If you’re still rock­ing a mem­brane key­board, even one that claims to be a gam­ing ’board, it’s time to re­place it. A mem­brane key­board re­quires a key to be mostly de­pressed for the PC to reg­is­ter a key­stroke. The in­di­vid­ual switches per key of a me­chan­i­cal key­board reg­is­ter key­strokes at a shorter ac­tu­a­tion length. This means your key­strokes reg­is­ter faster, thus your men­tal in­ten­tion to, say, duck be­hind cover, is re­flected sooner when you press the keys of a me­chan­i­cal key­board. Again, we’re deal­ing with frac­tions of a sec­ond in terms of in­put trans­la­tion, but that’s some­times enough to save your dig­i­tal life.

In terms of the type of switches be­neath a me­chan­i­cal key­board’s keys, this is mostly per­sonal pref­er­ence, de­pend­ing on how you rate the feel of the key­board (in terms of ac­tu­a­tion force re­quired). Cherry switches are one of the most com­mon, but big­name key­board man­u­fac­tur­ers tend to have their own names for me­chan­i­cal key­board switches. Re­ally, ac­tu­a­tion force and ac­tu­a­tion length are the two most im­por­tant fac­tors if you’re look­ing to gain ev­ery pos­si­ble mil­lisec­ond.

At the mo­ment, my go-to key­board is a Log­itech G810, for its solid mix of short ac­tu­a­tion points and com­par­a­tive quiet­ness to other, louder brands I’ve used in the past. Re­cently, I’ve been using the Log­itech G Pro TenKeyLess me­chan­i­cal gam­ing key­board, pre­dom­i­nantly be­cause of its small form fac­tor. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for any­one with limited desk space, or those who want to keep the key­board out of the way of a lengthy mouse mat (best used in con­junc­tion with a lower mouse sen­si­tiv­ity).

If you want to go next level, though, there’s a learn­ing curve. PC key­pads or game­boards (de­pend­ing on the man­u­fac­turer) are part­con­troller, part-key­board pe­riph­er­als. There’s a thumb-con­trolled joy­stick on the side, which re­places typ­i­cal WASD move­ment con­trols. The the­ory be­hind these de­vices is con­trol­ling for­ward, back, left and right move­ments with your thumb frees up your other dig­its for cen­tralised con­trol of a smaller key­pad. The Razer Orb­weaver, for in­stance, has 30 pro­gram­mable me­chan­i­cal keys for in-game ac­tions.

It may seem like overkill, but once you’ve used one and ad­justed to its weird­ness, it’s hard to go back to a key­board for gam­ing. This is par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able in games that use a lean me­chanic, like Rain­bow Six Siege or Play­erUn­known’s Bat­tle­grounds. Even with a gam­ing key­board, you still have to per­form odd pha­lange gym­nas­tics to move and lean si­mul­ta­ne­ously (a pop­u­lar tac­tic in both games). With a gam­ing key­pad, you can have full con­trol over your avatar’s body with one digit, and you’re free to have your other fin­gers ded­i­cated to lean­ing, and any num­ber of other in­put com­mands.

The shorter ac­tu­a­tion length of a me­chan­i­cal key will ac­tu­ally save your life

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