Gaming peripherals make or break your gaming experience. Gamers invest money into their equipment and gaming setup — and, because of the boom in the gaming industry in the past few years, brands have been tailor-fitting their products to provide an excellent experience to the gaming community. In the keyboard community, there has been a rise in integrating multiple dedicated macro keys in a keyboard, as seen in the Corsair K100.
Macro keyboards (community term: “macro pads”) are another take into integrating macro keys in your keyboard. With these boards, all keys are dedicated to specific macroinstructions. The number of buttons depends on each macropad. These can be good for gaming, especially with MMORPGs which use a lot of keyboard shortcuts.
Macro keys are powerful since they allow you to do a string of actions with a single keypress. These actions can be a specific sequence or combination of keystrokes, mouse clicks, and delays. This can be useful for gaming when accessing menus, making combination attacks, and other similar long-form tasks that need repetition.
Gaming with macro keys can further boost your gaming experience. In this article, we will be discussing what macro keys are and why you need them integrated into your keyboards. We’ll also be taking you through our top macro keyboard picks.
Macro Keys and Macro Keyboards
The term macro stands for “macroinstruction,” which is a set of input instructions that turn into a preset sequence of output for your computer. These input instructions can be comprised of multiple mouse clicks, different keys, and specific time delays. In short, programmed macro keys relay a particular set of commands that would otherwise take up a lot of time if encoded step by step.
Macro keys are often integrated into a keyboard, called “G-keys.” These keys allow many automation to be assigned to them, which can be helpful for productivity and gaming. Using macro keys can speed up your workflow since these buttons save you time when working on repetitive tasks. All you have to do is record your keystrokes and/or mouse actions for the macro key to imitate and implement them afterward. Usually, this is done through in-house software from your keyboard’s manufacturer or other third-party macro-recording tools.
By clicking on a programmed G-key, your task is accessible and quickly accomplished. However, not all keyboards have these accessory keys readily available. Unfortunately, the trend of getting more compact keyboards has put these extra macro keys in the background. Some gaming keyboards still carry them, but the point remains valid regarding the increasing preference over compact keyboards that do not have added macro keys.
If you’re looking to acquire extra macro keys to supplement your current keyboard, you’d have to get a macro keyboard or a macropad. These are smaller keyboards dedicated primarily to programming macro keys.
Perks & Downsides of Using a Macro Keyboard for Gaming
Using a macro keyboard for gaming can be helpful for games that use multiple keyboard combinations to perform specific actions and attacks. Repetitive actions such as accessing the menus can also be pre-programmed into the macro keys.
Moreover, macropads can be used as your primary control board for gaming. You can reprogram the game’s control keys into your macropad to be easier to access and closer together. This can improve your gaming experience if you’re not a fan of utilizing your whole keyboard alongside your mouse while playing games. You’ll also be rewarded with more desk space since the macro keyboard is usually composed of between two (2) to thirty (30) buttons.
However, the macropad’s small size can be a detriment since you might not have enough key space in your macro keyboard to fully control and play your games. Furthermore, you might need to customize profiles for each game which can be time-consuming.
Some gamers also avoid using macropads, and macro keys in general since performing macros can take away from the skill-honing experience provided during gameplay.
Using Macro Keys in Gaming
Originally, macro keys were used in massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as Ultima Online (1997). Characters in MMORPGs train for in-game skills by using repetitive actions, which are then recorded in macro keys by players. In this way, the character can advance in skill even if their user is away from their keyboard.
In recent years, gamers have used macros to quickly perform complex keyboard and mouse shortcuts. Instead of clicking several keys to perform a combination attack, a macro could be utilized in a single button and implement the skill, which could be difficult for an ordinary human to do. This is why in games wherein time is of the essence, such as first-person shooting games, the use of macro keys is usually dissuaded by players and game developers alike.
Moreover, some games that can detect cheat codes cannot distinguish those from the performance of macro keys, which can get your account suspended or banned.
Using Macro Keyboards for Gaming
Macro Keyboards in MOBA Games
Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games include Smite, Heroes of the Storm, and DOTA. These games can use multiple combination keys to play different characters. Macropads can be helpful if you have specific commands which take up much of your time. You can also use macropads to have the control keys be closer together than when using a regular keyboard.
Macro Keyboards in MMORPGs / RPGs
MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs) and RPGs (Role Playing Games) utilize the most keys from your keyboard. Using a macropad can be helpful when honing your characters’ skills in MMORPGs. Like in MOBA games, this small form-factor keyboard can be used for clumping control keys together.
MMORPGs include Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft (WoW), and RuneScape. RPGs include the games Horizon Zero Dawn, Dark Souls, and The Witcher.
Macro Keyboards in Other Genres
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In other game genres, macro keys can be used to access specific consecutive instruction cycles, such as picking up and equipping one’s character with an item. Macropads can also be used for easier access to stream controls. Be extra cautious of using combination macro keys in player vs. player online gaming, though, since this can be classified as “automation” and can result in your account getting suspended or banned for a specific time being.
Some Macro Keyboards / Pads You May Want to Try
The budget-friendly Max Falcon-20 comes pre-assembled with your choice of switches from ten various switch options from two brands (Cherry and Gateron). This keyboard allows for five programming layers, with the first pre-programmed as a general number pad which is great for gaming and office work. This macro numeric pad is likewise optimized for gaming with its six key rollover, which allows you to press multiple keys without losing any data/command entry. A durable anodized aluminum encases this powerful RGB-backlit macro keyboard, making it a long-lasting companion for both work and play.
Razer Tartarus Pro
The ultimate gaming experience is at your fingertips with the Razer Tartarus Pro. This macropad’s equipped with Razer’s infamous optical switches, which allow for faster actuation and ultimate control. The keyboard’s 32 programmable keys register scaling levels of input (whether half-press or full-press) which gives you 64 controls available. The board also includes an eight-way directional thumb pad, a scroll-wheel, and easy access to eight keyboard profiles with a side button, making it the perfect one-hand gaming keyboard.
Elgato Stream Deck
The Elgato Stream Deck is technically not a macro keyboard, especially when compared to the other keyboards featured on this list. It does not use MX-style switches and, instead, uses proprietary low-profile keys with LEDs. However, we decided to include since it is pretty feature-packed and will certainly help many gamers and streamers.
The Elgato Stream Deck has fifteen customizable LCD keys that can perform up to 210 actions with a very powerful yet easy-to-use software. You can drag and drop actions onto keys and create your own custom visual aid for each button. What was once for exclusive mainstream broadcasters is made available to content creators, with quick access to their necessary social media applications such as Twitch, Twitter, TipeeeStream, OBS, and YouTube.