Keyed up

Harry Do­man­ski, Joel Burgess and Dan Gardiner get their fin­gers into 2017’s top gam­ing key­boards to see what new fea­tures click, and what’s just colour­ful fancy.

APC Australia - - Super Guide » Gaming Monitors -

While per-key RGB key­board back­light­ing is the hot new trend on gam­ing lap­tops in 2017, the mul­ti­coloured back­light­ing sys­tem is ba­si­cally now a sta­ple amongst ded­i­cated high-end PC key­boards this year. The up­shot of this ubiq­uity is that the soft­ware from var­i­ous ven­dors is so­phis­ti­cated enough to al­low fully colour-coded key ar­range­ments and light­ing pro­file syn­chro­ni­sa­tion across mul­ti­ple pe­riph­er­als.

While there is one mem­brane key­board in the roundup, it’s clear that the mar­ket has rad­i­cally shifted away from this cheaper (and qui­eter) in­ter­face tech. As al­ways, Cherry switches un­der­pin the vast ma­jor­ity of me­chan­i­cal key­boards avail­able, although Razer and SteelSeries are de­ter­mined to build their own switches from the ground up.

Also di­vided is the land­scape be­tween ven­dors that make you set­tle for the me­chan­i­cal key type it’s de­cided on for a par­tic­u­lar key­board model and those that’ll let you swap in your choice of switches. Oc­ca­sion­ally, a key style will line up with the spe­cific niche that a ven­dor is spruik­ing, but gen­er­ally, ven­dors try to give you your choice of loud ac­tu­a­tion feed­back, a sub­tle bump or the con­sis­tent re­sis­tance found in the re­spec­tive Blue, Brown or Red me­chan­i­cal key switches, on what­ever key­board they can.

Log­itech has bro­ken the mould with a wire­less me­chan­i­cal key­board (G613, p48), but as much as we hate the girthy data pipes con­nect­ing your key­board to your PC (es­pe­cially the dou­ble and some­times triple ca­bled key­boards with USB passthrough and au­dio in­puts), the lack of back­light­ing is a big hin­der­ance that makes it seem like there isn’t a par­tic­u­larly bright fu­ture for wire­less gam­ing key­boards. That said, around the $150 sweet spot, there’s a num­ber of ex­cel­lent con­tenders that’ll give you the re­spon­sive­ness and com­fort of a pro­fes­sional gam­ing key­board, with a few perks like RGB light­ing and macro key con­fig­u­ra­tions, thrown in.

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