What Is a Gaming Keyboard & Tips To Choose One


A gaming keyboard is a modified keyboard designed to optimize and improve the user's gaming experience. For gamers, keyboards can either make or break their performance, so it’s an essential piece of any gamer’s set-up. Gaming requires features that enhance the experience, including ergonomic arrangement,  programmable keys, faster response time, and other specific features which is what a gaming keyboard provides. In this article we further explore what a gaming keyboard is and why it’s special.

A gaming keyboard is a keyboard that is usually mechanical, offering optimal gaming through better clicks, easier repairs, and more customization options. Gaming keyboards often come with a higher price tag than regular keyboards due to durability, lifespan, and added features like macro keys, RGB lighting, and N-key rollover. 

Gaming keyboards like this are available in different shapes and sizes, and choosing between them depends mainly on your needs. You might prefer a clicky mechanical keyboard with the tactile experience it offers, or you might feel more comfortable with something cheaper and quieter like this membrane keyboard, especially if you share a living space. This article will explore what features you should look for in a gaming keyboard. 

So what is a gaming keyboard? One of the key features that sets it apart is durability.
Mechanical gaming keyboards have aluminum components which makes them more durable. Image Source: Amazon.

What Makes a Keyboard Good for Gaming?

Gaming keyboards are designed with certain features that set them apart specifically for gaming compared to regular keyboards. These features can enhance the gaming experience while offering durability and enhanced gameplay. 

Gaming keyboards have Macro keys and N-key rollover to make every keystroke count for complete customization, maximum efficiency, and superior accuracy. Other features, like RGB lighting and better durability, make the gaming experience aesthetically pleasing and sustainable.

Our article comparing mechanical gaming keyboards and membrane keyboards explains the various features and benefits each of these types of keyboards offers both professional and amateur gamers.

The following features make a keyboard good for gaming:

Feature 1. Macro Keys

Macro keys are one of the main features that make gaming keyboards like this different from non-gaming keyboards. These keys are also known as programmable keys and they allow you to assign a complex command sequence to only one of the macro keys.  With the help of macro keys, the gamer can perform actions in a specific order and enter commands without the need to press the keys repetitively. 

For example, according to this article from Logitech, you can assign a pattern of keystrokes to one of the macro keys to form a sequence that can help you attack a big boss or mine from materials. Macro keys become very helpful with MMORPG and MOBA games that involve multiple skills and abilities, like in World of Warcraft and DOTA 2. They’re also great for offline fighting games because you no longer have to remember the functions of the hotkeys. 

Another great thing about macro keys is that you can use them to set multiple profiles for more than one game, which means that the keys can perform different actions according to the game you're playing. Overall, macro keys increase the durability of the keyboard, save time and effort, and increase the efficiency of the gamer, resulting in a satisfying gaming experience. Our article about E-gaming shortcuts lists some of the most popular keystroke combinations that can help improve speed and efficiency. 

Various features such us macro keys are what make a gaming keyboard  more suitable for gaming.
Macro keys offer a more personalized experience for gamers and allow them to assign command sequences to a single key. Image Source: Amazon.

Feature 2. RGB Backlighting

RGB backlighting refers to the multicolored backlights on a gaming keyboard like this, which are different from the backlights that provide only one color evenly lit across the keyboard. Besides making your keyboard look fun, RGB backlights are useful for gamers who prefer to play in a low-lit environment or even in the dark. For some gamers, playing in the dark increases the level of excitement and makes the experience more immersive, especially when playing horror games. Other gamers simply feel more focused when they play in a low-lit environment. RGB backlights make it easy for gamers to see the keys and stay focused while playing in the dark. 

One great thing about RGB backlit keyboards like this is that you can assign different colors to specific keys, which increases efficiency and performance.  The gamer can press the right keys because of the light, rather than looking at the keyboard, to stay focused on the screen. Our article about gaming keyboard light settings explains how to customize your lighting effects and sequences for specific types of games. 

