Key keyboard features for Computer Keyboards and Gaming Keyboards
Key keyboard Types and features for Computer Keyboards
This article discusses the different keyboard types and how to shop for keyboards for different purposes, including mechanical and gaming keyboards.
What do you look for when shopping for a keyboard - computer keyboard, gaming keyboard, wireless keyboard, etc.? Is it the keys, key press, sensitivity, backlight, or ergonomics?
A great keyboard should be comfortable and satisfying to type on. But what you should get depends on several factors, mostly your preferences. For example, whether you want an ergonomic keyboard to prevent discomfort or a compact keyboard to save desk space depends on your preference.
What’s the one thing that makes you settle for a particular keyboard?
This article discusses the different keyboard types and how to settle for keyboards for different purposes. We’ll also advise you on deciding which type of keyboard to get if you’re unsure where to start.
Let’s get started.
Computer Keyboard Types and Categories
There’s no one perfect keyboard for everyone because keyboards come in different categories, layouts, and sizes. The keyboard category, size, and layout you get depend on what you’ll use it for, your device, and your aesthetic preference.
The different keyboard category factors are:
- Size and layout: full-size, tenkeyless, compact, ergonomics
- Connection method (wireless or wired keyboards)
- Device and operating system
- Technicality (traditional and mechanical keyboards)
Keyboard Layouts and Size
Deciding on the keyboard size and layout should be your first and most important decision when shopping for a keyboard. There are many options you can choose from.
But keyboard sizes fall into four main layouts:
- Full-size keyboards (100%)
- Tenkeyless keyboards (80%)
- Compact keyboards (60%, 68%, 75%)
- Ergonomic keyboards
Full-size keyboards are the true computer keyboards, with all keys, including letters, numbers, function keys, arrow keys, modifiers, and a number pad. They’re 100% complete keyboards. But they’re wide, forcing you to place your mouse farther from your body, which can put strain on your shoulders, neck, and back.
Tenkeyless keyboards (TKL)
Tenkeyless (or TKL) keyboards are full-size with all keys but lack the number pad, making them only 80% complete. They’re more compact than full-size, with all commonly used keys. You can get a standalone number pad if you need and remove it when you’re not using it. Many laptops have tenkeyless boards.
Compact keyboards are a variety of sizes and layouts, including tenkeyless boards. They’re commonly 60 to 80% complete keyboards. For example, boards with 75% completeness, like the Vortex Tab 75 keyboard, have the same keys as TKL, but their keys are all put together, leaving the keyboard with no empty space.
Most compact keyboards are smaller than Tenkeyless boards but have the most frequently used keys. Most laptops have compact keyboards. They take up less space on a desk and allow you to position your mouse closer to your keyboard, reducing strain on your body.
Some compact keyboards, like the Qisan Magicforce and Drop Alt, are 65% or 68% complete, losing function keys along the top. But they keep arrow keys and a few keys from the navigation cluster. Compact Keyboards like Vortex Tab 60 and the Obins Anne Pro 2 include only the essential block of letters, numbers, and modifiers and lack function, arrow, or navigation keys. Like TKL, they lack the Numpad.
As the name suggests, ergonomic keyboards support comfort and productivity when working on the keyboards. They come in any of the above sizes (full, compact, tenkeyless) but are designed to split down the middle so you can hold your arms, hands, wrists, and shoulders at a more natural angle than on traditional flat keyboards.
Ergonomic keyboards are either partially split or fully split. Partially split keyboards have a small gap down the middle but are connected at the bottom. They have a lower learning curve but aren’t as adjustable as fully split keyboards. On the other hand, fully split keyboards are highly flexible and adjustable, allowing you to angle each half however you prefer.
Keyboard Connection methods: Wired/wireless keyboards
Wireless keyboards are portable and versatile keyboards with reduced clutter on a desk. They use Bluetooth connection to the device and may come with or without a Bluetooth connection chip. A wireless keyboard is a more convenient option if you take your keyboard on the road with you or use it with mobile devices, such as laptops, tablets, or phones.
Wired keyboards are connected to the device using a wire code. But they take up more space and clutter the working or gaming desk.
Wireless models are less ideal for gaming than wired keyboards because their wireless connection can introduce input delays. They can struggle to register simultaneous keystrokes.
