What is a Gaming Keyboard? The Best Keyboard for Gaming – A Buyer’s Guide

A gaming keyboard is an essential bit of kit for any gamer’s set-up. Customisable and crammed with features, a gaming keyboard lets you compete at the top of your game.

This blog was updated in June 2022.

A gaming keyboard is an essential bit of kit for any gamer’s set-up as, just like an ultra-light gaming mouse with a ‘flawless’ sensor or a high refresh rate esports gaming monitor, owning one can give you an edge over your foes.

Customisable and crammed with must-have features like programmable macros, a gaming keyboard lets you compete at the top of your game and master-rank any game you set your mind to.

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What is a Gaming Keyboard?

A good gaming keyboard kits out your bog-standard keyboard with advanced, functional features to help optimise the gaming experience. This can be appearance and performance-related, from an RGB backlight so it’s easier to distinguish keys in all-night gaming binges to fast-actuation switches that register inputs ASAP and a whole lot more.

To the average user, a keyboard is nothing more than a basic peripheral for typing up reports or ranting on Twitter. While you may not run into any problems when using a standard keyboard for day-to-day tasks, they exhibit shortcomings in games. Supplement your set-up with a purpose-built gaming keyboard – and mouse – and you’ll be able to unlock your full gaming potential.

Even if you’re not a super-hardcore esports gamer that grinds out the ranked queue day in, day out, a gaming keyboard is a great addition to make games more customisable and comfortable to play. So, what should you be looking out for in a good gaming keyboard?

Best Keyboard for Gaming

Of course, whether it’s a gaming keyboard, mouse, or controller, what is considered the ‘best’ comes down to personal preference. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all gaming keyboard, literally, as there are so many models and styles in today’s market. From full-sized workhorses to 60% form-factor with rows of keys lopped off, it can be difficult to find the gaming keyboard that’s right for you.

Once you’ve found it, however, it can improve your gaming experience – and that all-important rank! So, it’s crucial to understand the key features offered by different gaming keyboards, such as membrane versus mechanical, backlight and more. All of these extras can greatly influence your gaming style and performance. We’ve come up with the top aspects to consider when you’re on the hunt for a new gaming keyboard.

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Wired or Wireless Gaming Keyboard?

In a non-gaming set-up, such as an office, it’s common to find wireless but basic Bluetooth-connected keyboards, as it keeps cable clutter to a minimum. These keyboards may be suitable for word processing, but their horrendous latency wreaks havoc for gaming. So, wired keyboards still have their place, among the gaming community at least.

This is because a user gets the fastest and most reliable latency over a wired gaming keyboard, as opposed to a wobbly Bluetooth signal that’s susceptible to lag and disconnects. When you’re in a make-or-break ranked match, the last thing you want is for your keyboard to stop functioning as intended.

Is a Wireless Gaming Keyboard Worth It?

That’s not to say you can’t get wireless gaming keyboards, with a dedicated low-latency 2.4GHz wireless dongle, which rival or exceed the speed of wired gaming keyboards. But unlike a gaming mouse that’s thrown all over your mouse mat, a gaming keyboard is a stationary object. A wire isn’t too much of a nuisance, nor is it going to impede your gaming. If you want the cleanest gaming set-up, free from any unsightly wires, go for a wireless gaming keyboard. Most people, however, don’t think the premium price of a wireless gaming keyboard is worth it.

What’s more, a wired gaming keyboard is easier to set up. Once it’s plugged into your PC, that’s it. You won’t have to worry about signal strength, accompanying software, or battery life like you’d have to with a wireless gaming keyboard. RGB lighting, a must-have for many people, drains a wireless gaming keyboard’s battery quite quickly too.

For instance, the Corsair K63 wireless gaming keyboard has up to 15 hours of rechargeable battery-powered wireless with backlighting, or 75 hours with backlighting off. Run wireless and RGB lighting simultaneously, and you’ll be hooking up to charge often. Though, doesn’t this defeat the purpose of a wireless gaming keyboard?

Membrane or Mechanical Gaming Keyboard?

What delineates a gaming keyboard from a non-gaming one is often its switch technology. This affects how the press of a key is registered. From the ‘actuation’ (how much weight is needed to move a key), to the depression (how far a key must travel before it’s registered), and the ‘response’ (how it feels to press and release a key). These aspects can make or break your enjoyment of a gaming keyboard.

Are Membrane Keyboards Good for Gaming?

Among all the technologies, membrane and mechanical are the most popular. Membrane, or ‘rubber dome’, is mostly found on non-gaming and cheap gaming keyboards. It’s operated by a piece of rubber beneath the key pressing against a circuit board. It’s a simple design, and this is reflected in the low price of membrane keyboards.

However, as you’re typing on rubber, the experience can feel mushy and indistinct. There’s hardly any tactile feedback on a membrane keyboard, which can lead to uncertainty over whether a key has been registered or not. This is detrimental for high-level esports gaming as you can imagine, but since it’s rubber, a membrane keyboard doesn’t make much noise for those all-night gaming binges.

Are Mechanical Keyboards Better for Gaming?

A mechanical gaming keyboard is a big step-up in performance and complexity, as there’s a spring-loaded mechanism beneath each key instead. As you’re typing on an intricate assembly of stems and springs, as opposed to a piece of rubber, a mechanical gaming keyboard gets you the feedback needed for gaming.

It depends on the type of switch used, which we’ll get into later, but a mechanical gaming keyboard can require less activation and depression than a membrane gaming keyboard. This is essential for fast-paced games that demand a high actions-per-minute and every key press counts. The response and bounce-back is also satisfying; many people find it easier to hammer away at a mechanical gaming keyboard, speeding up their words-per-minute.

This mechanism drives up the price of a mechanical gaming keyboard, however, and even non-tactile switches have some bottoming-out noise to them.

