External Gaming Keyboard vs. Laptop Keyboard – Tips To Choose The Right One For You
The keyboard is the primary connection between you and your computer. If you play games on your laptop often, you have probably considered whether to continue with your laptop keyboard or upgrade to an external gaming keyboard. In this article, we discuss the differences between these two options and provide tips to help you choose between an external gaming keyboard vs. laptop keyboard.
An external gaming keyboard is more durable and ergonomically designed than a laptop keyboard. Laptop keyboards are more portable and designed for casual gamers.
The Pros and Cons of Using an External Keyboard Gaming vs. a Laptop Keyboard
An external gaming keyboard vs. laptop keyboard each has its own advantages and disadvantages. When contemplating which type of keyboard to get, you should consider the keyboard’s quality, how frequently you game, and the level of pressure you apply on your keys.
The pros of using a laptop keyboard include portability and cost-effectiveness. The cons are that they are less durable than external keyboards and have slower response times. The pros of an external gaming keyboard are the sturdy build and the many customization options they offer. The cons are the added cost and extra load.
Our article about what gaming keyboards are with tips to choose the right one for you, explains what features gaming keyboards can offer gamers and will be helpful when selecting an external keyboard to pair with your laptop.
Advantages of Laptop Keyboards
Laptops offer the ultimate convenience in mobile computing enjoyed by users, ranging from executives to university students, for their portability and flexibility.
The advantages of laptop keyboards include their comfortable membrane feel and ease of use. Using a laptop keyboard also reduces costs because the keyboard is included in the laptop unit. Laptop keyboards also offer seamless connectivity because they are integrated into the laptop unit.
This excerpt from the Education Media and Technology Yearbook 2002 explores the benefits of laptop use in the classroom and beyond. Having a complete computer in one unit offers users the freedom to take their laptops anywhere they please.
There are a few compelling advantages to using a laptop keyboard for gaming:
Advantage 1. No Extra Cost Incurred
The most notable pro of a laptop keyboard like this is the cost. Since this keyboard comes built into whatever laptop you’re purchasing, you don’t have to spend extra on the device. Additionally, if you get a gaming laptop, you’re indirectly getting a dedicated gaming keyboard built-in with your computer. Our gamer’s guide about how to choose a laptop with a gaming keyboard offers tips to help you choose the right one for your needs.
Advantage 2. Seamless Connection
Unlike external gaming keyboards like this, where you have to consider USB cables and ports or establish a wireless connection with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth when it comes to laptop keyboards, there is no added step to consider when connecting them. Since the keyboard and computer come as a single laptop unit, you don’t have to go through the hassle of establishing a connection.
Advantage 3. Comfortable Membrane Touch
Conventionally, most laptop keyboards are membrane keyboards. These offer a soft, comfortable feel when pressing keys and if you are a casual gamer, a laptop keyboard is probably all you need. However, if you are a competitive gamer, consider getting an external mechanical keyboard. Our article comparing membrane versus mechanical keyboards explains the differences between these two types of keyboards and will help you decide which one to choose.
Advantage 4. Ease of Use
Since laptop keyboards, like this, are connected to the computer as one unit, it is easy to move around. This is a significant benefit to consider if you aren’t a fan of carrying additional devices, as would be the case if you chose an external gaming keyboard. This article from the International Conference on Pervasive Computing explores the benefits and drawbacks of portable computers in the average American household to determine the pros and cons of mobile computing.
Disadvantages of Laptop Keyboards
Laptop keyboards are made for light-to-medium daily tasks that include regular typing for work or study purposes. They are not designed to endure repeated hard pressing as with gaming.
The disadvantages of laptop keyboards when used for gaming, are their lack of durability and longevity to withstand regular and repeated hard keystrokes, a slower response time, and a lack of ergonomic features that can cause fatigue in gamers. Laptop keyboards are also more expensive and complicated to repair.
The following disadvantages may deter you from using a laptop keyboard:
Disadvantage 1. Poor Durability
As simple and convenient as laptop keyboards are to use when it comes to gaming, they are not specifically built for that purpose. Gaming involves repeated and sometimes forceful pressing of keys. Laptop keyboards aren't designed to withstand constant stress and pressure. As a result, if you use your laptop keyboard for intense gaming, you are more likely to damage the keys prematurely than if you were playing on a dedicated gaming external keyboard like this one.
