by Harry Guinness on
If you’ve any interest in writing nicely then a $1 ballpoint won’t cut it, you need to look at a fountain pen.
Gaming keypads are designed for gamers who want to maximize their keystroke efficiency when playing games like MMOs. These are our favorite keypads to take your game up a notch.
For the unfamiliar, gaming keypads are dedicated peripherals that include a smattering of buttons that largely replace the part of your keyboard you’d normally use with your left (or non-dominant) hand. Instead of using the WASD keys and reaching for whatever keys happen to be nearby, a keypad puts the right buttons where your fingers naturally sit. They also usually come with powerful software to customize what each button does and even record macros—or complex series of multiple button presses—and map it to a single button. With that in mind, these are our favorite keypads.
This is the gaming keypad that I’ve personally used for the last eight years. In our Retro Review, I pointed out that Logitech’s fantastic customization software, combined with an ergonomic design, made it the most comfortable, versatile keypad out there. It’s crafted to give you the most key options with minimal finger movement, which can help reduce that all-important delay between what your brain wants to do and the actions your fingers take.
The major downside to the Logitech G13 is that the company no longer makes it. You can still find used versions on eBay for varying prices, or you can find a few from resellers on Amazon. Your mileage may vary on what kind of deal you can find on a used (or, internet-willing, new) G13, but if you don’t mind taking the time to find a decent price on a unit in acceptable condition, this one could serve you well for a long time.
There are a lot of reasons to prefer a mechanical keyboard, and the same considerations go into a gaming keypad. The Razer Orbweaver is a comparable keypad to the G13 (with the added benefit of still being in production), but unlike the G13, this unit has mechanical keys. They give off a satisfying click and can probably stand up to a lot more punishment.
Razer’s Synapse software is also pretty robust. You can use it to map one of the keypad’s buttons to a single key, a combination of keys, or a recorded macro of keypresses. Razer also includes a heat map feature that lets you see which buttons you’re pressing most often. In my experience, this is little more than a novelty, but if you’re curious where your biggest stressors are, this might be of interest. Overall, the Synapse software doesn’t have quite as many features as Logitech’s software, but it’s comparable enough to do the job.
The Razer Tartarus V2 is the closest thing you can find in today’s market to the G13. It features a membrane keypad, which makes it a little squishy, but it’s still comfortable and versatile. Unlike the Razer Orbweaver, it has one fewer programmable buttons on the main pad, instead, including a scroll wheel where the extra button would be. It’s up to you whether you need a scroll wheel on your left hand and (presumably) your right hand. If that’s appealing to you, though, then the Tartarus is the way to go.
Like the Orbweaver, the Tartarus uses Razer’s Synapse software. You can program each key with a simple or complex command or record macros. Both models use the same 16 million RGB LEDs that Razer likes to put into everything, so you’re not really missing out on much by taking the step down. The mechanical keys are the big advantage of the Orbweaver, but if you’re happy with membrane keys, then the Tartarus V2 will do just fine.
Most gaming keypads ditch the entire QWERTY layout for their own dedicated buttons. The $27 PinPle, on the other hand, opts for a more traditional approach. It features red WASD keys and more familiar side buttons like Tab, Shift, Ctrl, and Alt. However, you’ll notice that many of the keys on the pad, while corresponding to letters on a standard keyboard, are situated in a different layout. Keys like O, H, or the period and comma keys that would normally be within reach of your right hand on a keyboard are now within reach of the single hand you have on your keypad. The buttons are also laid out in a straighter pattern, rather than the off-kilter pattern of most keyboards.
This keypad is easily the cheapest option on our list (unless you get a sweet deal on a used G13), but it’s also the least feature packed. It doesn’t come with its own key customization software. You could theoretically use AutoHotkey or your game’s settings to create your own custom keybindings. Still, if all you want is something that’s a little easier to use with one hand, the PinPle does the job without spending a ton of money. Unfortunately, we can’t give it a better name.
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