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Tech Explained: Gaming Keyboards

As the centrepiece of any gamer's gear setup, your keyboard takes a physical beating on the daily. So you really can't have something sub par. Get your head in the game and get a load of our carefully-crafted helpful info below 😉

Key Switch Types

Linear

Linear switches operate in a straight up and down motion and don't provide any feedback or clicking when actuated. The rapid acuation makes them a very good choice for gaming.

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Tactile

Tactile switches offer a noticeable bump and a slight audible click when actuated which very useful when gaming as well as typing as it acts as a subtle indication that the keypress has registered.

View tactile switch keyboards


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Clicky

Similar to tactile switches, Clicky switches give feedback on each keypress but with a significantly louder noise. The feedback can be extremely satisfying but it can also be picked up by your microphone.

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Design / Switches / Keycaps / Functionality / Connectivity / Accessories

Design

Full Size Layout

The traditional, most recognised form of a keyboard. This layout has around 104 keys in total and offers everything a keyboard has to offer: arrow keys, function keys, number pad.

View full size layout keyboards

TenKeyLess (TKL)

A keyboard that doesn't have a number pad. These keyboards have around 88 keys and are narrower and can be more ergonomic. Often abbreviated to TKL.

View TKL layout keyboards

75% Layout

Smaller than the TenKeyLess layout but manages to keep similar functionality. The width of the keyboard is reduced by moving the keys closer together.

View 75% layout keyboards

65% Layout

On top of dropping the number pad, the 65% layout also loses the top row of function keys. This arrangement has around 68 keys.

View 65% layout keyboards

60% Layout

All keys located to the right-hand side of the Enter key are dropped, along with the top function row keys. This arrangement is stripped down to around 61 keys.

View 60% layout keyboards

40% Layout

The smallest layout available, the 40% not only removes all the keys to the right of the Enter key, it's also missing the row of function and number keys.

View 40% layout keyboards

UK Layout

There are notable differences between a UK and US layout keyboard. Aside from different placement on a number of keys, the UK layout includes an Enter key that spans two rows as well as the addition of the '£' and '€' key.

QWERTY

QWERTY refers to the layout of the keyboard with regards to the arrangement of letters. It was originally conceived for the typewriter and is still in use today.

Split Layout

The keyboard literally comes split (in two halves), with the aim to improve ergonomics, reducing strain with better posture.

Bottom Row

Refers to the bottom row of keys on the keyboard. Some manufacturers break away from the standard key width, which is important to keep in mind when purchasing alternative keycaps.

Switches

Key Switches

Key Switches are located betneath the keycaps and are the mechanism that registers the keypress. They come with a variety of different characteristics, such as response, noise and travel times.

Switch Style

The switch style defines the feel of the keyboard through its key presses. Mechanical keyboards have 3 types of switches; Linear, Tactile and Clicky.

Optical Switch

A switch that uses infrared light to trigger keypresses. They have a quick reaction time and greated reliability.

Cherry MX

Cherry MX are one of the most well-known and most used brands in th world when it comes to key switches.

Kailh

One of the main competitors to Cherry MX, with high quality standards and many comparable choices of colours.

TTC

TTC have been around since 1998 as a company but have only recently started to venture into the mechanical keyboards scene. They are seen as a cheaper alternative to Cherry MX.

Actuation Force

The force required to register a key press. Put simply, it's how hard you have to press the key for it to register.

Activation Point

The key travel distance where the key press is recognised by the keyboard.

Bottoming Out

Pushing the key all the way down.

Life Span

How many clicks the switch has before it packs up and calls it a day. Luckily, some switches can last for 50 million clicks 😎

Keycaps

PBT

Polybutylene terephthalate. One of the hardest, most durable materials for keycaps, typically used in more expensive keyboards. PBT keycaps feel more textured and last longer than ABS.

View PBT keycaps

ABS

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. The cheaper and more common plastic used for keycaps. ABS caps feel smooth but the surface can start to develop a shine over time.

View ABS keycaps

Rubber

Made from rubber with a textured finish to increase friction and improve grip.

View rubber keycaps

Backlit

A keyboard that contains lights underneath the keys. The backlight illuminates the letters and symbols on the keys making them easier to see in darker conditions (late night gaming).

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Pudding

Designed to allow more backlighting to shine through, by making the sides of the keycap transparent.

Artisan

A custom keycap, crafted by hand. Often in forms on game charactors, giving your keyboard a unique look.

Key Profile

Basically, the shape of the keycap, whether its rounded, flat, sloped or any another.

Legend

The printing/etching of the font on the keycap.

Double Shot

The method used to create the legend on the keycap. Two layers are moulded together, with the bottom layer containing the legend pertruding through the top layer.

O-Ring

Small rubber rings placed on the stems of the keycaps which change the feel of each keypress.

Functionality

Marco Keys

Keys which allow you to program common, repetitive actions in games to one simple key press.

Media Keys

Keys designed for media playback. The media keys are sometimes their own dedicated keys or accessed via the F keys by holding the FN key.

Anti-Ghosting

This feature prevents additional keys registering if the key rollover limit has been exceeded.

Key Rollover

Usually described as N-Key Rollover (NKRO) meaning it can register multiple key presses at once. The N can be replaced with a number to represent a certain limit of simultaneous key presses.

DIP Switches

Small on/off switches that change the operating mode of the keyboard. For example, some DIP switches allow a secondary profile for marco keys or the placement of the Fn key.

Connectivity

USB Passthrough

The keyboard has USB ports for other devices to be plugged into. Often requires more than one USB port in order to pass the USB through to the PC.

Accessories

Coiled Cables

A spring-like cable enabling them to stretch further if needed or coil up to save valuable desk real estate.

Wrist Rests

A rest for your wrist! Provides support for your wrist, thus enabling you to game longer!

View wrist rests

Keycap Puller

A small device that helps you pull off keycaps without damaging them. Often included with keyboards or keycap sets.