What’s the Best Gaming Keyboard Layout? A Gaming Keyboard Diagram Guide

The QWERTY keyboard layout is one of the most widely recognized - and used - layouts. Your phone, laptop, computer, and even your smart TV's keypad all have a QWERTY layout. Even so, it might not be the best layout for keyboards in terms of speed and efficiency. QWERTY was developed in the middle of the 1800s and utilized in early typewriters. A lot of attention was placed on educating individuals to use that layout since it quickly became a way of life. Despite decades of technological advancements, we continue to use the QWERTY layout today which seems to be the best gaming keyboard layout.

QWERTY is the best and the most familiar gaming keyboard layout which is featured on most devices. DVORAK has recently become a popular keyboard layout because of its efficient placement of the vowel keys on the left-hand side of the keyboard. The Colemak keyboard layout is comparatively more recent, is simpler to modify, and Colemak preserves the most popular shortcuts in their current form. There is no absolute best keyboard layout as each type has its advantages and drawbacks. For gaming, look for a keyboard layout that can be optimized to improve performance.

When choosing a gaming keyboard, other features that can improve gaming speed and efficiency include switch type, macros, backlighting, anti-ghosting, programmable function keys, and more. We will discuss what a gaming keyboard is, the layouts that exist, the best keyboard layout for gamers, as well as left-handed keyboards and common keyboard controls for PC games. One of the most essential factors to consider when selecting a gaming keyboard is which layout to use. This article will discuss the various keyboard layouts and which one is best for gaming purposes.

Any person using a PC for gaming will be familiar with the QWERTY gaming keyboard layout which seems to be best for general computer work and for typing.
The most well-known keyboard layout is the QWERTY layout. Image Source: Amazon.

What Is a Gaming Keyboard?

As the name implies, gaming keyboards are manufactured and optimized specifically for gaming and can improve gamers’ speed and efficiency. Gaming keyboards have specific features and capabilities that may not be found in ordinary keyboards. 

A gaming keyboard is a keyboard designed for gaming. Gaming keyboards are often smaller in size, are equipped with mechanical switches, and boast features like anti-ghosting, programmable function keys, macro keys, backlighting, and ergonomic features.

Our article about what a gaming keyboard is discusses these features and capabilities and offers tips to help you choose the right one for your needs.

A gaming keyboard is a keyboard that has been changed to enhance and maximize the user's gaming experience. This gaming mechanical keyboards guide by Computer station Nation will assist you in selecting a gaming mechanical keyboard that you will like using.Keyboards are an important part of every gamer's setup since they may either make or break a player's performance. A gaming keyboard provides an ergonomic layout, configurable keys, quicker reaction time, and other special performance-enhancing benefits that gaming demands. While ergonomics places the gamer’s comfort first, it can also contribute to preventing and reducing long-term injury caused during extended periods of gaming. This article from Logitech explains why an ergonomic keyboard is important for gamers. 

An ergonomic gaming keyboard is the best option, no matter the layout, for preventing discomfort and long-term injuries.
Ergonomic keyboards reduce arm, wrist, neck, and hand strain when gaming for long periods of time. Image Source: Amazon.

Did you know you can build your own gaming keyboard? Make sure to read our related article to find out how! Additionally, you might be interested in learning a little more about flat key keyboards for gaming. If you are, be sure to take a look at our related article to find out more.

Gaming Keyboard Layout Based on the Position of Keys

The layout of a keyboard determines the ease with which users can reach the keys. The most widely used layout is QWERTY, however, there are other layouts worth considering.  

The QWERTY keyboard layout has the WASD keys conveniently clustered in one area. Other keyboard diagrams include the Dvorak and Colemak, both of which are arguably more ergonomic than QWERTY but have fewer users because they are newer and require users to learn their layouts.

Our articles about e-gaming keyboard layouts and  how many keys are on a keyboard discuss the various gaming keyboard layouts as well as smaller versions if size and portability are factors that you need to consider when buying a keyboard. Also, this related article explains how to choose between the different gaming keyboard switches that are available. Be sure to take a look at that as well.

These are the main layouts:

Layout 1. The QWERTY Keyboard Layout

The QWERTY keyboard layout was created by Christopher Latham Sholes who helped develop the first commercially successful typewriter. The name QWERTY is derived from the order in which the first six keys on the top left letter row of the keyboard are arranged. The majority of keyboards are QWERTY keyboards and it is likely that you are familiar with this layout.

