THERE IS SO MUCH CHOICE WHEN IT COMES TO KEYBOARDS
The keyboard, like the mouse is one of the most important pieces of kit for a gamer, and is something that will vary wildly amongst pro gamers. Many gaming keyboards have specific features, such as mechanical switches, macro keys, programmable set-ups and flashy colours. Click here to see see some tips regarding the advantages of mechanical keyboards.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND?
When looking at different keyboards, there are a few things that are important to keep in mind. You should also prioritise some features over others, as many keyboards will have advantages over others, and the more features, the more expensive the keyboard is likely to be. A keyboard can use mechanical or membrane technology, the difference between the two being in the literal presses and electric connections made by pressing a key. This explained in more detail here. Lots of gaming keyboards have anti ghosting technology, which stops an otherwise common issue that arises when multiple keys are pressed together or in quick succession, as is common in video games, causing false, wrong or too key presses to register. Anti-ghosting stops this from happening and does not register these “ghost” key presses.
Key roll-over is another important metric, which tells you how many keys you can press at once and have the keyboard register each press as unique. The amount of keys available depends upon the connection you are using to connect your keyboard. PS2 connections have unlimited or N-key roll-over, often referred to as NKRO. USB connections can have up to 10 key roll-over, made up of 6 non-modifier keys (which are base keys; W, A, S, D etc) and 4 modifier keys (which are keys like Shift, Ctrl, Alt etc that affect base keys like WASD).
A lot of keyboards have macro buttons, which are buttons that work like regular keyboard keys but sit around the edges of a conventional keyboard layout and offer extra functionality. A macro is usually a set of commands e.g. 1, s, d to build a drone from a hatchery in Starcraft 2. Instead of three presses, all can be done in order, and in a faction of a second using a macro key. The macro keys are usually programmable using the device manufacturers software, and can often even be programmed ‘on the fly’, live during gameplay. Many keyboards also have media control buttons for quick in-game pausing or skipping of music.
It’s very common for modern keyboards to have some sort of back-lighting beneath the keys, illuminating through the key instead of printing the letter on the key-cap. Many keyboards take this to extremes and allow the user to manage the colours, change to different colours to differentiate between different macro key set-ups or even program in custom lighting patterns themselves. It may not be important to everyone, but it’s pretty cool.
OUR LIST OF THE BEST KEYBOARDS
Below is our list of suggested gaming keyboards, and then a bit more information about each one. The keyboards we have selected all have strengths and weaknesses, but all have the qualities and reach the minimum standards we would deem necessary for a quality gaming keyboard. We’ve taken into account all the things that are important to have in a gaming keyboard, and filtered out those that will cause you issues. These keyboards are they are the newest, best and most popular so far in 2015, so there’s no need to trawl through pages and pages of Amazon reviews and try to determine which are trustworthy.
|Gaming Keyboard||Mechanical||Lighting||Macro Keys||Average Review||Price|
Razer Black Widow
Ducky Shine 4
Logitech Orion Spark
DAS 4 Ultimate
Filco Majestouch 2
CM QuickFire Ultimate
The Ultimate is the best in the QuickFire range of keyboards made by CM Storm. The keyboard features a detachable, braided USB cable with the ability filter its direction underneath the keyboard, so the cord can come out at the top, or from either side. There seven buttons that can be used as multimedia shortcuts, but there are not extra “macro” buttons. The functions on the keyboard also allow for the Windows keys to be disabled, and it is very generally very sturdy and won’t slide around with its durable rubber feet on a steel base plate. It is a fully mechanical board, featuring Cherry MX blue, red or brown switches. NKRO USB support means that every key press is registered, regardless of how many keys are pressed simultaneously. CM Storm’s anti-ghosting matrix means that you also won’t see erroneous or “ghost” clicks when hitting keys in rapid succession.
The Ultimate looks good without going over the top. Each key is back-lit with light coming through they key cap and around the edges of keys. There are three colour light variants of the keyboard and each variant only has one backlight colour, it is not possible to switch between each colour. the GKCL2 model has a blue backlight, the GKCM2 are white, and the GKCL1, GKCM1 and GKCR1 models red. Each model has 5 different brightness levels and three light patterns (full, “breathing” and WASD), all change-able via function buttons on the keyboard.
