There was a time when gaming peripherals were exotic, hard to come by, excessively expensive and viewed by many to simply be a novelty or unnecessary accessory. Thankfully, that time is behind us. Today’s market is simply teeming with plenty of quality tech from several reputable names that is being served up with paramount competitiveness. From mice with their own little processors in them to selective spectrum filtering and eye fatigue eliminating glasses that can keep you comfortably gaming for hours, the choices are incredible and they show no signs of winding down. So when it comes to finding that perfect gaming keypad, you might have to sort through quite a lot or try to make a hard choice between two similar options in the same budget area. But, fret not; we’ve sorted through the many to help guide your choices to the few that should have the honor of vying for your attention (and purse). Below, you’ll find the best gaming keypads, sorted on to neat little podiums based on their price range.
Top Gaming Keypad – Belkin Nostromo n50 Speedpad
The famed legend that sits by on a dusty porch, watching the young’uns try their skill at out-doing each other in the warm rays of the afternoon sunlight, knowing that they’ll never be able to recapture the sense of awe and shock that was brought about when magic was worked for the very first time. The Belkin Nostromo n50 was the one that started it all, the one that got the ball rolling to a beautiful piece of art that is the Razer Orbweaver.
The n50 is our best pick at an entry level keypad because, even though it’s a dated piece of hardware, it is incredibly good at what it does. It does not pack on a lot of keys, but makes up for it with a low price tag in today’s market and an incredibly premium and comfortable experience. The Belkin n50 is a device that will give you a small taste of the Orbweaver at a fraction of its price.
- The Belkin Nostromo n50 Speedpad is pretty comfortable to begin with, but if you need fine tuning, the palm pad can be adjusted; this makes for some fine ergonomics and posture adaptation on the fly.
- The scroll wheel and thumb-pad are a great addition and can be re-assigned using Belkin’s configuration software, giving you a lot of adaptability with the rather limited number of controls available.
- Moderate size makes it easy to use with both large and small palm sizes.
- The Belkin n50 Speedpad went out of production a long time ago, and as a result, you can only pick up pre-owned versions of it.
- The biggest gripe I’ve had with it is that none of its program drivers support any Windows OS that is newer than XP, out of the box. You can get basic functionality out of it, but you will not be able to reassign keys, use key specific macros and set up profiles without the drivers. Luckily, there is a work-around that has you download the drivers for the n52 (which supports Vista+) and then change the n50’s registry ID to that of the n52’s. A quick Google search will provide the details to the method, but always remember to have a handy backup of your registry, if you choose to edit it.
- The limited number of keys available will have you switching profiles like crazy in some of the more hotkey heavy MMO’s out there, and although it is very practical, you can quickly lose track of your profiles if you’re switching between more than three at a time.
- Coming from the more modern Nostromo inspired keypads, the lack of a thumb bumper is sourly noticeable. Given the startling similarity in feel between them, I’d often aim to press the thumb bumper and then feel like I’ve missed a step on a staircase.
Also a Great Gaming Keypad – Tracer TRK-323 Avenger
Of all the budget keypads I’d come across, none had quite achieved the harmonic balance that TRK-323 has. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of options out there that sport comfortable palm pads and good ergonomics, but not many that offer a wide range of keys and mechanical keyboard mimicking, long stroke keys in one package, and vice versa. To top things off, this keypad is also rather travel friendly with its size profile and build quality. It’s such a good build in-fact, that the TRK-323’s design has spawned a trail of knock-off products from other slightly (read: very) dodgy competitors. Their clone products also mimic the actual thing terribly well, so keep an eye out for the Tracer logo if you choose to pick up one of these. You know what they say; imitation is the best form of flattery.
- The TRK-323 is decently comfortable when you’ve got a bit of elbow room. If you’ve ever been familiar with the Logitech G13, you will not need much readjusting to enjoy the TRK-323. The key layout is also very friendly to ambidextrous users, unlike a lot of other keypads out there.
