This question is incredibly important. After all, “gaming grade” hardware can come at a significantly higher price point. We’re going to show you the most important aspects of any keyboard in order to answer the question: Is an esports keyboard really a worthwhile investment?
Logitech G Pro, Corsair, Razer, whatever their names – the pros all run around with the most expensive keyboards from name brands. So if you’re still playing on that thing you got from that discounter years ago, you might want to finally commit to a big upgrade.
The most important characteristics of an esports keyboard
The quality of a keyboard is largely determined by the switches used. A switch affects how the device feels, how long it lasts, and how well-suited it is for gaming. We start our journey through esports keyboards with the arguably most important question:
Rubberdome or mechanic?
With Rubberdome keyboards, there are tiny rubber studs under every key cap. You’re pushing down on them, until they make contact and send a key-press signal to the computer. Obviously, this is the cheapest way to manufacture a keyboard – instead of fancy mechanics, you just need to get some soft plastic and glue it onto a board. Unfortunately, that already tells you everything you need to know about this type of keyboard, as Rubberdome is probably the worst typing experience you can get. At least lots of gamers and journalists who have used mechanical keyboards before will say that. So where exactly is the difference?
The name says it all – a mechanical keyboard is full of mechanical switches. You’ll likely have heard of the company “Cherry MX”, who have been manufacturing mechanical switches for a long time and are pretty much the brand associated with the product.
Nowadays, this doesn’t hold any weight. Hailing from China, there are lots of competing products available that aren’t actually a step-down in quality. Kailh switches, for instance, are widely used in Sharkoon products. Logitech, Razer, SteelSeries, many manufacturers now offer their own alternatives. So it doesn’t have to be Cherry MX after all, but you should still pay close attention to the colors!
The different switch types
Not all mechanical switches are born equal. Black, red, blue, green, brown, white, there’s an endless list of switch types, which all target different audiences. The blue switch has a very defined and audible pressure point. Depending on where you have you microphone, you might not want a keyboard like this anywhere near it. But there’s also an advantage in hearing and feeling when you’ve actually pressed down a key.
But if you want it a little quieter, you can opt for red switches. They’re built in a linear fashion. All the way from touching the cap to pressing the button down, you won’t feel a difference. While this doesn’t give you an actual feedback, esports keyboards with red switches are near silent and can easily be used during streaming.
There are lots of distinctions in between that. Switches with linear actuation and tactile feedback, keys with higher resistance and press-down force… it’s impossible to condense this all into one text. Fortunately, you can buy test boards all over the internet. These things come with example switches for every kind of color imaginable. As a last resort, you can still go to a proper hardware store and just live-test lots of keyboards. This way, you can find the best switch type for your esports keyboard!
Another important factor and advantage on the side of mechanical keyboards is the endurance of modern keys. Pretty much every switch manufacturer will at least guarantee 50 to 100 million key presses. This should be enough for quite a while!
But longevity doesn’t just concern the individual keys, but also the keyboard itself. A proper esports keyboard will be in use for hours on end every single day, accumulating dust and dirt. After a few months, you won’t want to touch this thing again if you’re unable to properly clean it. That’s an added benefit of esports keyboards – most of them allow you to remove the keycaps. Just put them in a lukewarm bowl of water, add dish soap, clean them off, and let them dry for a day. The rest of the keyboard can be cleaned much easier when the caps are all off. Your board will be good as new in no time!
Last but not least, we want to address an often forgotten selling point: Those extra features which modern keyboards usually bring to the table. Media keys are a nice added feature. Some esports keyboards let you deactivate the Windows key, so that you don’t accidentally close your game mid-match. RBG lighting isn’t a necessity, but it does look great. At the very least, you should consider monochrome lighting as a way to see your keys at night without having all the lights on.
Sure, this in itself isn’t a selling point, but if the switches are right, these extras make it an all-around worthwhile package!
Conclusion: Should you buy an esports keyboard?
That’s a definitive yes! The advantages over any regular keyboard are readily apparent. Even if you don’t want these extra features, you’ll still fare better with a mechanical keyboard. But be cautious! If the package says gaming or esports keyboard, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be mechanical switches in there. Sharkoon, for instance, sell Rubberdome keyboards in the lower end of their SKILLER series.
So you still have to look at the fine print. But this guide should help you sift through the marketing crap and focus on the factors that really matter for your purchase!