If you are familiar with gaming keyboards, then you have certainly heard about the term N-Key Rollover. This term is something that gaming brands like to throw around and advertise their keyboard with. And in the past, it was a gaming-changing feature that every brand needed to have.
N-Key Rollover is a feature, mostly found on expensive gaming keyboards, that allows you to press multiple keys at the same time without encountering issues such as ghosting. It allows you to accurately press different key combinations, which is extremely useful for competitive video games.
In this article, you will be learning everything you need to know about N-Key Rollover (NKRO). We will be talking about its uses, where you can find this feature, as well as how to test if your keyboard has NKRO.
Guide To Keyboard N-Key Rollover
What Does N-Key Rollover Mean?
N-Key Rollover pertains to the number of keys that your keyboard can register at any given time. Some keyboard manufacturers replace the N with the number of keys (example, 10 key rollover). This means that the maximum number of keys that can be accurately detected is 10 keys at a given time.
The N-Key Rollover feature does not have a limit to the number of keys that you can press simultaneously. The ones with limits such as the 10-key Rollover or 8-Key Rollover are referred to as X-Key Rollover. The most expensive gaming keyboard includes the NKRO feature.
On the other hand, cheap keyboards do not include the N-Key Rollover feature. This is due to the higher cost of implementing this feature.
The full N-Key Rollover feature was previously only accessible via a PS/2 connector. However, as keyboards have evolved, manufacturers have permitted the use of a USB interface in recent years. Brands such as Corsair and Ducky were among the first to use USB connectors that enabled the full NKRO feature.
Is N-Key Rollover the Same as Anti-Ghosting?
People frequently refer to N-key rollover as Anti-ghosting. However, ghosting and key rollover are not synonymous. While NKRO does prevent ghosting, the term ghosting refers to an entirely different phenomenon.
The term “ghosting” refers to the registration of an additional letter or punctuation when pressing more than one key at the same time. This usually happens to older membrane keyboards and was a big issue for competitive games.
The Anti-Ghosting function that most manufacturers include in their keyboard features is very similar to NKRO. It allows you to press multiple keys without encountering ghost inputs. However, unlike with NKRO, the number of keys that you can press is more limited (usually up to three keys).
Uses of N-Key Rollover
NKRO is primarily advertised for gamers. Most competitive games require accurate keystrokes. The slightest error in your input can result in you losing the game.
Specific game genres where NKRO is highly beneficial to include fighting games, rhythm games, and FPS. Tekken and Street Fighter, for instance, require precise inputs in order to pull off combos. The fact that most keyboards in the past lack NKRO was a huge reason why fighting game pros preferred controllers or fight sticks.
As for rhythm games, popular fast-paced titles such as O2Jam and Osu Mania will require you to press multiple keys at the same time. And lastly, FPS games such as Valorant and Apex Legends will certainly require accurate keystrokes, especially when fights get messy.
Aside from gaming, NKRO is also useful for other applications that require multiple buttons to be pressed. An example would be music production. If you do not own a MIDI keyboard, then you can use your keyboard as a substitute. And with NKRO, you will be able to hold multiple keys without encountering any major issues.
Is N-Key Rollover Important for Non-Gaming Related Tasks?
Aside from the ones that we have mentioned earlier, NKRO is generally not as important in casual tasks. When browsing the internet, using productivity apps, or typing documents, you do not usually need to hold different keys at the same time. But, of course, having NKRO is still nice to have since you are guaranteed to have accurate inputs.
Do All Mechanical Keyboards Have N-Key Rollover?
All mechanical keyboards will allow you to press a certain number of keys without encountering ghosting and other issues. However, not all keyboards will have a high NKRO. Some keyboards will only allow you to input three to five keys before the keyboard stops registering your inputs.
Keyboard manufacturers usually indicate this in their promotional material. If you are interested in knowing if your keyboard has NKRO or if how many keys you can press at the same time, simply refer to the manufacturer’s website.
Is N-Key Rollover Exclusive to Gaming Mechanical Keyboards?
While NKRO is primarily advertised for gaming keyboards, it isn’t exclusive to gaming keyboards. Custom keyboard PCBs, such as the DZ60 and DZ65, have this feature. Other prebuilt keyboards that are not advertised as gaming keyboards also have this feature. And in general, most mechanical keyboards are likely to have this feature.
How To Test If My Keyboard Has N-Key Rollover?
Testing your keyboard for NKRO is pretty simple. Simply press a certain number of keys, then check if all of them are registered. You can try with a few keys then progressively increase the number of keys to find out the maximum number of keys that you can press at the same time.
Just take note that NKRO on some keyboards is not automatically activated. For some keyboards, you have to manually turn them on via the software or through a key combination. For others, you have to use a PS/2 adapter. Refer to the manufacturer of your keyboard to learn more.
The KBE team is dedicated to sharing our knowledge and creating useful resources about computer keyboards. This article was written as a team collaboration, combining our knowledge and years of experience using, building and modding keyboards. Meet the team here.