Disadvantage 2. Slower Response Time
Gaming is a sport and for many games, you need to have a fast response time to ensure victory. Since the keyboard is the primary way to issue commands to your computer, you need to be sure that it works quickly and correctly.
Unfortunately, since conventional laptop keyboards are not designed to support gaming, they have a slower response time than many external keyboards. Our article about choosing a fast gaming keyboard explains why speed is so important in gaming and discusses what features to look for when buying a keyboard for speed like this one.
Disadvantage 3. Poor Ergonomics
Overuse injuries of the hands are the most commonly reported health problem by gamers, as per this article by The Health Nexus. These injuries are linked to poor hand positioning on the keyboard.
Since gaming involves the repetitive pressing of keyboard buttons, it is important to have a device that encourages proper ergonomics. Traditional laptop keyboards aren't designed to support gaming. So, you're at a greater risk of having musculoskeletal issues in the long run than if you were using a dedicated external keyboard. Make sure to also take a look at our tips on how to reduce hand pain while gaming for more details.
Disadvantage 4. More Complicated To Repair
Since laptop keyboards are part of the computer, fixing even minor issues can be a bit tricky, and you will need to book your laptop in with a registered laptop repair technician.
Problems like keys getting stuck, falling out, or failing to register and relay computational instructions, might require taking the whole unit to a repair shop. This is usually a lot more expensive than replacing defective keys with external options. Our article about how to fix a key not working on a gaming keyboard can help if you have a minor keyboard issue.
Advantages of External Gaming Keyboards
Choosing an external gaming keyboard vs. laptop keyboard doesn’t have to be your only option. The great thing about using a laptop is that you can use external peripherals like gaming keyboards if you would like to.
External gaming keyboards are more durable and have faster response times than built-in keyboards. External keyboards offer better comfort for gamers, as well as aesthetic customization, anti-ghosting, and NKRO features. The programmable buttons on external keyboards also offer gamers more in-game options by using sequence shortcuts.
Many gamers connect external keyboards like this to their laptops to enable faster gameplay and reduce hand fatigue and neck pain. Adding an external keyboard provides gamers with many advantages.
Advantage 1. More Durability
External gaming keyboards, mechanical keyboards like this in particular, are designed to withstand the constant stress and pressure of repetitive pressing. They tend to have a much longer lifespan than their membrane laptop keyboard counterparts.
Furthermore, mechanical keyboards are comprised of mechanical switches and keypads. These can easily be replaced with the right tools.
Advantage 2. Faster Response Time
When gaming it is important to respond faster than your opponent. Gaming keyboards are designed to make sure you can do so. Mechanical gaming keyboards usually have a latency/input lag of about 15-25 milliseconds, while membrane laptop keyboards have a lag of 30 milliseconds. These few milliseconds equate to a faster response time and can make a difference in competitive gaming.
Advantage 3. Improved Level of Comfort
The design of keyboards with a downward slope helps relieve pressure in the carpal bones and places the wrist in a neutral position, as reported by this article from the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Journal. This design is implemented in most gaming keyboards.
Unlike standard keyboards, gaming keyboards have evenly spaced keys, making them easy to press and they are spread out far enough from each other to avoid pressing the wrong key. Additionally, make sure to read our related article explaining how to choose a gaming keyboard for small hands. It may give you the additional tips you need to make the best decision.
Advantage 4. Better Aesthetics and Customization Options
Most gaming keyboards are of the mechanical type and are modular like this one. As a result, you can switch out the components for options that best suit your preferred aesthetic without having to replace the entire keyboard. This means that you can express your individuality and style. Our article about whether gaming keyboards are expensive and what makes them so, looks into the factors that add to their price and why these are worth the added expense.
Advantage 5. Programmable Keys and Macro Keys
A notable advantage of gaming keyboards over laptop keyboards is that most gaming keyboards come with extra programmable keys. Programmable keys, called Macro keys, allow you to assign a complex command sequence to a single key.
