If you love complicated games like DOTA 2 or World of Warcraft than you’ll definitely benefit from an often overlooked peripheral, the Gaming Keypad. The Keypad is a minimalistic take on keyboards that gets rids of unused buttons while significantly increasing your ability to define your user controls. To the uninitiated Keypads seem strange and unnecessary but there is far more to Gaming Keypads than the average gamer realizes. Basically a keypad distills the most important elements of your keyboard into a handful of specialized buttons that can be modified and programmed to do whatever you need. The programmed buttons can execute complex commands and save you time and energy while playing as well as help you customize your controls to work how you want them.
A typical keyboard has between 80-100 keys but few of these are used while gaming. These extra keys can get in the way and more importantly, a key can do so much more than just one command. With a keypad you can take control of your most complicated gaming techniques by programming a button to do what you want. This is especially useful for games like World of Warcraft where you repeat the same complicated pattern over and over or CS:GO where you might buy the same thing every round. Simplify that process with just a button!
This guide will introduce you to the best Gaming Keypads of 2018 and also includes some deeper technical explanation afterward for those who aren’t completely sold on Gaming Keypads. We’ve even thrown in some keypad options for console gamers as well. If you are ready to dive in, check out our keypads below. And if you still aren’t sold on keypads, just skip down to our technical section where we’ll explain keypads in depth and why you need one!
Number of Keys
Who it’s for
Razer Orbweaver Chroma Elite
Razer Tartarus V2 Chroma
Koolertron Cherry MX Black Gaming Keypad
Cherry MX Black
XFUNY Gaming Keypad
HORI Tactical Assault Commander Pro
Delux T9 46-Key
Best Gaming Keypad
Packed with features and a sturdy high-quality construction puts the Orbweaver at the top of our list of the best gaming keypads of 2018.
We love the Razer Orbweaver. It’s not clear whether they named this after the spider or some other mystic thing that weaves orbs, but as Gaming Keypads go, this one is destined to be iconic. It does everything you would want. Customizable buttons, easy to use software, extreme comfort. With over 20 dedicated buttons to assign and program macros, you have all the freedom you’ll ever need. The thumb-pad is also programmable for another 8 added buttons that you can use.
The RGB lighting is 100% customizable and offers over 16 Million color options. That means you can make your Gaming Keypad look like an American Flag or color code certain buttons such as WASD for easy see in the dark access. The highlight of the Orbweaver though is the feel. Custom mechanical switches mean that the feeling is tight and responsive and has that ear-pleasing click that some users love. It may be noisier but you get the best control with these switches. The Orbweaver comes with Razer Synapse Command Center Software. While software for a keypad might seem like overkill, you can customize your buttons to an amazing degree as well as create macros with Razers proprietary software. Another neat feature is that Razer allows you to save numerous profiles and load them up onto the cloud meaning that your settings travel with you. This greatly enhances the use of the Orbweaver because it’s the perfect compliment to gaming on the go!
Our biggest complaint about the Orbweaver is the large variance in prices online. Some can vary by over $100 depending on the vendor. We went ahead and shopped around for the cheapest price as of this article being published though, so be sure to check out our link.
Best Mid-Priced Gaming Keypad
Packed with 25 programmable buttons and an 8 way thumb stick, the Tartarus is a great option if the Orbweaver doesn't fit your budget.
The Razer Tartarus much like most Razer products sets a high bar for quality and helps take your gaming to the next level. With 25 programmable buttons, you can execute complex commands pretty easily and dominate the competition. One of the best features is the 8-way thumb-pad, a throwback to the old arcade style controls of yesterday. As usual Razer delivers world-class software with this Gaming Keypad that allows you to design your own macros, save profiles, and use this keypad nearly anywhere (Settings are saved on the cloud). You can even change configuration in-game meaning that you can test out your settings on the fly without exiting your game or getting too far behind. The RGB function is a bit minimal when compared to the more expensive big brother, the Orbweaver, but it still looks great.
Each direction can be configured so you can also use it for menu navigation or random commands but it really shines in fighting games such as Mortal Kombat and Injustice. Not only do you get fantastic control of your character, with macros you have to be careful that executing powerful moves in fighting games isn’t TOO easy. Programming in keys can result in near flawless execution at the touch of a button. The thumb-pad also allows you to siphon off movement to the thumb meaning that fingers once reserved for WASD are now free for queuing up attacks and other things. Many gamers can benefit by making the thumb the center of movement instead of WASD.
