Keyboards aren’t designed to play video games…however most PC video games are designed to be performed on keyboards. It’s an fascinating little bit of evolutionary dissonance on the earth of PC gaming, from again when folks really labored on computer systems and video games had been a secondary consideration.
However there’s a substitute for this. Not controllers; that’s an import from the console world, and controllers are nonetheless a poor alternative for video games like shooters, technique titles, on-line RPGs, and MOBAs. No, as a substitute, I like to recommend a left-handed “gamepad.” (Yeah, they’re actually poorly named.) These part-keyboard, part-controller issues have been round for over a decade, quietly thrilling a small group of devoted PC avid gamers, however by no means gaining the panache of the total devoted keyboard and different devices. However accent producers have been refining them, in each software program and phrases, and so they’re price a strive for any devoted PC gamer.
These area of interest little devices have a little bit of a branding drawback—nobody is aware of fairly what to name them, for one—however I feel for a lot of gamers they’re a higher funding than a full-sized gaming keyboard. As somebody who began gaming on the SEGA Genesis and by no means favored the WASD setup, I’ve been utilizing varied Belkin and Razer variations to play PC video games for a decade, and by no means as soon as felt that I used to be lacking one thing.
Why (And When) Are Gamepads Superior to Keyboards?
How are these devices higher than gaming keyboards and/or console controllers? Oh, let me depend the methods.
They’re Smaller and Extra Ergonomic
Common keyboards aren’t particularly ergonomic to start with—that’s why so many “ergonomic” fashions are available on the market, together with large palmrests, elevated and angled decks, and different, extra fanciful methods. The issue is that these keyboards are not often made with the very particular and intense use of PC gaming in thoughts: heavy stress on the left facet, a concentrate on a comparatively small array of keys from Escape via F4 and all the way down to the house bar.
Not so with left-handed gamepads. Nearly the entire fashions available on the market embrace a large, comfortable relaxation on your palm, a carefully-selected cluster of essentially the most commonly-used keys for gaming, and a few even embrace a forward-angled thumb cluster just like a vertical mouse. Having a separate system on your left hand additionally allows you to transfer it out and away from the middle of your desk (the place the conventional keyboard stays for many non-gaming actions), and keep roughly within the reverse spot to your mouse, which is way more pure for prolonged play instances. (Clearly I’m not together with those that use a mouse with their left hand—sorry, fellow southpaws.)
The thumb work on these gamepads is price speaking about all by itself, significantly the extra fashionable Logitech and Razer fashions. These have both a devoted Nintendo-style D-pad or a tiny, versatile Eight-way joystick, permitting you to manage character motion with solely a thumb, console-style. That offers you three fingers free, index, center, and ring, that had been beforehand semi-dedicated to WASD controls. It’s simply a way more environment friendly technique to transfer round in a character-focused sport. And don’t fear, purists: customized binds and profiles for the whole lot means you’ll be able to nonetheless use typical WASD motion and assign one thing else to the thumb management cluster.
Between a way more targeted design, higher ergonomics, and extra versatile positioning, the gamepad is a nice technique to make these lengthy gaming classes extra comfy.
They Work Higher For Advanced PC Video games
My trusty Xbox One controller will get its fair proportion of use on my gaming PC; it’s completely the easiest way to play most third-person motion video games (together with console ports) and genres like racing, combating video games, and beat-em-ups. However for PC video games which are designed primarily for the mouse and keyboard, and video games that profit from a mouse enter however don’t want an excessive amount of additional digicam management like first-person shooters, devoted gamepad-keyboards are improbable.
Take advanced RPGs like Skyrim, Fallout, and The Witcher for instance. All of those are playable on the controller—the truth is, they’re accessible on each main console—however they’re simply a bit extra in-depth than a typical motion sport. The additional single-button binds for issues like particular person class inventories or particular weapons and spells makes the expertise way more fluid on the PC. On this occasion, you get the very best of all worlds: higher ergonomics and customized key binds on the gamepad, and correct aiming with the mouse.
Some video games actually shine on the mouse/gamepad combo. Mount & Blade, an indie title that mixes large real-time battles in first particular person and third particular person with a technique, empire-building over map is considered one of them. After getting the whole lot set as much as my liking, I used to be capable of management the whole lot in each modes—together with real-time instructions of my medieval troops throughout lively fight—with out ever transferring my hand away from the first controls. The identical feat on a typical keyboard would go away my joints sore and my (admittedly pudgy) fingers reaching.
