Get Your Game On: Gaming Keyboards
Gaming, would be nothing without a solid keyboard. In pretty much any game you will find the use for one, more so in RPG, FPS and strategy games. So as a gamer, what is the best? What is even worth considering. There are a ton of keyboards out there, now I am not going to try and sell you on any wireless keyboards, simply because I didn’t find any that were gaming grade. But what I did find were several options under $100, some a bit more. So this is my refresher from one of my first blog posts regarding gaming gear, and getting some updates on it.
So lets look over they gaming boards…
(MSRP $79.99 Amazon $67.84)
A gaming staple since 2007, the Lycosa is a well built low profile keyboard. Button clicks are quick and responsive. All the keys are backlit, which is customizable to show all backlit, no backlit, or just the wasd keys. The feet on the keyboard grip the desk well. The software that comes with it, allows you to setup macros and some very cool functions, though there is a learning curve to using the software. The keyboard does use up 2 USB slots, presumably to have one dedicated, and the other to use the built in USB port. It also plugs into your headset and microphone slots on your audio card, to allow you to plug in your headset to your keyboard, though if you use an USB headset/mic, or like the game sound to come from your speakers, this may not be an optimal solution, unless you use the USB port on the keyboard.
- Keytop with non-slip rubber finish
- Backlight illumination with WASD cluster lighting option
- Fully-programmable keys with macro capability
- Gaming cluster with anti-ghosting capability
- Slim keycap structure with Hyperesponse™ technology
- TouchPanel™ easy access media keys
- Gaming mode option for deactivation of the Windows key
- 10 customizable software profiles with on-the-fly switching
- 1000Hz Ultrapolling™ / 1ms response time
- Earphone-out and microphone-in jacks
- Detachable wrist rest
- One integrated USB extension port
- Only 18.5”, small footprint compared to larger keyboards like the Logitech G15 (21.5”)
- Anti-ghosting around the WASD cluster to limit signal failure by hitting buttons too quickly, or multiple button presses in quick succession
- Good grip on the desk
- The Lycosa’s backlighting is its biggest problem. With the blue LED turned off, you’re left with an almost illegible keyboard, the back-lighting is also faint in a lit room, it makes the keys only marginally more legible
- Takes up 2 USB slots (though this allows the usb port on the keyboard to use the full bandwidth and not interfere with the keyboard signal)
- For casual gamers, the included software will have a learning curve to it
(MSRP $89.99 Amazon $88.96)
This keyboard by Steel Series essentially combines the advanced controls of a game pad into the keyboard. With the built in gamer pad with a WASD button setup and buttons floating all round you have a complete package in one keyboard.
- SteelSeries Z Engine enables programmability of all keys
- Pre-defined profiles for more than 150 games
- 3 color illumination options: blue, purple and red
- Internal hub with 2 USB ports
- Anti-ghosting capability: Up to 7 simultaneous keystrokes
- Special gaming key area
- Rubberized movement keys for enhanced tactile feedback
- This keyboard provides you with 2 USB 2.0 ports on the back.
- Backlit lighting options of 3 different colors.
- The built in gamer pad area will no doubt save you money.
- The included software interface for customizing the Merc is well put together and intuitive
- Once more if you are a lefty, this keyboard was not made for you unfortunately unless you game like a righty.
- Seems like a lot of specialty buttons were designed with FPS games instead of MMOs.
- If you already have a gamer pad this keyboard provides duplicate functionality.
(MSRP $99.99 Amazon $79.99)
The latest Logitech G15 has made a lot of changes since the first, it has a sleeker design for one. Also the LCD screen is no longer flip top, and they have removed a row of the “G-keys”. All that makes this latest generation G15 look a lot more polished than its predecessor.
- High-visibility GamePanel™ LCD: Displays game stats and other important system information.
- Illuminated characters: Choose from three levels of brightness. Locate keys easily in both bright and low-light conditions.
- Six programmable G-keys: Perform single keystrokes or complex macros with six fully programmable G-keys. Create macros on the fly, without having to pause the action.
- Intelligent cable management: Keep mouse, headset, and other cords out of the way by routing them through channels on the underside of the keyboard.
- Instant media access: Use the convenient one-touch controls for volume and media playback.
- 6 G-Keys, all programmable, with 3 profiles per game making 18 total macros available per game.
- Amber backlighting on all keys.
- 2 USB ports on the back.
- In game the LCD screen defaults to showing your stats, so without opening your character screen you can see what different buffs do to your stats like Strength, Agility, etc. Also the programmers at Blizzard have fully supported this keyboard from the get go, so even when entering battlegrounds you are presented with Battleground information like kills, deaths, etc. right on the LCD.
- Also an open API allows mod developers to make LCD mods for the keyboard which can be found at g15mods.com
- No customization on the backlighting for the keys.
- USB ports on the back are only USB 1.1 and not 2.0.