Unfortunately, keyboards with RGB backlighting are pricey. You can buy a keyboard with one color backlight for around $70 and buy the same type of keyboard with RGB backlights for about $100. Some gamers find RGB backlights worth the investment, but this depends on the needs of the gamers, their budget, and their gameplay preferences. 

Being able to play games in low-level lighting is what makes a gaming keyboard with RGB lighting a great investment for gamers.
Backlighting is great for gamers who prefer playing in a low-lit environment.  Image Source: Amazon.

Feature 3. N-Key Rollover

N-key rollover refers to the number of key presses your keyboard can register correctly. It’s connected to another technology in gaming keyboards known as anti-ghosting. Anti-ghosting ensures that all key presses are registered even if more than 6 keys are pressed at the same time. which is something that any keyboard with N-key rollover technology must have. Otherwise, your keyboard wouldn't register simultaneous key presses and would even register false key presses.

N-key rollover is one of the features mechanical keyboards like this offer, unlike membrane keyboards that are only able to offer a maximum of 6 key rollovers. However, for non-gaming purposes, the N-key rollover is unnecessary since you'll be pressing one key after another most of the time. For gaming, you will need to press and release several keys simultaneously while holding down others, and this is when N-key rollover becomes handy. This article from Corsair explains the benefits of having a 100% N-key rollover keyboard and how it improves accuracy during a game. 

Feature 4. Durability

Gaming keyboards are designed with durable switching mechanisms compared to normal keyboards. Gaming involves forceful and repetitive pressing on keys that gamers use most often, like the W, A, and D keys that are used to control characters in games. These keys need to be made of materials durable enough to withstand usage. As this article from CherryMX explain most gaming keyboards use Cherry MX switches that are known for their durability and long lifespan.

The durability of keyboards is measured by the number of keystrokes the keyboard is rated for over its lifespan. Mechanical keyboards like this that have Cherry MX switches have a lifespan of 20 to 50 million keystrokes, compared to membrane keyboards that are rated to approximately 5 million keystrokes. 

A gaming keyboard with Cherry MX switches has a lifespan of 20 - 50 million key strokes as apposed to the 5 million keystrokes of a membrane keyboard.
Cherry MX switches allow for a more precise, reliable, and most importantly durable input. Image Source: Amazon.

Examples of Gaming Keyboards With Distinguishing Features

Keyboard Example Features Price
Rk Royal Kludge Rk918 Wired Mechanical Keyboard RGB Backlighting ~$50
Gaming Keyboard - Mechanical Blue switches- Programmable Macro Keys  ~$80
Owpkeenthy Wired 60% Percent Mechanical Gaming Keyboard N-key Rollover  ~$35
Cherry Mx Board 1.0 - Mx Red Silent Switches - Mechanical Keyboard Durability  ~$90

Make sure you know the difference between keychron vs other keyboards too. Our related article will provide you with loads of additional information.

Gaming Keyboards vs. Regular Keyboards

What is a gaming keyboard? There are many different factors that differentiate gaming keyboards from normal ones. If you're a gamer and you wonder how a gaming keyboard is different from your old normal keyboard, this section’s for you. 

Gaming keyboards often have a higher price than normal keyboards because of their additional features. Gaming keyboard switches are usually mechanical, offering a satisfying click, supreme comfort, and ultimate personalization. While gaming keyboards usually come with RGB lighting for an immersive gaming experience, normal keyboards don’t. Gaming keyboards are built to last and made with materials that can withstand even the most intense and aggressive gamers.

Take a look at our comprehensive guide on gaming keyboards vs. regular keyboards to learn more about their differences and to help you decide which type suits your needs the best.

