If you are almost as virtuoso with the WASD keys as Mozart was using them in his sonatas, you will know that a good keyboard can make a difference in a video game game. However, choosing a keyboard to play is not easy: switches, connectivity, layouts … In this gaming keyboard purchasing guide, we review what to take into account and propose a selection for different types of players and budgets.
What to consider when choosing a gaming keyboard
Membrane, mechanical or hybrid?
This classification refers to the key actuation mechanism. Roughly speaking, while mechanical ones use a mechanism similar to that of a light switch, membrane ones register the key pressure and transfer it through a silicone that is in contact with the electrical circuits. Right in the middle are hybrids, which combine the mechanism of mechanical ones with the activation of membrane ones.
This key actuation mechanism gives each of them certain characteristics that make them more (or less) suitable for gaming. These are its main assets in general terms:
If there is a word to define mechanical keyboards, that is sensory. Although they are known for their loudness –be careful, because depending on the switch we can find relatively silent models–, mechanical keyboards provide a series of advantages that make them the most suitable for intensive gamers.
When pressing a key on a mechanical keyboard, we feel it and receive clear feedback, they are the most sensitive and offer greater precision when pressing keys. Its durability is superior and in case a key fails, it is possible to replace it. In addition, they allow you to activate several keys at the same time, a very common practice when we are playing. In return, their price is higher, they are more bulky, and due to their high profile, they are the ones that offer the most customization options.
On the other side of the scale are membrane keyboards, much more affordable, but which can be interesting for sporadic gamers who regularly use the computer for other tasks. They stand out for their versatility, they are quieter and feel smoother when pressing the keys.
Halfway between one and the other are the semi-mechanical ones, which offer a balance between the precision of the mechanical ones with the activation speed of the membrane ones. Its price is also usually in the middle point.
Let’s talk about switches
After establishing some general lines on what to expect from one type of keyboard or another depending on the key actuation mechanism, it should be noted that within the mechanical ones, there are great differences depending on the switch. But first, some definitions that may be useful to us:
The action point is the place where the pulsation is recorded, it is located halfway along the spring route.
The distance refers to the distance from when you start pressing the key until it reaches the bottom.
The force required to operate a key is known as the actuation force.
The sensation produced when pressing a key is classified as linear (constant until reaching the bottom), tactile (with a small jump at the actuation point), or “clicky”, with a loud click in the middle of the travel.
Cherry Industrial is a reference in the sector and its “Cherry MX” classification refers to a series of colors associated with certain characteristics that more or less adjust to the user and the task to be performed. Of course, in the end, the choice of one type of switch or another also has an important subjective component.
Here we leave you a summary table of its main switches with their features:
CHERRY MX BLUE
CHERRY MX RED
CHERRY MX BROWN
CHERRY MX BLACK
CHERRY MX SPEED SILVER
Touch and sound switch
No audible click
No audible click
No audible click
No audible click
If we are looking for a keyboard for gaming, it is common to opt for the sensitive Red switches, the very fast MX Speed – which we will find in the Corsair company – or the all-terrain Brown ones. We insist: that a lot depends on the user’s taste and the sensations it provokes when using it, so trying it first is always a good idea.
Although they are very popular, Cherry Industrial switches are not the only ones. At the gaming level, names like Razer and Logitech stand out, two manufacturers that use other switches of similar quality to Cherry ones. To complicate the issue of choosing a gaming keyboard a little more, they have also named them with colors to detail their sound and sensations. In general terms, this is how we can relate them to each other:
LINEAR AND SILENT
Red, white, black, silver
TACTILE AND SILENT
TACTILE AND SOUND (CLICKY)
Even if you have the keyboard you have, you can press certain key combinations at the same time – like those mythical “CTRL + ALT + DELETE” or “CTRL + X” –, not all of them detect several keys pressed at the same time. Its name is ghosting and it is a very important feature to play.
The explanation is that there are keyboards that do not have individual sensors for each key. In this sense, due to their mechanism, mechanical keyboards have an advantage.
Thus, before opting for a gaming keyboard, it is worth taking a look at its specifications, so that we know if they have anti-ghosting or key rollover systems, which allow several keys to be recognized simultaneously. The most intensive and demanding users prefer NKRO, capable of detecting an unlimited number of keys, although 6 or 10 keys may be more than enough for many users.
Even so, ghosting is not only the keyboard’s fault, but also its connectivity and elements of the computer such as the computer’s motherboard, BIOS, and its simultaneous processing capacity.
Gaming keyboards are wired and connected to the computer through one or two USB ports or the old PS2. And the absence of cables may be more comfortable, but not for playing.
The reason lies in ghosting: while a standard USB supports up to 10 keys pressed at the same time, with PS2 ports it is possible to reach up to n keys pressed simultaneously.
Furthermore, in keyboards that use Bluetooth or radio frequency, there is always the option of interference, something that can ruin a game.
In the market, we can find classic keyboards with numeric pads, multimedia controls, and functions, with 104 keys (105 if it is ISO) or cutting down to 61 keys. Here our tastes and functionality influence, although it is common for the most ambitious gaming keyboards to have customizable macro keys and multimedia control since they are very useful.
