Mechanical gaming keyboards

The Overlooked PC Gaming Accessory

PC gaming can be a lot of fun, but for serious gamers the experience goes beyond casual entertainment. You don’t have to be an eSports competitor to take your PC gaming seriously. And that means wringing every bit of performance possible out of your gaming setup, because the every advantage helps. Conversely, any way in which your gaming rig is even slightly behind the curve can be costly.

When it comes to enhancing your PC gaming experience, the focus tends to be on computer components. First and foremost is the graphics card. That makes sense, since video games are so graphics-focused. The difference between a basic card and a powerful one can be the level of immersion (1080p versus 4K graphics), the overall experience (mediocre frame rate with low effects versus a butter smooth frame rate with all the visual effects cranked up) and even the ability to play a game, period.

Then there are the CPU, the RAM, the storage, networking and the PC monitor. All important to the gaming experience. Most represent a significant investment as well.

There’s one accessory that’s often overlooked. This one is usually included with every computer, so people tend to not bother replacing it, even though the pack-in version is typically pretty basic. But upgrading this accessory can actually have a huge impact on your PC gaming experience. In fact, for many gamer’s they are considered a “secret weapon” of sorts that gives them a real advantage. And compared to other components and peripherals like a graphics card, this one is downright affordable. I’m talking about the keyboard, one of the primary methods for physically interacting with your PC. And with a mechanical gaming keyboard, you can easily, affordably and almost instantly up your PC gaming experience.

The Advantage(s) of Gaming Keyboards

As the name suggests, gaming keyboards are optimized for PC gaming. This means some very important features.

Mechanical gaming keyboards

Most gaming keyboards are full-sized instead of compact so there is no hunting for miniaturized keys. Backlighting is common. This offers the advantage of being able to see the keys in the low ambient light preferred by many gamers, but many gaming keyboards go further by letting the user customize the LED lighting so that specific keys are colour-coded by game, making them easier to find.

Rollover is critical for PC gaming, since keyboard combos are often required. Rollover means multiple keys can be depressed simultaneously and all register at the same time so that special move is triggered.

One of the biggest advantages for PC gaming is the ability to program game macros. Where a console video game relies on input from a controller, PC games are designed to take full advantage of a computer keyboard. That can mean a dizzying array of key combinations to remember and execute. But a gaming keyboard usually supports macros, so you can program a sequence of keys you can trigger by tapping a single key.

Mechanical gaming keyboards

Mechanical Keyboards Elevate Your Gaming

We’ve already established that a gaming keyboard offers a big advantage. But to truly get the most of this important accessory, you should take things to the next level by choosing a mechanical gaming keyboard.

A gaming keyboard with mechanical switches offers all the advantages of a traditional gaming keyboard. You can still get cool features likes customized LED backlighting and key combos that can be programmed specifically for you favourite games. But mechanical keyboards offer additional advantages.

Mechanical gaming keyboardsThe big difference is in the switches beneath the keys. Most keyboard used membrane switches. They’re quiet and inexpensive, but feel “mushy” making them less than ideal for gaming, which requires precision. Mechanical gaming keyboards use mechanical switches such as the Cherry MX series. There is a wide range of mechanical switches, each with different characteristics (for example, some are quieter than others), so you can fine-tune your experience.

Speed, Precision and Feedback

Mechanical switches offer key advantages over membranes. Most mechanical switches can register a keystroke after being pressed just halfway, making for faster response time. At the same time, the mechanical switch offers feedback—the “click” you hear and feel when pressing a key. This tactile feedback makes for more greater precision when hitting keys, so there is a reduced chance of accidentally missing a keystroke because you didn’t fully depress a key (something that can happen easily with membrane switches). Superior speed, precision and feedback mean gamers using a mechanical keyboard have a significant advantage.

Mechanical gaming keyboardsDurability

Don’t overlook durability when it comes to mechanical keyboards. The keyboard is an extension of the gamer, so you tend to become very comfortable with your keyboard. You don’t want to have to replace it with another because it’s worn out—that means a ramp up time of getting accustomed to using the new keyboard. Membrane switches used in traditional keyboards can wear in anywhere from 1 million to 10 million keystrokes. A very good one might be rated for 20 million keystrokes. In comparison, the Cherry MX switches used in many mechanical gaming keyboards are rated at 50 million keystrokes. Razer has developed its own mechanical switches used in gaming keyboards like the Black Widow Chroma V2 that are rated at 80 million keystrokes.

Where’s My Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard?

One thing you’ll likely have to give up with a mechanical gaming keyboard is wireless connectivity. When you’re pushing for every advantage in PC gaming, the last thing you want to do is introduce the possibility of lag or wireless interference. So most mechanical gaming keyboards still use a wired, USB connection. It’s a small price to pay for that competitive advantage …

Looking for more accessories to up your PC gaming experience? Best Buy has a huge selection, including Joysticks, Steering Wheels and Flight Controllers. Keep it simple with a Game Pad. Add a new dimension with advanced audio using a gaming headset. And of course, there are gaming keyboards from all the leading manufacturers to choose from.

Don’t forget to check out the other posts in our PC gaming series, including the top 5 gaming accessories as chosen by customers, the advantages of upgrading your computer’s CPU, and the best laptops for gamers on a budget.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.

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