These are the main differences between gaming keyboards vs. regular keyboards:  

Difference 1. Price

It's a fact that gaming keyboards are always more expensive than non-gaming keyboards. Gaming keyboards like this can cost from $50 up to $200, depending on the features they have. This costly price range is because gaming keyboards are high-quality keyboards designed to optimize the gaming experience. As this article from Corsair explains, gaming keyboards come with unique software, like the ICUE, that enables amazing features gamers love like personal customization, adjustable RGB lighting, macros, and much more. They offer functionality and optimal gaming experience, and that's why many gamers find them worth the high cost. 

Regular keyboards like this one cost less but are only suitable for daily work-type tasks. They can cost from $20 to $30 each, but they won't give you the same value and efficiency you would get with a gaming keyboard. While gaming keyboards allow gamers to enjoy all of the features we listed above, a standard keyboard allows you just to type on them. 

Difference 2. Switches

The switches are one of the things that distinguish gaming keyboards from regular keyboards. Gaming keyboards often use mechanical switches while regular keyboards tend to use membrane switches. Mechanical switches are much better for gaming because they offer better performance compared to membrane switches. This is not only for gaming but even for typing. Gaming keyboards are much more durable than membrane keyboards because they are designed to endure repetitive pressing and constant use by gamers. 

Mechanical switches offer faster response time compared to membrane switches. While mechanical switches have an input lag of 15-25 milliseconds, membrane switches have an average latency of 30 milliseconds. This faster response time makes a huge difference in gaming because it means the gamer can react faster than his opponent, even if the difference is only a few milliseconds. 

The quicker response time of mechanical switches is what makes a gaming keyboard better for gaming.
Mechanical switches offer much better performance compared to membrane switches. Image Source: adafruit.com - bigcity.store.

Difference 3. Lighting 

Backlights are another unique feature that gamers enjoy. In gaming keyboards, backlights can be single-colored or multicolored, also known as RGB backlights. Regular keyboards, on the contrary, don’t have any backlighting or only use plain light.

For gaming, backlighting helps gamers enjoy their gaming experience in different lighting conditions, like a dark room or as our article on how to connect your TV or computer to a projector suggests. Backlighting also enhances the atmosphere and makes the experience more immersive. 

The backlighting of a gaming keyboard is what makes the gamer feel more immersed in the game.
Backlighting is one of the features that distinguish gaming keyboards from regular keyboards. Image Source: Amazon.

Difference 4. Customization 

Mechanical gaming keyboards allow for customization, which makes the gaming experience more personal than with regular keyboards. One of the things you can customize in a gaming keyboard like this is the backlighting or the RGB lighting. You can customize certain keys to be a particular color so they’re easier to identify when gaming. Our gaming keyboard recommendations that fit your needs explain what to look for in a keyboard if programmable keys are a must-have for you. 

You can also get specialized gaming keypads that offer up to 20 programmable keys. Programmable keys, also known as macro keys, allow the gamer to assign a complex command sequence to only one of the macro keys. The gamer can even set multiple profiles for more than one game, which means that the keys can perform different actions according to the game.

Difference 5. Expected Lifespan

Gaming keyboards have a longer lifespan than regular keyboards. They’re designed to endure harsh use like repetitive and forceful pressing on the keys. Different materials are used for the manufacturing of gaming keyboard switches compared to those used for the manufacturing of regular keyboard switches. The switching mechanism used for gaming keyboards is Cherry MX which has a lifespan of 20 to 50 million keystrokes while membrane keyboards have rubber for switches with a 5 million keystroke lifespan.

Summary of Capabilities of Gaming Keyboards Vs. Regular Keyboards

Situation Do You Need A Gaming Keyboard or a  Regular Keyboard? Why? Example From Amazon Price
You want to assign lots of hotkeys for my games Gaming Keyboard Gaming keyboards have macro keys for assigning hotkeys to perform specific commands for various games played by the gamer  Marvo Kg965G Rgb Mechanical Gaming Keyboard ~$20
You want a keyboard that is suitable for a low-light environment Gaming Keyboard  Gaming keyboards have RGB backlights that allow for gaming in different lighting conditions  Rk Royal Kludge Rk918 100% Wired Mechanical Keyboard ~$50
You want a keyboard for working  Regular  keyboard  Regular keyboards are suitable for working purposes   Amazon Basics Low-Profile Wired USB Keyboard ~$15

You may also find interest in learning how many keys are on a gaming keyboard and tips for finding the right one. Be sure to check out our related article for more information.

