Note that this post contains affiliate links and we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you buy something.
You’re sitting at your desk in front of your PC’s screen, having typed away a storm. Your wrists feel tired along with your fingers. Your forearms don’t feel great and you feel like having your shoulders massaged. And you think “Is there a way I can make this better”? Maybe you’ve seen someone else’s PC set-up with a peculiar-looking keyboard or maybe you heard about it from a coworker or a friend and you think “Are gaming keyboards good for work”?
Well, yes, they are. They are a great investment for a better, more comfortable, more efficient, and more satisfying working experience. It might take a day or two to learn about the neat tricks that you can employ with a gaming keyboard like macros, remapping, and AHKs. But once you’re settled down with it, what you may get is a keyboard that doesn’t strain your wrists as much, that doesn’t make your shoulders ache and that doesn’t tire your hands or fingers as much. And all the while, you’re being more productive than you’ve been before.
So let’s look into the aspects where a gaming keyboard can improve your work experience.
“Are gaming keyboards good for work?” – Some reasons why the answer is yes:
Comfort and Ergonomics
To address the topic, we can address the follow-up questions that come with it. One of these might be “Are gaming keyboards more comfortable?”
First and foremost, what gaming keyboards shine a light on is improved ergonomics. Gaming keyboards have gone through different phases of development in the switches that they use, how they interact with the user, and how they perform in general. According to an article written on the website ‘PCGamer‘, companies that manufacture gaming peripherals (like Logitech) can go through 30-40 different design iterations between the initial concept of their products and the final result so you can get some idea about how serious gaming companies are about the perfect ergonomic design for their product.
The result is keyboards that pay more attention to detail and help make the typing experience faster and more comfortable.
That being said, not all gaming keyboards are created equal so there’s a wide spectrum of qualities that keyboards can have. And different keyboards shine at different qualities. What that means is there is more specialization in some keyboards than others… and choosing the right one is essential. So if you want a solely comfortable and ergonomic keyboard, what you might want to look at are keyboards with mechanical switches (like Cherry MX switches) with split designs like Kinesis’s Freestyle or Ergodox EZ or keyboards with wavy layouts like Logitech’s ERGO K860 to help relieve finger stress. Some keyboards can provide the option of hot-swappable keys that you can change around to customize how each key should feel. You could do that based upon how comfortable you feel with each key and how frequently you press it. Others have detachable parts to separate the number pad, the navigation keys, and the main portion of the keyboard.
Ergonomic keyboards that are developed for gamers or people with heavy keyboard usage can help address any of the following issues in mind. By addressing these issues, the keyboard in question removes inadequacies that are present in normal non-ergonomic or membrane keyboards:
- Preventing carpal tunnel: The design of a curved or split keyboard helps maintain the natural angle between the hand and the wrist by letting you have your hands shoulder-width apart. This helps prevent carpal tunnel which is characterized by irritation (pins and needles and tingling) in the hand or the arm.
- Tenting: Another problem that people that have to type for considerable periods might have is forearm pronation. Forearm pronation is associated with having your palms flat parallel to the work-surface. That’s not good for blood flow. It causes unnecessary strain. This problem can be addressed in a split keyboard by raising the middle of the keyboard as compared to the sides, which should lead to a much more comfortable typing experience.
- Wrist rests: Normal keyboards aren’t very thin. If they were, your fingers could almost be at level with the rest of your hands when you’re typing with your wrists resting on the desk. So you have to place your wrists on the desk’s surface and reach up a little bit with your fingers. This takes your wrists to a lower level than the rest of your hand. That’s not ideal. It can cause tingling since your nerve can get pressed up. So what’s the solution? Wrist rests give you a little platform right in front of the keyboard to raise your wrists right up to the level of the keyboard.
- Mechanical switches vs membrane pressure pads: Most if not all gaming keyboards today use mechanical or in a few cases opti-mechanical switches. These are better than the membrane pressure pads used in conventional keyboards in several ways.
- They can provide feedback on actuation. Actuation is the sending of a signal from the keyboard to the system. So the system can process it and the letter appears on your screen. 2 out of the 3 main types of mechanical switches provide feedback on actuation. These two are the tactile and clicky switches. Linear switches don’t provide any feedback.
- They’re easier to press. You don’t have to bottom-out each keystroke when you get used to the keyboard. This is because the system receives the signal on the actuation of the key rather than when the key bottoms out.
- They’re often swappable (referred to as hot-swappable) and have a ton of variety for you to choose from. This is something you aren’t supposed to see in membrane keyboards.
Gaming keyboards incorporate options like macros, remapping, and keybindings for their users. These shortcuts can help users perform routine procedures in fractions of time that you would have to spend otherwise. Combined with the improved functionality of mechanical switches, gaming keyboards can end up being much more productive, efficient, and flexible than their membrane keyboard cousins and normal mechanical keyboards.
