GROUP TEST: Key­boards

A key­board is an im­por­tant part of a gamer’s ar­moury. Lewis Painter re­veals our top five

PC Advisor - - CONTENTS -

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.

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