While gaming keyboards have held the majority of people hostage with their mainstream glory for years, there’s a new contender emerging: the gaming keypad.
To many, it looks like some multimillion-dollar gaming company chopped a gaming keyboard in half but forgot to cut the price in half as well. These people are mostly right, though they forget about the benefits you receive with a gaming keypad.
Depending on your play style and primary keyboard purposes, one of these two options may be better for you than the other.
Keyboards are great for people who switch between typing and gaming frequently. Keypads are better for those who customize their key bindings to increase their accuracy and comfort during their gaming sessions. The main differences between the two are key binding customization, distance for your fingers to travel between buttons, and ergonomics, all of which are optimized with a keypad.
But the debate goes deeper than that. In this article, I’ll provide an in-depth analysis of what each type of peripheral is, and the different advantages and disadvantages of each.
A gaming keyboard is likely what first comes to mind when you consider the average gamer’s peripherals. While this isn’t a wrong assumption, non-gamers likely don’t know what separates a gaming keyboard from a regular keyboard.
To break that question down to its simplest answer: gaming keyboards offer more accuracy, ergonomic comfort, and customization than regular keyboards.
When gaming, you want to have high accuracy and low response time with each keystroke, which will translate into how well you perform in your game. Gaming keyboards offer this in varying degrees to users, while regular keyboards are designed simply for everyday typing tasks.
It’s also important to note that gaming keyboards are designed with different switches than regular keyboards. There are two primary types of switches in gaming keyboards these days: mecha-membrane, and fully mechanical.
- Mecha-membrane: these keyboards are designed to offer uses the feeling of a mechanical keyboard, but they still use membrane technology for the actual switches. This provides more accuracy and less response time than the average membrane keyboard, but still less optimized performance than a fully mechanical keyboard.
- Full mechanical: these keyboards are designed with mechanical switches, which provide the highest accuracy and fastest response time of any mainstream keyboard switch.
One of the other major appeals of gaming keyboards is the customization prospects. Many keyboards come with built-in RGB lighting, with some allowing users to program the lighting features themselves.
Gaming keypads have only recently made their way into the gaming peripheral market, but have quickly gained traction as a valid alternative to gaming keyboards.
With many gamers seeking new ways to challenge themselves and enhance their performance, gaming keypads have become an obvious choice for the professional gaming niche.
They typically sport less than half the buttons you would find on a regular keyboard, but the keypad itself is designed to be customizable. This allows serious gamers to map their controls to their liking, and have less distance to travel for each keystroke.
It’s important to remember that keypads do the same thing as keyboards, just with fewer buttons. As such, gaming keypads utilize the same types of switches that gaming keyboards do.
By and large, there aren’t many differences between the gaming keypads currently on the market beyond switch type and cosmetic features, but this will likely change with time.
Now that you know what each type of peripheral is, let’s discuss the different advantages and disadvantages between the two. Keep in mind that everybody has unique preferences, and these opinions are geared towards the population as a whole.
- Ergonomics: The main reason that keypads were invented in the first place was to provide gamers with better ergonomic support for their hands during long gaming sessions. With gaming keypads, your fingers need to move less and you can customize keys how you like, so your hand and fingers are stressed less awkwardly than with keyboards.
- Size: The compact size of a gaming keypad takes up less space on your desk, which allows you to place it in a better spot for your posture than a keyboard. With a smaller key area, you also reduce travel time between keystrokes, which optimizes your accuracy.
- Gaming Performance: Gaming keypads are becoming less of a niche peripheral and more of a professional gaming necessity. With the various ergonomic and mechanical benefits of keypads, gamers find their performance enhanced by the versatility of keypads.
- Key Binding: Keypads are designed for users to be able to customize the key bindings easily to suit their gaming needs. Some keypads come with the typical section of the keyboard used for gaming, while others come with only an assortment of buttons that you’ll need to program to use.
- Typing: The obvious downside to using a gaming keypad is the lack of typing functionality. You’re missing over half of the keyboard and, as such, over half of your typing capabilities.
- Learning Curve: Gaming keypads do take a bit of time to understand. Between optimizing your key bindings and learning a new way to play, players can get frustrated when they first make the switch.
- Undeveloped: Gaming keypads haven’t been around for very long, and are thus less developed than gaming keyboards. For now, keypads are just smaller, more customizable alternatives to keyboards. Years down the road, however, they may become much more functional and appeal to a broader audience.
- Durability: Gaming keyboards, particularly mechanical ones, can last for years with proper maintenance and care. The design of the keyboard as a whole facilitates minimal stress on each individual key, which increases the longevity of the keys and switches.
- Response: Mechanical switches are designed for gaming keyboards, which gives gaming keyboards a much better response time than many keypads. This can make a world of difference to serious gamers who depend on lightning-fast responses with each keystroke.
- Precision: With a larger surface area than keypads, gaming keyboards offer a higher level of precision than keypads. The raised height of the keys are easier to press down on with your fingers, and the switch design facilitates maximum precision.
- Typing: Again, an obvious benefit to keyboards is the ability to type with them. This is mostly important for gamers with no headset that rely on chat communications, or for casual gamers who use their desktop for more than just gaming.
- Price: Gaming keyboards these days offer a wide variety of different features and functionalities. As this market saturated, prices rose alongside quality, which makes modern gaming keyboards an expensive commodity. Keypads are often cheaper than keyboards of comparable quality due to the lower amount of material used in keypads, and the decrease in functions.
- Noise: Gaming keyboards with mechanical or mecha-membrane switches make a lot of noise when in use, which can be a dealbreaker for some. Keypads still make noise, but their compact size and switches are quieter than the average gaming keyboard.
- Maintenance: Gaming keyboards can be difficult to clean, as the mechanical switches are taller and spaced inconveniently for cleaning. Also, when a switch goes bad, you need to know how to replace the piece if you want to avoid paying for someone else to do it.
Are Gaming Keyboards Good for Typing?
The primary difference between a gaming keyboard and a regular keyboard is the switches involved. That being said, a gaming keyboard can type just as well, if not better, than some regular keyboards.
If it’s ergonomics you’re after, gaming keyboards typically don’t have the same ergonomic designs that ergonomic keyboards have. They do, however, often come with a wrist rest, which is enough for some people.
Can I Program My Keypad for Typing Purposes?
Probably not. There just aren’t enough keys on a gaming keypad to program all of the letters of the alphabet into it. And even then, at that point, it’s far less convenient than just buying a keypad and a lower-quality keyboard for typing purposes.
It’s effectively the same as trying to use a regular PC for gaming, but even then, a regular PC could at least handle some undemanding games. For typing, a keypad is effectively useless.
It is worth mentioning that you can program buttons on your keypad to certain communication shortcuts in many games, so all hope is not lost. Just don’t expect to be writing any essays using a gaming keypad.
There are a variety of differences between gaming keyboards and gaming keypads, and the fact of the matter is that everyone has different preferences for gaming. A gaming keypad might make a lot of sense for some people, but gaming keyboards have a much broader appeal.
If you are a serious gamer who wants to challenge yourself and increase your performance, consider a gaming keypad. If you are a casual gamer who needs some versatility with your next peripheral purchase, a gaming keyboard will likely be your best bet.