If you’re a first-time buyer of a gaming keyboard, it can be difficult to know what exactly you should be looking for when it comes to features. After all, there’s no shortage of gaming keyboards available to you, and they can vary wildly when it comes to pricing.
Thankfully, that’s where we come in with this brief tutorial to show you what to look for in a gaming keyboard. We’ll be taking a look at everything from price to design and even if there’s any available extra keys to make your gaming life easier.
Before you rush out to purchase a gaming keyboard, however, you should first take the time to figure out if you even need a more specialized keyboard in order to meet your gaming needs.
The question of whether or not you should choose a gaming keyboard essentially comes down to how serious you are when it comes to your gaming.
If your PC gaming hobby typically consists of the occasional game of Candy Crush or other less demanding types of games, you’re probably fine just using any type of basic keyboard. Similarly, if your gaming choices commonly include ports of games from console systems, then you might even be better suited to just using a controller.
However, if you’re a hardcore fan of the latest first-person shooters, strategy games, or massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, then a proper gaming keyboard could be one of the best investments for your gaming PC that you ever make.
So, if that’s the case for you, let’s quickly go over some basics on what to look for in a gaming keyboard.
The very first thing that you should figure out is what your budget looks like. You can find gaming keyboards that cost as little as $60 to extremely high-end products that can cost well over $200.
In general, the price tag of a gaming keyboard will be reflective of what kinds of added features it has, such as mechanical design, added keys, and whether or not it has backlighting (not to worry -- we’ll be covering what all of that means as well).
A general rule of thumb that you can follow is to stick with a gaming keyboard that falls within the $100 to $150 price range. The vast majority of these options will include mostly everything that you would want in a gaming keyboard.
Anything beyond this price range should be considered only if you aren’t concerned with cost and you want the very best products available. The good news is, there’s plenty of extremely high-quality options available to you if you are only looking for the best of the best.
There are generally only two design options when it comes to gaming keyboards— “membrane” or “mechanical.”
Membrane keyboards operate by sending an electrical current through a couple of plastic membranes found on the keyboard. The keys basically operate as a kind of pressure pad, instead of each of them being separate.
On the other hand, mechanical keyboards feature spring-activated mechanical switches underneath each separate key on the keyboard.
It’s recommended to seek out a mechanical keyboard if you will primarily be using it for gaming. They tend to be slightly more expensive than membrane options but the higher quality and better overall ‘feel’ of the keyboard makes it worth it.
Many gaming keyboard models feature either monochromatic or full RGB color backlighting. The truth of the matter is, however, that this feature should be considered purely optional, as it’s far from required. This is especially true when you consider that backlighting can significantly jack up the price of a keyboard.
Even if you aren’t a naturally gifted typist, your fingers can adapt quite quickly to where they need to be placed when playing your favorite games.
It all comes down to personal preference here—if you want to splurge and get a keyboard with a backlighting that matches the rest of your set-up, then feel free. Otherwise, you can opt for a model with no lighting and still fare just fine.
If you are primarily an MMO player, this feature will be much more important for you. These types of keyboards feature extra sets of macro keys, usually in multiple rows. Some of these keyboards can feature as many as 18 extra buttons when compared to standard options.
These specialized keyboards can indeed be quite handy for anyone who wants the utmost control over their online avatars. As with backlighting, however, a keyboard with added keys will end up costing more than standard keyboards.
After taking your budget into consideration, your main concern should be choosing a keyboard that has a mechanical design. Anything beyond that (backlighting to match your pre-existing setup or added macro keys for MMO games) is entirely optional and comes down to personal preference.