Gaming Keyboards for Gamers & Streamers:
Information, Leaderboard & Comparison
If you want to equip yourself with good gear for gaming, there is no way around a gaming keyboard. But where do they differ from normal keyboards and do you even need a gaming keyboard? Compared to other high-end devices, such as gaming mice or gaming headsets, there is no great difference to an ordinary keyboard for work.
This is mainly due to the fact that the keyboard was originally used for writing only. It was not designed to control a character in a game. For a few years now, manufacturers have been trying to develop keyboards that maximize the gaming experience.
Now we are going to take a closer look at different keyboards and will give you some tips for choosing the right gaming keyboard for you.
Types of keyboards
Basically, you can differentiate between two main types of keyboards. On the one hand, the Rubberdome and on the other hand, the mechanical keyboard. We will show the advantages and disadvantages of both types and explain what the «ghosting problem» is all about.
The rubberdome keyboard
The rubberdome keyboard uses a rubber mat located under the cover, which serves as a support for buffers made of silicone or rubber. When a key is pressed, this buffer is pressed down and activates a contact. By releasing the touch, the key is reset to its original position due to the pressure of the buffer. This type of construction has two advantages: Compared to a mechanical keyboard, it does not use a spring and is therefore very quiet and it also has lower production costs. This is because the buffers can be processed in one piece. They are not inserted individually, but placed over the rubber mat like a kind of bubble wrap.
However, this bubble wrap also has a disadvantage: It loses its resistance over time, which means that a rubberdome keyboard has an average lifetime of only 5 million keystrokes. Another problem is ghosting, which we will explain in more detail below.
The ghosting problem
In many games you have to press several keys at the same time. With rubberdome keyboards or low-priced mechanical models there is a chance that additional keystrokes are registered when several keys are pressed simultaneously, due to the design. This phenomenon is called ghosting. To avoid it, manufacturers have developed anti-ghosting, where individual keys have separate PCBs. Most of the time, however, only special keys such as WASD are provided with them. Therefore, pay attention to the key rollover, because it tells you how many keys can be pressed at the same time without a ghosting error. For example if you have a 2-key rollover two keys can be pressed at the same time without a ghosting error. With full-key rollovers all keys are provided with anti-ghosting.
The mechanical keyboard
The mechanical keyboard has a single plastic frame with a button and a spring mechanism under each key, which is also called switch. The spring is responsible for returning the key to its original position after the contact has been released. The resulting feedback is noticeably better, as the keystroke is registered before the key is pressed. Therefore, the fingers have to work less than if they had to press the button down completely. Another advantage is the durability of the mechanical keyboard. With an average of 50-70 million keystrokes, it lasts more than ten times as long as a rubberdome keyboard. Mechanical keyboards also have anti-ghosting by default, which is especially important for gamers. Other advantages are RGB lighting and the programming of individual keys, but more about that later on. In summary, mechanical keyboards have many advantages for gaming, but they are usually much more expensive and louder.
A special form of the mechanical keyboard is the gaming keypad, which was specially developed for gamers. Compared to a normal keyboard, it is much smaller because it only uses a few keys of a normal mechanical keyboard. Furthermore, the keys are arranged in an ergonomic order to reach them faster and easier and to relieve the hand. In addition to the usual WASD, it usually has surrounding keys as well as a volume control, an ESC key and F1 – F12 keys. The small number of keys minimizes unnecessary movements, allowing you to react much faster in the game.
Different types of switches
Under each individual key there is a switch, which consists of case, spring and button. This system guarantees that the keystroke will trigger a contact and return to its original position afterwards. There are many manufacturers of switches, but the best known and largest is Cherry. We are going to show you the differences between the different models of switches. But first a few basic terms for better understanding:
- Lifetime – Indicates the average number of times the key can be pressed before it breaks. Specified in millions of keystrokes per key.
- Actuation force – Describes how much force you need to apply with your fingers to press a key. Specified in grams.
- Actuation point – Indicates the height at which a key passes on the activation command after pressing. Specified in mm.
- Total travel distance – Indicates how far down a button can be pressed.
- Linear – The keystroke is consistent and fluid.
- Tactile – Resistance during the pressing of the key, usually at the actuation point.
- Clicky – Resistance during pressing; produces a sharp click sound.
Top manufacturer for keyboards
Do you have a favorite manufacturer that you trust blindly, or do you want to inform yourself about keyboards of other manufacturers? Then you are at the right place. We are going to present and compare the best keyboards of different manufacturers.
The top 5 keyboards used by pro-gamers
We did some research on which keyboards are used by your favorite pro-gamers. In the table below you find information about the pro-gamers, their keyboards and which game they play:
[table id=23 /]
For many manufacturers, lighting has become part of the basic equipment of every gaming keyboard. But do you really need this or is it just a clever marketing gag? There are two options with lighting: lighting in one colour or full RGB lighting. Of course, you can use a gaming keyboard completely without lighting, but a lighted keyboard can spice up your work space visually. You can also display individual keys or key blocks needed for your game in different colors. A nice addition is that you can synchronize the color of devices by the same manufacturer (mouse, headset, etc.) with the keyboard but in the end this is still only a «nice to have» feature.
Programmable buttons allow you to save macros, so you don’t have to press several buttons at the same time for one command. This will relieve your fingers during a game. Of course, it takes some time to get used to them and and the software needed. Programmable buttons are only available for mechanical keyboards, since the construction of the rubberdome keyboard does not enable such function.
The excessive use of the keyboard can lead to pain in fingers, hands, wrists and forearms, the so-called RSI syndrome. Professional writers, for example, have a workload of up to 80,000 strokes per day, putting a heavy strain on their hands and joints.
Manufacturers and scientists have been trying to fix this problem since the 1970s. They are working on optimizing the keyboards ergonomically in order to prevent such injuries. Until now there are different solutions to it. On the one hand, there is the possibility of reducing finger pressure with a mechanical keyboard with modern switches. On the other hand there are gaming keypads which have been designed to relieve wrists and fingers as much as possible since they do not have to be repositioned all the time. The most common way to improve the ergonomics of a keyboard is to change its shape or the position of its keys. Instead of following a strict linear order, the keys are adapted to the shape of the hand to avoid an unnatural positioning or movement of hand and fingers.
In addition, more and more keyboards have wrist rests that improve the transition from keyboard to desk, which keeps your forearms and wrists in a more comfortable position.
The community favorites
Last but not least, we have selected three gaming keyboards for you, which are cheap but still have very good reviews: