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Why Buy a Gaming Keyboard?

Last response: in Video Games
September 4, 2007 2:15:27 PM

Many companies spend a lot of time and money developing and manufacturing keyboards for the gaming market. But do they really add any advantage? We snagged a couple of "gaming keyboards" and put them through their paces.

More about : buy gaming keyboard

September 4, 2007 2:35:26 PM

I just want to ask, since at least one of those keyboards needs special drivers - have you tested the driver under all the operating system mentioned on the box ?
Sounds silly, but I got a G5 gaming laser mouse from Logitech, which mentions Windows 2000 on the box, but works only as a 3$ mouse under Windows 2000 since the special drivers do not work under Windows 2000. So nothing can be taken for granted nowadays. :( 
September 4, 2007 3:22:20 PM

I'm suprised at the very small number of keyboards looked at. There are a lot of the specialized gaming keypads that aren't full keyboards, and a few other full keyboards such as the Zboard.

Personally I always hated the asdw design and I've been remapping keys for every game I play on the PC for as long as I can remember.
In fact I think the mostly illogical basic layout of keys on PC games is one of the reasons there is such a huge percieved difference between PC games and console games. You give someone a controller and within seconds they will know how to move and do a few basic things, but someone new to PC gaming will have no idea where to start with a basic keyboard setup.

Just recently I decided to try a gaming keypad and hopefully be able to get away from remapping every single game I play so I ended up getting the Wolf King Warrior. It is a great change for me. I could see how its not going to do much if you've already spent years learning the basic keyboard setup, but if you have any issues with the basic keyboard design then it makes a big difference.

My brother is using the Zboard. Its a great idea and it works pretty well, but at least for the FPS keyboard design, trying to use it as a normal keyboard for even a short period of time without switching out the keyset is very annoying. The break in the normal keys with the FPS keyset is just painful, but for gaming it works well. I don't like the little round keys they use in some of the keysets, they are also very annoying to type on, but the normal keyset and keysets with normal keys are pretty good.

One other thing I never liked is how far apart it ends up moving your arms when you go with a normal asdw design on a full sized keyboard and the mouse. Its one of the other reasons I remapped they keys. Its also one of the reasons I went with a stand alone gamepad like the Wolf King Warrior rather then the Timber Wolf. I also use the num-pad enough in general use that I don't want a keyboard that gets rid of it. Again if that is an issue or not will come down a lot to how often you use your computer for gaming and how often you use it for other things as well. Since I'm usually typing a lot my arms get used to being fairly close together so using the small pad and mouse at the same time feels better. Of course as a side, in many general tasks you do on a computer I can do faster with the keyboard navigation then I can by switching to the mouse. Which doesn't really mean anything for gaming but it does make a difference for muscle memory in general use and in gaming.
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September 4, 2007 3:50:59 PM

I've gotta say my G15 actually has enhanced my "gaming experience" I'm not doing backflips for it or any other device but the goodies like the LCD screen and Macros are well packaged and FUN! Mostly it's that LCD Screen keeping a tally on kills without switching screens, see what's playing in my music while I'm playing, use it for xfire, yada yada. That LCD Screen is cool. Except for that big ciggarette hole I put in mine DOH'!
September 4, 2007 4:16:39 PM

I don’t even need to read that but if the answer were a yes then I would be a very surprised man. The only difference any keyboard has made to me was when I once got it in to my head that I wanted one of those (then) new natural feel keyboards from Microsoft. The only thing it did was make my gaming skill level go down and my typing time slower, so all in all it was a flop.

Other than that I have been through about 6 or 7 keyboards now and the one I am using now (saitek gaming keyboard) is just as good as my first one was when playing the first Unreal on my Voodoo 3 and 500MHz P2.
September 4, 2007 4:48:54 PM

If your going to spend that much money on a gaming keyboard you should consider this, in combination with a regular keyboard.

I used this for wow and wouldnt go back, I had about 20 keys mapped onto it in the natural shape of my hand by the time I was done.

It does loads of other stuff I never even used like timed macros and things, mostly because they were against the wow T&Cs.

I've also tried this on FPS games with equally satisfying results, I cant say it made me any better at them, but it was a lot more comfortable for prolonged play, no more hand cramp.

* you can map all of the keys to anything you want
* you can position them where ever you like on the device

consequently it doesnt make any assumptions about the size of your hands so it you have long short or fat fingers it doesnt matter.

* its a bit hard to get outside the states, I found one shop in the uk which would import it.
* vista support isnt there yet, although its announced as being worked on, new drivers dont seem to be their No1 priority.
September 4, 2007 4:59:02 PM

I'm using the G15 and backlighting makes all the difference (the LCD screen is, for me, a cool non-entity).

