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Gaming keyboards need to be swift, tactile and responsive. Technically speaking, USB ports can deal with 125 keyboard commands per second – well beyond anything a user could input. But wireless keyboards occasionally lag just that little bit behind. So, what technologies are in the pipeline to improve their responsiveness?
Most wireless keyboards run either using Bluetooth or RF. Both of these technologies are under serious research at the moment, with Bluetooth producing the greatest results. At current data transfer rates, Bluetooth devices are limited to around 2.1Gbit/s. RF keyboards have slightly lower data transfer rates. These are not normally exceeded in gaming use, though there is a chance that certain types of keyboards may be ‘lazy’ with the data they send, incurring lag on issued commands. Principal causes of this ‘laziness’ can be traced to four particular areas, all of which have been subject to manufacturers’ scrutiny. Here is a rundown of what may be impeding the flow of information:
The Receivers- Assuming the command has been produced wirelessly in the keyboard without problems, it must be channeled through a receiver. The quality of the receiver – RF or Bluetooth – will limit signal bandwidth. More expensive gaming keyboards therefore tend to have better receivers.
The computer BIOS- Once the command has been issued by the receiver, it will be picked up by the motherboard at either the PS/2 or USB port, just as if a wired keyboard had issued the same command. It stands to reason that there is little physical difference between wired and wireless keyboards here.
The Operating System- In order to interpret the signals being emitted through the BIOS by the receiver, your Operating System will make use of drivers supplied by your keyboard manufacturer. The quality of the keyboard drivers is another reason for potential lag on inputs. This is not a topic of much focus in the keyboard industry, which tends towards improving the physical workings of the devices themselves. But certain companies, like Dell and Razer, are renowned for optimizing their drivers to the hilt – one reason why their wireless gaming keyboards are less likely to lag than other manufacturers.
The battery- A quick look at gaming forums highlights the huge number of user issues who experience intermittent or repeating lag on wireless keyboards because of low or depleted batteries. Most wireless keyboards use standard Ni-Cd Alkaline batteries, but the future could see the deployment of Li-ion batteries – particularly their flexible Lithium Polymer counterparts – inside wireless peripherals.