So you think you have finished building your ultimate gaming PC. The internal specs are insane. Your GPU eats 4K ultra mode for breakfast then comes back for seconds. Your monitor is shiny, and you have got yourself a great mouse and keyboard combo, turned it all on, and it all works perfectly.
But you still suck at games. You can’t hit that headshot in Apex. Twelve-year-olds are using you as cannon fodder in Call of Duty, and it’s getting you down.
There must be one more item you can add to your battle station that might make the difference.
Fear not, we have got it for you right here. A good gaming keypad might not seem like it is an essential purchase, but once you get used to using one in battle, you will wonder how you ever played games without it.
The fact that not many players use these is to your advantage. Most casual gamers are content with an excellent RGB mechanical keyboard – but what if you could remove the prospect of bashing the wrong keys at crucial moments? We have all done it. Trying to punch somebody in close-range melee battle in Apex Legends only to open your inventory instead.
We aren’t all blessed with the fingers of the eSports pros, and it’s frustrating.
So what the heck is a gaming keypad in the first place. Well, Wikipedia tells us, “A gaming keypad is a small, auxiliary keyboard designed only for gaming. It has a limited number of the original keys from a standard keyboard, and they are arranged in a more ergonomic fashion to facilitate quick and efficient gaming key presses.
What it actually is, however, is your new secret weapon. They come in a large variety of choices, and a lot of the major manufacturers have one tucked away in their range, but, as ever there might be a better, less well-known brand lurking away out there that will serve your purpose just as well.
In this roundup, we are going to look at what we think are five of the very best that will take your gaming to the next level.
Best gaming keypad in 2021
Good RGB support
Razer is well known for producing high-quality gaming peripherals. Their mice and keyboards are always up at the top of any reviewers’ recommendations and with good reason. They are the best selling gaming peripheral manufacturer in the USA and aren’t looking to give up that mantel any time soon.
Their hero gaming keypad is the Tartarus Pro. A quick google of what Tartarus actually means shows us:
In Greek mythology, Tartarus (/ˈtɑːrtərəs/; Ancient Greek: Τάρταρος, Tártaros) is the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titans. Tartarus is the place where, according to Plato’s Gorgias (c. 400 BC), souls are judged after death and where the wicked received divine punishment. Tartarus is also considered to be a primordial force or deity alongside entities such as the Earth, Night and Time.
Thanks again Wikipedia! Although we don’t really get the connection either.
The Tartarus Pro comes in two colors, black and Mercury White – er mercury is actually silver, but, again, what do we know. Our favorite is actually the white model, but it will struggle to fit in with the majority of people’s black keyboard and mouse combos.
As with many white peripherals as well, they often seem to be more expensive than regular old black, and this is no exception. You can usually find good deals on the stock colors.
The Tartarus has pretty much everything you need when you add a peripheral like this to your set up. It can store macros of unlimited length, and you can then store all your sequences as profiles and easily recall them at will.
Optical switches are pressure sensitive similar to an analog joystick, and there is even a thumbpad for improved movement.
If your games room is fully RGB, then Razer also has its partnership with Philips Hue, and the individually backlit keys here support the full range of 16.8 million colors, which should keep you happy for a while.
The Tartarus is a great peripheral and a fine example of something you didn’t realize you needed until you got it. It will change the way you play games. Unless you play with a controller, in which case you are beyond help.
Screen with game info
Not very 'gamey'
Low number of saveable profiles
Straight into another great peripheral brand. Swiss company Logitech has been synonymous for many years with great PC products, and the G13 continues that tradition.
Featuring 25 programmable keys and including an add-on joystick, it’s novel feature is the LCD screen at the top that is useful for managing profiles, more of which in a minute, and will be familiar to anybody who has used one of their gaming series keyboards in the past.
Regarding profiles, it only has the ability to store five compared to Razer’s unlimited amount. Is that a deal-breaker? Probably not for most people, but if you are the kind of gamer that likes to tweak for all occasions, then it may be worth looking at some of the other options.
The G13 is a much more “serious” looking device. There is no RGB to be found anywhere here, but it is comfortable, and that’s the main thing. Logitech may not be the leader in the trendy PC peripheral stakes, but they know how to design and produce a good quality item.