While it has a great feel, this Gaming Keypad does fall short in comparison to the Orbweaver. Top-notch membrane switches just can’t compete with the Mechanical switch quality offered by the Orbweaver. That’s a minor complaint though as the Tartarus is still an amazing product with a fantastic design. We would prefer that the thumb-pad also be usable as a thumbstick, similar to Dual-Shock controllers. That being said, the functionality of the thumb-pad for some games is far greater so this isn’t a huge deal breaker, but a thumbstick would be nice for flying in games like Far Cry 5 and shooters. It would be hard to get the clear, concise feeling that this thumb-pad offers if it was an analog stick though so we are willing to admit this boils down to preference.
Best Feeling Keypad
Rocking the same cherry mx switches found in mechanical keyboards, the Koolertron is familiar and built well for the price range.
The Koolerton Gaming Keypad isn’t all that remarkable from a design perspective. It is actually the same layout as the left side of a traditional keyboard and does very little to reimagine the keyboard. That’s not a bad thing though as keyboards have changed relatively little for decades because they are designed so well. The Koolerton Gaming Keypad stands out from most competitors though by the excellent feeling that it gives. Cherry MX Black switches are some of the most iconic mechanical switches available and just feel great under your fingertips. They are quieter than blue switches and have a lot of balance to them that a membrane switch keypad simply can’t offer. A few minutes typing on the Koolerton and you’ll walk away amazed by the smooth responsive feedback.
Koolertron does the basics extremely well and does drop some of the most noticeable features that other competitive offerings often include. There is no thumb-pad, dual-shock style analog stick, fancy space bar, or even comfort attachment. The RGB lighting is minimal but does allow you to illuminate the board in low-light settings. One of the highlights of the Koolerton is the large number of buttons (43) that can be used and reprogrammed. With 43 options for macros, you’ll never run out of room for complex commands. Profiles are also stored internally on this keypad so you don’t need to worry about downloading fancy software everytime you switch devices.
Above all though the Koolerton does one thing very well. It works like a Gaming Keypad should. Don’t buy this for the fancy lighting or the ergonomic design, buy this if you want a serious competitive device with high-quality keys and a really good feel.
Best Budget Gaming Keypad
Xfuny did a great job introducting a gaming keypad with a low price, but didn't skimp on quality. If you are on a shoestring budget this is your best bet.
XFUNY isn’t a well-known company or particularly famous when it comes to peripherals but they have a great starter Gaming Keypad at a very affordable price. Generally selling at under $50 and offering a full 180-day money back guarantee, XFUNY can help you find out if Gaming Keypads are for you. Eschewing the more modern design that focuses purely on efficiency, XFUNY basically takes a slice out of the keyboard and gives you a small, portable, light-up Keypad that mimics the left third of a traditional keyboard.
Some minor changes have made it more functional and ergonomic but one of the best strengths of the XFUNY Gaming Keypad is that it isn’t attempting to reinvent the wheel. It’s comfortable, responsive, shorter than a traditional keyboard, and lights up so that you can game in the dark without worrying about hitting the wrong key.
What about programming it? That’s the tricky part. This keyboard can be programmed but the software comes from a Chinese manufacturer and lacks an easily understandable English option. Still, fumbling about a bit to find out how isn’t too difficult and you’re still able to keymap in most games meaning it isn’t the end-all of functionality. That’s a pretty large con but at this price point, it’s the most affordable way to see if Gaming Keypads work for you before dropping lots of cash on a top-tier model. It’ll save you quite a bit of cash to deal with that hassle.
Our final critique is that it can feel a bit cheap. While we didn’t experience broken buttons or a sticky space bar, some have reported those flaws and it’s not hard to believe them. It doesn’t feel built to last a decade, but it more than makes itself useful when starting out with a Gaming Keypad. We recommend this for those who use a laptop and are considering a Gaming Keypad and on the fence. One of the best features is the money-back guarantee so if you have a problem, you can get reimbursed but still also feel out if a Gaming Keypad is for you.
Note: XFUNY offers a premium model with more buttons and features and even mechanical keys but we recommend selecting one of our other models as the price range starts to compete with top-tier manufacturers.
Best Playstation Gaming Keypad
If you are looking to get an edge in your playstation gaming, the HORI is the perfect fit. The ability to use a mouse and program combos into a keypad is a game changer.
