Have you ever looked at your gaming keyboard and realized how superfluous and redundant some of the keys are. Especially if all you play are first-person shooters and platform games. You don’t need all 101(+/-) keys to play a game like Ori And The Blind Forest.
Why not create a greater economy of space for yourself while increasing your edge with a gaming keypad? So in this guide, we’ll discuss five of the very best one-handed gaming keypads to help you bring more pragmatism and efficiency to your gaming set-up.
Top 5 Gaming Keypads
Most gamers play with one hand laid on their keyboard and the other on their gaming mouse. A bit like how Vin Diesel drives on the Fast and The Furious flicks – one hand on the gear stick and the other on the steering wheel.
This is why keypads make so much sense. They are essentially one-handed gaming keyboards. They are smaller, more ergonomically designed (in most cases), more comfortable, more accessible and feature a host of extras. These four points are what we used to select our top five picks for this guide.
Near the end of this article, we have featured a buying guide where we expound on some of these points and more. We also answer some frequently asked questions. So if you want to learn more about gaming keypads, you should read on until the conclusion.
Best Choice: AULA Excalibur
Pros & Cons
- Ergonomically designed to prevent fatigue
- Features customizable backlighting
- Easy to set up and program
- Great key accessibility
- Features 100% anti-ghosting and all Key Roll Over
- Cheap and uncomfortable hand rest
- Macro keys are a bit small
- A bit bulky
- Double-molded keys
- Programmable macro and hotkeys
- Automatic sleep function
- Eight-way thumb pad
- Removable Palm Rest
- Interface: USB
- Color: Black
- Weight: 1.1 lbs / 498.95 g
- Size: 8.4(L) X 9.69(W) X 1.89(H) inches /
213.36(L) X 246.12(W) X 48(H) mm
- Number of Keys: 60
- Key Force: 60+10g Rate
- Compatible Operating Systems: Windows Vista/7/8/10/MAC OS
- Type: Mechanical Blue Switch
AULA Excalibur Review
Pure gaming mechanical keyboards can be pricy. So buying an entire keyboard is a bit wasteful when all you are going to use most of the time are the WASD keys and the space bar.
The AULA Excalibur is basically half a keyboard with a set of extra buttons. While it’s compact, it’s not really cramped – quite the contrary. It’s perfectly built for people with larger hands. You can reach most of the top function keys without taking your palm off the hand-rest.
If you have smaller hands, you may find that it is a little too bulky for you. While the Macro keys are easy enough to program without consulting the manual, they are a bit small and hard to press. They feel less like keys and more like buttons. You don’t press them, you push them.
In total, the keypad houses sixty keys. Eight of them are the macro keys I’ve previously mentioned. They can be programmed using the software utility that comes with the keypad. The software isn’t very intuitive and comes in the form of a mini-disc.
Which can present a problem if you don’t have a disc-reader.
Luckily, you can download the driver from the product page on the website. You’ll have to use a little experimenting while programming the macro-keys since the instructions on the manual aren’t clear or easy to follow.
The AULA Excalibur comes with fully customizable backlighting. It gives you five pre-programmed modes that can be accessed and calibrated using the FN-Keys. You can create your own presets and effects too.
It uses blue mechanical switches. You feel a satisfying click with every key-press. It also has full key roll-over and 100% anti-ghosting. These features would be perfect for typing on a full-sized keyboard and thus feel wasted on this AULA Excalibur.
Nonetheless, they are appreciated. It would be foolish to limit this keypad to First Person Shooters or hack-and-slashes. It has enough keys to accommodate MMORPGs. It is durable, affordable, looks decent and most importantly, it works.