- The build quality is on par with some of the more expensive keypads out there. A strong plastic body that’s accented with grip-focused matte bumpers and a comfortably clingy palm rest gives it a bit of a premium touch as well. It even comes with a braided USB chord.
- PLENTY of keys. If you’re the kind to slap a macro on to everything or are one for hot keying, you’re easily going to find that you can never have enough of them. The keys feel very responsive and the way the pressure is loaded feels satisfyingly soft. There are plenty of similarities in keystroke feel between the TRK-323 and the Razer Nostromo.
- If you’ve got small to medium sized hands, you will notice quite a lot of discomfort when trying to reach for the buttons that sit on the outer edge of the keypad. Trying to reach for the function keys at the very top or the keys and buttons to the left extreme will force you to lift your palm off the rest and take your weight off of it, which can be quite uncomfortable and immersion breaking. It’s either that or you’d simply have to learn to become MUCH more dexterous with your pinky.
- If you’re short on desk space, you’d need to either make some or look for an alternative, as the TRK-323 takes up a decent amount of space, given the size of its keypad. The TRK-323 tends to be most comfortable with an outstretched arm, so that most of your weight is resting on the palm rest with the slack in your elbow, which can rest on your chair’s armrest. IF it sits too close to you and you end up not distributing your weight correctly, your shoulders and neck WILL pay for it.
- The characters printed on to the faces of the keys tend to fade rather quicker than you’d expect, but that might be due to how much extra rubbing you’d be doing when trying to reach for the higher keys. It’s mostly the higher keys that I notice fading, whereas the WASD keys look rather well for the wear. This is after about 6 months of heavy use. For a little contrast: my Razer Nostromo still looks like the day I bought it, even after several years of bashing.
Gaming Keypad Logitech G13
The Logitech had been the flagship for gaming keypads for many years, and as many would attest: still is. The Logitech sidelines flashy looks for incredibly practicality and comfort, yet still somehow carries itself with class and beauty. With its iconic LCD screen and ergonomically designed keys that resemble the calmest of waves, the G13 riddles you with sci-fi tales of the not-so-distant future.
The G13 screams ergonomics from the get-go. The entire vertical profile value doesn’t exceed a couple of inches. Your palm just sinks in to it and wants to stay there. The joystick lines up perfectly with your thumb and you would only need to exude minimal effort to trigger either of the thumb bumpers. Although the G13 does not feature an adjustable palm rest or keypad, it rates incredibly high on the comfort scale. It is also incredibly light. Most of the weight is under the keypad to the front, which sits square on top of a large grip pad underneath, allowing you to rest your arm on it without worry of it sliding around, but should you feel like moving it, you can do so as easily as you’d move your mouse.
- Exceptional comfort and key selection. The palm rest is textured and lets your easily spread your palm over it to get a really good grip on the keypad. A plus side to this is that this form factor is very ambidextrous friendly. With the symmetry, aside from the joystick, being rather whole.
- The keys are plentiful, but with the way that they’re always within easy reach, they feel very adequate and manageable. The G13 comes with 22 main keys.
- Although the G13 is longer than most gaming keypads, it is not very wide. This provides ample comfort, regardless of your palm size. At all times, your hand is relaxed, leaving most of the work to a well-supported forearm. Once settled, your palm feels very “rooted”.
- An LCD screen that displays either automatically fetched, relevant game stats while you play or custom statistics that you choose.
- A backlight. A glorious backlight. It might not seem like much, but when you’re getting used to this thing for the first time, it is a lifesaver. Simply being able to register the key positions out of the corner of your eyes with the very defining lights increase your accuracy plenty until your muscle memory kicks in. You can also control the color of the backlight using RGB values, which gives you quite a wide range.
- An analogue joystick that comes up just under your thumb and has a very nice resistance to it. It allows you to rest your thumb on it without really triggering any controls. When you do decide to move it, the motions come naturally.
- All your profiles and changes made to the G13 are stored on the G13 itself. If you were to plug the G13 in to another machine, you’d still retain all of your settings, profiles and macros.
- Everything from the build quality to the software is premium and the functionality is perfect. The G13 could arguably be the best service gaming keypad there is.
