Are Mechanical Keyboards Better for Gaming?
The past few years have seen the growing popularity of mechanical keyboards. This has been especially strong among gamers. Not only do they appreciate the mechanical keyboard's tactile feedback but also the fast response time. But given the other options on the market, are mechanical keyboards better for gaming?
What is a mechanical keyboard?
If you're a serious gamer, then chances are you've heard of mechanical keyboards. A mechanical keyboard is a type of keyboard that uses mechanical switches to register key presses. These switches are typically composed of a hard plastic stem, a spring, and metal contacts. When the key is pressed, the spring pushes the metal contacts down, closing the circuit and registering the keypress. Specially tailored for gaming, the Predator Aethon 700 keyboard embodies a high quality mechanical keyboard.
Preferred by gamers and typists for their mechanical switches, mechanical keyboards provide users both tactile and audible feedback, as well as a higher quality feel to each keystroke, which is otherwise lacking in membrane keyboards. The mechanical switches mean each keypress is more precise and responsive. It’s no wonder these keyboards are a favorite among heavy users.
Main factors for choosing a mechanical keyboard
When considering a mechanical gaming keyboard, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind. From switch options to keyboard aesthetics, each mechanical keyboard has its unique look and feel.
First, think about what type of switch fits your needs. There are two main types of switches: linear and tactile, each with contrast in feel. Linear switches are preferred by some because setups require less pressure to press the switches. They are considered to be smoother, faster, and more precise than tactile keyboards, which is great for users who require an edge or rely on response time. This is made possible by allowing each keystroke to fully bottom out without interference. Tactile switches, on the other hand, have a ‘bump’ that you can feel in the key press before it bottoms out. This bump typically represents the actuation point and, depending on the switch, will make a sound similar to a typewriter. Some users prefer tactile setups as they provide more feedback because of the tactile bump.
Once you’ve decided on the type of switch, it is important to consider both the actuation point and the actuation force. The actuation point is the distance the switch needs to be depressed to register an input or keystroke. A shorter actuation point can be beneficial for gamers who need to rapidly press keys in quick succession. The actuation force is the amount of force required to press a key and is typically measured in grams. The higher the actuation force, the more resistant the key will be to accidental presses. These factors vary by brand but careful selection can ensure that you choose a keyboard that best suits your needs.
Another important decision you need to make when considering a mechanical keyboard for gaming is choosing your switches. For decades, the most popular choice amongst gamers has been Cherry MX’s switches. There are three main types of Cherry MX switches: red, brown, and blue. Red switches are the quietest and have the lightest keypress, while blue switches are the loudest and have the heaviest keypress. Brown switches are in between red and blue switches, both in terms of noise and keypress. Again, it comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer the quietness of red switches, while others prefer the feedback of blue switches. Experiment with all three types of switches to see which one you prefer.
Next, consider the size of the keyboard. Mechanical keyboards come in a variety of sizes, from full-sized to 60%. If you type a lot, you'll probably want a full-sized keyboard. But if you're looking for something more compact, a smaller size might be a better option. Keyboards such as the Predator Aethon 301 TKL also come in a “10 keyless” setup without the number pad for a smaller footprint.
Some mechanical keyboards offer n-key rollover. This feature offers users the ability to press multiple keys at once. While scanning the market, you will notice that n-key rollover ranges from 2-key rollover (2KRO) to full n-key rollover (NKRO). The ability to press multiple keys will help prevent missed keys at the wrong moment and allow better performance in games with complex combinations. What you’ll need will depend on how you’re using your keyboard but generally for gaming it’s an advantage to have more options.
Finally, once you have considered the feel and distance, it’s time to think about the backlighting. Some mechanical keyboards come with built-in RGB backlighting which can add custom colors and a bit of flair to your setup. Of course, backlighting is more about aesthetics, so you can get by without it.
Advantages of mechanical gaming keyboards
One of the main advantages of mechanical keyboards is that they offer a lot of customization options. Mechanical switches come in a variety of colors, actuation forces, travel distances, and n-key rollovers. This allows you to find the perfect switch for your gaming style. Furthermore, many mechanical keyboards also allow you to program custom macros and key bindings, which can give you a significant advantage in some games. Although some other gaming keyboard types offer these options, mechanical keyboards are generally more durable and extend more variety.
Disadvantages of mechanical gaming keyboards
There are also some disadvantages to using a mechanical keyboard for gaming. Some mechanical keyboards can be quite loud, which can be a distraction for both you and your teammates. In addition, mechanical keyboards require more maintenance than membrane keyboards as the switches can become dirty or damaged over time. However, given the proper care, they generally last longer than other types of keyboards.
Other types of keyboards
A membrane keyboard is a type of keyboard in which the keys are pressed down onto a membrane, which then sends an electrical signal to the computer. Membrane keyboards are usually cheaper to produce and are also quieter than other types of keyboards, making them ideal for use in office environments.
Dome switch keyboards
Dome switch keyboards have dome-shaped keys which, when pushed down, join two circuit-board traces. They are considered a hybrid of mechanical and membrane keyboards and offer strong tactile feedback. This type of keyboard is often used in public places because it is more durable and quieter than flat keyboards.
So, are mechanical keyboards better for gaming?
Mechanical keyboards are often considered the best option for gaming, but there are other choices on the market. If you’re looking for a keyboard that will give you the best gaming experience, create an advantage during gameplay, or support customization, a mechanical keyboard is probably your best bet. However, if you’re not as concerned about response time and want to save a little money, there are alternatives that may work just as well. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and what you’re most comfortable using. Have you tried out a mechanical keyboard for gaming? What did you think?