Having a good monitor or graphics card is key to a great gaming experience. But longtime PC gamers know that one of the most crucial decisions when putting together a new rig (or upgrading their current setup) is all about input. That means figuring out the best mouse and yes, the best keyboard possible.
But the keyboard market is in a very different place than it once was. In the not-so-distant past, keyboard choice was largely a matter of aesthetic preference, with most models using similar rubber dome technology. Today, what’s old is new again. The mechanical switches that were once expensive and generally relegated to commercial and enterprise use, are now available at a range of prices with variants developed specifically for gamers.
To help PC gamers figure out which switches are right for them, and if any of this is worth it in the first place, let’s break down the ins and outs of buying a gaming keyboard in 2019.
Membrane vs. Mechanical
Created as a low-cost alternative to the older buckling spring style of keyboards, membrane keyboards are a single large printed circuit board covered in a membrane. Points on the membrane have protruding rubber domes where the keys depress, usually with a small triggering contact built inside.
Membrane keyboards get the job done, but they’re mushy, not amenable to repeated presses, and when one dome stops functioning there is no choice but to replace the entire keyboard.
Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, are made up of heavy-duty switches that stand up to millions of presses. If an individual switch malfunctions, one can simply install a new one and use the keyboard as normal. The best mechanical switches are tuned for different use cases, with different levels of resistance and actuation points, making for a much smoother typing or gaming experience.
There are many mechanical switch variants from several major distributors, but the vast majority on the market come from Cherry. At Syber, we incorporate Kontact switches in our keyboards. A few of the most popular mechanical switches for PC gamers to choose from include:
Switch GIFs via www.keyboardco.com
Red Switches are incredibly light switches with a high actuation point, designed for precise, repeated presses of a single key — perfect for gaming.
Blue Switches are designed for typing accuracy. With a low actuation point matched with a heavy tactile “snap,” these aren’t geared towards gaming but some PC gamers still prefer them for their unmatched typing experience.
Black Switches are heavy linear switches with no tactile bump. They’re meant to provide resistance for enthusiastic typists and hold up to many repeated heavy presses.
Brown Switches are nearly as light as the Red Switches, while adding a slight tactile “bump” at the actuation point that feels like a lighter version of the Blue Switches. For gamers looking for keyboards that serve gaming and productivity purposes well, these are a great option.
Some premium gaming keyboards include RGB and LED lighting features. These invariably bump up the price, but they’re more than just aesthetics: they illuminate keys in the dark for people who aren’t touch typists, and the color-changing RGB features work in concert with some games to provide additional visual feedback.
Wired vs Wireless
The vast majority of mechanical keyboards on the market are wired, in part due to the long period of mechanical keyboards being used in enterprise settings rather than in homes for entertainment.
However, with the drop in switch prices and the rise of mechanical switches targeted directly at gamers, that’s rapidly changing.
Gamers may still prefer wired mechanical keyboards to avoid interference and latency between key presses and reactions on-screen. However, these are a perfect fit for PC gamers with living room setups.
Before mechanical switches took over the PC gaming space, the defining feature of gaming keyboards was some level of programmable features. This is no different for mechanical keyboards.
For games that require quick and complex sequences of keys, such as MMOs or strategy games, going up a tier in mechanical keyboard choice to get one with programmable macros could be a real game-changer.
Antighosting/rollover features are crucial for gamers. For some keyboards, especially of the membrane variety, only a handful of keypresses can be processed at once.
This causes additional keypresses to simply be lost, often in a way that isn’t intuitive to the person playing a game. With many games requiring keys to be held down at length while multiple keys are pressed in addition, for PC gaming it isn’t worth risking a keyboard without antighosting or key rollover features.
LOOKING FOR GREAT GAMING KEYBOARD?
Check out the Syber K1 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Built for the ultimate gaming experience, the Syber K1 mechanical gaming keyboard has 100% anti-ghosting for precision and accuracy so that you never miss a keystroke even under the most extreme gaming conditions.LEARN MORE