The SteelSeries Apex is a lower end keyboard that is more suited to more casual gamers. This is a membrane keyboard (instead of mechanical), so it lacks some of the speed and definition that you might find in higher end keyboards. Do you really need a highly responsive mechanical keyboard for Civ 5? Or does the way you play your favourite MMO really need NKRO support? The keys are low profile and more similar to what you’d typically see on a laptop or Apple keyboard. This gives the keys a short travel time, which effectively increases the response time. The F and the 15 macro keys are tilted and ergonomic to allow for easy use and the WASD keys have small, tactile bumps to help you find them quickly. Though the Apex doesn’t support NKRO, it does support rollover of 6 simultaneous keys, over what SteelSeries determined to be the “main” 20 keys (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Q, W, E, R, A, S, D, F, L-Ctrl, L-Shift, Space, and the four arrow keys).
One of the biggest features of the Apex is it’s extensive lighting options. There are five main separate light-able areas, the macro keys, the top F keys, the main alphabet area, the numpad area and a small SteelSeries logo / macros area. Each area can be customised using the SteelSeries downloadable software up to the usual millions of different colours. Lighting set-ups can be saved to different profiles, meaning you can swap between macro key profiles and easily identify which you’re using.
The mechanical switches on the Black Widow are Razers own version of the Cherry MX switches. This keyboard features the Razer Green switches, which are quite soft with a noticeable bump and provide an audible click sound. This board does not have full n-key rollover, but does have some anti-ghosting roll over features built in and Razer has implemented a 10 key roll-over anti-ghosting feature. The anti ghosting stops erroneous and false presses, which is more important than the amount of keys you can press at once. There are also 5 macro keys along the left edge of the keyboard, each fully programmable and capable of recording macros on the fly. The Black Widow also features Razers “gaming mode”, which deactivates the Windows key and button combinations such as Alt + Tab and Alt + F4 (this can be turned turned off). A great feature of the Black Widow is the ports on the side of the keyboard, allowing for a USB and a headphones/mic connection.
The Black Widow is obviously a very colourful board, with extensive lighting customisation options. The Black Widow has a braided fiber cable instead of an easily broken or twisted plastic cable. It also works on the usual Razer Synapse software that gives easy control over all of these features and ties together all your Razer peripherals.
Filco is an example of a company many may not have heard of, but they’ve always been there, making very high quality mechanical keyboards that are used by many pro gamers today. The Majestouch 2 is Filcos newest and best fully mechanical keyboard. It doesn’t put any emphasis on backlights or customisation, favouring a sleek raw style. The keyboard has anti ghosting and n-key rollover (or 6 depending on your connection). It has Cherry MX Blue switches, but is, if you can find them, also available in Black, Brown and Red switches.
Other than that, the Majestouch 2 can be seen as a pretty boring keyboard. But for lots of people anything but what Filco offer is just a distraction. The keyboard is weighty and said to be incredibly easy to type on for long periods of time. It is often used as a comparison for design standards when comparing the key functionality of other mechanical keyboards.
The GCK keyboards are fully mechanical and use Cherry MX red or brown switches. The CGK70 is a normal keyboard layout, with arrow keys and a numpad, whereas the CGK95 has 18 additional macro keys on the left hand side. The keyboard features 104 key rollover anti-ghosting (there are 104 keys on a standard keyboard). There are a few extra media buttons in the top right area of the keyboard, and it comes with a detachable rubberised wrist rest.
To fully utilise the lighting options that this keyboard has to offer, the extensive companion software needs to be downloaded and installed. One drawback for some is that this software is often quoted as being difficult to use because of the overwhelming range of options. Individual key colours and patterns can be customised, and each individual key can be re-assigned or set to perform a specific macro. The software will allow you to pick colours, orders, strengths, directions and create patterns that display across the keys. There isn’t a keyboard around that will give you as much customisation over as many keys.
The G105 is definitely one of the budget options on this list, but if a solid gaming keyboard is what’s important to you, and you’re not overly concerned with mechanical switches, this classic membrane gaming keyboard will suffice. The key basic features of the keyboard include six programmable “G-Keys” along the left hand side that can form up to 18 possible macro combinations. The customisation allows for macros to be created using not only keys but mouse strokes, multiple keystrokes or even user defined delays and repeating, in advance or on the fly. It’s very common for Logitech gaming keyboards to come with programmable keys along the side, and they are often spaced out like they are on the G105 into pairs, making it a bit easier to find which key you’re on without glancing.
