Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or you’re new to gaming, you may wonder if it’s worth it to buy a gaming keyboard to replace your regular keyboard? and what exactly is the difference between the two? We did some digging, and here is what we found.
So, what is the difference between gaming keyboards and regular keyboards? Gaming keyboards often have mechanical keys, giving you tactile feedback and better response time. They also have other features you don’t find on regular keyboards, like programmable keys and RGB backlights. Of course they are also more expensive.
What is a gaming keyboard?
First of all let’s find out what exactly a gaming keyboard is. The simple definition is that it’s an advanced keyboard with features made especially for gaming. In reality it seems like every manufacturer have their own definition of what a gaming keyboard is.
Some features of a gaming keyboard are supposed to enhance your performance, like mechanical keys to reduce response time. Others are purely visual, like RGB Backlights.
Mechanical Keys and response time
One of the arguments for buying a gaming keyboard is that the mechanical keys give you better response time. But what the heck is response time, and why does it matter? And maybe more importantly, is it true that mechanical keys improve your response time?
Let’s find out.
According to Wikipedia “Latency is a time interval between the stimulation and response”. In the case of keyboards, latency or response time is the time it takes from a key is pressed until the result shows up on the screen.
For most computer users this delay is so small they don’t even notice it, but for competitive and professional gamers that small delay can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Many gaming keyboards have mechanical keys to combat latency, but how well does it actually work?
Well according to the video below the difference in latency can be as much as 30 ms (milliseconds), that is 0,03 seconds. It doesn’t sound like much, but to gamers it’s crucial.
Mechanical vs Membrane based keyboard
We have established that mechanical keyboards are in fact faster than regular membrane based ones, so why is it that most computer keyboards are membrane based?
The main reason, and the most obvious one, is of course money. A membrane keyboard consists of only 3 parts: a plastic or metal “dome” on top, the membrane in the middle and a circuit board at the bottom.
This makes it a lot easier and cheaper to mass produce than a mechanical keyboard where each separate key has its own mechanical switch. It should be noted though that most keyboards sold today uses a combination of the two technologies. These are so called hybrids, like the dome switch keyboard.
Another reason to choose a membrane based keyboard is that they are quieter than the mechanical ones. However there are quiet mechanical keyboards as well. More on that later.
Cherry MX Switches
If you have looked at mechanical gaming keyboards, you have probably come across the term “Cherry MX” followed by a color. What is cherry MX? And what do the color codes mean?
Cherry MX is a type of switch developed by the Cherry Corporation in the early 80’s. Today Cherry MX switches are used in most gaming keyboards. Their key stems come in many different colors representing the characteristics of the switch, like the force needed to press down the key, and whether it is linear or tactile.
Take a look at this form to see all the different Cherry MX switches, and their stats:
|Color||Characteristics||Sound Level||Activation Force|
|Speed Silver||Linear||Quiet||0.45 N|
|Nature White||Linear||Quiet||0.55 N|
|Linear Grey||Linear||Quiet||0.80 N|
|Tactile Grey||Tactile||Quiet||0.80 N|
|Blue||Clicky Tactile||Loud||0.50 N|
|White||Clicky Tactile||Loud||0.50 N|
|Green||Clicky Tactile||Loud||0.70 N|
Most gaming keyboards have some programmable keys. Those are very handy for people who play RTS (Real Time Strategy) or RPG (Role Playing Games) as you can bind commands or even macros to these special keys.
A macro is a specific sequence of key presses that you can record and bind to one key. Then instead of pressing 8 keys in a row to cast a series of spell, you can now just press the one key.
Most manufacturers have their own app for binding macros to specific keys. Some also have a keyboard shortcut to start recording a macro.
However you don’t need an expensive gaming keyboard to create macros.
With the free application “Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center” you can record macros on any keyboard. You could for instance bind macros to the F1 – F12 keys on your keyboard. Download it here.
RGB Backlights is the coolest feature, and at the same time, the most useless feature of gaming keyboards. Does it improve your gaming? no. Does it look awesome? Heck yeah!
As you have probably figured out RGB backlights are colorful LED lights behind the keys of a keyboard. They can be programmed to light up in different patterns. It is also possible to program the lights to light up on certain in-game events, for example if you win a match.
So, is it worth it?
Let’s be honest. Getting a gaming keyboard will not magically improve your skills, or make you a pro gamer overnight. It could however give you that small edge you need to beat the competition.
And let’s not forget how awesome it looks. So if you’re a serious gamer, and you want a keyboard that looks good, i’d say that yes, it’s worth it. If you’re interested in buying a gaming keyboard you should check out our article about the 10 best gaming keyboards for under $50.