Macro keys are particularly useful for playing games of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) or Massively Multiplayer Online-Role Playing Games (MMORPG) type. In such games, you use macro keys to assign your preferred key bindings to perform certain actions in a specific order.
Programmable keys eliminate the need for cramming in-game hotkeys or pressing specific keys repeatedly. Macro keys contribute to a more enjoyable gaming experience and improve performance. Our article about why using a gaming keyboard is important explains the use of macro keys for improving speed and efficiency when gaming.
Advantage 6. Anti-Ghosting and NKRO Features
Ghosting is when the keyboard fails to register the commands sent by individual keys when pressed simultaneously with other keys. Anti-ghosting and N-key rollover (NKRO) are features that stop this from happening.
A laptop like this with the anti-ghosting or NKRO feature allows multiple keys to register simultaneously during gameplay. By getting an external keyboard, you can ensure that you will not experience ghosting while gaming.
At this point, you may also want to take a look at our tips for choosing the best keyboard for gaming. Be sure to take a look at that related article before you go any further.
Disadvantages of External Gaming Keyboards
When gaming on the go with a laptop an external keyboard can sometimes be a cumbersome addition that is not worth the hassle.
The disadvantages of using external gaming keyboards with laptops include the additional expense to buy them and the extra load they add to laptop bags when they are transported. External laptop keyboards can also sometimes be noisy if they are mechanical.
Our article about how many keys are on a keyboard explains the various types and sizes of keyboards if you still want an external keyboard but don't want a full-size one like this one.
Consider these disadvantages of using an external keyboard before buying one:
Disadvantage 1. They Are an Extra Expense
Unlike laptops that have keyboards built into the computer, external gaming keyboards are an additional device that you must purchase. Furthermore, external gaming keyboards are usually pricier. If you aren't open to spending extra money on your gaming setup, stick with your laptop keyboard.
Disadvantage 2. They Might Be Considered Noisy
Conventional gaming keyboards have mechanical keys, which produce more noise than their membrane counterparts. Some people might find this noise unpleasant or distracting, particularly in a communal working environment. If you dislike keyboard noise, you'd have to replace the keycaps with fewer auditory components. Be sure to check out our article for tips to make your mechanical keyboard quieter.
Disadvantage 3. They Are an Extra Weight To Carry
External gaming keyboards are an extra weight to carry over and above your laptop. This extra weight makes them less portable and if you aren't a fan of having stuff to cart around, it might be best to stick with a laptop keyboard.
Summary of Laptops with Gaming Keyboards and External Keyboards
|What are you looking for?||Laptop Keyboard or External Keyboard Gaming?||Why?||Example||Price|
|Low latency||External gaming keyboard||Registers key presses at a faster rate||Razer Huntsman Elite Gaming Keyboard||~$100|
|Ease of use||Laptop keyboard||Is convenient to transport and has a comfortable feeling||Acer Nitro 5 Laptop||~$1200|
|Aesthetic benefit||External gaming keyboard||Many customization options||KLIM Chroma Wireless Keyboard||~$30|
|Lightweight||Laptop keyboard||Laptop keyboards are connected to the computer, meaning there is no extra load||Dell G3 3500 Gaming Laptop||~$600|
|Programmable features||External gaming keyboard||Macro keys and proprietary software are distinctive of gaming keyboards||Razer Cyanosa Chroma Gaming Keyboard||~$40|
|Durability||External gaming keyboard||Specifically designed to withstand gaming use for a long time||Corsair K70 Rgb MK.2||~$160|
Should I Use an External Keyboard With a Laptop For Gaming?
Whether or not to use an external gaming keyboard depends on various factors. Getting an external keyboard might not be necessary if you game on a leisurely or infrequent basis. On the other hand, if you’re a competitive gamer who plays on your laptop, getting an external keyboard would not only increase the lifespan of your computer but would likely improve your performance.
Use an external keyboard with a laptop for better performance and durability. Gamers who frequently use their laptops for gaming should use a durable external keyboard to withstand consistent hard keystrokes, and with better ergonomics for longer gaming sessions.
