How to Choose the Perfect Gaming Keyboard

Gaming keyboard
Having the right equipment can make or break your gaming experience.
Tayler Tayler (11)
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When it comes to gaming, having the right equipment, like keyboards, can make or break your experience. With hundreds of keyboards flooding the market, it can be hard to make an informed choice. Sure, the $20 office keyboard will get the job done, but do you just want to get the job done or do you want to crush your enemies with the might of powerful tools?

With this guide, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which keyboard is the best option for you–there are a lot of options, and not every glorified typewriter will suit your needs.

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Full-sized keyboard

When deciding which keyboard is ideal for you, its best to start by deciding between a tenkeyless model and a full-sized model.

Tenkeyless Models

Tenkeyless models are pretty self-explanatory–they don’t have number pads, making them great for small areas and gamers who don’t rely on tenkeys. They’re lighter than standard keyboards and are ideal for tournament gamers who are accustomed to traveling.

One of the main factors of a tenkeyless model is the small space between hands. Many people incorporate a separate tenkey pad, but this is a matter of preference. Because numb pads are normally used for work-related tasks, tenkeyless keyboards are a favorite of gamers rather than hybrids.

Our Tenkeyless Keyboard Recommendation: Corsair K63 Compact Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Full-Sized Model

As the name suggests, a full-sized model includes the full, classic keyboard with the tenkeys on the far right. Similar to standard office keyboards, these models come with almost an extra third of a keyboard, meaning there is more space to reach between the keyboard and the mouse.

Full-sized keyboards also leave ample space for added keys, more so than tenkeyless models, which are built to maximize a small space. With more space, you’ll find extra buttons that are great for toggling favorite moves in video games.

Our Full-Sized Keyboard Recommendation: NPET K10 Gaming Keyboard USB Wired Floating Keyboard

Membrane keyboard

The first and very basic difference between most gaming keyboard models is the difference between membrane keyboards and mechanical keyboards.

Membrane

To keep it simple, membrane keyboards work by running an electrical current through plastic, pliable membranes (hence the name) and are typically the go-to for standard office keyboards. These models have less bounce back than mechanical ones and tend to break down a lot faster than mechanical ones when it comes to gaming.

Our Gaming Membrane Keyboard Recommendation: HyperX Alloy Core RGB - Membrane Gaming Keyboard

Mechanical

Mechanical keyboards work through mechanical switches placed beneath each key, giving them a nice, springy snapback that is great for rapid-fire key smacking. They also tend to be more reliable. Whereas membrane keys get stuck more often, mechanical switches are sturdier and can withstand more pressure, even when tensions rise and you start smacking the keys with intensity.

Mechanical keyboards are more commonly promoted as the superior keyboard for gamers, as the level of customization associated with them is ideal for building equipment that is right for you.

Our Mechanical Keyboard Recommendation: Razer Huntsman Elite Gaming Keyboard

Dome-Switch

With dome-switch keyboards, you have the rubbery membrane layer matched with mechanical switches. These keyboards have switches with bubbles inside them, making them a quieter option than mechanical keyboards, but they also come with a shorter life expectancy and are generally associated with negative feedback.

Our Dome-Switch Keyboard Recommendation: Razer Ornata Chroma Gaming Keyboard

Split Switch

Split switch keyboards are the most ergonomic on this list and involve two separate pieces that together create a full keyboard. The beauty of a split-switch keyboard is total customization of location–each side of the keyboard can be placed at any angle and location to fit your needs. These are great for any gamer who requires a specific gaming layout that is easy on the wrists.

Our Split Switch Keyboard Recommendation: KINESIS Gaming Freestyle Edge RGB Split Mechanical Keyboard

Tactile vs. linear keyboard

Referring to mechanical keyboards, there are two main types of switches for mechanical keyboards.

Tactile

Tactile switches come with a bump in the middle of the key. The bump not only produces a sound when actuated, but it registers midway through the press. The combined tactile bump can make actions such as double-tapping difficult, which makes this switch ideal for action and MMO games where you’ll typically be using the keys for direction purposes only.

Our Tactile Mechanical Keyboard Recommendation: Logitech G915 Wireless Tactile Keyboard

Linear

Linear switches, on the other hand, don’t have the bump in the middle of the key and are actuated when the key is pressed down all the way. Less force is needed to actuate linear switches, and they’re typically quieter than tactile switches. Linear switches are great for success in FPS and RPG games where you’ll benefit from an easier and lighter tap.

Our Linear Mechanical Keyboard Recommendation: HyperX Alloy FPS Pro-Tenkeyless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Illuminated gaming keyboard

While backlit keyboards don’t really illuminate different aspects of gaming, the full RGB models tack on a hefty price to comparable standard keyboards. Backlit keyboards, even monochromatic ones, can help when it comes to learning the controls of a new game, especially if you game in a low-lighting location.

Color is really a matter of preference for your gaming experience, but it does look pretty sick if you match your keyboard to your entire set up. You can also tweak the color of each key to highlight the keys you use most often.

Our Basic RGB Backlit Keyboard Recommendation: PICTEK RGB Gaming Keyboard

Wireless keyboard

Keyboard connectivity is split into two main categories: wireless and wired.

Wired

Many keyboards available on the market are wired, which tends to limit the amount of freedom you have customizing a gaming layout. The upside of a wired keyboard is that you never have to worry about monitoring a battery level.

Most standard keyboards use a USB hookup for a slot and, while there are certain drawbacks such as USB buses becoming overloaded, the use of this slot, fortunately, has distinct universal applicability.

Our Basic Wired Keyboard Recommendation: Redragon S101 Wired Gaming Keyboard

Wireless

Wireless keyboards come with the benefit of total configuration control, meaning you can further customize your gaming experience. The largest disadvantage of these keyboards is that you have to monitor the battery level to ensure it doesn’t die on you in the middle of a tense battle.

Our Basic Wireless Keyboard Recommendation: Keychron K1 Ultra-Thin RGB Wireless Keyboard

ABS keyboard

ABS

The most common type of plastic used for a keyboard is what’s called ABS plastic. ABS plastic, short for a name nearly impossible to pronounce (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, if you were wondering) is a slightly more expensive plastic to work with, hence the higher price points.

Keycaps with ABS plastic tend to take on that shiny, worn appearance after a lot of use and they’re more susceptible to shocks, hits, and normal wear and tear.

Our Plastic Keyboard Recommendation: GK61 Hot-Swappable Mechanical Keyboard

Metal

Aside from adding durability, rigidity, and a generous heft to the weight, metal is a common component to premium gaming keyboards. Whereas plastic keyboards would be great for personal or traveling use, due to the significant minor weight component, metal keyboards are great for high-intensity situations, as they’re built to withstand rage associated with gaming.

Our Metal Keyboard Recommendation: Redragon K556 LED Backlit Wired Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Aluminum Base