This is one of them, and it deserves your attention.
Those sweet Cherry MX switches
This offering from Koolertron eschews all the “gaming” designs of the opposition in favor of a small rectangular block, which looks like a cut-down version of a regular QWERTY keyboard.
It’s certainly not exciting, but man, it means business. Underneath those serious keycaps hide top-drawer Cherry MX microswitches, which many will tell you are the best in the business.
If you have Cherry MX switches, you know you are not going to be let down. Their travel time is just 2mm, and the Koolertron has full anti-ghosting technology built-in so it will feel highly accurate in use.
It has 43 programmable keys and is pretty much the left-hand half of a regular keyboard. It only stores four profiles but excels in the little things, such as a detachable USB cable, meaning if you ruin the original, it can easily be swapped out, and the whole thing isn’t trash.
The Koolertron isn’t RGB, but it is backlit for those night-time gaming sessions. It might not look like what you imagined a gaming keypad to look like, but it certainly does the job – and if you are gaming on a laptop or something like that, it will fit in very nicely to your setup.
Feels its price
The boards we have looked at so far have all been in the higher price range, but to balance it out is this budget offering from Delux.
We’d never especially suggest scrimping on a gaming peripheral – you get what you pay for that is for sure, but if money is tight and budget comes into play, then this offering might well fit your bill coming in around a third of the price of the others.
In fact, it might well be the ideal introduction to the world of gaming keypads.
It comes with RGB which is nice – they keys aren’t individually addressable like in the Razer, but you can get it to cycle through several effects, which makes it look a little more premium.
The switches are mechanical, but you can tell they aren’t quality like a Cherry. Nor could they be at this price point. Good switches cost a lot of money for manufacturers to include.
If it has something to let it down though it’s the software. The instructions are non-existent, and it might take a little trial and error before you get features like the macros to work in the way you might expect them too.
The keys are a little taller than some of the other models, too, and that makes things a little less comfortable on those long gaming sessions.
Overall though, it’s around $30, and it lights up. There’s only so much you can complain about.
Good build quality
No individually addressable RGB
If you are looking for a step up from the Delux above, but without getting into silly price ranges of the major brands, then this offering from Redragon is going to fit your bill perfectly.
It is micro switched (again the cheaper kind), RGB, and features seven macro keys. There is more attention to detail here. There is a USB pass-through, giving you an invaluable extra port without fiddling around the back of your rig.
It has 42 assignable keys and a comfortable wrist rest. The software is better than the Delux, too, making setting the lighting and macros that much less of a chore.
You are still obviously in the budget range here, so don’t expect Razer or Logitech quality, but it could well be that the Redragon does all you need and more.
It’s looks good, is well built while not being premium but is a good first foray into the world of gaming keypads.
We certainly don ‘t always go for the most expensive option here at PC Guide, but today we are going to plump for the Razer Tartarus.
Yes, it costs more than the others, but we think that if you end up going for a budget model, you will either put yourself off the thought of needing a better one or find yourself upgrading and therefore costing yourself more money. So we’d recommend saving up that bit longer in the first place if you are on a budget.
The Razer software package is always a pleasure to work with, and the Hue integration might also bring things to the next level if you backed that particular pony in the RGB smart lights war.
Unlimited profiles and an all-round excellent build quality and support take this to the next level, just like every razer peripheral out there. There is a reason they are so popular.
Things To Consider
Do you need a gaming keypad?
Well no, obviously. It should be considered a luxury addition to your set-up, but there is no doubt that good quality peripherals make a difference to your gaming. Macros and the like are great for games like World of Warcraft, and if you are just looking for a little extra desk bling, you can’t go wrong.
Will it affect my regular keyboard?
Absolutely not. They will all work hand in hand (excuse the pun). Simply plug your new toy into a spare USB put, push your keyboard to one side and off you go.
Will I need drivers?
They all come with their own software packages – be aware some are very definitely better than others. The Razer ecosystem includes all its peripherals in one place, so if you already have some of their products, it’s easy to keep track of.
The software on some of the budget models may leave something to be desired, and it’s unlikely that they will get updated as frequently, but generally, with a little time and patience, you will learn to get the best out of whatever package you go for.