ghosting.' Modern gaming keyboards prevent this with anti-ghosting technology.

Also Read: Best Laptops With Backlit Keyboards In 2023 [Expert Picks]

Backlighting & RGB Customization

Backlighting & RGB Customization

Backlighting in a gaming keyboard might seem purely aesthetic but serves more practical purposes. For one, it lets you comfortably play even in dark environments without needing separate light sources.

RGB backlighting has gained vast popularity within the gaming community. Beyond providing individual key illumination, RGB allows endless customization options—you can assign different colors to particular keys or choose various effects to best suit your style or mood.

Build Quality & Materials

The build quality of your keyboard directly impacts its longevity and usability. Gaming keyboards usually have to withstand intense use sessions; thus, durability is essential.

Look for robust yet lightweight materials—like aluminum frames or ABS plastic bodies—which will assure long-term functionality without adding unnecessary heft.

Evaluate the keyboard's quality through its details—a well-built keyboard will have sturdily-mounted switches and well-glued keycaps with clearly printed legends that won't fade away after prolonged use.

Keycap Material & Durability

Keycaps, those petite yet vital components atop your keyboard keys, are integral to your keyboard's overall functionality and longevity. These keycaps can be made from various materials, each offering a distinct feel and durability.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate) are the most common types. ABS keycaps are lightweight and usually more economical. However, they can be less durable than other types, wearing out quickly with rigorous use.

PBT keycaps are remarkably resilient. They resist shine over time and retain their texture for longer periods, even with extensive gaming sessions. The only downside to PBT is that it is relatively pricier.

Form Factor (Full-size, Tenkeyless, 60%, etc.)

The form factor refers to the size and layout of your keyboard. Before choosing one, consider what would best suit your gaming needs.

  • Full-size keyboards come with around 104 keys, including a numeric pad on the right – perfect for those needing many keys for intricate game commands or regular numeric input.
  • Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards eliminate the number pad while retaining the standard layout otherwise. This compact option is excellent if you're space-constrained or rarely use the numeric pad.
  • 60% of keyboards feature even fewer keys on their layout (around 61 keys), removing not just the numeric pad but also the function row and navigation keys. If you value maximum portability over having readily accessible special functionality buttons, this solution might be for you.

Depending on how much desk space you have and what your game control requirements are, decide on a form factor that is comfortable and efficient.

Dedicated Media Controls

Having separate multimedia controls can significantly enhance the gaming experience for many gamers. Think volume controls, play/pause buttons, or even special keys for your particular games.

Such dedicated media controls allow for quick alterations without minimizing the game screen or using complex vital combinations.

Keyboards incorporate such controls within a function row (with a function key held down), while others offer dedicated individual keys.

If you multitask between media consumption and gaming or want to have full control right there at your fingertips, consider looking out for dedicated media controls while choosing your new gaming keyboard.

Programmable Macro Keys

Programmable Macro Keys

If you frequently use a specific series of keys, programmable macro keys can help streamline your gaming experience. These customizable buttons can be assigned complex multi-step commands, which would otherwise require multiple keystrokes.

This feature comes particularly handy during real-time strategy or MMORPG games where speed and timing are key.

For example, if you often use a three-key combo in your favorite game, instead of hitting those three keys every time, you could program that sequence into one macro key. That combo is executed with a single push, giving you an edge over your competition.

While some gaming keyboards offer dedicated macro keys on the sides or top of the keyboard, others have all keys programmable. The exact number and placement of these keys vary by model and should align with your gaming needs.

Wrist Rest & Ergonomics

Even though it might not initially seem essential when looking for a gaming keyboard, ergonomics is critical to keep discomfort and potential long-term injuries at bay if you intend to use your keyboard for extended periods - whether gaming or typing - features promoting comfort should be on the priority list.

An integrated wrist rest is one such feature; it supports your wrists during use and helps maintain a neutral posture, thus reducing strain on them over time.

Some models feature detachable wrist rests, allowing personal customization based on user comfort.

Connectivity (Wired vs. Wireless)

While wired keyboards were once the de facto choice for gamers due to their low latency performance, technological advances have narrowed this gap, making wireless options equally viable now.

Wired keyboards offer stability through signal consistency as they connect directly to your computer. They eliminate the need for charging or replacing batteries.

On the flip side, wireless keyboards contribute to a clutter-free environment and give you flexibility in distance from your gaming rig.

Modern wireless keyboards offer high-speed responses near to their wired counterparts and feature low-energy use designs, providing a longer battery life.

Software & Customization Options

The relevant software and customization options with your gaming keyboard can give you a serious edge while gaming.

They let you set up individual key RGB lighting, customize macros, remap key functions, adjust the report rate, and more.

Some keyboards, such as Razer Synapse, Logitech G HUB, and Corsair iCUE, come with proprietary software support.

These platforms allow for a high degree of customization and make syncing your other compatible devices a breeze.

Price & Budget

Price & Budget

Before embarking on your pursuit of the perfect gaming keyboard, it's vital to take into account your budget. Prices range from affordable (around $15) to upper-end models (upwards of $200).

Economic keyboards usually offer essentials like anti-ghosting keys and led-backlit but sometimes fail on finer details like build quality or keycap material.

Mid-range models offer more value through added features like mechanical switches or better customization software support while maintaining affordability.

High-end models often offer cutting-edge design, technology innovation, and advanced customization opportunities - but at a premium price point.