Choose Your Switch

Considering the keyboard is the most used PC peripheral in and out of a game, we’d seriously consider upgrading to a mechanical gaming keyboard for the faster and considerably more enjoyable typing experience. Though, depending on the type of mechanism used, the user experiences varies wildly.

There are ‘linear’ switches with a, well, linear activation throughout the switch’s depression. As they behave predictably, with no ‘bump’ response to interrupt your keystrokes, linear switches are best for twitchy gaming. ‘Clicky’ switches have an audible response at the point of depression. This acts as a confirmation of sorts that keystrokes are being registered, perfect for fast, frenzied typists. Though, while it may be satisfying for you to have a ‘click’ that punctuates every keystroke, people around you won’t appreciate it nearly as much. If you want a clicky response without the noise, there are ‘tactile’ switches.

Cherry MX

Should you choose a mechanical gaming keyboard, there are many subcategories and brands of switches, of which Cherry MX is by far the most popular. Cherry uses a colour-coded system for their MX switches to differentiate between linear, clicky and tactile switches. For example, Cherry MX Blues are an iconic clicky switch, whereas the linear Cherry MX Reds are what you’ll find on most gaming keyboards. Check out the table below for a comparison between each of Cherry’s main switches.

What is a Backlit Gaming Keyboard?

Unlike a regular keyboard you may find at your work desk, a backlit gaming keyboard is equipped with per-key lighting, which makes it easier to distinguish keys even in a darkened room. When you’ve run out of ammo, you don’t want to be fumbling around for the weapon-switch key. A backlit ensures that the keys are always clearly legible, so you can react without hesitation.

Backlit Gaming Keyboard

Backlit gaming keyboards are often ‘RGB’ and as such highly customisable, whether it’s through profiles programmed into the keyboard’s hardware or an accompanying piece of software. You can customisable the colours, lighting effects, brightness, and more. They’re a colourful addition to gaming set-up and can help make it uniquely yours. Not only does a backlight serve a practical purpose, but it looks pleasing too – a win-win. Some gaming keyboard software goes so in-depth with customisation, you can even highlight your most-used keys so you’ll never misplace them again.

What is a Programmable Gaming Keyboard?

For those of you who play fast-paced games, you’ll know the struggle of pulling off complicated keystrokes at a moment’s notice. That’s where a programmable gaming keyboard comes in. It lets you pre-program a series of keystrokes and assign it to a dedicated ‘macro’ key for lightning-quick actions.

You could, for instance, use a macro to open a game’s armoury, navigate to the weaponry and buy your favourite weapon – all with just one key press. It’d otherwise be too time-consuming to perform these keystrokes when you’re in the middle of battling it out.

Macros are a powerful tool at a gamer’s disposal, as they let you combine complex, multi-keystroke actions into one key. It takes out the tedium of repeating the same series of inputs over and over again by hand – think of how many times you’ve hard to replenish your grenades in Counter Strike, an ungodly amount no doubt. Instead of wasting time in menus, a macro lets you think and get into the action faster.

If you’re a die-hard gamer, you may want to consider a programmable gaming keyboard, particularly if your favourite game consists of long combos and strings of multi-keystroke actions – MMOs are the perfect example. Macro keys let you perfectly tailor your gaming keyboard to suit your needs.

Wrist Rests

Having a set-up that promotes ergonomic use is essential for those marathon gaming sessions. The last thing a gamer wants is an uncomfortable wrist impeding their ability. To help prevent strain, a wrist rest could be something to consider. A wrist rest sits below the keyboard, often secured in place by a magnet. It ensures your wrist is kept level and at a comfortable angle with the keyboard, so no excessive strain is placed on it.

Of course, some people find a wrist rest unnecessary as their set-up is ergonomic enough already. But when you’re gaming for hours at a time, ergonomics falls to the wayside. A wrist rest helps main proper ergonomic form, even when your mind’s preoccupied with winning a game. You can get a gaming keyboard that comes with a wrist rest and Ebuyer stocks them separately. 

How Much Does A Good Gaming Keyboard Cost?

For most of us, a gaming keyboard is a long-term investment. These aren’t things that are replaced every year… unless you’ve smashed your keyboard in a fit of rage. A high-quality gaming keyboard should last years at a time. When buying a gaming keyboard, we want to ensure it’s a good long-term value for money, whilst providing an enjoyable and feature-rich experience.

Of course, the more features a gaming keyboard piles on, the more its price increases over a standard keyboard. But if you’re planning to use your keyboard day in, day out, these extra features may be worth it.

What features you opt for is personal preference, and it’s important to remember not all are necessary for a great gaming experience. And what’s the point in breaking the bank over a gaming keyboard feature you’re not even going to use.

Most gaming keyboards range between £50 and £200, so you’re likely to find one that’s ideal for your needs whilst staying on budget. More expensive doesn’t always correlate to better quality, however. You can find the best budget gaming keyboards at Ebuyer, though they just me be lacking some of the features other models have. For our money, we’d recommend at least picking up a mechanical gaming keyboard with robust Cherry MX switches of your choosing.

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Keeping You in the Zone – Gaming Keyboards at Ebuyer

There are several other finishing touches on gaming keyboards that provide convenient shortcuts while you’re mid-game. Some gaming keyboards are equipped with USB pass-through. This means you won’t lose a USB slot when hooking your gaming keyboard up to a gaming PC, perfect if you’ve got many USB-connected peripherals and accessories, such as a controller.

And with dedicated multi-media controls – volume up/down, play/pause and more – you can manage any music or podcasts playing in the background with a key press. No need to alt-tab and disrupt the flow of your game just to turn up the volume.

Check out Ebuyer’s extensive range of gaming peripherals, including gaming keyboards, mice, headsets, and more!

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