Technology

What To Look For In A Gaming Laptop’s Keyboard

Keyboards are essential components of a gaming laptop. If you are a gaming enthusiast, you’d already know that. However, it is also important to note that there are specific characteristics to look out for in a gaming laptop’s keyboard. In this guide, we would be considering these features to pay attention to when looking at a gaming laptop’s keyboard.

Keyboards

A gaming laptop is a rig on the go, with the power to play games in a size you can take with you.

But when you’re buying a gaming laptop, you’re not just looking at specs. You’re looking at a whole computer, including a built-in keyboard.

Gaming laptops have a simplified gaming keyboard built-in. Gaming keyboards are engineered to provide gamers with high end-performance and better usability.

They’re designed to travel more distance across the board and give users precise feedback. Almost all gaming laptops have illuminated keyboards (high-end keyboards with LED lights at the back) AppearanceThe look of a gaming laptop is different due to its unique casing. They look tough or masculine and often only sold in the color black.

You don’t want to play your games on something mushy or stiff.

Is It Worth It?

So, what makes a gaming keyboard so special? Is it the flashing lights and the hyper-futuristic designs? Sure, these features make a keyboard stand out, but they do very little to improve your experience. Instead, let’s focus on the features that will immediately impact your day-to-day gaming.

  • Key Rollover (aka Anti-Ghosting)
  • Switches
  • Build Quality
  • Macros and Customization
  • Price

Four Key Components of a Gaming Keyboard

When choosing a gaming keyboard, there are three major areas of consideration: the size, the “guts,” and customization options.

  • Keyboard Size

The first is size. You’ve probably already noticed that some keyboards possess a lot more keys than others. This is especially apparent on laptops, where the size of the screen usually dictates how many buttons will fit on the keyboard.

A “full size” keyboard is one that has 104 (or 105) keys, including the full QWERTY alphanumeric section, a dedicated number pad, dedicated function keys, and a set of four directional cursor keys. Full-size keyboards are the widest style, and depending on your work surface, it may be too big.

Some gamers find that the number pad puts too much space between the keys they need to use with their left hand and the mouse. But if that number pad is important to you, a full-size keyboard is the way to go.

If you can live without the number pad, a “tenkeyless” size is a good choice. It achieves a much smaller footprint on your desktop by dropping the entire number pad section. Everything else remains, including the all-important cursor keys. Most gamers will find the tenkeyless size gives them everything they need.

  • Mechanical vs. Membrane

The second consideration is the guts of the keyboard. By that, we mean the way that the keys register that they’ve been pressed, and how they feel and sound when they’re pressed. Most standard keyboards on the market use a variation on “membrane” technology under each key.

Membrane-based keyboards are inexpensive to make and allow for very thin designs, thanks to the layer of rubber or silicone that acts as both the “spring” and the electrical contact. Membrane keyboards are highly versatile, but they often lack a distinct “click,” making it hard to know from a tactile point of view if you’ve actually pressed the key fully (and registered that press with the computer).

For gamers, this spongy or squishy feel, coupled with a small amount of key travel, simply isn’t accurate enough for their needs.

Mechanical keyboards are a bit of a throwback to keyboard designs from decades ago. Under each of the keys – which tend to be much taller than new keys – is a dedicated mechanical switch.

These switches have their own housings, springs, and stems, and provide a click that is both highly audible (some say they’re “clicky”) and highly tactile (you can really feel the moment the mechanism connects with the electrical contact). Mechanical key switches come in three different varieties depending on how much “click” you want, or none at all, and how much spring resistance.

If you take gaming seriously, you’ll probably want a mechanical keyboard if you don’t have one already. They’re not only more precise, and with better feedback, they’re also way tougher than standard keyboards. Most mechanical keys can withstand 40-50 million clicks before needing to be replaced.

  • Customization and Macro Buttons

The third area is all about how the right gaming keyboard can give you an edge when it comes to speed and your personal preferences. Some gaming keyboards come with a dedicated set of buttons – usually a column on the left side – that can be programmed to execute in-game macros (a pre-defined combination of actions).