It would be better to use an external keyboard with a laptop for gaming for the following reasons:
Reason 1. Choose an External Keyboard If You’re a Frequent Gamer
External gaming keyboards like this are designed specifically to accommodate the requirements of gamers. These keyboards come with extra features like RGB backlights, programmable keys, and media controls for improved gameplay and performance. Read our guide on how to change gaming keyboard light settings to learn more about this feature.
If gaming is something you’d like to commit to for the long haul, investing in an external gaming keyboard would make the experience more enjoyable.
Reason 2. Opt for Using an External Keyboard If You Want a Sturdier Device
Gaming keyboards are more durable than their membrane counterparts. The rigid build of external gaming keyboards makes them able to withstand long-term intensive use.
The soft membrane keys of traditional laptop keyboards are more likely to get damaged when subjected to repeated presses. If you want a more rigid device that you won’t have to replace any time soon, investing in an external gaming keyboard should be considered.
Reason 3. Get an External Keyboard for Ergonomic Support
Keyboard wrist pain is a common gaming-related condition characterized by pain, tingling, and numbness in the wrist. This condition is most common among PC gamers. Another common gaming injury is carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve tunnel syndrome. This syndrome develops due to compression of the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel within the wrist joint.
According to this article by The Whole Gamer, the best way to treat and prevent gaming-related injuries is to assume a proper body position when gaming. External gaming keyboards like this one are designed to promote a neutral wrist position. This ergonomic feature reduces and fatigue while playing, which is particularly important if you play for long periods of time.
Reason 4. Use an External Keyboard vs. Laptop Keyboard for a Better Gaming Experience
If you want a fully immersive gaming experience, an external gaming keyboard is designed to make gaming more real and enjoyable. The ability to customize aesthetic features and the overall design makes external gaming keyboards more aesthetically pleasing than laptop keyboards. Our article explaining the differences between gaming keyboards and regular keyboards explains some of the factors that influence overall gaming enjoyment.
Additionally, built-in proprietary software automatically detects pre-programmed peripherals and keeps the firmware up-to-date. This built-in feature allows you to switch between multiple profiles within a game with the tap of a button.
How To Find the Best External Keyboard for Laptop Gaming
If you are convinced of the benefits of getting an external gaming keyboard and you are ready to buy one, it is vital to know how to find the best fit. Your budget, gaming style, and setup are critical factors to consider when choosing an external gaming keyboard.
To find the best external keyboard for laptop gaming, consider the keyboard’s material quality, connectivity options, and additional features like the key switch type and backlighting to enhance gameplay.
These handy tips will help you to find the best external keyboard for laptop gaming:
Tip 1. Look at the Build of the Keyboard
Gaming keyboards come in many sizes. Including Tenkeyless and full-size. Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards have fewer keys than conventional full-sized keyboards. Number pads like this one are commonly referred to as the “tenkey”, the omission of these keys gives the TKL keyboard its “Tenkeyless” name.
Most Tenkeyless gaming keyboards like this one have about 88 keys, which is about 80% of full-sized keyboards. A significant advantage of TKL gaming keyboards is that they are much more compact and portable than their full-sized counterparts. The lighter build makes them a better option for tournament gamers who want to avoid the stress of carrying a heavy load during their travels. Additionally, the compact form of TKL keyboards means that they take up less desk space, thereby creating more room for other gaming accessories and freeing up your gaming area.
Full-sized keyboards are the best-known option. As the name suggests, full-sized keyboards like this one have a conventional keyboard’s complete design, including the ten keys on the far right side of the board.
Tip 2. Choose Your Preferred Type of Gaming Keyboard
There are four popular types of gaming keyboards: mechanical, membrane, dome-switch, and split-switch. Membrane keyboards like this are the conventional type of keyboards used a lot in offices and workspaces. These keyboards work by running an electric current through a plastic flexible membrane, hence their name. Due to their plastic components, membrane keyboards have less bounce back when pressing keys than rigid keyboards such as the mechanical type. While this feature makes them more comfortable, they are less durable in the long run.
