This article is about what to look for in a gaming keyboard. When you’re out and about and you want to buy the best keyboard, some things may help you make your decision. There’s nothing worse than spending their hard-earned money on something that doesn’t work as it should. So stick us and keep reading.
Before buying a keyboard, you should determine which kind of switch you want. The three most common switches are Cherry MX red (light linear), Cherry MX Blue (medium tactile/clicky), and Cherry MX Brown (light tactile). These are also available in variants with various properties, e.g. tactile feel. Other less common types of switches you might encounter are the Razer green (clicky), and the Topre switch (non-clicky and non-linear).
2. Lighting: brightness and effects
Keyboards usually come with different lighting levels – this is measured in lumens – but there is another metric that describes to what extent the whole keyboard is lit: coverage. Conversion tells you how much of the keycaps are actually lit (very relevant for RGB lights). Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean the keys themselves will be brighter, it also depends on how good their backlight diffusion is.
Brightness and coverage can be described in units called “zones” – in cheaper keyboards there might only be one zone, while more expensive ones may have 4-9 zones in which every key has its own light. Higher-end boards also allow customizing lighting effects or even just programming those into scripts that will trigger based on certain conditions.
3. Key rollover (NKRO)
This means how many keys you can press simultaneously and still get recognized. NKRO keyboards are more expensive because their switches allow electrical contact to be made even while some keys are pressed. Many cheaper boards only have 6-7KRO, some might support 8KRO if they use special switches (e.g. mechanical ones).
It is very important for the letters on your keycaps not to fade away or get blurry after a short time of usage, or else you will end up with a gummy board that feels horrible in the long term. Generally, you should look for thick and high-quality keycaps. Another thing to consider is whether they’re double shot, which means the characters themselves and the borders around them are molded together, so both sides will always be readable. They are also more resistant to wear.
Other useful properties are the textured surface for grip, non-slip coating, or oversized caps. These are not considered important by everyone but they can be nice to have nevertheless.
5. Connectivity & compatibility
Switches may require specific amounts of electrical current, so consider that when buying a keyboard (the majority of switches need about 30mA). Make sure your board supports USB 2.0 or higher since older boards will limit transfer speed and might cause lag in gaming situations. Also note that some cheap keyboards use special or proprietary connectors, which means you can’t just unplug it and attach another keyboard without getting an adapter cable (e.g.: Razer “snake” cable).
Some more expensive boards offer extra features such as onboard memory for macros, RGB lighting that can be customized with the keyboard itself, or detachable palm rests. You should also check whether your new board is compatible with existing software and what kind of software it does support (e.g.: Razer Synapse 2.0 currently only works with Razer devices). Last but not least: ergonomics. This is a rather subjective property so there isn’t much we can say about it, but you might want to look for keyboards that are split into two parts (the key section and the wrist rest), slightly angled keys, contoured keycaps, etc. These factors would improve your typing/gaming experience, but most of the time they are only included in premium products.
This about sums up what you should consider when buying a new keyboard. You can find more details on many of the factors on our buying guides or by doing your own research on the internet. We hope this article was helpful and wish you a happy shopping.