Macros and Software kinks
Nowadays keyboards (and mice) often come with dedicated macro keys so you don’t have to program a pre-existing key that’s part of the normal layout for a function other than its default one. You no longer have to prioritize which keys are expendable and which aren’t. Not that many people are very aware of how to incorporate macros into their normal work-flow. But that can change very easily if only people could spend a few minutes on YouTube seeing how easy it is to program macros. Established gaming peripheral brands like Razer and Logitech have made programming their devices much easier with their companion software like Logitech’s G Hub and Razer’s Synapse 3. Microsoft Office has great Macro functionality e.g. in the ‘Developers’ tab in Excel but beyond that routine macros might not be easily accessible or highlighted enough. Other than that, users have to develop their own macros.
Even if they don’t have dedicated keys, front-line gaming keyboards are often fully-programmable so you can program a macro to initiate with a single key or a combination of keys like CTRL+L, etc.
So what gaming peripherals do to help out gamers in performing combinations that can be tedious and repetitive is that they feature keys that are dedicated to macros. People that spend any significant amount of time with computers can make great use of these if they can set-up their macro arsenal appropriately.
The companion software that most established gaming brands use with their peripherals has made it much easier for users to customize their own hardware. They can:
- Create profiles and layouts on companion software like Logitech’s G hub, Corsairs’ iCUE, and Razer’s Synapse 3.
- Create, record, or change macros on-the-fly.
- Remap your keyboard by changing which key does what. Gaming keyboards are often fully-programmable.
- Change the colors of the backlight or set-up individual custom lighting for each key.
Besides being fully-customizable with programming, some keyboards also allow the user to customize how their keyboard feels. There wasn’t much room for movement in the pressure-pad world of membrane keyboards and with the extreme forms of flexibility that mechanical key switches have brought into the market (including hot-swappability in some keyboards), it just makes the decision between the two much easier.
The way to change or flip how your keyboard feels (or sounds) is by swapping-out one switch for another. Keyboards that allow this sort of customizations are called hot-swappable keyboards and include some big names like the Ergodox EZ and the full-size Glorious GMMK keyboards. Once you get the feel of how different keys feel (by checking them out at a local store or getting a switch-testing-module), you can dictate how each and every key will feel by placing the type of key that you want in the place that you want.
Of course, not everybody wants to or should want to invest that much in a new keyboard. But if you’re serious about comfort and flexibility, and need to incorporate those features into your work-life, this is the direction to look towards. There’s also another option that’s somewhat similar to hot-swapping. The Steelseries Apex Pro features OmniPoint switches (in the 60% area of the keyboard i.e. excluding the navigation keys and the num-pad) which can change their actuation distance to anywhere between 0.4-3.6 mm. This isn’t exactly the same as changing the entire switch but it is still a lot of flexibility compared to normal mechanical or membrane keyboards. OmniPoint switches are nowhere as common in gaming keyboards as hot-swapping but hopefully, we’ll see more of that soon.
All-in-all, there is a very wide variety of products available in the gaming peripherals market, and flexibility or productivity is something that several brands tend to focus on with specific series of their products.
Gaming keyboards are supposed to be built to last. Gamers can be very harsh with their keyboards since games like battle royales and MOBAs have developed tremendous amounts of competition and to compete in these sorts of games can require instantaneous responses and a large number of average keystrokes per day or per month. So to make their products more attractive, gaming keyboards are built to keep on sustaining the onslaught of keystrokes in a way that they don’t wear out as quickly as normal keyboards may.
The typical gaming keyboard has a lifespan of 50 million keystrokes. This can go up to 70,80 or 100 million as keyboards get more and more premium.
So you don’t need to worry about wearing-out your set-up anymore and if handled properly, your peripherals could last years. PBT keycaps with Cherry MX switches may not be that hard to get your hands on and if you get a keyboard with both of these features or even just the switches, you can expect them to be very very durable in regards to the aging aspect. Switches like these are not supposed to get mushy or clacky like membrane keyboard keys.
The frame quality can vary but it mostly isn’t an issue since the idea is that people don’t sit on their keyboards or use them as substitutes for baseball bats. And if you are the sort of person that has to take the possibility of things like that happening to your keyboard, brands ( like Steelseries) back-up their products with stronger and more durable frames.
“The Series 5000 metal frame is manufactured for a lifetime of unbreakable durability and sturdiness”
Besides the great build quality, you’re also backed up with 14-day return policies and 2-year warranties by brands like Razer and Logitech, etc. at least on their top-tier products so even if there’s some sort of hick-up or you don’t end up liking the product, you can be assured that your investment is likely to pay-off in the long run.
Gaming keyboards are great additions to your set-up especially if you’re a writer, editor, or have to spend time on spreadsheets, etc. They can enhance productivity, they can be miles more comfortable, they’re designed better, and are more customizable than other keyboards.
You should keep in mind, however, that not all gaming keyboards are created equal. Some are built for speed with fast linear switches while others help avoid typos with clicky, deliberate switches.
It can help to first decide which size keyboard you want i.e full-size, 80%, 60%, or even 40%, and then determine the switch type that will suit you the most and then go from there. Gaming brands offer different versions of the same keyboard in different sizes and key types. The rest may be the same or insignificant stuff.
Hopefully, now you have a clear answer to “Are gaming keyboards good for work?” and a little more information in making a choice that suits you best and lets you be at your most productive while being comfortable in the long-haul.