The keyboard is likely the most important peripheral we have connected to our computers, and yet it is often the one we give the least amount of thought to. Over the years I have seen some pretty interesting keyboards and they have gone through some pretty interesting innovations. The majority of keyboards are still the good ‘ole QWERTY layout but we’ve seen keyboards change in style and manufacturing and even somewhat in layout. Let’s take a closer look at what your options are today and see what might make your gaming experience on the PC even better.
Typing It Old School
If you are old school, you might want to consider working with an old keyboard such as the one that came with the IBM 5150 or 5160 and then adapting it to a modern USB computer. Adapters such as the IOGEAR USB to PS/2 Converter will work well and will have you stepping back into the 1980s in no time. The reason using these old keyboards relates to how they were built and how they respond. First of all, you can tell that older keyboards were built with different materials. The average keyboard today weights around 600 grams, while an old IBM keyboard clocks in at 2.4 kilograms, four times the weight!
Perhaps you are more ergonomically comfortable with a “natural” keyboard, also sometimes called a split keyboard. While I personally have never been a fan, some gamers actually enjoy using them for long gaming sessions that can be hard on your hands. While this particular design may be quite difficult to find these days in the store, one decent alternative is the
Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Wireless BlueTrack Keyboard & Mouse Combo. In addition to being wireless, the contoured design promotes a natural wrist position to keep you comfortable. You can detach the cushioned palm rest which is a nice touch and the split spacebar can really work well in certain gaming situations. For me, it’s almost worth switching to this kind of keyboard just for the double space bar.
Taking it to the High End
If you have your eyes on the high-end, it doesn’t get much better than the Corsair K70 RGB Cherry MX Brown Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. I spent a great many years working in the Point of Sale industry and if there is one business that gets a lot of keyboard abuse, it’s retail. One thing that was consistent over the years was that anything that had Cherry keyswitches outlasted everything that didn’t. These switches are built with the care and quality that you might be looking for. In addition to quality keyswitches, this keyboard also allows you to assign a unique backlit colour to each and every key as well as assign macros and more.
Mechanical switches work best for most people because they actually activate while being press around halfway, making for less work on your fingers. They also offer a type of feedback to your fingers than you can learn to recognize to know the keystroke has registered. Some of them (like the Cherry MX switches) are rated for a lifecycle of 50 million keystrokes. That’s certainly a lot of hits per key, but keep in mind that not all mechanical keyboards are created equally. Stick to well known brand names to get the best bang for your buck.
To Spend or Not to Spend
You might be wondering if it’s worth purchasing a more expensive keyboard versus one (or more) inexpensive keyboards. Simply put: you get what you pay for! In many cases, for some types of items other than keyboards, I’d condone just buying several cheaper ones in place of more expensive ones because often you can buy 3, 4 or 5 of one item for the cost of a more expensive one. The reason I don’t condone this sort of behavior when it comes to the keyboard is the simple fact that the keyboard is something you spend most of your time with. To cheapen out on this accessory doesn’t make sense because there are also often additional benefits that you can take advantage with the more expensive keyboards, not to mention the reliability and comfort is much higher in most higher-end models. It’s just one of those things that is not worth skimping on.
Another question that often comes to mind is wireless versus wired keyboards. The bottom line is that if you are a serious gamer playing high-speed, high-action games then a wired keyboard is ultimately the way to go. There is no lag and there are no batteries to replace or charge. If you are only casually gaming then the convenience of a wireless keyboard may be worth considering. It all comes down to your application and how important the convenience of wireless is to you.
The Light at the End of the Keyboard Tunnel
A great mid-line choice is the Logitech G410 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. This one has many of the advantages of higher-end gaming keyboards like mechanical switches and lighting effects. The backlit keys can be chosen from a full palette of 16.8 million colours and the configurations that you use the most can easily be setup to look very distinctive on this keyboard. It also offers a unique feature of being able to synchronize lighting effects with other Logitech G devices (such as the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum Wireless/USB Optical Gaming Mouse) that makes for a pretty cooling gaming experience, especially in the dark!
The QWERTY keyboard design was actually created to slow-down fast typists who were faster than the mechanical machines (typewriters primarily) that they were attached to. Today, it’s hard to keep a good gamer down and your keyboard shouldn’t stand in the way of the most optimum experience.
The Key To Success
While keyboards come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, when it comes to gaming I’d recommend a wired keyboard with mechanical switches. If you are just looking for a decent keyboard at a decent price, remember that the cheaper options are not always better because the keyboard is something you spend most of your time with. Treat it well, and it will treat you “write” back with a seamless smooth typing experience.