Mechanical keyboards are the most popular type of keyboard used in gaming. They work by utilizing keycaps that sit on raised buttons called switches. These components can easily be replaced, giving you more room to express creative freedom when customizing your keyboard.
Furthermore, switches like these give mechanical keyboards a nice snap-back during clicks, creating a satisfying clicking sound that gamers have come to appreciate. Mechanical keyboards are sturdier than the other options and can withstand tremendous pressure, especially when gameplay gets intense.
Dome-switch keyboards are an extension of membrane keyboards. The characteristic difference with membrane keyboards is that dome-switch keyboards have bubble/dome-shaped rubber switches under the keys. The rubber switches make them quieter than regular membrane keyboards, but it also makes them quite fragile.
As the name suggests, a split-switch keyboard is a keyboard that can be split into two parts. Most split-switch keyboard models divide in the middle of the board, usually along the groove of the F5, 5, T, G, and B keys, and splitting the spacebar in half.
Tip 3. Look at the Connectivity
Wired external gaming keyboards like this are the best when it comes to connectivity. You never have to monitor the keyboard battery level, and connecting the device to your computer is a relatively simple process.
The major drawback of wired keyboards is that you’re limited to making specific customizations to your gaming setup — you can’t move the keyboard around too much as it needs to stay close to the computer. Additionally, if you have other external devices, there’s the possibility of running out of available USB ports.
On the other hand, wireless keyboards can be used from the other side of the room. These keyboards are wirelessly connected to your computer through WiFi or Bluetooth.
The downside of wireless keyboards is that you have to monitor the device’s battery level and ensure they’re adequately charged before gaming. It would be frustrating to have your device blackout during a match. Check out our guide on how to charge Bluetooth and wireless gaming keyboards to avoid such incidents.
Tip 4. Look at the Switch Types
Keyboard switches are the mechanism under your keys that connect and relay information to the computer. Most external gaming keyboards allow for replacing keypads and switches.
Mechanical gaming keyboards either have tactile or linear type switches. As the name suggests, tactile switches like these are designed to stimulate touch. These switches come with a bump in the middle of the key and produce sounds when pressed—many gamers like tactile switches’ auditory stimulation as it contributes to an immersive gaming experience.
Tactile switches are ideal for Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) and action games, where you’d be using the buttons primarily for directional purposes.
Linear switches like these are lighter than the tactile type and less force is required to actuate them, making them an ideal option for playing a First Person Shooter (FPS) or Role-Playing Game (RPG). Linear switches produce less noise than tactile switches.
Tip 5: Opt For BackLighting
If aesthetics are a priority for you, check if your preferred option has a keyboard backlighting. Backlit keyboards like this are usually customizable, meaning that you can set your frequently-used keys to your preferred colors. The illuminated keys tend to trigger visual memory and can help with learning the controls of your keyboard, especially when gaming in a low-lit environment.
Tip 6: Consider Your Budget
While the best external gaming keyboards tend to be on the pricier side, there are several low-cost options that function well.
Summary of External Keyboards for Laptops
|What kind of improvement are you looking for?||What features to look for in an external keyboard for laptop gaming||Example Keyboard||Price|
|More responsiveness when pressing a key repeatedly||Fast key travel||Razer Huntsman Elite Gaming Keyboard||~$100|
|More customization||Macro keys||SteelSeries Apex 5 Keyboard||~$70|
|Programmable keys||Anti-ghosting and NKRO||Corsair K70 Rgb Mk.2||~$160|
|Illuminated board area||Backlighting||Redragon K552 Red Led Backlight Keyboard||~$35|
Should I Use a Gaming Laptop Keyboard?
Whether or not to use a laptop’s in-built gaming keyboard depends mainly on individual preference.
Use a laptop gaming keyboard for portability and space purposes, and to minimize costs. Using the keyboard that is built into the laptop unit offers gamers better portability and a streamlined gaming experience anywhere and at any time.
Our article about the ten best gaming keyboards that are under $200 takes a look at the most popular mechanical keyboards that are available.