- As much as I search, I can’t really find any major downsides to the G13. If there was something I’d have to pick out, it would be the fact that the only thing standing in the way of the G13 being completely ambidextrous friendly is the joystick module placement. If the joystick was modular and was built to be switched around between the right side and the left; the G13 would dominate the market.
One of the Best gaming keypads – Razer Tartarus and Orbweaver
That’s right, the Tartarus and the Orbweaver are going to share a segment together and their spoilt little butts are going to deal with it. We’re putting these two together simply because they’re both the exact same keypad that just hasn’t come to grips with the fact as yet. The only major difference between the two is that the Orbweaver comes with mechanical keys and a slightly more adjustable palm rest; with the addition of $100 odd dollars to the price tag of course.
The Tartarus and the Orbweaver are both direct descendants of the Nostromo, and I’m quite biased towards the Nostromo. But even I can see that Razer has barely made any meaningful upgrades to tech that’s been ridden through from the early 2000’s (The Belkin n52, which was bought out by Razer after they co-developed the n52te with Belkin). I understand the mantra of, “Why fix what isn’t broken?” but the design is fifteen years old and still has little growth to show for them.
They’re both still good pieces of tech if you don’t mind shelling out for the bells and whistles… and LEDs, lots and lots of LEDs. After spending time with both keypads, I’d say the choice really comes down to personal taste. Even though those beautifully smooth, shudder inducing CherryMX Blue’s on the Orbweaver would make every mechanical keyboard enthusiast within a hundred meters perk up their ears at the first click, it still comes down to whether or not you’d want it enough to justify $100. To put things in perspective, the Tartarus alone is around $100. I’ll lay out some pros and cons between the two, and you could choose which of them are better suited to grace your desk – or bed… or couch.
- Great ergonomics and an adjustable palm rest that lets you extend or retract your palm position relevant to the keypad. This is actually incredibly helpful in finding comfortable posture, because if you’re hands are a little smaller, you wouldn’t really be able to rest your arms weight on the palm rest without adjusting the rest to be closer to the keypad.
- Comfortable over long hours of gaming. The palm rest and buttons have got a smooth matte finish that feels really nice and offers a decent amount of grip. If you’ve got sweaty hands, you needn’t worry as the ergonomic shape of the palm rest cups your palm to hold it in place.
- 14 main keys, a joystick, a thumb bumper and one button. All easy to reach and rather easy to acclimate to, even for a newbie.
- Razer Synapse allows you to configure your device and set up profiles and macros that can be changed on the fly. You can also control and assign a basket full of lighting effects from within Synapse, which can be assigned to specific computer states or profiles. There are LED indicators on the keypad that let you know which profile you’re currently coasting in.
- Razer’s Chroma RGB programmable LED lighting. Basically a high resolution LED lighting solution with some very, very nice modulation and color blending
- A bit on the heavier side.
- Razer Synapse likes its updates. Like, SERIOUSLY likes its updates. And you absolutely need Synapse to get anything more than bare-bone functionality out of your Razer devices.
- Not ambidextrous friendly at all, in any way. The ergonomics are built specifically for the left hand. It wouldn’t even be possible to wing it without dealing with some serious wrist pain.
- All the pros that come with the Tartarus.
- A mechanical keyboard which features Razer’s version of CherryMX Blues. It’s got a rather unique feel, but if you don’t care much for mechanical keys, you wouldn’t really care much for the new feel.
- Opposed to a simple adjustable palm rest, you can now adjust both the bottom of the palm rest as well as the upper portion of it, along with the thumb module that houses the joystick.
- All the cons that come with the Tartarus.
- The palm rest has got this little rubber/dry gel padding on the upper half of it. It doesn’t make much of a difference as far as grip goes, but when your palms get sweaty, you’ll find that your skin against the surface gets a little uncomfortable. And in warm conditions, the glue that holds the pad to the plastic begins to wear out really quickly and then it slowly slides around. It doesn’t slide an awful lot, but just enough to get on your nerves because it isn’t supposed to be sliding around at all.