Gaming Keyboard vs Normal Keyboard
Gaming keyboards are designed to better suited for in game situations and needs. When gaming competitively there is a need for a speedy response and fast reaction time. Regular keyboards will often prioritise ergonomics for a more comfortable and better typing experience. Typically the differences are more noticeable in the keyboard layout and the switches used.
A true gaming keyboard uses mechanical switches due to all of the advantages that they bring. The high intense situations that competitive gamers find themselves in require accurate input and rapid fire response time.
Standard keyboards however use membrane technology, often referred to as dome switches. The membrane technology is used in regular keyboards due to the cheap manufacture price and quiet key press.
Can you use a Gaming Keyboard for Regular use?
Gaming keyboards function just as a normal keyboard does, and can be used for the same purpose. All the regular features that you may find on a normal keyboard can also be found on a gaming device. Although mechanical switches are typically used in gaming keyboards, they are not limited to the devices.
Mechanical Keyboard vs Membrane Keyboard
Most standard keyboards make use of membrane or dome switches. Membrane keyboards use silicone domes that sit under each key. When the key is compressed the force is transmitted to the circuit beneath to register the keystroke. There are a few different variations of dome switches but all work very similar.
Advantages of Membrane Keyboards
- Quiet; the sound the keys make are relatively quiet, making them great for working in public or in an office.
- Light weight; the components that make up membrane or dome switch keyboards are relatively lightweight making the overall device lighter.
- Affordable; the reason that so many manufacturers use membrane technology in their keyboards is because of how cheap it is. Allow for keyboards to be created and sold at a lower price.
Disadvantages of Membrane Keyboards
- Heavy keypress; the keys on membrane devices require more force to be pressed. For the keystroke to be recorded you must completely compress or bottom out the key. Because of these two factors there is a heavy feeling when using a membrane keyboard.
- Key rollover; Although it is possible to get membrane keyboards that support key rollover the technology isn’t as good when compared to mechanical. Due to this you can’t press as many keys together. This may be an issue when typing fast.
- Lifespan; dome switches don’t have the best life expectancy, usually somewhere between 5 and 10 million clicks.
- Maintenance; often the keycaps aren’t removable on membrane boards which makes cleaning them more difficult. Although this isn’t always the case the switch components underneath can also be harder to remove dust particles from.
Gaming keyboards tend to make use of the popular mechanical switches. Keys on a mechanical keyboard all have their own individual switch which make use of springs.
The switches have activation points which sit above the bottom or lowest point of compression. Due to this there is no need to bottom out the key to have your keystroke register.
Advantages of Mechanical Keyboards
- Lighter key press; less weight is needed to actuate the key which gives the key a lighter feel when using.
- Lifespan; mechanical switches use springs and components that last longer, giving them a lifespan of approximately 50 million clicks.
- Typing feedback; different switches can give a greater typing experience due to the tactile feedback and shorter actuation point.
- Key rollover; Most mechanical keyboards allow for key rollover, which means that you can press multiple keys at once and have them all be registered by your device. It is also common to have “N Key Rollover” features in gaming keyboards. N key rollover means that every individual key can be pressed simultaneously and be accurately recorded.
- Customisation; Mechanical keyboards often allow for greater customisation due to ease of switching out keycaps and the large array of switch types available.
- Build Quality; Mechanical keyboards are often durable and made with more premium materials. This is particularly noticeable in high end devices.
- Maintenance;Mechanical keycaps can be removed, making the keyboard easier to clean. You can remove all the keys and clean them together. This also makes removing dust or crumbs from under the keys easier.
Disadvantages of Mechanical Keyboards
- Expensive; there are more components that go into mechanical switches which make them more expensive. This raises the overall price of mechanical keyboards making them more expensive when compared to membrane boards.
- Loud; mechanical keyboards have a loud sound when compressed. The level of sound differs depending on the type of switch used.
- Heavy; mechanical keyboards can be heavier than their counterparts. This is a downside if you like to travel or want to take the keyboard with you.
Types of Mechanical Switches
There are many types of mechanical switches available, all with their own perks. These switches can be narrowed down to three primary types of switches; linear, tactile and clicky.
Linear Switches: For competitive gamers linear switches are the preferred go to. They have a light key feel with a smooth compression.
Tactile Switches: Tactile switches have a noticeable bump that you can feel when compressing the key. This acts as a notice point for when the key has been activated. Tactile key switches are a preferred option for typing.
Clicky Switches: The loudest of the three are clicky switches. Which provide the same tactile bump as tactile switches, with an added click sound. Clicky switches are less preferred for gaming.
Newer on the scene are optical switches. Optical switches make use of light technology for actuation to speed up response time. The instant reset and response time that optical switches allow for make them a great option for gamers.
What Type of Switches do Laptops use?
Devices like laptops and other thin keyboards use scissor switches. Scissor switches use a form of rubber dome that combines with a plastic mechanism. Scissor switches allow for a shorter travel distance in comparison to typical membrane keyboards.
Gaming Keyboard Aesthetics
Keyboards for gaming will also often be designed with better aesthetics such as backlighting. The lighting is usually a set color or an RGB that can be customised using on board key combinations or supported apps and programs.
These designs can be great for adding style to personal office and gaming setups. Because gaming keyboards typically use mechanical switches and the default key layout the keycaps are interchangeable. Not all gaming keyboards use the standard layout, but many do. Switching keycaps can give you more control over how your device looks.
There are keyboards that are designed specifically for comfort when using, known as ergonomic keyboards. These keyboards come in different shapes, each designed to try to give the best comfort possible to the user.
Keyboards designed for ergonomics aren’t for gaming, but more for regular use. The devices are primarily aimed at professionals that spend most of their time working in an office. Ergonomic keyboards can be both membrane and mechanical and have custom keys which vary in size, shape and position.
Different Sized Keyboards
Keyboards can come in all different shapes and sizes. Because of this you can be sure to find the perfect device for your needs. The three most popular sizes are the typical full sized, TKL and 60% keyboards.
The smaller the keyboard the less keys that they feature. With less keys you lose some functionality, or the access to these functions changes.
Gaming keyboards and regular keyboards generally function the same. Either can be used for basic computer use and gaming. Both gaming and normal keyboards can use mechanical or membrane technology for actuation. However mechanical switches give better advantages in terms of response time and actuation, making them optimal for gaming keyboards. Whereas membrane switches are cheaper, which make them the preferred for regular devices.