When using a QWERTY keyboard like this, the A, S, D, and F keys should be pressed with your left hand, while the J, K, L, and ; keys should be pressed with your right hand. These are regarded as the home row keys. Either keep your thumbs in the air or place them very gently on the spacebar key. This video tutorial by Keith Rowley explains how to touch type on a QWERTY keyboard. 

A QWERTY keyboard is called this because the first 6 letters on the left-hand side of the top row of letter keys spell QWERTY.
The QWERTY layout has the WASD keys conveniently grouped together on the left-hand side of the keyboard. Image Source: daskeyboard.

Layout 2. The Dvorak Keyboard Layout

The Dvorak keyboard layout like this was created based on the most frequently used keys. The most used vowel and consonant letters are positioned on the home row while the most used punctuations are located on the left side above the home row. The advantage of the Dvorak keyboard layout is that users can easily reach the most dominant keys directly. This is different from the QWERTY keyboard in which vowels and other common letters are placed far away from each other.

The Dvorak gaming keyboard layout is best for typing efficiency and can be used for gaming once the user is accustomed to the layout.
The Dvorak keyboard layout groups the vowels closer together to improve typing efficiency. Image Source: daskeyboard.

You may also find interest in learning more about what gaming keyboards are best for typing. Be sure to check it out for more details.

Layout 3. The Colemak Keyboard Layout

The Colemak keyboard layout is the newest keyboard layout and was invented by Shai Coleman in 2006. It is considered an upgrade of the Dvorak keyboard layout while it retains certain key positions of the more common QWERTY keyboard. The Colemak Keyboard layout as discussed in this thread on Reddit, like the Dvorak keyboard layout, is not used a lot. If you want to try a Colemak keyboard like this, keep in mind that it might take some getting used to.

If you have a careful look at the Colemak keyboard layout you will notice that it is a combination of the best of the QWERTY and Dvorak layouts and could be suitable for gaming.
The Colemak Layout is a combination of the features of both the QWERTY and DVORAK layouts. Image Source: Colmak.

Gaming Keyboard Layout Based on Size

The size of a keyboard affects how the keys are arranged on it. The most widely used keys on the keyboard remain the same irrespective of the size of the keyboard, but other groups of keys like the function keys, navigation keys, mod keys, numeric keys, and arrow keys are left off or repositioned on smaller keyboards.

A gaming keyboard layout can be different based on the size of the keyboard. The most popular gaming keyboard sizes are 100% keyboard, tenkeyless keyboards (85%), and mini keyboards (60%).

Very often laptop keyboards have the “ten-less” key configuration because of the limited space, which is inconvenient for some users. If your keyboard is tenkeyless then check out our article about gaming with an external gaming keyboard and laptop, to find out why attaching a keyboard can help improve your gaming experience when you’re on the move. 

A full-size gaming keyboard is best if you would like to have all function keys and numeric keys available for use.
Full-sized keyboards sometimes have additional macro keys which can improve performance. Image Source: Amazon.

These are the main keyboard size options that you can choose from:

Option 1. Full-Sized Keyboard

A full-sized gaming keyboard like this one comes equipped with all the groups of keys a keyboard could have, some even have additional programmable keys. The biggest drawback of a full-sized keyboard is the amount of space it takes up. They are bulky, take up a lot of space, and are not very portable. Smaller keyboards also work fine for gaming, so don’t think a full-sized keyboard is necessary for the best experience.

Similarly, you might find interest in learning whether or not a gaming keyboard is good for programming. Be sure to read our related article to find out more.

Option 2. Tenkeyless Keyboard

A tenkeyless keyboard also known as the 80% keyboard is one of the most popular sizes of keyboard. This is because it has most of the functional groups of keys except the numerical pad. They are smaller than a full-sized keyboard making them more portable. A tenkeyless keyboard like this one is lightweight and compact which means it can easily fit into a laptop bag and won’t weigh it down. 

You don’t need to worry that you are losing functionality with a tenkeyless keyboard because it can still perform all the functions of a full-size keyboard. Our article about the ten best wireless tenkeyless keyboards lists the most popular tenkeyless keyboards and why they might be a good fit for you. 