Premium Pick: Razer Orbweaver Chroma
Pros & Cons
- Features a thick braided cord
- Features an adjustable palm and thumb rest
- Great adjustability and customizability
- Features full anti-ghosting
- Doesn’t feature full-key rollover (up to 6-keys)
- Twenty programmable keys
- Eight-way directional thumb pad
- Customizable backlighting with over 16.8 million color options
- Unlimited macro lengths
- 2-year Warranty
- Interface: USB
- Color: Black
- Weight: 0.87 lbs / 395 g
- Size: 2.17(L) X 6.06(W) X 7.95(H) inches /
55(L) X 154(W) X 202(H) mm
- Number of Keys: 20
- Key Force: 50 g
- Compatible Operating Systems: Windows 7/8/10/MAC OS
- Type: Razer Mechanical
Razer Orbweaver Chroma
It feels less like a standalone and more like an addition to Razer’s extensive ecosystem. For instance, it would go nicely alongside the Razer Ornata Chroma. In addition to this, it also works with Razer’s Synapse software, so you can synchronize and color coordinate all your Razer devices.
Upon further inspection, the Razer Orbweaver isn’t just a side-kick or an auxiliary device for all your other components. It is a fully customizable keypad. Instead of sporting the same WASD key-layout you’ll find on most keypads, its keys are numbered from left to right (1-20).
Again, this makes sense because Razer expects you to use it to complement your keyboard (and other gear) but in addition to this, all the buttons are programmable too. Which means that Razer understands that different gamers have different needs.
So you can use all twenty of the main keys the way you want to. The keypad uses soft keycaps on top of Razer’s mechanical switches. They require less actuation force than most mechanical keyboards or keypads; however, they are still strikingly loud.
Some users may not appreciate the tactile feedback. It often feels too soft and understated. However, we cannot really judge the Orbweaver Chroma in the same way you would judge a keyboard that is made for typing.
Although, besides just for gaming, the keypad would work well as an additional number pad for telemarketers or professionals who need to automate some of their tasks using macro-keys. The keypad’s use is flexible enough that you do not have to assign it to a single activity.
You can create a limitless number of profiles with their own assigned key-maps and black-lighting. So you can set a profile for each game you play. I wish I could say it was easy to accomplish but Razer’s Synapse software does not always work as it should. Hopefully, if you decide to buy this keypad, Razer will have sorted out all the kinks by then.
In terms of comfort, the Razer Orbweaver comes with adjustable thumb and palm modules. The thumb-rest also works as a thumb-spacebar actuator. Just above it, lies the eight-way directional thumb-pad, which feels like a mini joystick. Further above that, sits the hyper-response thumb key.
The Orbweaver feels like a giant matte-black bear claw. While some users may complain that it is a bit too big, it is adjustable enough that smaller hands should be able to type on it comfortably. It can also be adjusted for longer wrists and hands.
The Razer Orbweaver’s huge selling point for me is its adjustability. It looks great too. If these are two things that you are looking for in a keypad, then you should definitely add the Orbweaver Chroma to your arsenal.
Best Value: Redragon K585 DITI
Pros & Cons
- Uses dust proof switches
- Full rollover
- Includes a switch and key puller
- Keypad cable can be easily removed and replaced
- The wrist rest is a little uncomfortable
- Subpar calibration and customization software
- USB pass-through port
- Blue mechanical switches
- Twenty-eight macro settings in total
- Magnetic detachable wrist rest
- Detachable Type-C cable
- Interface: USB (Detachable cable)
- Color: Black
- Weight: 1.7 lbs / 771.10 g
- Size: 11.1(L) X 9.1(W) X 1.6(H) inches /
281.94(L) X 231.14(W) X 40.64(H) mm
- Number of Keys: 42
- Key Force: Unspecified
- Compatible Operating Systems: Windows 7/8/10/MAC OS
- Type: Blue Switch Mechanical (OUTEMU)
Redragon K585 DITI Review
Redragon is known to sell some of the most affordable gaming peripherals out there. It is no wonder that the Redragon K552 made it on top of our list for the best budget mechanical keyboard.
Keypads can cost you as much as keyboards sometimes, which doesn’t always make sense. Why are you paying full price for half a keyboard? This is the first issue that Redragon seems to address with the K585 DITI.
