Ever wondered why some people spend hundreds of dollars on a gaming keyboard? Are they any different from ordinary keyboards? Let’s discuss the differences between the two to see which might be better for you.
What Is a Gaming Keyboard?
A gaming keyboard is a sturdy, high-performance keyboard that’s well-designed for gaming. Equipped with satisfying RGB lights behind the keys, these keyboards are usually mechanical, which means they’re the easiest to type with. You barely have to apply any pressure for keys to register, allowing you to type faster and without fatigue.
They also have extra keys, called macro keys, which you can program to perform certain actions in games or use as shortcuts. For instance, you can program a macro key to cast an ability in-game or launch commonly used applications. Gaming keyboards also offer N-key rollover, which is a feature that registers all the keys you press simultaneously.
Not sure what all of this means for you? Let’s take a closer look.
Gaming keyboards are almost always more expensive than regular keyboards. Decent ones can start at $50 and go beyond $200. This is mainly because gaming keyboards are designed for gamers and typists who rely on high-quality parts and features. We’ll shortly discuss what makes these keyboards better than your average keyboard.
However, if you’re looking for a cheaper option for general computer use, any regular keyboard costing around $20-30 will work just fine. Of course, you’ll get far more value with gaming keyboards, but that’s only if you’re looking for more functionality and an optimal typing experience.
Branded gaming keyboards typically come with software, such as iCUE, to customize the device to your liking. This includes everything from remapping keys, adjusting the RGB lighting, recording macros, creating profiles, and more. Whereas your standard keyboard only allows you to type.
One of the first things you’ll notice when looking at gaming keyboards is that they’re almost always mechanical. Most looking for a good typing experience, especially gamers, opt for mechanical keyboards because they feel great to type on.
The keys are light and often have shorter travel distances to register, which makes typing feel effortless. This means your keys will register on your PC without having to press them down all the way. And with fast response times, you’re able to type quickly without straining your fingers.
Depending on the type of switches, each keypress will make a satisfying “click” sound, which lets you know that the key’s been registered. The clicking can be pretty noisy for some people, but there are ways to make them quieter. There are membrane gaming keyboards, but they won’t feel as nice to use compared to mechanical models.
Most regular keyboards use membrane keys that don’t have any physical switches. Instead, they rely on rubber membranes to register each keypress. The keys will often feel heavy and stiffer, which requires you to press down harder to type. Keep in mind that this is only compared to mechanical keyboards. Depending on your preferences, you might have no problems using membrane keyboards.
However, membrane keyboards don’t provide instant feedback, so you’ll have to press all the way down to register the keystroke. This can cause some fatigue in your fingers after a while since you’re constantly applying more pressure when typing.
Membrane keyboards also have slower response times compared to mechanical keyboards, but the difference will barely be noticeable, especially if you’re not gaming. One main benefit of membrane keyboards is that they’re much quieter than mechanical ones, so you can type away without disturbing others.
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N-Key Rollover (NKRO)
Both gaming and regular keyboards have a feature called N-key rollover (NKRO). This feature is what allows a keyboard to register multiple keystrokes at the same time. For example, if you’re playing a game and need to press multiple keys simultaneously, NKRO ensures that all the keystrokes will be registered by your PC.
With gaming keyboards, they always offer NKRO because all your keys function independently from each other. That means that you can press down as many as you want and they’ll all register on your PC.
With regular keyboards, you might run into a problem called “ghosting.” This is where some keystrokes don’t register because you’re pressing too many keys at the same time. The average keyboard only allows you to press up to six keys at once.
You won’t find this to be problematic if you’re not doing anything that requires you to press a bunch of keys simultaneously. However, if you’re a gamer, you’ll definitely want to go for a gaming keyboard with NKRO.
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Macro keys are additional keys on your keyboard that can be programmed to perform various tasks. These can be simple tasks such as opening a specific program, inputting text, or muting your speaker volume. You can also create complex macros that record a sequence of keys that are then played back with a single keystroke, with your keyboard’s software.
Macro keys are more commonly found on gaming keyboards since they can be very useful for gamers. For example, if you’re playing a game that requires you to press the same sequence of keys to cast an ability, you can create a macro to automate the process (make sure your game doesn’t consider this cheating).
These additional keys are convenient because you don’t have to override your normal key bindings. It’s an easy way to give yourself additional shortcuts to games or use around the computer.
Ordinary keyboards usually don’t come with any macro keys, but you can always get yourself an external device such as a streamer deck. There are free alternatives such as AutoHotKey, but you’ll have to learn the basic scripting language to program your own macros. For the most part, you likely won’t get much value out of macros unless you’re a gamer or want shortcuts for your productivity or work.
RELATED: 6 Reprogrammable Macro Pads for Macros and Shortcuts
If you’re tired of going through keyboards that break down easily or don’t last long, you’ll want to get a gaming keyboard. Gaming keyboards are built to withstand heavy use and will last much longer than regular models.
We recommend sticking to well-known brands such as Razer, HyperX, Logitech, and Durgod as they generally have the strongest builds that can last for many years. It’ll be better than finding a poorly built keyboard from a no-name brand that starts to malfunction or break down in less than a year. Keycaps start to fall off, keys become unresponsive, and the build quality just feels weak and fragile.
Gaming keyboards aren’t made of the same cheap plastic material you’d find on a $10 keyboard. They’re sturdy but are usually heavier because of that. The heavy-duty build combined with high functionality makes for a great long-term investment.