Here are the reasons why you should use a gaming laptop keyboard:
Reason 1. A Gaming Laptop Is More Portable
It is easier to move around with only a laptop like this than it would be with an additional external keyboard. If you do a lot of traveling, using a laptop without an additional external gaming keyboard would make moving around much easier.
Reason 2. You Can Save on Expenses by Using the Keyboard of Your Laptop
Unlike external gaming keyboards that you have to purchase independently, when it comes to laptop gaming keyboards there’s no extra cost incurred. The laptop keyboard that is attached to the screen offers the gamer a streamlined setup that can be used in any location. This ensures that there is minimal setup required when you are in the mood to play a game.
Reason 3. Use a Laptop Gaming Keyboard To Maximize Desk Space
Getting external gaming devices such as a separate keyboard means that you will need extra space to accommodate these gadgets in your gaming setup. Since a laptop like this is a gaming computer and keyboard combined it takes up a lot less space. Not to mention the fact that you also don’t have any extra cords cluttering up your desk when you don’t use an external keyboard.
A gaming laptop is the best option for optimizing desk space. Image Source: Amazon.
Tips To Choose a Gaming Laptop With a Good Keyboard
Having an external keyboard for gaming is a way of making sure that you have a durable and comfortable keyboard but this is not always a convenient solution.
To choose a gaming laptop with a good keyboard, look for an option that offers the best key travel and requires minimal actuation force. Additionally, consider a gaming laptop with added features like backlighting, macro keys, anti-ghosting, and N-key rollover.
Check out this video tutorial by PC Centric to find out whether gaming laptops are actually worth it.
If you have decided against using an external gaming keyboard, you should keep these tips in mind when choosing a laptop with a good keyboard:
Tip 1. Choose a Gaming Laptop Keyboard With Minimal Key Travel
Key travel, also known as a throw, is the distance required for the key to press down and relay information to the computer. Key travel is measured in millimeters, and keyboards are classified as full or low-travel keyboards.
Full travel keyboards have a key distance of about 3.0mm or higher before reaching full depth. Not only do long travel keys abate accidental strokes, but they also cushion your fingers from hard presses, thereby improving gaming comfort.
If you are a hard presser and you don’t want to worry about your keys getting damaged in the long term, getting a keyboard with full travel would be a good choice.
Low-travel keyboards are preferred by those who use minimal force when actuating keys. These keys have a travel distance of about 1.0 to 2.5mm and are much lighter and quieter than full travel keys. Most people prefer keys with minimal key travel.
Tip 2. Use a Gaming Laptop Keyboard That Requires Little Actuation Force
Actuation refers to how much force you must apply to keys for the commands to register. You want a keyboard that requires minimal press energy to register commands, as this would reduce fatigue in your fingers during gameplay. The ideal actuation force is about 65 to 70g. This range is enough to provide resistance without being too soft.
Tip 3. Consider a Gaming Laptop With Macro Keys
Most gaming laptop keyboards come with macro keys that can be programmed for specific commands or sequences. These keys can improve your reaction time during gameplay because rather than having to press multiple keys, you can accomplish the same objective by pressing a single macro key.
There are many key combinations and programmable key options available to gamers to help them improve their gaming speed and efficiency. Our E-gaming keyboard shortcuts guide explores some of the most common keystroke combinations that many gamers and computer users use.
Tip 4. Select a Gaming Laptop That Features Anti-Ghosting and N-Key Rollover
As explained earlier, keyboards with anti-ghosting and NKRO allow for precise registering of keys that are pressed at the same time. If you play games that require complicated combination keystrokes to coordinate moves, be sure to select a laptop with these features as this one does. In fact, this particular gaming laptop has had a very positive review from The Economic Times.
Selecting a laptop with anti-ghosting and N-key rollover capabilities will maximize accuracy and efficiency, especially during intense high-speed first-person-shooter games.
Tip 5. Look For an Option With Backlighting
While most budget-friendly gaming laptops like this have backlighting, cheaper models usually come with monochromatic red or white lighting. If you consider backlighting to be a priority, it is best to invest in an RGB option. This will also allow you to change the lighting schemes and color grades so that they correspond with the game you are playing. It may seem like a minor thing but it could make your gaming more immersive and enjoyable.