You’re probably setting up your first gaming rig and have carefully thought about picking every component.
Now, it’s time to pick the keyboard.
Many experts recommend a wired keyboard for a gaming setup, but you’re wondering if a wireless keyboard can also be practical.
The short answer is yes—with a few nuances.
In this article, we’ll tell you all about those nuances and discuss what to look for when choosing a wireless keyboard for gaming.
Let’s dive in.
Are Wireless Keyboards Good For Gaming?
Yes, wireless keyboards are good for competitive gaming if you invest in a mid-range or high-end model designed explicitly for the purpose.
The ideal wireless keyboard for competitive gaming:
- Has low input delay (below 20 ms)
- Features adequate battery capacity (1800 mAh or more)
- Doesn’t rely on Bluetooth for connectivity.
On the other hand, casual gamers are less likely to notice or care about minor differences in reaction times.
If you are a casual gamer, you can use a budget wireless keyboard for gaming if you aren’t very competitive.
1. Input Delay (Latency)
Wireless keyboards designed for office use don’t offer the same level of responsiveness as expensive gaming peripherals.
For instance, you can expect the average latency for a mid-range gaming keyboard to be below 20 ms.
In contrast, a budget wireless keyboard can take up to 50 ms to register a response.
This difference is enough to give your opponent an edge in competitive games since your keystrokes won’t register nearly as quickly as theirs.
Even in single-player games, high input lag will cost you points when you have to make split-second decisions.
2. Battery Life
Keeping your wireless gaming keyboard charged is a big hassle, mainly because these devices are usually designed for performance rather than saving power.
You must replace the AA and AAA batteries in the keyboard or connect the device to a computer with a USB charging cable.
Moreover, wireless keyboards tend to degrade in performance as their battery levels decrease.
That’s why you need a keyboard with a large battery that doesn’t require charging very frequently.
Finally, avoid Bluetooth keyboards because the technology is famous for high response times.
Instead, a keyboard that uses the 2.4 GHz channel is your best choice.
You may experience some interference if you have multiple wireless peripherals in your room because nearly all these devices use the same channel.
However, Bluetooth’s latency can still be much higher.
What To Buy
If you can’t afford a mid-range or high-end wireless gaming keyboard, a budget wired one will give you the best value for your money.
A wired keyboard is stable, doesn’t need to be charged, and is generally cheaper.
Your response times will be very low and highly consistent on a wired keyboard.
Plus, you don’t have to deal with signal interference and frequent battery depletion.
However, it’s often less convenient than a wireless one, especially since your movements will be restricted.
Latency In Wireless And Wired Peripherals
If you’re a hardcore gamer, latency is one of the main factors you must consider when choosing a keyboard.
It refers to the time it takes from the moment you press a key on your keyboard until you see the corresponding action on your screen.
Latency depends on five variables, each of which adds a bit of delay:
- Operating system
- Video card driver
- Game engine
As you can see, the keyboard isn’t the only factor determining your response time or latency.
However, we can draw two conclusions:
- You can reduce response times by getting a keyboard with faster transmission and lower input delay.
- If you want to compare keyboards in terms of latency, you must perform the test on the same setup and the same game.
Which One Has Lower Latency?
The conventional wisdom is that wired peripherals have faster transmission times because the signal can quickly travel down a wire without any interference or obstacles.
Moreover, because wireless is far more susceptible to interference, you can’t expect the same level of consistent performance from wireless peripherals.
However, that conventional wisdom only applies to mediocre products as wireless manufacturers have made tremendous progress over the past decade.
Reputable brands, such as Logitech, build impressive gaming peripherals that offer the same performance and consistency regardless of their connection type.
Logitech even goes as far as to claim that no one can tell the difference between the performance of their wired and wireless devices.
The conclusion is that if you want to play games, buy high-quality gaming equipment from reputable brands.
If you heed that advice, the connection type comes down to your preference.
How Long Is The Latency?
You can expect around 25 ms of latency for the keyboard and 15 ms for mice manufactured by leading brands.
In contrast, the latency in non-gaming and budget products can be more than double: around 50 ms for keyboards and 35 ms for mice.
If your peripherals use Bluetooth instead of a 2.4 GHz wireless connection, you’ll experience more latency and interference.
Finally, non-gaming peripherals use less accurate sensors, which could further affect your gaming experience.
We do have a couple of notes before we finish this section:
First, you don’t need the fastest peripherals on the market with the most incredible numbers.
Although sub-millisecond transmission speed and 1000 Hz polling rate are impressive, you can’t physically feel a 2 ms difference in responsiveness.
Plus, current consumer monitors only go up to 240 Hz, so they can’t display the reaction quickly enough.
Second, if you’re serious about measuring the latency, you can buy a lag meter from Goose Enterprises.
The relatively affordable device shows you how long it takes from the moment you press the signal until the meter detects it.
What to Look For When Buying A Wireless Keyboard For Gaming
Choosing a wireless keyboard isn’t different from selecting a wired one.
You only need to pay attention to a few extra details.
Below, we’ll briefly cover the common points and then discuss wireless keyboards.
Note that this isn’t a comprehensive guide on picking out a keyboard.
Instead, we’ll focus on details that most buying guides ignore.
1. Typing Experience
Both wired and wireless keyboards come with different key and switch types with varying levels of comfort.
Some people prefer membrane keyboards, which are quieter and more comfortable for long hours of playing.
On the other hand, some gamers prefer the accuracy of mechanical keyboards.
In either case, to get the best typing and gaming experience, buy a keyboard with large, tactile, and responsive keys with prominent legends on them.
2. Build Quality
Your gaming keyboard must be made of high-quality plastic with durable keys.
