The Keyboard

Keyboards make up a great part of our day to day computing and people/producers only look at ergonomics. Ergonomics is not, and I repeat is not, the only important part for the end user. So here I am treating some of the usual and unusual problems of keyboards.

Part 1: Performance in Gaming

Gamers are a big part of computer sales these days, although this section has decreased dramatically because gaming consoles are getting more and more
powerful, but that is another subject. Staying on course, I must say that I see more and more obsessed gamers being discouraged in buying a console because of the gamepad.

The gamepad is built for gaming – every aspect of it made for the best use in games. This is useless for
gamers that have been using a keyboard for 10-15 years; gamers that play computer games since an early age and use a keyboard for 10-15 years have their fingers not deformed but evolved for keyboard use.

I was intrigued by this idea, so I searched for people that are using a keyboard since the age of 5-6 and have been using it every day until their early twenties. Their fingers are really bent, shaped differently.
Now what is important for a gamer in a keyboard?

– S.K.S. (Simultaneous Key-Strokes)

The average user (as in writing/programming/basic navigation) has no interest in this and does not use S.K.S. In gaming, you may want to change the weapon, move forward, lean left and press jump – all at the same time. This is the bottleneck of most keyboards, which usually doesn`t exceed 4 S.K.S.

– K.R.T. (Key Response Time)

K.R.T. is another unknown problem for the average gamer, not a big one. Unlike the optical mouse that has a huge response time, a keyboard’s response time is shorter but existent. The difference usually comes from the little sensor that feels the keystroke, but also the cable, connection and OS play a big part in this. I also found something interesting – the basic keyboard has a faster response time than the more complicated multimedia ones.

– Key Height

The keys are shaped and designed the way they are to give you a feelable space between the keys and ease of pressing. This is good for programing/writing/navigation/accessibility, but not for the performance gamer. I`ve seen gamers (even sponsored ones) who bought cheap keyboards just to take the keys off. The height of the keys is important because of the pressing time – the smaller the height, the better the gaming response you get.

Part 2: Programming and Writing

The largest problem for programming and writing is key movement. I found out over the years that after some use, the keys start moving and shaking – all the problems come from that. For a writer, there is nothing more annoying than the “a” key, for example, shaking and when not pressed in the middle, it is hard to press or does not makes a signal.

Keyboard noise is also a big problem for a writer as it is for a good programmer. The noise usually does not increase after extensive use, so a short test before buying will get you off that.

Part 3: Multimedia and Normal Use

As most normal home users of multimedia apps don`t demand much from their input devices, big problems other than large complicated drivers and software or manuals badly written don’t exist. The thing that they should look for is easy to use multimedia keys and not worry about the quality of QWERTY (the typing zone). Keyboards offer a big variety of multimedia functions these days, so you have no problems of the “what to choose” kind.

After getting very angry and not sleeping for 23 hours, I got out one morning and went to the closest IT shop and bought this:

  • Microsoft ® Multimedia Keyboard – $40, PS2
  • The Logitech ® Media Keyboard Elite – $35, USB
  • Genius ® Keyboard Luxemate Scroll PS2 – $30, PS2

After some time using of all three keyboards (I tried to keep it equal and not hit any of them), I found that the Microsoft ® Keyboard has huge problems with shaking, the key height was huge and the gap between the keys was also large. So I began having problems while writing longer emails and programming. Keys being pressed started not working right if the pressure was not perfectly applied on the key. I highly recommend
this keyboard for normal multimedia users that need an easy use of music and other functions, as the keyboard performs excellently in this area.

The Logitech ® had big problems with S.K.S. I checked their site but nowhere in the keyboard specs is S.K.S. listed, so it pressed on my nerves a little bit. Otherwise I had no key shaking problems at all, no malfunctions of any kind. Not recommended for gamers.

The Genius ® had a smaller key height than average; they were soft but key spacing was a bit too generous. After use and abuse, the keyboard outperformed everything I ever had, even though it cost only $30.

This is what I found out after spending $105 on keyboards at once – about $700 since my first one.

Daniel Cuc – Romania

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