The HORI Tactical Assault Commander Pro or Tac Pro for short is a really cool take on the traditional keypad. While most Gaming Keypads eschew easy connection with consoles for the high-end PC crowd, HORI allows you to play some of the most complicated console games and MMORPG’s like a PC Gaming pro. Destiny 2 feels quick and accurate. Aiming is just fantastic. Let’s clear up one thing immediately, if you customize your buttons and program your keys to do what you need, it can give you a definitive competitive edge over opponents. Whether or not that’s your play style is up to you, but you will be equipped to play immeasurably better. The gaming mouse that is included plugs directly into the Hori giving you significantly better aiming ability than that of a controller. There is a caveat though.
The TAC Pro is designed to emulate a Dualshock controller in terms of response so unfortunately the attached mouse may not always feel like a true mouse although it will still be the most accurate way to game on PS4. Another cool feature is the Dualshock style analog stick for movement and games that require an analog controller. It’s good enough that you may find yourself dropping the Dualshock controller completely and just using the Hori. The 9ft cord makes it easy to use this in most living room settings as well. As a keypad it’s a solid design but the addition of a mouse just makes this keypad rock. You plug the mouse directly into the keypad as well so only one USB slot is used. With the large offering of FPS games and complex indie games, the Hori makes playing the PS4 feel as close to PC as possible.
The HORI also comes with TAC Pro specialized software for setting up buttons and creating macros. That means you can use macros on a console for once and really step your game up. The software does have to be configured on the PC though so make sure to familiarize yourself with those requirements if the HORI sounds like a good buy.
Best Legacy Gaming Keypad
If you are looking for a more retro style, the G13 may fit the bill. A builtin LCD screen and 25 keys are a great match for all of those legacy games.
Logitech introduced this model onto the market a couple years back but it has remained an incredibly solid keypad that offers unique legacy support for older computers and games. Vintage streamers or gamers who love a classic Starcraft match can benefit from the ease of use of the G13. In the case of the G13, Logitech has created a high-quality device that looks like a calculator from the 1980s. The G13 is unique though in respect to the GamePanel LCD and the layout is a bit different with a tapered front and some auxiliary buttons near the top. This product came to market when it was harder to find a decent Gaming Keypad. Still it’s high-quality and iconic for those who needed a solid item for classic MMORPGs. They are expensive as they are becoming rare but still beloved enough to command a hefty price tag.
The G13 does offer five-custom profiles that use onboard memory. This is great if you switch between devices and don’t want to reinstall software on every device you use.
What is the GamePanel LCD? It’s an outdated piece of technology that shows important information in numerous MMORPG’s. While the LCD is starting to show its age, there is a dedicated fanbase that loves it. That being said, Logitech now uses an app called ARX that can be installed on most devices and used to replace this feature. Don’t discount GamePanel though as some users of classic older games (Including games such as Fallout 3) can still have a blast with it. Just be aware that it is no longer supported by modern games. Let’s be honest, we love the G13. We also feel though that there are some cheaper options in this space that look better and offer almost all of the same features. That being said, few keypads offer the incredible support that G13 does for the last twenty years of gaming. If you love classic games, this keypad will be sure to kick your gameplay up a notch and still be compatible for years to come.
Most Functional Gaming Keypad
More key and key combinations than any of our other models, the Delux T9 is great if the more traditional 25 button designs aren't going to work for you.
The Delux T9 is a foray into affordable Keypads that offer the maximum number of possible buttons. With 46 different buttons, you’ll never run out of possible combinations to press. It’s comfortable like all keypads but due to the insane number of buttons does tend to feel overwhelming at first glance. After all, a new keypad is partially about eliminating the excess clutter of a traditional keyboard.
We do like the highlighted WASD as those keys are the bread and butter of numerous games and the popping read makes them easy to find. As a keypad this model isn’t as flashy as Razer products but offers one advantage, 46 different key possibilities. The sheer number of keys makes unique uses possible such as rigging your macros to use with Photoshop and more. It’s comfortable, won’t break the bank, and will give you more options than any other keypad.
The media keys are useful if you don’t have immediate access to volume control while gaming or need to mute your setup. The home screen button on the left as well as brightness/wake button seem a bit archaic with most modern set-ups though. Our biggest con is that compared to Cherry MX switches or fancy modern keypads, the T9 feels a bit left behind. It has all the functionality you’ll ever need but it doesn’t have that smooth lightning fast wow-factor that the Orbweaver has. We recommend the T9 though for users who might want to use macros for a number of different reasons such as Media design or complimenting a keyboard.