You’ll pound on the keys during your games, and the keyboard must be able to withstand that pressure.
You should also aim for minimal deck flex because flexible keyboards can’t withstand as much pressure during a game and tend to wear out faster.
A less flexible keyboard also offers more stability, which is crucial when gaming.
Lighter keyboards are easier to move around, but they’re much less stable.
As a result, they tend to shift on the desk, making it harder to play competitive games.
Wireless keyboards are generally slightly heavier because they have an internal battery that adds to their weight.
Aim for a device between 500 grams to 1 kg for optimal comfort.
Almost all keyboards on the market feature a QWERTY layout, but that doesn’t mean they’re all easy to use.
You need a keyboard with a wide Enter key and two Ctrl, Shift, and Alt keys on both sides.
If you use many shortcut keys when playing, ensure the combination keys are in locations your fingers are comfortable with.
The arrow keys must also be large enough to avoid mistakes during a game.
5. Other Features
Other essential features to look for in a gaming keyboard are:
- Height adjustment: A keyboard with adjustable legs lets you change its height to give your hands a more comfortable position. The ideal keyboard has two or three levels of height adjustment.
- Wrist rest: Similar to adjustable legs, wrist rests give your hands and arms extra comfort for prolonged gaming. The wrist rest should be large enough to support your wrists and have a slight slant.
- Media and programmable keys: These keys let you run a combination command by pressing a single button. The programmable ones give you control over the command.
- RGB and light effects: No gaming keyboard is complete without RGB. But make sure your device comes with authentic RGB as budget brands often use fixed LEDs to simulate the lighting effects.
- Included mouse: Buying a keyboard-mouse combo gives you optimal compatibility and lets you save a bit. Plus, wireless combos often only have one dongle for both peripherals, meaning you’ll have an extra free USB port to connect to other devices.
1. Connection Type
The preferred option is a device with a dedicated 2.4 GHz dongle.
Although the channel is more crowded, you’ll experience less latency and better reliability.
However, if your keyboard uses Bluetooth, make sure it has multiple profiles to switch between them and avoid interference.
2. Battery Capacity
If your keyboard comes with a Li-ion battery, it should have at least 1800 mAh capacity and take no longer than three hours to fully charge.
Ideally, choose a model with USB type C charging since it’s faster, but a micro USB charger can also be acceptable.
Some models don’t feature a rechargeable battery.
Instead, they require one or multiple AA or AAA batteries.
Some manufacturers don’t include these batteries in the box to save on costs.
3. Battery Indicator Light
Most manufacturers use a separate light, but some find clever ways.
For instance, they may combine it with the power indicator or design the space bar to double as a battery meter.
Never buy a keyboard without a battery light indicator because it’ll shut down without warning.
Who knows what you could be doing the moment it goes offline.
4. Power-Saving Features
Gaming devices usually forego power-saving features for the sake of raw performance.
That said, some devices automatically sleep after one minute or thirty seconds of inactivity to save power.
However, this behavior can be annoying when you only use your keyboard intermittently during regular tasks such as browsing online.
Make sure your keyboard has adjustable settings for when to turn it off and how to reduce its power consumption.
5. Location Of The On/Off Switch
The on/off switch should be on the front of the keyboard to make it easier to access.
Unfortunately, some manufacturers put the switch on the back, which is much less convenient since you’ll have to flip the keyboard every time you want to turn it on or off.
The design flaw can become so annoying that you may decide never to turn the device off, which reduces the battery’s lifespan.
6. Compartment To Store Your Dongle
Although it doesn’t seem like an important feature, if your keyboard has a compartment to store its USB dongle, you’ll be much less likely to lose it.
Ideally, you need a magnetic placeholder that keeps the dongle in place and prevents accidental falls.
If you lose the dongle, you might not be able to find a replacement, and your keyboard could become useless.
Advantages Of Wireless Keyboards For Gaming
1. Extra Portability
Wireless keyboards are extremely easy to carry around and offer a superior range.
You can put your keyboard anywhere in the room and even play when lying on your bed.
A wired keyboard doesn’t offer that level of comfort and portability as you’ll always be bound to your desk.
2. Less Clutter
Wireless peripherals are an obvious choice if you want to keep your setup looking clean and professional.
You won’t have to find clever ways to hide all your cables, and there won’t be a cable dragging on your keyboard when playing.
Disadvantages Of Wireless Keyboards For Gaming
Most wireless keyboards run on a 2.4 GHz connection, similar to mice and many other wireless peripherals.
Although manufacturers have made their devices more resilient to interference, it’s an unavoidable phenomenon.
When you have multiple wireless devices in the same room, their signals are bound to affect each other.
Still, high-quality products are less susceptible to interference.
2. Frequent Battery Recharges
Wireless keyboard batteries can last up to 30 hours of use before they need to be recharged.
Although that might sound like a large number, if you’re a hardcore gamer, you’ll have to recharge your keyboard every two to four days.
Moreover, the batteries tend to degrade over time.
The most durable batteries in wireless keyboards only last up to three years.
They become barely usable much sooner than that.
Depending on the design, you may have to replace your wireless gaming keyboard every two to three years.
In contrast, the lifespan of a wired keyboard isn’t limited by its battery longevity.
Wireless keyboards are usually more expensive than their wired counterparts.
For instance, a mid-range wireless keyboard from Logitech costs between $70 to $100, whereas high-end models can go up to $250.
On the other hand, the company’s wired keyboards are typically 15 to 20 percent cheaper than a wireless keyboard with the same features.
The price difference is attributed to the more advanced technology of wireless keyboards and their extra convenience.
If you buy a wired keyboard, you can use the money you save to buy a high-quality mouse or invest in a better RAM kit.