From here, we can choose between the American (US ANSI) or European (ISO) layout. And in Europe, there are also a few options: US QWERTY, UK QWERTY, German QWERTZ, etc. If we want the Spanish keyboard of a lifetime, with its “ñ” and its usual size and layout, we will look for the ISO with a QWERTY layout in Spanish.
Of course, the American layout also offers advantages, ranging from the possibility of finding more options and prices by buying it abroad to greater ergonomics. And it is that there are gamers who prefer the US keyboard due to the position and shape of the Enter key and the situation of the left SHIFT key, as it is more easily reached.
Materials and appearance
We have left a subjective but very characteristic aspect of gaming keyboards for last: its aesthetics. Beyond the taste of the user, some features can be interesting to us while we play.
It is common for these types of keyboards to offer lighting that has its usefulness beyond the flashy: we can play in low light and recognize the location of the main keys. There are more sober, betting on mono-color lighting, and others more colorful, RGB. However, there is the possibility of turning off this illumination.
Likewise, some keyboards integrate different keys to differentiate them from the rest, although, in the case of Cherry configurations, we can do it ourselves, purchasing them individually. There is a surprising market for colors and textures.
If you are going to spend hours in front of the screen, the option of integrating a wrist rest can be very useful. Although it is not a differential factor since we can buy it separately.
Finally, a couple of notes about the materials and the way the characters are printed. If you are looking for resistance to intensive use, PBT keyboards withstand the passage of time better than ABS ones.
Regarding the letter printing technique, the double mold of the backlit keyboard stands out. However, there are more affordable options such as laser engraving, thermal sublimation, and ultraviolet printing, in increasing order of resistance.
Which gaming keyboard to buy: Featured models
Mars Gaming MKXTKL
One of the most affordable options, if we are looking for a simple mechanical keyboard for gaming, is this compact Mars Gaming MKXTKL ( 27.99 euros ) that comes with OUTEMU SQ blue switches. With TKL format, backlighting with five colors and ten different profiles, removable wrist rest, anti-ghosting, and gold-plated USB.
The Logitech G213 ( 59 euros ) is a membrane keyboard that is used for both productivity and sporadic gaming. With a simple and “trotter” design for everyday use, with anti-ghosting, USB cable, and bright RGB lighting areas. It includes a wrist rest and integrated multimedia controls and, despite its simplicity, we can customize it using its specific gaming software.
Razer Cynosa V2 Chroma RGB
If we want a versatile keyboard to play from time to time but that offers a good experience, the Razer Cynosa V2 Chroma RGB ( 49.99 euros ) is an option to consider. It is a membrane keyboard with a smooth, silent, and fast response.
However, it has typical gaming details such as RGB lighting or programmable keys (104 in total). In addition, we can press up to 10 keys simultaneously and it connects via USB.
This Logitech model ( 146 euros ) comes with branded mechanical switches, the Romer-G Tactile. This is a complete keyboard for gaming that stands out for its comfort, with a removable memory foam palm rest and aluminum alloy construction for greater resistance.
Includes LIGHTSYNC RGB lighting, USB connection, with specific keys for multimedia and lighting controls, and its software for gaming.
HyperX Alloy Elite 2
The HyperX Alloy Elite 2 ( 127 euros ) is a mechanical keyboard with three types of Cherry switches, the Red and Brown being the most notable for gaming use. This model offers a high relationship between performance and price.
It is very comfortable for those who are going to spend many hours playing both for details such as its wrist rest and for offering control functions: specialized multimedia buttons, a wheel, and quick access buttons. Thus, it is possible to modify brightness, lighting effects, and game mode. And an important detail: it is N-Key Rollover.
With a very attractive design, it combines a strong steel structure with additional titanium-colored textured keys, dynamic RGB light effects, and an additional lighting bar. Includes HyperX key removal tool.
Razer Huntsman v2
The Razer Huntsman V2 ( 159 euros ) is a premium keyboard for those looking for precision and speed thanks to its optomechanical switches that optimize both the keystroke and its useful life.
It stands out for the quality of its design, with Razer Chroma lighting with 38 customizable zones, an aluminum structure, and a synthetic leather wrist rest. It allows you to press up to 10 keys simultaneously and has easy customization access and macro keys.
ROG Strix Scope NX Deluxe
Despite having a complete layout, the ROG Strix Scope NX Deluxe ( 131 euros ) is a relatively compact mechanical keyboard that stands out for use in FPS games due to the wide and ergonomic Ctrl key. It is available with Cherry Blue, Brown, Red, Black, Silent Red, and Speed Silver switches, although the one we list is red.
It includes a key to hide applications and mute audio, is built with an aluminum structure, and offers customizable Aura Sync RGB LED lighting. Includes customization software and key removal tool.
Corsair K95 RGB Platinum
Available with either Cherry Brown switches or the lightning-fast Speed MX, the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum ( $199 ) is a quality mechanical keyboard. With a fairly common design, it is well-built and uses anodized aluminum for its structure
It connects to the computer via a USB cable, it has 6 dedicated macro keys (110 in total), it has RGB lighting that we can adjust in intensity and tones, and even a wrist rest (which can be removed).
Sharlene Meriel is an avid gamer with a knack for technology. He has been writing about the latest technologies for the past 5 years. His contribution in technology journalism has been noteworthy. He is also a day trader with interest in the Forex market.