My eyes were really struggling in my darkened computer lair. I had gotten to the point that I was afraid I might be damaging them.

Now, since I have the backlit keys, I no longer have any problem using my keyboard. And that's worth every penny to me.
September 4, 2007 5:09:15 PM

Awesome, lets do a gaming keyboard review, and not look at any of the Zboards or Logitechs.

Isn't that like saying lets look at the top 5 operating systems, but i couldn't get hold of a copy of windows in time, so we just wont talk about it.

And apart from that gripe this was one of the most uninformative articles i have ever read, Tom's usually has higher standard.

P.S. I find programmable keys and macro's very useful in RTS games, but somehow FPS and WOW are the only games mentioned in the review. Back lighting is nice in a low light room, and i like a low light gaming environment, it makes the screen look better. There were just so many aspects of what makes a good gaming keyboard that were left out of this article, how good button response feels and key positioning are not the only two things that make a good gaming keyboard.

P.P.S. I don't care that you don't see the point of gaming keyboards, how about asking people who do see the point of gaming keyboards why they like them before you publish an article on gaming keyboards?
September 4, 2007 8:45:19 PM

Lets not forget the Saitek Eclipse 2. It has a Backlit Keyboard with three different user selectable backlight colors. (Blue, Red or Purple). It also has a knob to adjust brightness of backlighting.

It has a great feel to it and has been reliable for the past 6 months or so.

I had to replace my Ultra Reliable IBM Switched Keyboard. ( They had the best feel of any keyboard and were Legendary for thier reliability). I had that keyboard in continous service on my main machine for over 12 years. I play mostly RTS and FPS Games. I also used it for over 7 years of Everquest playing. The keys had severe wear marks on the tops and most of the lettering was long gone.

I had to finally remove it from service from my main machine due to the incompatability of PS2 Keyboards and Mice with my EVGA 680i based motherboard. ( You get random Squaucks from your speakers with PS2 Keyboards and your mouse will randomly jump across the screen if you use a PS2 connected mouse. If the mouse is DPI selectable via onboard buttons, it will also randomly reset to defaults. These issues get much worse when you overclock at all. But, if you hook use the mouse via USB and use a USB keyboard, BOOOM, all problems gone).

I would really like to see a Switched gaming keyboard with backlighting, adjustable intensity on the backlighting, some user configurable Macro keys and an option to use either Wired or Wireless.

September 4, 2007 9:20:00 PM

I took a Saitek eclipse and another Saitek nova or something like that, one had a programmable keypad attached and the other had backlit letters and numbers. I wanted the backlit numbers and letters and the keypad so I took all the parts I wanted from both and made my own. (almost forgot, it had red backlight, I wanted blue, so I ordered blue surface mount leds from Ebay and replaced all the reds with blues, not easy but it worked)

Here is one I was looking at originally, the russian Optimus Maximus LED keyboard which was supposed to originally be like the price of a good cell phone. I figured thats hot. Now the price is like as much as a used car, so forget it. Its still cool, but not that cool.
September 4, 2007 9:43:51 PM

I enjoy my Belkin Nostromo n52 for FPS games. I recommend it over the older n50, as it's heavier, has more keys, and is more comfortable.
September 5, 2007 5:01:52 AM

Interesting article in its total lack of decent information, but at least it covered the basics. I've used probably 5 keyboards in the last 5 years for gaming and i have to say they are all pretty much the same. I loved my MX3200, the MX5000, microsoft wireless, G15 and a host of others i cant even remember now.

G15 does it for me now becasue i like the LCD for keeping track of things in BF2142. The backlit keys are fantastic for night gaming and the fact that it has USB ports in the board is great cause it gets my MX Revolution Mouse receiver close to reduce the lag. i was skeptical about the MX rev mouse at first till i moved the receiver and its no perfect and very fast.

G15 has a nice weighting to the keys and i really enjoy this keyboard for typing even thought its severely lacking in function keys (calculator, open, zoom, sleep, etc etc).. I've never missed a keystroke with this baby and of all my keyboards i'm definately in love with the weight and feel of the keys.. (and they haven't rubbed off yet)

I'm glad no-one has mentioned the stupidly overpriced Optimus yet as they are a pretty decent idea and an pretty undecent price... They will get there though..

For now, i'm keen to use my G15 with a little lable on the macro keys for now till a better idea comes out.

i think thg needs to do a better review of more options. At this stage though there are really 3 options.. standard keyboard, keyboard with a WASD pad built in, or a separate keyboard and a separate WASD pad... so i guess this article kinda covers the basics..
September 5, 2007 5:53:51 AM

Yep, $20 generic keyboard hammers that expensive stuff.
September 7, 2007 6:53:09 AM

I have a G15 keyboard, and although it doesn't help me in playing CS or anything, occasionally the macros are handy when playing warcraft. Generally, i believe that spending that much money on a keyboard is a waste if you purely want improved gaming performance. However, i LOVE the lcd screen! It works great for media control while im playing computer games, and i can even see messages from msn!