Can I Use a Gaming Keyboard for Work?

Gaming keyboards are suitable for both gaming and working. They’re perfect for everyday use such as typing, programming, and browsing. They’re much more comfortable to use for work than regular keyboards. 

A gaming keyboard can be used for work. Gaming keyboards offer a lot of flexibility because they can be used for gaming, work, school, and anything else. The durability of a gaming keyboard means it will last longer but the louder mechanical keyboards could be disturbing in shared work environments. 

The only thing that you need to keep in mind is that gaming keyboards like this are much more expensive than normal keyboards because of the extra features. Gamers find them worth the price because they are beneficial to their gaming experience, which is something you might miss if you're going to use them just for working. 

It is possible to use gaming keyboards for work as they are suitable for completing everyday work tasks.
Some gaming keyboards are designed to integrate well into the workspace. Image Source: Amazon.

Are Gaming Keyboards Worth It? Tips To Decide

Many people wonder whether or not gaming keyboards are worth the price. Regular keyboards can offer you all the basic functions you’ll need if you're not a gamer but for a much lower price. However, for gamers, having a keyboard that can enhance your experience and make it more immersive is worth the extra expense. Gaming keyboards provide gamers with many features in return for the high price they have to pay. 

Gaming keyboards are worth it for quicker response times, button programming and customization, and backlighting for gaming or working in low-light environments. Rather opt for a regular keyboard if budget is a priority. 

Gaming keyboards often come with the option to turn off gaming mode when necessary. Our article about how to turn off gaming mode explains the steps to toggle this feature on and off when required. 

To help you decide whether you really need a gaming keyboard or not, here are some tips to help you: 

Tip 1. Choose a Gaming Keyboard If Fast Response Times are Important For Your Game 

What is a gaming keyboard? Well, for gamers, a fast response time means that you can be one step ahead of your opponent. Gaming keyboards offer much faster response times compared to normal keyboards. While gaming keyboards like this have an input lag of 15-25 milliseconds, non-gaming keyboards have an average latency of 30 milliseconds. This faster response time makes a huge difference in gaming even if the difference is actually a few milliseconds. This video tutorial from Brainbean explains how key switches affect speed when gaming. 

Tip 2. Try a Regular Keyboard if Budget Is Your Priority

As we explained before, gaming keyboards are much more expensive than regular keyboards. So, if budget is your priority and you don't care a lot about the different features gaming keyboards offer, we recommend getting a regular keyboard. A regular keyboard like this works just fine for daily tasks. Our article about the six best budget gaming keyboards lists popular keyboards that won’t break the bank. Additionally, this article will help you decide between wireless and wired keyboards to see which will be the right one for you.

Tip 3. A Gaming Keyboard Can Be Used for Work and Gaming

If you’re looking for a keyboard that can offer you excellent quality and efficiency for both gaming and work, get a gaming keyboard. Gaming keyboards like this will offer you the best gaming experience and will be great for work and daily tasks like typing and browsing. You will find it much better than regular keyboards for working, offering you a faster response time and a longer lifespan. 

Tip 4. Pick a Regular Keyboard If Button Programming and Customization Aren’t Important to You

Many gamers don't find button programming and customization that important. If you don't think you will miss anything without macro keys and the customization feature, get a regular keyboard. You can still play your games with a regular keyboard but you'll miss a few features that could improve your efficiency. 

