Gaming seems to becoming a bigger and bigger business these days, both in terms of retail and the competitiveness of players. companies are thinking up new ways to sell new products and gamers are looking for any new advantage possible to squeeze every last millisecond off their reaction time.
Gaming keyboards are not exactly new but over the last year there seems to be a lot more appearing on the website of your e-tailer or choice. One of the newer ones in the 'K1' from Raptor Gaming. If you took time to check out the 'gaming keyboard' offerings, there are various different angles of selling points ranging from lights, more buttons, improved layout, or even just simply 'better looking' to make your system look cooler.
If you took a quick look at the 'K1':
You could be forgiven for thinking "so what's special about that?" Especially when you see that it does have quite a premium price tag. The goodies in the K1 are hidden and for most part you will have to believe the specs provided by Raptor (full feature list above). Let's check the K1 out:
Even with just the box you kind of get the impression that something nice is lurking within - big, solid, well designed, list of features,a good start.
I guess you might be thinking one or both of the following, 1 - It's small / looks like some keys are missing, 2 - It looks like a Sinclar Spectrum ZX +3 (one with tape attached) (ok google it).
1 - Yes it is compact compared to most desktop keyboards, the part above the arrow keys has been integrated into the numpad section. It does bring the keys closer which is not a bad thing, it should mean all the keys are more accessible. Gamers who use the arrow keys should find this most beneficial, as a WASD player, it doesn't have a great impact however.
2 - Retro is so cool! ;)
The keyboard is very solid and chunky (as it looks), I haven't tried it, but i get the impression that if I was angry and decided to take my anger out on the keyboard (usually the nearest thing to hand), I would end up breaking whatever the keyboard was hit against, and the board would continue to work flawlessly.
Looks wise, it is not too eye catching, although it does have nice bright blue LED's, instead of the usual dull green ones seen in most generic keyboards. The buttons are labeled clearly and are the usual size.
The package contains eight replacement keys for your K1:
These keys absorb light then glow up at night / when it is dark so you can give out ownage all night long with no excuses any more. To be honest as an avid gamer, my fingers are permanently fixed on WASD so I know where those keys are without looking, but I can see this is a useful feature for other keys, or maybe put on WASD to line me up correctly as the all-nighter begins.
The other key related item in the box is a set of key locks. It might be obvious to some but basically these fit underneath keys of your choice and prevents you from pressing that key. If you are wondering why on earth that would be useful, consider that annoying Windows key between Ctrl and Alt, that when pressed in-game, drops you out of game to your desktop! Most FPS games that I have come across utilise the keys on the bottom left of the keyboard and it's so easy to hit that Windows one by mistake. Depending on what game you play and your style / config, this will be more useful for some more than others, but a neat little thing non the less.
One of my favorite features is the built in USB hub:
You can plug in your headphones, your mouse or a light or whatever you want. Who never has the need for a nice handy USB connection every now and again at least, if not constantly? The only downside is that on this version it only runs at USB1 speed but that only really matters if you use it for heavy data transfer. Just for your information, the keyboard connects to your computer via USB and not the usual PS/2 serial connector.
So now for some stuff that you cannot actually see. As mentioned in the features at the start, the keyboard has some specialised parts not found in other keyboards, namely gold (excellent conductor) crosspoint contacts for ultra fast response to key presses. Basically any other material used will slow down the response time. Not only that but they are extremely durable designed to be hammered 50 million times!! This is a keyboard for life ;) The K1 also offers short key presses compared to other keyboards whilst still retaining full sized keys. Also finally I have used a keyboard that allows multiple simultaneous key presses - up to 8 keys pressed at the same time without that annoying motherboard beep and failure to pull off your nice maneuver in game.
What does this mean for gamers than? Well in theory, you can press the buttons faster and the signal travels faster, meaning not only can you frag faster, you can frag more in the same time. I guess there is some kind of scientific test for this but the theory does make sense. In real terms it is a little more difficult to test.
Each person has a different reaction time but I can say that the K1 is very responsive indeed no matter how quick or slow you are. The keys are slightly more weighted than other boards so you have a very connection, you know what you have hit a key or not. (The key press noise being satisfying is irrelevant but worth noting). I certainly haven't had complaints over the past few weeks in games or matches. The multi key press feature is one of my favorite things, sometimes just one extra key is needed when gaming, and this board just lets you go ahead and do it.
It's quite easy to say "yes this keyboard is great and I wont use any other board", but I use at least 2 or 3 different keyboards a day and I'm always relieved to get home from work and make a few frags on my own keyboard. I even dislike the board I've been happy with for the past few years. Sometimes it is genuinely worth paying for a quality piece of kit which sums up the K1 perfectly. It is not designed as a cheap gimmick with some lights and stickers with no actual benefit to the gamer. This is your average looking car with a twin turbo engine! Stick this one on your wish list.