Mechanical Keyboards are all the rage in the gaming world these days, so it makes sense that the format of the keyboard would one day evolve. Playing most games today requires less and less use of the full keyboard. In fact, some keyboards take up a good portion of the desk when you only use a few keys more than WASD. Add to this that laptop keyboards cram together all the keys into a small form factor and you have an archaic way to game. Few games have keys that reach past the left hand and often those become neglected as it’s just too hard to hit different keys in a fast-paced competitive game (We’re looking at you PubG with your terrible use of Page Up and Page Down for setting scope distance).
The Gaming Keypad has been around for a long time but over the years they’ve honed the features to make them convenient, programmable, have great feedback, and suitable to replace your normal keyboard for everyday gaming. In the last month, Steam has also introduced a fantastic app that allows you to stream PC games to Android and iOS devices (Although apple support can be finicky). The catch? No touchscreen feedback, meaning without a controller, some games won’t work. With a portable keypad though, you can literally game on your phone or tablet as you would a full-scale gaming PC.
The number of buttons on a Gaming Keypad can vary dramatically, from around 15-25 or more. These buttons aren’t always traditional keys either as they can include specialized buttons specifically for gaming. A normal keyboard has 80-100 buttons so even the largest keypad will be lacking in that category but the addition of programmable buttons more than makes up for the difference. Design can look unique or even mimic the left half of a normal keyboard. Also remember that buttons are not always programmable for every keypad so that is important to note.
Gaming Keypads can have immensely different designs and even be made to help with a specific genre of game, or even game. Because of this, it’s important to get an understanding of what will feel best and work well for your gaming setup. Keypad design normally removes some of the more unused buttons that mess with gameplay such as capslock and add more useful buttons such as commonly pressed keys. Those who just want a slice of a normal keyboard layout can find that too.
There is no universally accepted size for keypads so you can find a multitude of tactile feels available. For instance some users prefer the small cramped size of a laptop keyboard and would love a Gaming Keypad designed for small hands. Others rarely find a full-sized keyboard to be comfortable and want the biggest keypad on the market. We recommend considering this beforehand and reading up on what product would work best for your hand size.
A decent keypad will have a very comfortable rest for your wrist and other features that make using the keypad for long hours enjoyable and minimal in pain. Some even have a palm-rest as well.
One of the most important aspects of typing is the feel and responsive feedback of the keys themselves. Keys generally fall into two broad categories, Mechanical and Membrane. A Membrane Keyboard or Keypad uses a large sheet of rubber that registers different hits from different parts of the keyboard. Most cheaper technically less functional keyboards fall into this category. A Mechanical Keyboard or Keypad has an individual mechanism for every single key on the board. This involves a cap being mounted on a stem that presses down on a spring and flips a switch. The feeling of a Mechanical Key is clearer, precise, and louder than a Membrane key. The individual pieces often create a clicking noise as well as take less force to register as the device does the heavy pressing.
Mechanical keys, also known as switches, fall into three broad categories. Linear, which produces a consistent and smooth feeling. Tactile, which has a bump that you feel around the actuation point. And one that Clicks, where you hear a crisp Click as soon as the switch gets to a certain point.
Switches are divided by type and each type is divided by color. So a Keypad with Cherry MX Red as opposed to Cherry MX Blue, will have a different feel and purpose. There are numerous switch brands and types so make sure to read up before making a purchase. Some prioritize FPS style gaming while others simply help typing feel awesome. For a Gaming Keypad, typing usually takes a backseat so we recommend any fast style switches with minimal resistance.
Like most modern technology, RGB plays a factor for some in selecting a Gaming Keypad. Only a few offer absolute control down to the key, but many offer a few great presets. RGB really comes in handy when you are in poorly lit settings and need to see your keys. The best RGB keypads will allow you to color each button and you can use that accordingly when you are playing to make important keys pop up at you.
One of the most important features of a Gaming Keypad is the ability to map keys out and program them to do what you want. It’s important to pick a manufacturer who includes high-quality software because this simplifies the process and ensures compatibility with a wide range of products. One of the other neat features is that this allows you to “Map” keys out in games that lack good key binding by simply programming different keys to mean a different things I.E. if a game won’t let you change a button such as pressing E to use an object to F, you can simply program a button (Including the E button) to return the value of F in your given game. Some software is easy and works on every OS while other software is relegated to windows or you need to use freeware found on the internet. Generally brands like Razer and Logitech will offer great support though.