Like most modern day gaming keyboads, the G105 features a back-light behind the keys. This can be turned off or set to dull or bright. It’s not mechanical but still has anti-ghosting features and 6 key rollover, which should suffice for 99% of situations even for hardcore gamers. There’s also a simple little “game mode” switch that disables the Windows key.
Ducky is a company that many may not know as well as they know brands like Razer or Logitech, but if you look at some of the best professional gamers in the world, you’ll find that Ducky keyboards are a widely used piece of kit. The Shine 4 is a fully mechanical keyboard with complete N-Key rollover and Cherry MX mechanical switches (usually in brown or blue). There are no macro keys or media controls on the Shine 4, as this keyboard was bred solely for 100% dedicated, to the point gaming. The Shine is sleek and modern, and even has removable feet so that the height can be adjusted.
One aesthetic charm that the Shine does have is living up to its name in terms of lighting. The two tone stylish key lighting gives this keyboard a unique sense of character and even has some customisability. The back-light colours can be set to constant mode, breathing, cycle, raindrop, reactive aurora and many more modes. This allows a little bit of style and personalisation on an otherwise very streamlined and quality piece of high end gaming equipment.
The DAS Keyboard 4 Ultimate does not have time for backlit keys. It doesn’t even have time for keys with anything printed on them. If you don’t know what the keys are without looking at them, you’re not ready to wield the Ultimate. Das focus on smooth, and tactile experiences when using keyboards with the aim of making longer, more intense gaming or typing sessions easier. With full N-Key rollover, anti ghosting and Cherry MX brown or blue switches, this is definitely a keyboard for gaming. The top right of the keyboard has a few simple media controls, giving you quick access to the media controls you may need whilst gaming.
Quite impressively the DAS 4 Ultimate actually has 2 USB3 connection ports onboard. Perhaps one of the best and most unique features is the “foot bar”. If you’re a human, you’ve probably experience the pain of a keyboard with broken feet at some point in your life, so DAS the Ultimate has one long foot bar instead of two small plastic feet. This bar sits underneath the keyboard and changes angle it rests at like normal keyboard feet would do. It’s magnetic and can be detached and used as a ruled as it is scaled on both sides. Win as many Starcraft titles as KT FlaSh and then ask why you’d need a ruler.
Th 6Gv2 is definitely the cheaper option, yet the more common amongst pro gamers. It’s sometimes described as boring and simple, not unlike the Filco board, but it all depends on your priorities. Lots of reviews praise it as good because of its build quality, ease to game with and efficient use of space, but then criticise it for no macro buttons or lights. Macro buttons and lights are nice, and can really improve the look of a keyboard, but they aren’t the most important, defining features.
It is though still a full mechanical keyboard with n-key roll over, anti-ghosting, Cherry MX Black switches and a PS2 / USB connection. This makes it a keyboard that is used surprisingly often amongst high level pro gamers in top MOBA and RTS games. Criticisms of the board are often that it’s not a great board for lots of typing due to its slightly unusual key layout and non tactile keys. This doesn’t stop it from being a great keyboard for gaming though and at this price, it’s one of the cheapest keyboards from a bigger retailer that it’s possible to find.
Like the newer Razer keyboards, The Orion uses Logitechs own variety of mechanical keys, these being the Orion-G switches. These have a fairly standard 45g actuation force and 70 million keypress testing. The Orion features Logitechs G-keys, though the ones on this board have been moved slightly in an effort to make them more accessible and useful. There are a total of 9, five down the left and four across the top of the first F buttons. These extra 9 keys can be set up with macros to form 27 unique combinations and add to a total of an 113-key rollover anti ghosting set-up. The back-lighting options are extensive, offering full colour control over all keys. The lights beneath the keys use the custom switch technology to focus the light upwards and produce a very bright key with minimal light leaking out around the sides.
One feature that’s hard to miss is the ability to “dock” an Apple or an Android phone or tablet with the keyboard. This will then give you control over macros, lighting etc of the keyboard from the phone or tablet. There are also other apps that will monitor the PC’s hardware performance, giving you information about temperatures, speeds etc. Unfortunately this board won’t charge your phone.
- Fully mechanical
- N-Key roll-over & anti ghosting
- Back-light with some customisation
- Different colour options
- Won’t break the bank
- No macro keys
- 113 Key roll-over & anti ghosting
- Logitech G-Keys macro keys
- Fully mechanical
- Full colour & pattern customisation
- Phone dock
- Dedicated media buttons
- Arm rest