- Having to switch profiles if you want more than 6 macros at any given time.
(MSRP $199.99 Amazon $169.30)
This is Logitech’s DRASTIC step up over the G15. This is also the most expensive keyboard on this list, and most of that is due to the color LCD screen at the top middle of the screen. You can watch youtube videos on this thing while you play! That’s insane, or insanely cool. You get the standard macro keys like with the G15, you get 12 G keys on the left hand side. You get 2 USB 2.0 slots on the back of the keyboard. By far one could claim this is the best gaming keyboard around today, but the high price tag (almost as much as some top end graphics cards) puts this out of reach for many gamers.
- Tiltable, color GamePanel LCD
- Custom-color backlighting
- 12 fully-programmable G-Keys
- Two high-speed USB 2.0 ports
- Multi-Key input (Up to 5 keys at once)
- Game/desktop mode
- Intelligent cable management
- Instant media access
- Public software development kit
- Onboard memory
- Color LCD screen that integrates with almost any game and you can watch youtube videos on
- 12 Programmable macro keys
- 2 USB 2.0 ports
- Open source SDK for custom applications
- AND Price – $200 for a keyboard? You need to have some serious extra cash to blow that much on a keyboard, mostly for a color LCD screen
(MSRP $79.95 Amazon $69.76)
- Multi-colour back lighting with Tru Vu illumination through keys (mix shades from Red through Amber to Green) and adjustable brightness
- Touch-sensitive, backlit dashboard control panel
- WASD, cursor, ‘Cyborg’ and NumPad keys can be lit independently from the rest of keyboard to highlight commonly used gaming keys
- Cyborg Mode – instantly disable the Windows keys and configure the colour and brightness of your gaming keys at the touch of a button
- Set and forget – persistent key illumination settings ensure colours remain even after a system reboot
- 12 programmable ‘Cyborg’ keys
- Hard wearing, metal-plated key caps in key gaming areas
- Pass-through USB, audio and microphone sockets
- Enhanced multiple key presses in gaming areas for complex in-game commands
- Adjustable wrist rest and keyboard rake angle (front and back)
- Gold-plated connectors for USB and Audio
- The metal WASD buttons, which will help with that extra wear and tear you put on movement (assuming you do not use a gamerpad for movement).
- The WASD keys also have a separate light region, which means you can light them up a different color than the rest of the keyboard, nothing that is a necessity but a nice to have fun feature indeed.
- 2 great features though are the USB 2.0 port on the back and the audio jacks, nice to not have to run something to your computer and just use the keyboard instead.
- The software included is quite cumbersome, its not intuitive like the Logitech’s Set Point suite.
- Programming in those macros is a pain as you have to fumble through it a bit.
- The cyborg (macro) keys are a nice feature but they don’t necessarily feel like normal keys and you get that cheap feeling form them.
(MSRP $59.95 Amazon $53.21)
One of the biggest features of the X4 is the anti-ghosting, where you can essentially hit as many keys as you want at the same time and they will all register. Unlike its cousin the X6, there is no detachable number pad. There are some macro keys, which you can record macros on the fly, which is always a great feature or using the built in software. Unlike the X6 there are no volume adjustment knobs either. The backlit keys, with a red glow on the black keys are a very nice touch.
- Advanced anti-ghosting capability
- Mode switching
- Automatic profile switching
- Programmable macro keys
- Backlit keys
- Anti-ghosting is always a good gaming option
- Macro keys and programming them on the fly
- Price – this is the bargain basement in this list, and for the features it’s a good value
- No flashy features
- No USB ports
(MSRP $79.95 Amazon $57.99)
The X6, the predecessor to the X4 (if you can believe it) was one of the first keyboards designed by Microsoft specifically for gaming. The option of a detachable numeric pad that can be placed on the left or right side of the keyboard is an interesting feature. Especially since those keys on the num pad can be used as macro keys. The knobs on the keyboard determine the amount of lighting your keyboard puts out from the ominous red backlighting, the other controls volume. As with my speakers, knobs for volume is a good thing.
- Switchable numeric key pad that can be used as macro keys
- Two color adjustable backlighting dial
- Macro keys w/in-game macro recording
- Mode switching
- Price, with only being a few bucks more on Amazon than the X4, and having more features except the anti-ghosting
- Adjustable knobs
- Plenty of macro options including in-game recordable
- No USB ports on the keyboard
- You can’t tilt the keyboard up (no adjustable feet)
All these keyboards offer a little something different, most offer very similar features. My suggestion is make a list of things you are looking for in a gaming keyboard and match it up to the suggestions above, whichever hits on most of the features in your wish list is your keyboard.
Personally I use the Logitech G15 and been using it for over a year now, I wanted an LCD to essentially have a heads-up display of information and now that it integrates with Ventrilo to show who is talking its even better for me. My biggest gripe is the usb ports on the back being 1.1, but the macro and LCD on there have been great additions to my gameplay experience.