Tip 5. Try a Gaming Keyboard With Backlighting if You Enjoy Gaming or Working in Low-Light Environments

If you share a living place and you have to play in a low-lit environment, get a gaming keyboard. Some gamers prefer playing in a low-lit environment because they feel that it makes their experience more immersive and enjoyable. Others simply like the cool look of the RGB backlighting of keyboards like this

A feature like RGB lighting is what makes a gaming keyboard better suited for an immersive gaming experience.
RGB Backlighting and programmable keys are two of the most sought-after features among avid gamers. Image Souce: Amazon.

Tips To Find the Best Gaming Keyboard

Many gamers find themselves torn between many of the different gaming keyboards available on the market. They find it hard to choose keyboards with certain features because they don't know what they want. 

To find the best gaming keyboard, look for one with N-key rollover for multiple and simultaneous keystrokes, macros to customize keys for more efficient gaming, padded support, an ergonomic design to stay comfortable during long gaming sessions, and it must be the right size.

Think about your needs first to make it easier for you to choose a keyboard that offers you what you're looking for. If you’re shopping for a gaming keyboard, be sure to check out our article on the 10 best gaming keyboards under $200.

These tips will help you to find the best gaming keyboard for your needs:

Tip 1. Look For a Keyboard With N-Key Rollover for Multiple and Simultaneous Keystrokes 

N-key rollover technology is one of the best things you can find in a gaming keyboard. N-key rollover enables your keyboard to register unlimited key presses correctly. This lets you game faster and can help you beat your opponent if their keyboard doesn’t have it. With the help of anti-ghosting technology, your keyboard won't register any false key presses that could negatively affect your performance. 

Tip 2. Find a Keyboard With Macros for Key Customization

To make your gaming experience more personalized and efficient, get a gaming keyboard like this with macro keys to customize them for more efficient gaming. A gaming keyboard is specifically designed to give you a faster response time and more actions per second. Customization is one of the great features gaming keyboards offer, so if you want to have something in return for the price you would pay for a gaming keyboard, make sure you don't miss this feature. Macro keys allow gamers to assign different command sequences to one single key, which is great because you won't have to press certain keys repetitively or remember in-game hotkeys.

What’s also amazing about macros and customization is that you can make your macro keys perform different actions according to the game you're playing by setting multiple profiles for certain games. Overall, macros can save your effort, make your experience much better and even increase the lifespan of your keyword. 

A gaming keyboard with macro keys allows for a personalized and efficient gaming experience.
The macro keys of a gaming keyboard allow for the customization of key commands. Image Souce: Amazon.

Tip 3. Choose a Keyboard With Padded Support and an Ergonomic Design

Gaming sessions can go on for a long time. According to this article from the Journal of Hand Therapy, when gaming for long periods, a lot of pressure is applied to the wrists which can cause discomfort and even pain. That's why you need a gaming keyboard like this that offers padded support for your wrist and one with an ergonomic setup to be able to enjoy a comfortable gaming experience. 

It is best to opt for a gaming keyboard with wrist support and an ergonomic design to alleviate strain from gaming for long periods of time.
A gaming keyboard with padded wrist support can help reduce pressure on a gamer’s wrist during long gaming sessions. Image Source: Amazon.

Tip 4. Pick a Keyboard Size That Isn’t Too Big or Too Small 

Keyboard size matters a lot for gamers because it adds to the comfort of their gaming setup and experience. There are various sizes of keyboards available but they are mainly divided into two styles -  full-size and tenkeyless. If you want a keyboard that has all the keys, including the number pad, you should get a full-size keyboard. 

If you don't care about the number pad and you want a smaller gaming keyboard that can fit on any desk, you will need a tenkeyless keyboard like this one. This size allows you to keep your mouse close to the keyboard without the need to use a very large desk. However, if you're one of the gamers who like to use alt codes, this size won't be a good choice for you. You can also find keyboards suitable for use with just one hand as explained in our guide on the 8 best one-handed keyboards to buy, which can be ergonomically a better option based on your gaming setup.

Disclosures

This website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.