MOBA’s and MMORPG’s often benefit from Gaming keypads as they usually require a large number of specialized buttons. Some Gaming Keypads are designed to make activating powers and using abilities feel natural instead of a rushed or tedious process. Several if not all keys on a Gaming Keypad can usually be programmed to do a defined task (Also known as a macro). So suppose you often press several buttons in a specific order with specific timing to use an attack in World of Warcraft. Programmable buttons allow you to simplify that process. This is useful for a whole host of features. Some program buttons to change outside aspects like mouse sensitivity on the fly (For instance in some games, a macro may lower sensitivity when you scope in with a sniper rifle). Others might use a very repetitive command such as buying in CS:GO and replace that complex command with a set buy macro. Keypads also have different layouts so it may make actions such as using a potion or crouching simpler and more convenient once you map out the keys. Yet another aspect is the ability to assign text messages to macros for easy communication or deactivate keys that you accidentally press in the heat of combat. Spamming chat with a button sucks for everyone around you but it can be useful in some situations or gaming setups.
Rarely but there are a few old school games such as Deus Ex that relied on the whole suite of F1-F12 to control your character. Games with convoluted control schemes or older games that didn’t age well may not benefit from a Gaming Keypad. These are minor hiccups though as most older games have either a fan-created mod that will fix it or the buttons that are missing are not important enough to kill the gaming experience. A good Gaming Keypad will allow you to override the internal controls of a game by simply changing the value of your keys as well, this means no conflicts.
A common factor in picking a modern keyboard is whether or not the keyboard is mechanical. While debate rages about the practical gaming benefits of a mechanical keyboard, most people would agree that the tactile feeling is superior when using a mechanical keyboard. It’s hard to describe but since mechanical keyboards are more reactive, you don’t need to fully press a key down to get a result. Some feel this speeds up everything from gameplay to typing since they don’t need to press as hard and the sensitivity is higher. The biggest drawback is that Mechanical keyboards do create a lot more noise. There has also been some differing opinion on whether or not the added software and complex mechanical structure creates more input lag. In reality the difference is small enough that any input lag from a keyboard difference isn’t why you lose a match, you’re just not as good as your opponent.
Does this sound familiar? You are about to buy at the beginning of a round on Mirage and you accidentally press the wrong key buying a scout instead of the gun you want. With $1700 blown in a matter of seconds, you now go without body armor into the fray. This small move costs you 2-3 turns of income. The match ends 14-16 and you look back wondering if perhaps, one slight button press did cost the match.
Or perhaps you go to hit your usual combination of moves in combat but accidentally trigger a high-level spell. It takes 30 seconds until you can recharge and costs you dearly during combat.
Switching between multiple games where E is now F and CTRL is now C show just how important muscle memory is when playing at even amateur competitive levels. It may not cost money to lose a match but people get ridiculously angry in games like Dota 2 when a newbie mistake costs them dearly. Adding insult to injury, some games like Dota are decided fifteen minutes into the match but you must then play for an hour just to finish the round being harassed by angry teammates. Mistakes happen.
A Gaming Keypad helps minimize those mistakes, especially if you game on a cramped laptop keyboard with shortened command buttons.
Using macros and simply mapping out the keys in your games can GREATLY enhance your ability to win and also make the slight annoyance of playing with mismatched muscle memory significantly easier. A Gaming Keypad also eliminates weird toggle buttons like Num Lock that bizarrely enough may get turned on and just annoy you for hours. The benefit of having your own settings mapped out is that you can often play in ways opponents can’t. For instance
Traditionally Xbox has struggled to play well with keyboard and keypad peripherals. Recent leaks show that in the coming months, Microsoft will roll out compatible devices and driver updates for the Xbox One but unfortunately as of today, it’s best to wait. PS4 though has an excellent option that we covered up above.
We hope that this guide helped illuminate the oft-forgotten keypad and even helped you decide to pick one up. If you need a mobile solution or love games that could just benefit from a decent macro, pick something up like the Orbweaver. No one initially likes to change how they game but after a few sessions of gaming, you’ll never want to go back. As always we hope you like, share, comment and subscribe for more great content on gaming devices and technology! We want to help you play better and fall in love with gaming and we love knowing that we’ve had a part in that.
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