They’re Cheaper Than (Some) Gaming Keyboards
If you happen to’re on the lookout for a new mechanical keyboard, particularly one which’s particularly marketed for avid gamers, odds are fairly good that you just’re a $100 funding. For comparability, the Razer Tartarus V2 is $80 and the Logitech G13 is beneath $60 on Amazon. Much less fashionable choices are even cheaper. Not unhealthy if you happen to’re on a finances—needless to say the de facto normal Xbox One controller can also be $60.
Variants with full mechanical keys are costlier: the Razer Orbweaver is a whopping $130, however the Aula Excalibur (a lot larger with no devoted thumb controls) is simply $70. The assorted configurations of this half-keyboard with Cherry MX keys are north or south of $80.
Granted, the higher a part of $100 is a lot to spend on an adjunct. I’d suggest discovering one of many Logitech or Razer fashions at a native electronics retailer (or a web-based retailer your belief), attempting it out for a few days, and saving your receipt in case you simply don’t just like the expertise.
One other helpful plus for a left-handed gamepad: you need to use a normal keyboard for writing and searching if you happen to’re not a fan of the particular typing motion of gaming or mechanical keys. So for instance, you could possibly use a keyboard with Cherry MX Brown (clicky) switches and a gamepad with Cherry MX Pink (linear) switches for his or her sooner activation.
Which One Ought to You Get?
Satisfied? Alright, let’s break down the favored fashions and examine and distinction their options. Take into account that roughly all of those devices will allow you to set customized binds and profiles, and a few include backlighting.
The Razer Tartarus ($80) is the middle-of-the-road choice, and the one I’d suggest to newcomers to this manner issue. The earlier mannequin (which remains to be broadly accessible, and pictured within the header picture) is sort of equivalent to the costlier Razer Orbweaver, minus mechanical keys and an additional row of buttons. However to be sincere, these buttons are fairly laborious to achieve throughout intense video games. I haven’t been capable of strive the newer V2 Tartarus, which makes use of extra “clicky” buttons, however primarily based on my expertise with the unique I’d say it’s nonetheless a superb choose. The newer mannequin has 4 extra buttons and a scroll wheel, however I by no means used that when it was nonetheless current on the unique Belkin Nostromo anyway. I additionally want the unique’s extra clicky thumbstick.
Not like Razer’s extra staggered design, Logitech’s G13 ($60) makes use of a symmetrical key structure that I’m not significantly keen on. Its key floor does enable for simpler differentiation with out trying, and the bigger facet and backside keys is sweet if you happen to typically use modifiers or macros. The G13 is the one gamepad mannequin I’ve ever seen with a devoted LCD display screen, which can be utilized to show sport or PC stats. The thumb cluster within the G13 can also be the closest to a console-style thumbstick. Observe that the palm relaxation is static and shallower than another designs.
The most costly and “deluxe” of the extra easily-available designs, the Razer Orbweaver ($130) comes with Razer’s mechanical switches in inexperienced (clicky) or orange (linear). It additionally has per-key RGB lighting and essentially the most customizable wrist relaxation on this listing—the thumb cluster even telescopes for max consolation. All these additional options will price you, although: I take advantage of one myself, however until you’re devoted to the shape issue, I can’t suggest spending $130 on it.
The newer Aula Excalibur ($70) has a powerful 60 complete keys, some mechanical, some not, cramming in all twelve operate row keys and a quantity pad to its large plastic case. In lieu of a thumbstick it strikes a number of the extra frequent management and modifier keys from the suitable facet of a typical keyboard, like enter and backspace. That is for the devoted WASD followers on the market, although I’ve to say its operate keys are much less helpful than they might be because you’ll have to maneuver your hand to activate them. At $70, it’s a extra economical alternative if you happen to insist on mechanical switches.
Koolertron (Varied Designs)
Koolertron’s devices are half-keyboards—there’s actually no different title for them. They arrive in a number of kinds and might even be mixed with a right-half mannequin for a break up ergonomic keyboard. I’m together with them on this listing as a result of they’ve genuine Cherry MX keys in a lot of various colours, and since they’re a good selection if you would like the ergonomic and spacial advantages of a gamepad with out giving up your muscle reminiscence from years of WASD gaming. Ortholinear and non-standard layouts can be found as effectively, all of which could be programmed, for $65-80 .
Delux T9 Mini Gaming Keypad
I’m together with this whitebox gamepad within the listing purely for a finances choice. It’s designed to imitate the Logitech G13, minus the thumb cluster (and its essential thumbstick), for simply $25. Contemplate it if you happen to solely wish to check out one of these product with out a giant funding. An alternate with a extra normal WASD structure is the ACEPHA T9, although it additionally sadly lacks a thumb cluster.
Picture credit score: Amazon, Razer