My G15 was definitely a worthwhile investment in my opinion, though im sure the larger population will disagree. Its one of those things that you never knew you needed so much, until you got one.

My only complaint with it is the usb ports are pretty useless. They are usb 1.1, not 2.0, but thats not the major issue. Since the keyboard uses the full power supplied through the usb 2.0 standard, there is not enough current left over to power any other devices. I have tried several flash drives without success and the only thing that has worked is my mp3 player that i set on usb hub mode (so it drains its own battery).
September 7, 2007 8:24:57 AM

:)  I've been using the Microsoft Natural keyboards for years...I like the split/angled key layout. Yeah it slowed me down a bit at first but if you log loads of time for work and play at a keyboard then this one will reduce the strain and stress in your hands and wrists
September 7, 2007 1:23:40 PM

Travis Meacham completely fails. What were you thinking man? this is the worst piece of crap writing I think I've ever seen on Tom's.
You listed 2 keyboards, one of which, the Razor, is complete marketing flash garbage, no true gamer would touch that thing. You didn't give any information to the community that they didn't already have.

As a gamer, here's what I look for in a gaming keyboard:
1. An easy to read backlighting for all the keys, that you can read day or night.
Best I've seen so far is the G15, my old saitech was very hard to read during the day.
2. Programmable keys with macro ability and timing tweaks.
The G15 does this extremely well.
3. A useable LCD screen to show vital stats gamers care about.
Again, the G15 does this right.
4. This is my BIGGEST problem with all keyboards. DEL,END,Page DN keys MUST be in a line right above the arrow keys.
You see on the razer how they squish that row of keys up and make the DEL key all big? Crap for gamers that actually use those for keybinds close to the arrow keys, and not the WASD keys.

The conclusion is: Yes, gaming keyboards can and do enhance the gaming experience.
September 7, 2007 4:14:22 PM

digitalskillz said:
4. This is my BIGGEST problem with all keyboards. DEL,END,Page DN keys MUST be in a line right above the arrow keys.
You see on the razer how they squish that row of keys up and make the DEL key all big? Crap for gamers that actually use those for keybinds close to the arrow keys, and not the WASD keys.

I have that same problem. I like those six keys to be in two rows above the arrow keys.
September 9, 2007 1:36:15 AM

why buy gaming anything? I got wireless mouse and keyboard from logitech. hell... when in the middle of bf2 i randomly look at the ground and spin at 6000rpm for no reason. when i have scope to someone's face and keyboard moves me left randomly doesn't bother me if i lose few kills
September 9, 2007 4:00:02 AM

Yea I hate it when that happens lol, but I normally end up looking into the sky :p 

You can reduce that by picking a good mouse surface.
September 10, 2007 8:20:57 AM

itotallybelieveyou said:
why buy gaming anything? I got wireless mouse and keyboard from logitech. hell... when in the middle of bf2 i randomly look at the ground and spin at 6000rpm for no reason. when i have scope to someone's face and keyboard moves me left randomly doesn't bother me if i lose few kills

That would piss the hell out of me, but it's more due to low quality mice (old tech) than the surface. Have not had that problem since I got rid of my bog standard microsoft optical mouse and got a MX1000 like wise I never had that problem till I upgraded to optical mice from track ball mice.
September 10, 2007 8:41:09 AM

I'm using an MX500 on an everglide titan and I have not had that problem since I got it.
September 11, 2007 1:22:47 AM

i want that new logitech gaming keyboard because it lights up :)  and basically thats it lol.. just like the new lcd im getting, im fine really with my 21" crt dell trinitron but its bragging rights really
September 11, 2007 3:35:27 AM

At what point did a quarter of the companies decide to mess with the insert/delete block? Who decided that this was a good idea?

I've been looking at the very old school Das Keyboard personally, but that's more to keep the noobs away from my computer.
September 11, 2007 5:22:03 AM

maverick7 said:
i want that new logitech gaming keyboard because it lights up :)  and basically thats it lol.. just like the new lcd im getting, im fine really with my 21" crt dell trinitron but its bragging rights really

You can't already brag with a 21" CRT? :o 
September 13, 2007 7:39:36 PM

I have a Logitech G11 and love it - it's basically the G15 without the largely useless LCD screen, and is priced about $15-20 less than the G15. The backlighting is glorious, and while I haven't programmed the macros much, I plan to soon. The G11 also has etched keys, not the painted ones on some of the older G15's, so the keys won't smudge with use.