In complex games like World of Warcraft, you normally have to type a command or use your mouse to click a specific icon, to fire off a macro.

By assigning a macro to a keyboard macro button, a single keystroke is all you need – a huge convenience, especially if reaction times need to be short. Surprisingly, some gaming laptops also offer this feature.

Swapping out the mechanical switches under each key can further customize mechanical gaming keyboards. Prefer a softer spring under the WASD keys, but a firmer click for the space bar and enter key? Simply remove the keycap, and swap out the switch.

Speaking of keycaps, on mechanical gaming keyboards, these too can be swapped out, for a different texture, or for custom print on the top.

  • Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting

These are two features that will keep you performing at your best in games. Anti-ghosting means that when you mash on several keys for combos or perform several actions, they will all register.

It’s rare when using a keyboard for normal activities, like typing, for several keys to be pressed simultaneously (unless it’s a modifier like the Shift key).

When it happens, it’s usually a mistake so it doesn’t matter which of those keypresses register with the PC and which don’t. But when you game, it’s a different story — simultaneous key presses happen all the time and each key matters.

Gaming keyboards are built to support up to a specific number of simultaneous presses, known as “n-key rollover,” where n is the number of keys that can be pressed at the same time.

You won’t need a keyboard that can support every single key pressed simultaneously, but the higher than “n” number, the more flexible the gaming keyboard will be. If you use your keyboard for music composition and playback software, or games where two players use the keyboard simultaneously, a high n-key rollover is a must.

Non-gaming keyboards can also suffer from a strange effect known as key ghosting. This happens when you press certain keys simultaneously (or even very quickly one after the other) and the keyboard registers a press on an adjacent key, that you didn’t press at all. Not a big deal when typing an email, but potentially disastrous when gaming!

A good gaming keyboard will have anti-ghosting features, using a specialized wiring pattern to avoid the mixed signals associated with ghosting. Some gaming keyboards isolate specific and popular key zones (like WASD) against ghosting, while others go even further, isolating each and every key.

Other Features To Pay Attention To In A Keyboard?

If you get an entry-level gaming keyboard, you’re going to get chiclet keys with LED backlighting. But there’s so much more to consider:

  • Key Travel:

This is how far down you can press a key. In general, we prefer keys with over 1.5 millimeters of key travel, and if you hit 2mm, that’s even better. This can keep you from “bottoming out,” or hitting the keyboard’s frame. When you get to some really expensive laptops, you can even find mechanical keys.

  • Actuation:

This is how much force you need to apply to a key to press it down. We usually like it between 65 and 70 grams, which is enough to provide resistance without feeling soft.

  • Macro Keys:

It’s more difficult to find macro keys on gaming notebooks than on desktop keyboards, but it’s not impossible. A good set of programmable macro keys will let you easily complete the most common tasks you complete in games. There’s usually custom software by the laptop manufacturer for this.

  • Backlighting:

While budget gaming laptops will provide backlighting, it’s either just red or white. The best keyboards have RGB backlighting. Some do it by zone (or section of the keyboard), while others allow customization on a per-key basis. Some even let you change the lighting depending on the game.

Gaming laptops typically outfit simplified a gaming keyboard. These keyboards provide better performance and usability. Almost all gaming laptops have illuminated keyboards (high-end keyboards with LED lights at the back).

There are advantages to using a lighted keyboard. It comes in very handy when working or gaming in dimly lit rooms. They can also make typing a bit quicker due to its better visibility. This is really useful for gamers, writers, and programmers.

Some people may not like lighted keyboards and that’s fine. You can always turn off the lighting feature if bright neon-colored lighting distracts you.

CONCLUSION

There you have it. You’ve been presented with the features to look for in a gaming laptop’s keyboard. If you had any confusion, we hope with the above review you’ve been clarified, and ready to go into the market in search of a great keyboard.