What kind of keyboard is best for gaming?

NOV 19, 2021

Despite all keyboards sharing nearly identical functionality, knowing which brand and form factor to choose for gaming isn’t as simple as going for pleasing aesthetics. In fact, getting the right kind of keyboard for the type of gaming you prefer can be the difference between an enjoyable experience and a miserable one.

When looking at purchasing a new keyboard, there are many variables to consider that have far more depth than meets the eye. Form factor, switch type, membrane vs. mechanical, and even the materials of the keyboard itself are often overlooked in favor of trusting in a popular brand’s word despite these variables making all the difference. Here is a look at what each of these key features is and how they can affect your gaming performance and comfortability.

Form factors

The easiest decision to make when purchasing a new keyboard is deciding its form factor. A form factor can be thought of as a keyboard’s size. The sizes are categorized most commonly in percentages and represent smaller to larger keyboards as 40 percent, 60 percent, 65 percent, 70 percent, 75 percent, tenkeyless (TKL), and full-size.

Remembering the layout of each percentage isn’t a requirement for purchasing a new keyboard, but understanding how to research the differences between them can help you avoid unwanted surprises with your product.

Realistically, the only two form factors worth keeping in mind for most gamers are TKL and full-size. These two form factors make up the vast majority of gaming keyboards used today, but the 15 percent difference between a full-size keyboard and a TKL keyboard isn’t as tiny as it seems.

The full-size keyboard is a standard form factor with all of the keys present, including the number pad on the right-hand side. For MMO players, vehicle simulation players, or gamers who want to use their new keyboard for work as well as play, full-size keyboards are the safest option to go with since the number pad on the right offers a large amount of utility when extra keys are needed.

The TKL form factor, as its name suggests, has the 10-key number pad removed from the keyboard entirely. This saves on space and gives the keyboard a much more compact look and design, which is ideal for first-person shooter players and casual players who make use of fewer keys than the MMO and simulation players.

As you get to smaller form factors, the differences between them become increasingly nuanced and serve to satisfy those with limited desk space and keyboard enthusiasts. For gaming, anything less than a 60 percent form factor is often seen as ill-equipped.

Switch types

The average Twitch streamer can be heard typing away with satisfying clicks and clacks coming from their keyboards. This quality is due to most streamers, and gamers in general, using mechanical keyboards. But whether or not a keyboard is mechanical isn’t the only factor that determines the noise and feel it produces. That quality is dictated by the type of switch in a keyboard.

There are several types of switches: mechanical, membrane, and optical. Each of these switches provides different typing and gaming experiences. For a mechanical keyboard, each switch is an individual key that uses mechanical actuation to interact with the PCB to register inputs.

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