Ever wonder why some people spend hundreds of dollars on a gaming keyboard? Are they different from ordinary keyboards? Let’s break down the differences between the two to see which might be better for you.
What is a gaming keyboard?
A gaming keyboard is a rugged, 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 use. You hardly have to apply pressure for the keys to register, allowing you to type faster and without fatigue.
They also have extra keys, called macro keys, that you can program to perform certain actions in games or use as shortcuts. For example, you can program a macro key to launch an in-game skill or launch commonly used applications. Gaming keyboards also offer N-key rollover, which is a feature that records all the keys you press simultaneously.
Not sure what all this means to 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 discuss what makes these keyboards better than your average keyboard shortly.
However, if you’re looking for a cheaper option for general computer use, any regular keyboard that costs around $20-30 will do just fine. Of course, you’ll get a lot more value with gaming keyboards, but that’s only if you’re looking for more functionality and an optimal typing experience.
Branded gaming keyboards usually come with software, like iCUE, to customize the device to your liking. This includes everything from remapping keys, adjusting 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 of those looking for a good typing experience, especially gamers, opt for mechanical keyboards because they feel great to type on.
The keys are lightweight and often have shorter travel distances to register, making typing feel effortless. This means that your keys will be registered on your PC without you having to push them all the way. And with fast response times, you can type quickly without straining your fingers.
Depending on the type of switches, each key press will make a satisfying “click” sound, letting you know the key has been registered. The clicking can be quite loud for some people, but there are ways to make them quieter. There are membrane gaming keyboards out there, but they won’t feel as great to use compared to mechanical models.
Most regular keyboards use membrane keys that don’t have physical switches. Instead, they rely on rubber membranes to register every keystroke. The keys will often feel heavy and stiff, requiring you to press harder to type. Please note that this is only compared to mechanical keyboards. Depending on your preferences, you may not have a problem using membrane keyboards.
However, membrane keyboards don’t provide instant feedback, so you’ll have to press all the way down to register the keypress. This can cause some finger fatigue after a while as you constantly apply more pressure when typing.
Membrane keyboards also have slower response times compared to mechanical keyboards, but the difference will hardly be noticeable, especially if you’re not gaming. One of the main advantages of membrane keyboards is that they are much quieter than mechanical ones, so you can type without disturbing others.
RELATED: If you haven’t tried a mechanical keyboard yet, you’re missing out.
N-Key Shift (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 are gaming and need to press multiple keys simultaneously, NKRO makes sure that your PC logs all keystrokes.
With gaming keyboards, they always offer NKRO because all of their keys work independently of each other. That means you can push as many as you like and they will all register on your PC.
With normal keyboards, you may 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 a time.
You won’t find this problematic if you’re not doing anything that requires you to press multiple keys simultaneously. However, if you are a gamer, you will definitely want to buy a gaming keyboard with NKRO.
RELATED: All Those Confusing Mechanical Keyboard Terms, Explained
Macro keys are additional keys on your keyboard that can be programmed to perform various tasks. These can be simple tasks like opening a specific program, entering 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, using your keyboard software.
Macro keys are most commonly found on gaming keyboards as they can be very useful for gamers. For example, if you’re playing a game that requires you to press the same key sequence to cast an ability, you can create a macro to automate the process (make sure your game doesn’t consider this cheat).
These extra keys are convenient because you don’t have to override your normal key bindings. It’s an easy way to get additional shortcuts to games or use them on your computer.
Ordinary keyboards usually don’t come with macro keys, but you can always get an external device, like a streaming pad. There are free alternatives like AutoHotKey, but you’ll need to learn the basic scripting language to program your own macros. For the most part, you probably won’t get much value from 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 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 like Razer, HyperX, Logitech, and Durgod, as they generally have the strongest builds that can last for many years. It’s better than finding a poorly built keyboard from a no-name brand that starts to malfunction or break in less than a year. Keys start to fall off, keys become unresponsive, and the build quality feels flimsy and flimsy.
Gaming keyboards aren’t made from the same cheap plastic stuff you’d find in a $10 keyboard. They’re sturdy, but they’re usually heavier for it. Strong construction combined with high functionality makes it an excellent long-term investment.