In gaming, precision, accuracy, response time, aesthetics, and build quality are expected from hardware. Games have pushed hardware to be efficient and reliable, whether it's a first-person shooter, RPG, or MOB. Mechanical keyboard stands as a critical component of any gaming station.
Considering the demand, mechanical keyboard manufacturers have introduced different designs and sizes. Each of them serves a unique purpose. In terms of size, there are full-size, TKL, 60%, 75%, 65%, and mini keyboard designs. In addition, features such as short travel switches, full-travel switches, RGB, linear switches, tactile switches, and clicky switches are introduced to offer enough variety for gamers.
It is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the features of a gaming keyboard mechanical and how they contribute to improved performance to ensure an optimal gaming experience before purchasing.
● Mechanical Switch: The highlight of any mechanical keyboard is its switch. It is made of high quality with a lifespan from 50 million keystrokes upto 100million keystrokes. On the other hand, a rubber dome keyboard has a lifespan of 5 million keystrokes, much lower than any mechanical keyboard switches design life.
● Build Quality: As mechanical keyboards are targeted at gamers, they are resistant to mashing keys. Their built quality is sturdy, with robust construction designed to handle the abuse that could happen in gamer rage situations. In addition, the reinforced frames and backplates make them heavier than a typical membrane keyboard.
● Keycaps: Double shot PBT is the most durable keycap design, standard in mechanical keyboards. It consists of two plastics merged to form a keycap. One forms the fonts, while the other provides the body. They are of superior quality as they do not develop a shiny surface, and neither has any chance of font removal due to abrasion.
● Actuation Distance: In switches, designers refer to it as a pre-travel distance. A membrane-based key travels 3.5-4mm before registering a keystroke. However, a Cherry MX Ultra-Low Profile mechanical switch requires only 0.8mm to actuate a command. In a fast-paced gaming situation, it improves response time.
● Responsiveness: A wired gaming keyboard responds in 2 ms, whereas a metal-leaf contact takes 15-25 milliseconds. Lowered time means faster switching between keys.
● Hot Swappable: Mechanical keyboard suppliers ensure the product has a design keeping gamers in mind. Mechanical switches are long-lasting, but some might stop operating due to liquid ingress or excessive force. In a competitive environment, any downtime is a step toward losing. Modern keyboards have hot-swappable switches, which means that while the keyboard is connected, you can change the faulty switch with a working one without turning off or disconnecting the device.
● Variable Switch Type: Mechanical keyboard switches of different characteristics have their unique feel, from their resistance, pre-travel, total travel, actuation force, and tactile feedback to the sound profile. Gamers prefer a linear-type mechanical switch as they have the least response time and shortest pre-travel with smooth movement. On the other hand, some gamers prefer using a linear switch for the WASD keys, arrow keys, and tactile switches for the remaining. A typical membrane-based keyboard doesn't even come close to such modulation.
● Keycaps Replacement: The latest aesthetic trend is replacing keycaps with specific colors that pop. Keycaps for keyboards compatible with a wide range of products are readily available on e-commerce websites. Often users replace their factory-installed ABS-based keycaps with double-shot PBT for enhanced durability.
● Repairability: Another aspect that should be considered is repairability. Gaming keyboard mechanical has an ergonomic design that professional gamers get used to. Frequently changing the keyboard can cause muscle memory degradation. The ability to have an easy DIY nature for parts replacement makes them an ideal choice for long-term companionship.
● Tactile Feedback: Mechanical switches have a tactile feedback capability. It depends on the type of switch you select. Typically, mechanical keyboard manufacturers mention their switch types in colors, i.e. Red, Blue, Brown, Green, Black, and Clear. Each of them has its unique click, sound, and feel. Typists prefer loud (Blue) tactile feedback to reassure audibly that the key is registered. Gamers prefer quiet (Red), smoother feedback for less distraction. For example, consider the colors of an Outemu brand for reference in the table below.
|Switch Type||Tactile Feedback||Actuation Force||Travel Distance||Sound Profile|
● Precision: Each switch has a stem, upper housing, lower housing, spring, and crosspoint. The precision is a function of the built quality and the tolerances set by the mechanical keyboard switches. Its actuation force depends on the spring force, and the click sound depends on the stem design. Generally, precision for most switches is the actuation force.
● Ghosting: It is a phenomenon that occurs in games where multiple key presses are required at a time. The failure to recognize multiple key presses when pressed simultaneously is called ghosting. However, mechanical keyboard suppliers have found a way to work around this phenomenon which is considered an inherent feature of mechanical keyboards.
● NKRO: It is also known as anti-ghosting technology. The keyboard design with NKRO does not let circuits interfere to cause input loss. NKRO is handy for gamers who need to execute complex combinations of keystrokes in fast-paced games. It helps ensure that every key press is recognized, regardless of how many keys are pressed simultaneously. This can lead to faster and more precise inputs, giving gamers an advantage in competitive gaming situations.
● Increased productivity: If there are some repeated keys that you have to press to perform a specific task, such as copying and pasting, formatting text, or filling out forms. Programming a single key to perform multiple keys in a sequence can improve productivity and save time.
● Enhanced gaming performance: While gaming online on an FPS or MOBA game, the time to press a set of keys matters. You can combine multiple complex key presses to automate actions such as weapon switching, item usage, spell casing, etc. It gives a massive advantage over the opponents. In addition, some mechanical keyboards retain macros in their memory, so they are not lost when powered off.
● IP Rating: The mechanical keyboard manufacturers provide an IP rating depending on the device's design. It is a standard method of measuring a device's capability to resist dust and water. The first number represents resistance against dust, and the second digit represents water resistance. Higher numbers are better; a typical mechanical keyboard has an IP54 rating, which means that limited dust ingress is permitted and will not affect the device performance from 2 to 8 hours. Also, limited water ingress is permitted, and there is protection against water splash from all sides. Refer to the official IP rating chart to check the keyboards' dust and water protection of the keyboards.
● Full-Size: Also known as "100%", this is the biggest mechanical keyboard with a complete set of keys, including a number pad. They typically have around 104 keys.
● Tenkeyless (TKL): It does not have a number pad, resulting in a more compact and portable design. They typically have around 87 keys.
● 60%: It is a popular choice for gamers and enthusiasts due to its compact design and portability. A typical gaming keyboard mechanical has around 61 keys and removes the function row, navigation keys, and the number pad.
● 75%: This size of a mechanical keyboard is a compact design that removes the function row, navigation keys, and the number pad, resulting in a smaller keyboard with around 68-80 keys.
● 65%: Similar to the 75% size, it is slightly more compact, with around 60-68 keys.
● 40%: The smallest option, with around 40-50 keys, removes almost all non-letter keys. They can be challenging for some users due to the need for keys.
To sum up, mechanical keyboards offer many benefits over traditional membrane-based ones, making them a perfect fit for gamers. In particular, mechanical keyboard suppliers make products built to last, with high-quality switches that are durable, responsive, and customizable switches. In addition, their hot-swappable switch design and keycap replacement make them long-lasting.
Their wide variety of tactile feedback options allows gamers to choose the switch type that best suits their gaming preferences, which can ultimately enhance their performance. These factors combined make mechanical keyboards an ideal choice for gamers, providing them with the tools they need to take their gaming experience to the next level and win competitions.