Option 3. Mini Keyboard

A Mini keyboard is the smallest in the series of QWERTY keyboards. They don’t have arrow keys, function keys, and a number pad. The biggest advantage of using these keyboards is their portability, as they are light and don’t take up much space in a bag or backpack.

The disadvantage of using a micro-keyboard is the lack of options when it comes to using it for purposes other than gaming, for example, coding which mini-keyboards are not recommended for. 

Our article about choosing a keyboard for small hands explains why this type of keyboard might be ideal for users who struggle with large keyboards. 

A mini keyboard would be great for a gamer with small hands and who requires a portable keyboard.
Mini keyboards are very portable and are great for people who travel a lot. Image Source: Amazon.

Summary of the Three Most Common Keyboard Sizes

Keyboard Size Example  Price
Full-size gaming keyboard Glorious Custom Gaming Keyboard - Gmmk 100% Percent Full Size - Usb Wired Mechanical Keyboard - Rgb Hot Swappable Switches ~$80
Tenkeyless gaming keyboard Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition Tkl Tenkeyless Gaming Keyboard: Fast Keyboard Switches - Linear Optical Switches ~$70
Mini keyboard Razer Huntsman Mini 60% Gaming Keyboard: Fast Keyboard Switches - Clicky Optical Switches - Chroma Rgb Lighting ~$80

You might also be interested in learning how to choose a quiet mechanical keyboard. Make sure to take a look at our related article to find out more.

What Does a Left Handed Gaming Keyboard Layout Look Like?

Left-handed gaming keyboards as the name implies are keyboards that are optimized for gamers whose left hands are their dominant playing hands. Users with left-handed keyboards can take advantage of their left-hand skills more comfortably and ergonomically. The numeric keypad and directional arrow keys are situated to the left of the alphabetic keyboard keypad on such keyboards. 

Left-handed keyboards either have the num pad located on the left side of the keyboard, or they are smaller with the bare minimum of keys necessary for gaming.

A left-handed keyboard can be useful even for those who are not left-handed. Our guide on how to choose a gaming keyboard for one hand explains the benefits and unique features of one-hand keyboard styles. 

A one-handed gaming keyboard may be best for a left-handed gamer to use for gaming.
Left-handed gamers may consider getting a single-hand keypad. Image source: Amazon.

Common Keyboard Controls for PC Games

The most used keys differ from game to game, though there are some keys that are commonly used across a wide variety of games. 

Common keyboard controls for PC games include the WASD keys, the arrow keys to move gaming characters up, and programmable macro keys. The F keys are also widely used to access game settings. 

Our article about e-gaming keyboard shortcuts lists some of the most popular keystroke combinations and when to use them.

These are the common keyboard controls for PC games:

Control 1. Alphanumeric Keys

Alphanumeric keys are all the alphabet, numbers, and punctuation keys on the keyboard. Of the alphanumeric keys the W, A, S, and D are commonly used for moving characters in a game. The majority of computer users utilize the QWERTY keyboard, which has a total of 104 alphanumeric keys, as the unofficial standard despite the fact that there is no single standard defining the number of keys, buttons, or characters on a keyboard.

Control 2. Function Keys

The function keys of a keyboard are the F1 to F12 keys. These keys when used in conjunction with Mod keys like Shift, Alt, Ctrl, and Fn are used to execute certain actions in games like volume, brightness, and other specific functions like accessing the game menu. Specific actions can be done using the function keys. The designations are F1, F2, F3, and so on, all the way up to F12. Depending on the software, or game, these function keys have various commands. This article from Microsoft explains some of the function keys that Windows users might use regularly. 

You may also find some interest in learning how to disable the windows key on your keyboard. Be sure to take a look at our related article to find out more.

Control 3. Arrow Keys

The functions of the arrow keys are similar to those of the WASD keys, and the arrow keys are absent from some keyboards. They are normally found on the left-hand side of the numeric keypad at the bottom of the keyboard, typically organized in an inverted-T configuration but also appearing in diamond and linear designs. Arrow keys are frequently used when playing video games and scrolling through papers. Our article comparing a gaming keyboard vs. a regular computer keyboard is another useful resource should you be looking to buy a keyboard that can withstand the rigors of gaming. 


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