Should You Build Your Own Gaming Keyboard?

Today’s hardcore gamers are used to being able to design optimal conditions for themselves. In everything from picking out gaming chairs to setting up multiplayer communications with friends, it’s now possible to personalize the gaming experience, such that it becomes exactly what you want it to be. So, when it comes to PC gaming, why shouldn’t that include a customized keyboard?

Should You Build Your Own Gaming Keyboard?

The idea of building your own gaming keyboard can seem a little bit daunting. But for those who are interested in more personalized gaming experiences, it’s worth exploring the idea.

Why Build Your Own Keyboard?

There are a few logical answers to this question. For some, the actual project of constructing a keyboard might be rewarding in and of itself. If you’re an enthusiastic gamer with an appreciation for electronics and technology, you may learn some valuable skills along the way, and you may revel in the ability to design something functional that you can game with. For others, building a personal keyboard may simply be the solution to a problem: If you’ve never found that perfect option out on the market, you can build it instead.

For most though, the point of building a personal gaming keyboard from scratch is customization. The Verge dug into mechanical keyboard design in some detail, and may have put it best, saying, “at the end of the process you’ll end up with something that’s completely individual to you and your needs….” That’s ultimately the idea — that you can construct a keyboard that matches your own exact preferences, from how it looks and feels to the specific functionality of different keys in different places. It can be a truly one-of-a-kind gaming option that exists for you and you alone.

Colorful keycaps definitely add a special flavor

Colorful keycaps definitely add a special flavor

What Are The Challenges?

The whole project is a challenge. Unless you have specific experience with something like this, you’ll likely need to watch a few tutorials and read up on some specific processes in order to develop the hardware know-how to put together a functioning keyboard. That said, you shouldn’t need a whole lot more than that — a few tutorials and guides on hand ought to help you through it.

Beyond the general concept of the build, one of the bigger challenges is, oddly enough, acquiring the parts you’ll need. This will require some research and comparisons between products and parts, and you may have to shop in some unfamiliar places. For instance, some have had better luck through Chinese sellers than, say, eBay or Amazon when it comes to certain parts. That said, one of the things that can be hardest to track down is a set of keycaps that speaks to the design you want — and for that, we’d point you toward our Tai-Hao Gaming Keycap Review, which highlighted some of the best options out there that you can get your hands on fairly easily.

Another particularly tricky aspect of the process can be designing the circuit board that helps the keyboard to operate. In some cases you can buy a circuit board for this purpose, but if you’re really looking to build (and customize) your own keyboard, it ought to involve designing the printed circuit board as well. Arduino boards are popular options for controller and keyboard construction, and Altium explains that you can set up an Arduino custom library within PCB design, which may be the best way to start. Essentially this means that you can use simplified PCB design software to create your circuit board with Arduino functionality built in as needed. You’ll need to educate yourself on the process, of course, but today’s PCB design software makes it possible for a beginner to pull it off.

Customized lighting is one of the features you can build on your ownCustomized lighting is one of the features you can build on your own

Customized lighting is one of the features you can build on your own

What Simplifies The Process?

For the most part, the aforementioned tutorials and guides you can find online are your best options if you want to simplify the design process. However, there are some other options to look into also. For instance, if you care less about full customization or the design process, you can likely find a circuit board available for purchase, around which you can build your physical keyboard. Or, if it’s the physical design that’s giving you trouble, you can look into options like 3D printing in order to knock out most of the “building” in one go. Hackaday has highlighted 3D-printed keyboards before, and it appears that there are several options out there.

Ultimately though, this is a project for those who want the experience of designing the keyboard themselves. It’s a difficult thing to do without prior experience, but done right it can result in a unique keyboard you’ll absolutely love for your day-to-day gaming activity.

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