Generally, wired keyboards are a better option if you don't want to deal with input lag, battery life, or the risk of interference. They’re also low maintenance. Wireless keyboards are ideal if you want to get rid of wires or want to use your keyboard from long range.
Keyboard Operating system and device
All keyboards can work with all major operating systems, Linux, Windows, and Mac computers. But not all of the keyboards come with specific layouts for the devices or operating systems.
Some keyboards have Mac-specific layouts and omit the Windows key but include an Option key. Other Windows-specific keyboards have the Windows Key, not the function key.
Remember to check the keyboard vis-a-vis the device and operating system you’re using to get the right one for your needs.
Mechanical vs. non-mechanical (membrane) keyboards
The main differences between a mechanical keyboard and a non-mechanical one are how each key is activated and how the keyboard sends information when you activate any key. A mechanical keyboard uses a mechanical switch, while a non-mechanical keyboard uses a membrane.
Each key in a mechanical keyboard has a switch beneath it - spring loaded mechanism to press a physical switch. This makes mechanical keyboards more comfortable, durable, easier to repair, and more customizable. They’re more enjoyable to use. Gaming keyboards are mechanical for improved ergonomics.
Non-mechanical or membrane keyboards, like the ones that come with laptops, use rubber domes that are pushed down with each keypress to connect to small electrical contacts.
Overall, membrane keyboards are softer, quiet, have a "mushy" feel, are more affordable, and lack key rollover. Mechanical keyboards are often colorful, have smoother switch actuation, give better feedback, and have a key rollover, but they’re louder and more expensive.
Mechanical keyboards have three varieties of switches: linear, tactile, and clicky.
- Linear switches. These switches smooth when pressed down, from top to bottom.
- Tactile switches. These switches have a noticeable bump partway through the keypress, letting you know when you’ve activated the key.
- Clicky switches. These are similar to tactile switches but have an added click sound, matching the tactile bump.
Watch: the Top 7 Windows Tablet That Are Worth Purchasing from our partners before we continue
Mechanical Keyboards How to Shop for a Computer and Gaming Keyboards
Any keyboard can work for any task. There’s no such thing as a special gaming keyboard, typing keyboard, or programming keyboard.
But, some keyboard features can enhance gaming, typing, or programming making them useful and earning the term “special keyboard”.
Factors to consider when choosing a keyboard
- Small and ergonomic. If you want to save desk space and improve your ergonomics, a compact keyboard is ideal for you.
- Easy to pair. If you want to pair a wireless keyboard with multiple devices, a compact or tenkeyless keyboard is your ideal option. Choose the compact K380 or full-size MX Keys to do the trick.
- Reduce pain & strain. An ergonomic keyboard is suitable if you have concerns about your posture or when you struggle with arm, wrist, or shoulder pain. Choose ergonomic keyboards for a better typing, gaming, or coding experience.
- Keyboard customization. Mechanical keyboards allow you to customize your keys' look, feel, and sound for a more pleasant typing experience.
So, once you’ve decided what layout, size, and switches you want on your keyboard, you can also consider some other factors for your comfort and improved productivity.
The factors you can consider are:
Keyboard Build quality
Quality is important in anything. Cheap keyboards with plastic backplates and cases feel and sound hollow when you type. They can even flex when you press them too hard. You won’t see or hear that on a sturdier keyboard made of metal or other higher-quality materials.
Keyboards also have two types of frames:
- A “high-profile” frame sets the keys within a plastic case
- A “low-profile” frame has the switches sitting on top of the case.
If you don’t give much attention to a tidy deskspace, a low-profile frame may be ideal for you because it’s easier to clean.
Many keyboards have ABS keycaps - a lightweight plastic prone to wear and can become smooth and shiny under heavy use. But PBT Keycaps tend to be more durable, with a grittier texture. Also, keycap profiles determine the shape of keycaps in each keyboard row. Many pre-built keyboards have their keycaps sculpted to cup your fingers and feel comfortable when typing. If you choose to buy keycaps separately, you can choose different profiles: DSA, SA, XDA, GMK (Cherry), and more.
Programmability is the ability of a keyboard to allow you to change the behavior of certain keys to perform specific functions. Many non-mechanical keyboards can’t be programmed. You just connect the keyboard to your computer/device and use it for normal keyboard stuff.
