If you’re like me, then when you hear something like a person spending over $150, on a keyboard of all things, you might start to question that person’s sanity. What possible reason, other than vanity, could there be for spending such a large sum on such a basic PC accessory. However, after deciding to look deeper into it, I realized; maybe I’m the crazy person?
The main differences between a gaming keyboard and a regular keyboard are a faster polling rate, the ability to set macro keys, increased durability and ease of maintenance.
We will look more in depth at those differences below.
What is a ‘Gaming Keyboard’?
To begin with we need to clarify a term. ‘Gaming’ keyboard is just a marketing term. It doesn’t actually have any meaning, but it usually refers to a mechanical keyboard. Mechanical keyboards built for gaming often have more keys than a regular keyboard as well as back lit keys with the almost mandatory RGB colors.
Mechanical keyboards differ from regular ones in how they work. Regular keyboards work by pressing a key which then pushes down on a membrane dome which connects a diode which then sends a signal to your computer registering the key stroke. Mechanical keyboards are a lot more complicated. The short of it is they have mechanical switches, which ‘click’ when pressed, that use conductors and receivers to register a keystroke.
Benefits of a Mechanical Keyboard
With the huge gap in cost compared to a regular keyboard, mechanical keyboards must have some benefits right? Most definitely. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Mechanical keyboards can be programmed to use macro keys. That is, programming the functions of multiple keystrokes into a single keystroke. For fans of MMO’s, RTS, and fighting games, this ability can almost feel like cheating. Imagine reducing a combo move of 4-5 keystrokes down to a single button to push. Too easy. This can also be useful for PC users other than gamers such as those doing video editing, streaming etc.
Mechanical keyboards have a much faster polling rate (the rate at which the keyboard sends keystroke information to the computer) than regular keyboards. Most regular keyboards have a polling rate of 125 HZ whereas mechanical keyboards are 8x faster at 1000 HZ. Some top end keyboards even go up to 4,000 HZ. While this won’t suddenly transform a noob into a Call of Duty Pro, speed is speed.
Your typing speed is also increased as less pressure is required to register a keystroke on a mechanical keyboard than on a regular keyboard. You don’t have to actually press the key all the way down like you do on a membrane dome in order to register the keystroke. This makes for faster typing. Most people say that typing on a mechanical keyboard ‘feels’ way better than on a regular and that they will never go back.
N-Key Rollover is a keyboard’s ability to register multiple keystrokes occurring simultaneously. While regular keyboards also have this ability, it is limited in the number of keys that can be detected and registered. Mechanical keyboards allow for more simultaneous keys to be registered which, as mentioned earlier, can be a boon for MMO or RTS gamers especially.
Durability and Maintenance
Mechanical keyboards are definitely more durable than regular ones. Many mechanical keyboards are made with a steel frame compared to a cheap plastic one for regular keyboards. If you are the type of gamer that has frequent “rage-quit” moments, than the higher durability may be especially useful for you!
In addition to increased durability, many mechanical keyboards are made with the keys raised up higher. This allows for much easier cleaning and maintenance.
Benefits of a Regular Keyboard
With all the benefits listed for a mechanical keyboard you may wonder why this is even a debate at all. Well there is one word and one reason why the decision to buy a mechanical keyboard or not is a debate and that is: cost. Mechanical keyboards are very expensive. They range from $60-$100 with some like the Steel Series Apex Pro going for $150! Compared to the $10 cost of a regular keyboard, that is a massive difference.
Additionally, mechanical keyboards can be quite loud! Some users actually like the satisfying ‘click’ sounds that are made when the keystrokes are registered, however, if you need your keyboard for work it may be distracting/annoying. Regular keyboards, on the other hand, are much quieter in comparison.
There is no doubt that mechanical keyboards are superior to regular keyboards in performance and capabilities. They are more durable and easier to maintain. But, those improvements come at a very steep price (+600%-1,500% the price of a regular keyboard)! Whether or not such performance upgrades are worth the cost is, of course, subjective.