In gaming, the placement of a keycap along with its surface texture, its look, area, dimensions, and distance from other keys matters a lot. It can greatly impact your gaming experience particularly in games that use a lot of keys. That’s why finding the right keycap profile is crucial for gamers.
At this point, you might be wondering, what are the different keycap profiles and which one is the best for gaming? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you.
Making sure that you find a keycap profile that suits your style of play, allows you to make quick keypress decisions, and get instant responses will severely enhance your performance. So, without further ado, let’s get started and look at what keycap profiles are and the best ones for gaming.
What are Keycap Profiles?
Keycaps have different kinds of surfaces, roundness, area, and other characteristics that classify them as individual keycaps. These characteristics make up a keycap profile. Different keycap profiles are used for different keyboarding applications and some are better than others for specifics tasks. This is why learning about them is so important.
Keycap profiles are not to be confused with keycap layout because the same layout can feature different keycap profiles. Finding the best one is what you need to do. Many new keycap profiles can come and gone but there are only a few that actually ended up staying popular because of how they revolutionized keyboard usage.
What Should You Know About the Keyboard Layout?
If you want to gain knowledge about different keycap profiles, then learning about the layout of a keyboard is important. Basically, the keyboard is divided into 4 rows of keycaps named R1, R2, R3, and R4. Let’s take a look at them.
- R1 – R1 or Row 1 is the row which houses keys the Ctrl, Alt, and other function keys along with the spacebar keys. It is also the row above this one that has the Shift, Z, X, C, and other keys as well.
- R2 – The middle row which contains the Caps Lock key along with the A, S, D, and other keys is known as the R2 or Row 2. It contains some of the most commonly used keys on the keyboard.
- R3 – The row of keys which includes the Tab key, QWERTY keycaps, as well as special character keys is row 4 or R4. This is a very popular row of keyboard keys.
- R4 – The R4 or row 4 is the row of keys that contains the numerical keys and the row above that row in a full-sized standard keyboard containing the Esc key and the function keys are also the row 4 in the keycap profile size guides.
Each row of a keyboard has the same dimensions as long as the number of keycap units is the same. One unit of a keycap is 18x18mm in terms of width and length. The keycap number of units can differ but other than that, each row of keycaps has the same height with the inclination and roundness being unique depending upon the particular keycap profile used.
This means that a key of a single unit, for example, the Letter “A” key is 18x18mm in width and length, but the Caps Lock has a size of 1×1.75 units which translates to 18×32.30mm. Similarly, the spacebar keys, shift keys, and other larger keys have slightly different dimensions due to their width being longer than a single unit. Now, let’s take a look at the difference in height of the rows of keycaps.
- R1 – The R1 keycaps are anywhere between 7.8 to 10mm.
- R2 – The Row 2 keycaps are between 8 to 9.5mm.
- R3 – R3 keycaps are 9 to 9.3mm.
- R4 – On the R4, the keycaps are 10.4 to 11.8mm in height.
5 Different Keycap Profiles used for gaming
When it comes to gaming and other keyboard usage purposes, different keycap profiles are in use right now. To give you a better understanding so that you can choose the right keycap profile, here are some of the different keycap profiles used for gaming nowadays.
OEM keycap profile is one of the most common profiles in the keycap market right now. Most of the standard keyboards as well as many mechanical ones use this profile for their keycaps.
In this keycap profile, the surface of the keycaps is very straight. The R1 keys are actually inclined downwards while the R2 keys are straighter in terms of angling, however, the R3 and R4 keys are both inclined upwards at a slightly different angle.
The OEM keycaps are easily available throughout the market so if you want to get them, you’ll be able to buy them for affordable prices. Plus, they’re quite decent in terms of keypress as well. The design of these keycaps is similar to Cherry MX keycaps.
Talking about Cherry MX keycaps, the Cherry MX keycap profile is the most premium as of now. It is used in most high-end keyboards because of how comfortable and nice they feel whether you’re a gamer or a typist or a generic computer user even.
The amount of roundness in them is very negligible. Their surface is mostly flat and straight. However, their incline is one-wayed. The R1 keycaps are completely flat and straight in terms of angling, the R2 keycaps are slightly angled upward, the R3 keycaps are angled a little more than the R2, and finally, the R3 keycaps are angled quite a lot upwards but the overall design is quite ergonomic.
SA or Spherical All Rows is a more modern kind of keycap profile that has recently made strides in the keycap industry. These keycaps are very rarely found in the market because of their niche community. If we talk about the roundness of these keycaps, then, you guessed it, the keycaps are very round on the top.
The R1 keycaps of the SA profile have a downward incline but the incline is more curved, same is the case with the R2 keycaps but the incline is lesser, from the R3 keycaps the incline starts going upward, and with the R4 keycaps, the incline is completely directed upward like in the R1 keycaps. The feel of these keycaps is good but the area is a bit difficult to propagate through.
The DSA or DIN standard height spherical all rows keycap profile is quite unusual but famous for its uniqueness. This keycap profile keeps all the keys at a similar height and the inclination is the same as well which is pretty great for generic usage purposes.
The roundness of the keycaps is quite a lot and the inclination is only due to the roundness, other than that, there is no special difference between the incline. All the R1, R2, R3, and R4 rows are almost the same. Only the spacebar has a reverse roundness moving outward in the DSA profile.
You can find DSA profile keycaps only in custom keyboards since they’re not very commonly considered when companies are making keyboards, only OEM or Cherry profile keycaps are used mostly.
The XDA keycap profile is incredibly similar to the DSA keycap profile but the difference comes in terms of the area of the keys and the roundness of the sides of the keycaps.
If you take a look at the XDA keycaps, you’re going to see that they have greater surface area than other keys, even though all the R1, R2, R3, and R4 rows of keycaps have virtually the same inclination, roundness, and feel to them. That’s what’s special about them.
Which Keycap Profile is the Best for Gaming?
A lot of people tend to ask me this question, which keycap profile out of all of these is the best for gaming; Well, basically, the keycap profile that feels the most comfortable, offers the best feel, has a decent amount of area, and is easy to propagate from one key to another.
All these elements and considerations are what you need to take a look at when choosing the best keycap profile. And if we do take all of these things into view, then the only keycap profile that seems the best out of all of them is none other than the Cherry MX keycap profile.
However, the difference in experience is more affected by the keyboard switch than the keycap profile. Cherry MX is great but if you really want to make a difference in your gaming performance, you should actually look at using a better-quality switch alongside the MX profile keycaps. You’re definitely going to have a great experience with them.
While I personally think the Cherry profile is the best for gaming, I’ve heard others claim OEM is the best. So I made an article comparing the two, check it out and choose for yourself: Cherry Profile vs OEM Profile Comparison Guide.
Keycap profiles are very crucial to the overall keycap press experience of the keyboard. That’s why you need to learn about them and make sure you choose the right one for your keyboarding experience. I hope you learned a lot from this article and that you’re going to use this information to make your keyboarding experience better. Have a great day ahead of you.