GROUP TEST: Keyboards
A keyboard is an important part of a gamer’s armoury. Lewis Painter reveals our top five
For some PC gamers, having the right keyboard is almost as important as the hardware inside it. For the uninitiated, however, it can be hard to see what all the fuss is about. Is there really any difference between fancy gaming keyboards and a basic £10 keyboard form Microsoft or Logitech? In a word, yes. Different keyboards have different features, of course, but all gaming models come with extra options and features, and can dramatically improve your gaming experience.
One of the principal differences is the keys themselves, and whether the keyboard is mechanical or membrane based. The latter use a layer of conductive plastic underneath the keys, which forms an electrical contact when pressed. The former have physical switches underneath each key.
Mechanical keyboards are more crisp and responsive, and models using the high-quality Cherry MX mechanical switches are a firm favourite among PC gamers, allowing for faster, more precise keystrokes. Such keyboards are, however, bulky and expensive when compared to membrane-based models.
How a keyboard feels is only part of its appeal; you want it to look good as well. Many come equipped with backlighting, and allow you to program specific colours or patterns for aesthetic appeal.
Layout is also an important aspect. Many games rely on lightningfast reflexes, and a split-second can mean the difference between glorious success and humiliating, abject failure. For this reason, gaming keyboard layouts are optimised for maximum efficiency, with ergonomic layouts, programmable keys and numerous shortcuts meaning that everything you need is always right where you need it.
Part of this is macro keys: programmable buttons to which you can assign long, complicated strings of keystrokes. This enables you to execute complex commands and manoeuvres with a single button press, saving time and effort and letting you focus on your gaming strategy. You can even create multiple profiles with separate macros, allowing you to tailor your macro sets to specific games.
If you’re only an occasional gamer, you may be happy with the most basic of peripherals. But those that consider gaming a serious hobby, upgrading to a dedicated keyboard is a must.