The dark truth about mechanical keyboards and gaming

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/07/08/the-dark-truth-about-mechanica.html

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And always use a keyboard with a PS2 connector and not USB. My gamer friend insists that USB keyboards are slower, but it feels a little like the bogus claims made by audiophiles.

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Do modern gaming motherboards even have a PS2 socket?

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I know Gigabyte still includes them (they do a combined PS2 mouse and keyboard socket).

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I have a Logitech gaming keyboard that has red switches and honestly i love it. It’s not overly clicky, has just enough resistance to make typing and pressing keys feel right for me. It’s one of those things that functions so well it becomes invisible. You don’t notice it because it just works.

I have used other types of keyboards with totally different kinds of switches and i have successfully gamed on them without complaint but having a proper mechanical keyboard is a mix of function with a good heaping of subjective appreciation for how it handles. I’ve gotten custom keys for mine, used the software to set up the lighting just how i want it, etc and its an object that brings me a lot of joy. I use it every day so that joy matters.

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Mechanical keyboards aren’t any faster than a decent businessware piece of trash. They may feel a bit nicer, but I only care about having full travel length. Aside from that mech kbs are just loud, and expensive.

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Even if it were true the input lag is something that they openly advertise, there are even gaming keyboards that are wireless that have very low lag. The input lag really won’t matter unless he’s doing high level competitive gaming, and even then its not much of an edge.

I have a dual PS2 to USB adapter (ancient USB 1.5M speed) so I can use an IBM model M on my Pi. It’d be interesting to check how the Gigabyte system sees the keyboard. i.e. did they just slip in a PS2 to USB convertor?

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I don’t know about gaming boards but a lot of busines tower have still PS/2 ports and rs-232. I suppose that it’s begause ps/2 is easier to use with a KVM switch or because you could disable te USB controller from BIOS if needed.
See photo:

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personally i love my Razer products.

Razer Naga Molten Edition (wired)
Razer Naga Chroma (wireless)
Razer BlackWidow

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Really? A USB keyboard probably has a more direct route to the processor. It’s going straight onto the Southbridge chip, whereas a PS/2 port has to go through an intermediate chip then on to the Southbridge chip. See the diagram here:

It is possible that Gigabyte have built their own custom Southbridge chip that has a more direct, dedicated interface. But I suspect that they’re simply the last one shipping anything with a dedicated PS/2 port on it, and people have made assumptions rather than admit it’s off-the-shelf hardware…

PS/2 ports have a lower sampling rate and bandwidth rate than USB has, IIRC, so USB would probably be the way to go there. However, if PS/2 ports give them a psychological advantage, that’s fine too… :wink:

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IBM Model M here. One for home, one for work.

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PS/2 is read via interrupts and USB keyboards are read via polling. So there’s an average latency for reading USB keystrokes that depends on the polling rate. The keyboard polling rate varies between 125 and 1000Hz so between 8 and 1ms. If you have a 125hz keyboard you’d probably be better served by going to 1000hz than going to ps/2.

And an additional 4ms average of delay might not seem like but but it actually kind of is - typical server pings are 50ms so you’re talking almost an extra 10% latency.

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I guess I should say ps/2 was originally read by interrupts. if they’re just putting a ps/2 to usb converter in there, it’s probably not much help

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It seems that most of the motherboards for the build-it-yourself crowd will have PS/2, more commonly now as a combined keyboard/mouse port (argh, I have to buy a Y-cable now). They’re not using PS/2-to-USB converters, though; using “lsusb” on Linux doesn’t show any sort of USB keyboard unless a USB keyboard is plugged in.

For me, a KVM switch is the reason why I still stick with PS/2 and VGA. I don’t feel like throwing out a perfectly good KVM switch for one that’s vastly more expensive.

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Cheap. Cherry MX Red. Feels very different from a mac chiclet keyboard. Feels different than a dome keyboard.

Not necessarily accurate, but perhaps that’s just my awful keyboarding skills.

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While I cannot use a mechanical keyboard at work because it’s too noisy, I do use one at home. I do not use it specifically for gaming, I just love the way it feels. Once you’ve gotten used to a decent mechanical keyboard the membrane keyboards all just feel like mush.

What’s most important is learning which sort of switch suits you best – linear, tactile, clicky

This is the hard part. The keyboard is your primary interface to your computer and selecting one is a bit like buying a set of speakers. Yes some are objectively better than others, but certain aspects may be subjective to your taste and preference and it would be really nice to try before you buy the way we can go to high end stereo shops and listen to the speakers before you drop a wad of cash for them. I’ve only ever seen one of these in a retail setting before https://www.amazon.com/WASD-6-Key-Cherry-Switch-Tester/dp/B00AZQKCD4/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=WASD+6-Key+Cherry+MX+Switch+Tester&qid=1562599121&s=gateway&sr=8-1 and like that one it only compared the various switch “flavors” available from a single vendor. The whole idea of try before you buy is actually pretty important when dropping >$100 on a keyboard if you ask me.

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HHKB Pro 2.

I’ll go ahead and point out the major way mechanicals improve over membranes, which Eurogamers listicle only gestures at. They’re significantly more durable, and importantly repairable. So for your dollar you get something that’s probably gonna be significantly longer lived.

Apparently a big part of why they’re so expensive is that these days they are a niche (still), and the key components like switches and key caps are still pretty low production bits. Coming from just a handful of producers in fairly fixed quantities. Mechanicals were the default back in the day. And while you weren’t running out to grab a $5 off brand board in a pinch like we do with membranes. I Don’t recall the starting point being anywhere close to $100. That’s apparently a big part of why the major gaming peripheral companies have started making their own switches. Can’t line up enough of the existing ones.

But point being price has come down as they’ve gotten more popular. And while you shouldn’t buy a dirt cheap generic board with mystery switches. There are a lot of basic boards out there right now from respectable PC junk makers with name brand switches for less than a hundo right now and sales are frequent. I picked up a gigabyte k83 last year for around $65, usually lists around 80 or 90 something bucks. Cherry switches, all metal body. That’s not far off in price from a lot of “gaming” membrane boards. With none of the bullshit extra button, light up whiz bang that makes those more expensive than a more basic board. Unlike every membrane board I’ve ever bought nothing frustrating broke in the first 6 months. And its a hell of a lot easier to clean, it’s crumb proofness alone could justify the cost. So you don’t want to go too cheap, but you likewise don’t have to go particularly expensive to benefit.

There are little rubber rings you can stick on the keycaps to prevent them from bottoming out. Combined with a non-clicky switch they’re no louder than a membrane. Personally I don’t notice much difference in the feel using them. But I like the noise so I don’t use the rings I have at home. And I work from my car so I don’t really have any sort of keyboard situation there.

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But my arregeebee’s!
What about my arregeebee’s?

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