Brand Reputation & Warranty

One last factor worth considering is picking from reputable brands renowned for their quality and durability in manufacturing gaming keyboards. Brands like Razer, HyperX, and Logitech G-Lineup are well known for their attention to quality details.

Another feature often overlooked is warranty information. Most brands offer a product warranty, but some exceed the industry standard.

A company's warranty period and terms on their gaming keyboard can tell you a lot about their confidence in their product’s quality.

It’s always smart to check out customer reviews before deciding to understand consistent issues or significant points of satisfaction among users.

Portability & Weight

Lightweight and compact keyboards are the way to go if you often carry your gaming setup around. These keyboards usually weigh less, are smaller, and may even have detachable cables for easy transportation.

A full-sized mechanical keyboard with all the bells and whistles looks impressive on a desk, but it would prove unwieldy when you pack your bag for the next LAN party or gaming tournament.

Additional USB Ports or Passthroughs

Some gaming keyboards offer additional USB ports or pass-throughs. A passthrough is like having an extension cord for your keyboard.

These let you plug in other devices - like a mouse, headset, or USB drive - directly into your keyboard rather than constantly reaching behind your computer.

This feature scores high on convenience alone, but it's essential to remember that not all keyboards come with this function.

Consider how many USB ports you will need before making the final call. The ideal number is relative depending on individual needs; some gamers might be perfectly content with two ports, whereas others may want more.

Keycap Profile & Layout

The keycap profile refers to the shape of the keys on a keyboard, which can vary based on region and intended use (typing vs gaming). For instance:

  • Flat profiles (chiclet keyboards) are low-profile, similar to those on most laptops.
  • Sculpted profiles have keys that rise toward the center of each row (such as DSA or SA keycaps).

The layout can differ, too; some may prefer Standard QWERTY, while others might require a specialized gaming layout.

Noise Level (Clicky, Tactile, Linear)

Whether you are sharing your gaming station with someone or you stay alone, the noise level of your gaming keyboard matters. Generally, keyboards come in three switch types: Clicky, Tactile, and Linear.

  • Clicky switches are audible and provide a satisfying click sound when pressed. This can be great for typing but might be disruptive in quiet environments.
  • Tactile switches, on the other hand, provide a noticeable bump midway through a keypress - giving tactile confirmation that the switch has been activated without making much noise.
  • Linear switches, often favored by gamers for quick response time, lack the audible click and the tactile bump. They make for a very quiet gaming experience.

Water & Dust Resistance

Water & Dust Resistance

If you’re known to snack during your gaming sessions regularly or want to ensure your investment is protected from household accidents, considering the water and dust resistance of your next keyboard is crucial.

Today's keyboards are designed with spill-resistant features or even fully waterproof designs; this means they can survive occasional spills without suffering damage.

Dust resistance can also extend the life of your keys by preventing dirt particles from getting under keys and disrupting responsiveness.

Polling Rate & Response Time

In gaming lingo, 'Polling rate' refers to how often a keyboard updates its input to the PC per second, measured in Hertz (Hz).

A higher polling rate means your computer receives more up-to-date information about your keypresses - beneficial for fast-paced competitive games where every millisecond counts.

'Response Time' on a keyboard indicates how quickly it sends its signal after a key is pressed. Measured in milliseconds (ms), faster response time means quicker reactions in-game – giving you that competitive edge.

Compatibility with Gaming Platforms & Operating Systems

Compatibility! Ensure that whatever fancy new keyboard you’re eyeing is compatible with your gaming platform, whether it's PC, PlayStation, Xbox, or Mac. T

he compatibility extends to physical connection and the keyboard's software - whether it works seamlessly with your Operating System or requires specific drivers unavailable for your OS.

Each vendor provides specifics on their product's compatibility, so a quick read of the product description can save you from any compatibility woes later.

FAQs About things to consider before buying a gaming keyboard

Are all gaming keyboards compatible with every computer system?

Not all gaming keyboards are compatible with every system; always check the product specifications for system compatibility.

Does the switch type in a keyboard affect my gameplay performance?

Different switch types provide varied response times and tactile feedback, which can impact your gameplay experience.

Can I use a membrane keyboard for gaming?

Absolutely! While mechanical keyboards are more popular among gamers, membrane keyboards can also serve as gaming keyboards effectively.

What is 'key rollover', and why is it important in gaming keyboards?

Key rollover refers to a keyboard's ability to register multiple keys pressed simultaneously. It's crucial in gaming, where complex key combinations are often used.

Is backlighting necessary in a gaming keyboard?

Backlighting is unnecessary but adds an aesthetic appeal and can help visibility during low-light conditions.

Conclusion

Choosing the right gaming keyboard can play a significant role in enhancing your gaming and overall PC experience.

It's not just about the flashy lights and aesthetic appeal but also comfort, performance, and durability.

Consider factors like switch type, noise level, compatibility, and other practical aspects to ensure that whichever keyboard you choose aligns with your requirements and budget. A well-informed decision can lead to many enjoyable gaming sessions.

The best gaming keyboard is one that feels right for you. As long as it suits your playing style and preferences, it's the perfect companion for your digital quests.

Michael Restiano

I lead product content strategy for SaltMoney. Additionally, I’m helping our broader team of 4 evolve into a mature content strategy practice with the right documentation and processes to deliver quality work. Prior to Instacart, I was a content strategy lead at Uber Eats and Facebook. Before that, I was a content strategist at SapientNitro, helping major Fortune 500 brands create better, more useful digital content.

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