But you can customize most mechanical keyboards. The simplest way to customize keyboards is via DIP switches on the bottom of the keys. This can alter the layout (QWERTY, Colemak, or Dvorak) or the behavior of a few keys. For example, switching between Windows and Mac layouts is possible: you just swap the Caps Lock key to Ctrl or disable OS-specific keys like the Command and Windows keys.
Other types of keyboards offer onboard programming, where if you press certain keys, you’ll record macros and customize backlighting. Others also come with software-aided programming methods.
Keyboard Removable cable
In a keyboard, a removable USB cable is preferable to a built-in one. If the cable breaks/cuts, you can replace just the cable rather than the whole keyboard. And if the keyboard is Bluetooth supported, you can switch between a wired keyboard and a wireless keyboard anytime.
Backlighting is a nice addition to a keyboard but not a requirement for gaming, typing, or coding. Backlighting can also help you with better typing, coding, or gaming in darker rooms. If a keyboard comes with backlighting, it should also be either a tasteful white or programmable. This can cost you more, though.
Hot-swap switches in Keyboards
A hot-swappable keyboard lets you pull out the switches and snap new ones. This is a feature for technical users.
Swapping out switches is only available on mechanical keyboards. It requires technical equipment, expertise, and time to desolder existing switches and solder in new ones.
Hot swap switch keyboards are typically more expensive and found in high-end mechanical keyboards.
keyboard features for gaming keyboards
You can use any keyboard for gaming. But gaming-specific keyboards come with a fun mix of lighting and software, which are unavailable on normal mechanical keyboards. In addition to the keyboard features we’ve discussed above, here are other features of gaming keyboards.
This important gaming keyboard feature disables the Windows key, so you don’t accidentally pull up the Start menu and knock yourself out of a game. It’s a great gaming feature that ensures a seamless gaming experience.
The Gaming RGB lighting isn’t useful, but it’s fun. Good RGB lighting for gaming keyboards is easy to customize and includes flashy animations. You can change lighting based on the game you’re playing or your desire.
A gaming keyboard can come with optional customization software. This allows you to make, adjust, or customize certain features for a great gaming experience. Most gaming keyboard software don’t require an account and lets you record macros, change key bindings, and customize the RGB lighting.
If you play MMOs and simulation games, then you may need Macro recording. Not all games require this feature. But it’s a nice feature that makes repetitive keystrokes easier and fun, giving you a great gaming experience.
Keyboard Palm rests
Some keyboards come with palm rests, which is great but not important. Ideally, people shouldn’t type with their palms/wrists resting on the palm rest. Instead, you should hover, so your arms/wrists are at a neutral angle rather than flexed upward at the wrist - extension. Repeated palm/wrist extension extremes can put excessive pressure and cause palm injury. Palm rests also take up so much desk space. So, if a keyboard comes with one, it should be removable and only used when necessary or need arises.
Most keyboards are angled upward from front to back or with little feet to angle them even further. But, using a keyboard in a greater angle position also causes wrist extension. A keyboard should be used with the hand in its most neutral position - straight and level. A keyboard with a flat—or negative—slope is ergonomically ideal, so keyboard feet aren't necessary.
N-key rollover in Keyboard
The N-key rollover factor is used to determine simultaneous key presses. NKRO refers to how many simultaneous inputs a keyboard can handle before it can no longer recognize additional keypresses. Most earlier keyboards could handle only two or three simultaneous key presses. Now, almost all keyboards support at least a six-key rollover. This is more than enough for typing, programming, and gaming.
Optical switches use a laser in keyboards to tell when you actuate a key. Manufacturers claim optical switches are much faster than traditional mechanical switches, which would theoretically be useful in gaming. But gamers haven’t confirmed this claim. However, optical switches can be used to reproduce an “analog” feel. Keyboards with optical switches are rare and expensive and benefit only a few genres of games.
Watch this: Cooler Master Made A CUSTOM KEYBOARD!... Does It Suck?
There are no best keyboards. Each keyboard serves a particular purpose, including people’s needs and interests. Mechanical keyboards are great if you find the right one, but membrane (non-mechanical) keyboards can support any work. In essence, gaming keyboards may use some customization for a better experience, compact keyboards remove clutter, and full-size keyboards facilitate coding.
We hope this feature guide has helped you learn what to look for when shopping for keyboards: computer keyboards or gaming keyboards.
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