Keyboards are the most important part of a computer and, in particular, for a gamer. Gaming keyboards can have many different forms from mechanical gaming keyboards to membrane keyboard with varying levels of responsiveness.
Every person and computer has a preference towards a specific style even if the large majority prefers mechanical keyboards as they tend to be more durable and responsive. There are several types of keyboards each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
So, do keyboards matter for gaming?
Yes, they do. The keyboard is the most influential input device in any computer setup. It dictates what you can and cannot do at any given time and if it is not working properly then you will be forced to use whatever you can get your hands on.
In gaming, the keyboard is predominately responsible for movement and actions, therefore if your keyboard does not have the correct keys for the game or action you are trying to perform then you could lose a life/round or, worse, an entire match.
The keyboard also dictates how fast you can move through repeated actions during an online game and can also dictate how quickly you can react to a threat, thus leading to victory/defeat.
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5 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Keyboard for Gaming
Keyboards are more technical than most people realize. Different companies can produce nearly identical looking keyboards with completely different implementations of the keys.
For gamers, the keyboard is one of the most important parts of a computer and as such a proper keyboard must be selected to suit your specific gaming needs.
The following are some factors that should be considered when choosing a gaming keyboard:
1. Response Time
One of the most important aspects of any keyboard is the time it takes to register key presses. This measurement is expressed in milliseconds (ms) and for gaming purposes, this should be as low as possible.
As an example, a membrane keyboard with 87 keys can have a response time as low as 25 ms and this is fine for most casual gamers. However, if you are an FPS gamer or other action game professional then you need a response time that is under 20 ms for every keystroke.
There are a few variables that can affect the time it takes for every key to register. The most important variable is your skill level as this will determine your threshold for ever-increasing milliseconds.
The harder you press the key, the less ms it will take to register and this is true for both mechanical and membrane keyboards.
Some keyboards have a switch or button to quickly increase the response time for every key press. This function is always on by default and you should bring it up (if possible) if you wish to play a game with higher fps or lower action requirements.
The only downside to this is that it will make it harder to use a mechanical keyboard at slower speeds in certain online games as the number of keys can cause lag when pressed very softly.
2. Actuation Force
This is the amount of force needed to press every key on the keyboard. This number is usually measured in grams of pressure. The higher the force, the harder you need to press every key. Most people think that this is a major factor when selecting a keyboard for gaming but it is not.
The higher the typing force, the more likely your fingers will fatigue, causing you to become inaccurate and irritable after long periods of typing on a keyboard with high actuation forces.
This can lead to dropped keys, miss-clicks and mistakes. Some manufacturers have gone as far as to produce keyboards that require more force than the standard QWERTY keyboard but these are rarely used and typically reserved for aircraft control panels.
3. Key Distance
The distance between the bottom of a key and the top of the keycap determines how easy or hard you will be able to press a key. The shorter this distance, the easier it will be to press every key simultaneously on every key stroke.
Larger keyboards tend to have a harder time registering multiple key presses simultaneously because of their longer key distances. The bottom line is, if you have a small keyboard, buy a small mechanical keyboard, but only if you will use it often.
A large keyboard can be ideal for typing but not for gaming. Gaming keyboards are typically smaller and more compact to save space and make play more comfortable.
4. Number of Keys
There are several theories on this subject. Some people think that the more keys that are on a keyboard, the better it is for gaming. This is highly true in FPS games that require fast movement combined with accuracy and prediction.
The long-standing myth that you need to have five or six keystrokes on a keyboard before playing an action game (like Call of Duty or Battlefield) has been proven false but it is still common belief.
There are some keyboards that have 32 keys, some have 36 and some have 39 keys, with the average being about 35 keys.
The more keys you have, the higher your activation pressure will be (the amount of force needed to press each key) so choose a keyboard that fits your needs and aims to increase your accuracy and prediction skills.
5. Key Padding
Most mechanical keyboards come with some form of padding or rubber on the face of every key. This helps absorb some of the shock when you press a key but it can also make it harder to depress each key. Keypads that have no padding can prove useful for most gaming purposes.
If you want to use a keyboard for many different purposes then you should look for proper padding to avoid the potential problems associated with harder-to-press keys during non-gaming moments.
Do Keyboards Matter for Gaming? Final Thoughts
Do keyboards matter for gaming? Yes, this is a fact. Depending on the type of game you play, the quality of your keyboard can prove critical or unimportant.
For example, RPG players where control is essential may be better off with a membrane keyboard rather than a mechanical one. Also a keyboard that has many keys and big buttons can lead to irritability.
Mechanical keyboards are more suitable for FPS games where fast reaction time and accuracy are crucial to winning. So, when picking a keyboard, do your research and choose one that will help you get better at what you like to do.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our “Do Gaming Keyboards Make a Difference?” article here!