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