However, like most Redragon products, it does not feel nor look cheap. Yes, in terms of style, it does carry some of Redragon’s almost signature square design choices. There are a lot of sharp corners with smooth edges. It’s not very subtle.
In terms of lighting, the keypad has five RGB backlit modes. I expected them to look like cheap Christmas lighting. I was pleasantly surprised. This thing lights up like Neo transcending near the end of the Matrix trilogy. It’s vibrant and it’s colorful.
Propping up the keys are dustproof blue switches, which should last you a long time. If you are unsatisfied with the keycaps or switches, you can simply swap them out with something a lot softer or with a little more tactility. The keypad comes with a key and switch puller as well as additional blue switches.
The K585 DITI does not give you the same freedom or amount of customizability as you would get with something like the Razer Orbweaver Chroma. Instead, you’re given seven programmable macro keys. Five of them are dedicated rubberized keys on the keypad. The rest are integrated into the tilde(~) and T keys, respectively. In total, there are twenty-eight Macro settings.
The Redragon K585 DTI uses a Type-C removable USB cable. The same type of cable you use to charge or connect the latest Android phones. What this means is if you are unhappy with the size or thickness of the cable, you can always replace it.
The keypad also features a USB pass-through, which can be used as a charging bay for your mobile devices or an additional port for your peripherals like your mouse or awesome gaming headsets.
Redragon has always had an awesome scope of delivery. They’re good at making entry-level products for beginners. If you are buying your first keypad, then this product is a good place to start.
Best Membrane Keypad: NPET T10
Pros & Cons
- Lightweight and portable
- Features 100% N-key rollover and anti-ghosting
- Shock and dustproof
- Membrane keypad
- A bit large
- Integrated palm rest (detachable)
- Four dedicated macro keys
- Mechanical box switch space key
- Thirty-three programmable keys
- Nine RGB modes for backlighting
- Comes with a free key-puller
- Interface: USB
- Color: Black with white trim
- Weight: 1.23 lbs / 557.91 g
- Size: 9.8(L) X 7.9(W) X 1.5(H) inches / 248.92(L) X 182.88(W) X 38.1(H) mm
- Number of Keys: 33
- Key Force: Unspecified
- Compatible Operating Systems: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10
- Type: Membrane
The NPET T10 Review
The NPET T10 looks like a softer and cuter version of Redragon’s K585 DTI. However, it is slightly more affordable (depending on where you buy it). This is because it is a membrane keypad. If you’re aware of the differences between a mechanical and a membrane keyboard, this may be off-putting. Unless of course, you’ve been searching for a membrane keypad.
You will notice that all the keypads in this guide so far have been mechanical keypads. The only mechanical part of the NPET T10 is the space button. It uses a mechanical box switch, which gives it a springy feel.
The double injection keycaps almost feel rubbery. Combined with its membrane foundation, it gives you an almost mushy typing experience. However, it is very quiet, which is a pro despite its deficiencies in tactile feedback and feel.
You can replace the keycaps with something a little harder if you deign to. The NPET T10 comes with a free key puller to help you along with that.
It uses RGB Chroma backlighting. You get four different modes. You can cycle through them on the fly by using the FN+Tab key press combination. These modes are spectrum, static, breathing and streamer.
You can also change the color of the backlighting using the FN+C keys. For deeper customization, you can use NPET’s software, which is compatible with nearly every version of Windows, post-2000.
The keypad comes with four macro-keys. However, all 33 of the keypad keys are programmable. In fact, the keypad comes with some of PUBG’s macro commands already programmed into it. G1 for first aid kit, G2 for bandage, G3 for page up and G4 for page down.
This keypad is a little large which would not be a big issue if it were more adjustable. The wrist-rest is removable though which means nothing if your hands are too small for the keypad. Therefore, if you are planning to buy this keypad, you need to ensure that your hands are large enough to accommodate its size and key spacing.
The NPET T10 is another great entry-level keypad. It is perfect as a temporary solution for gamers who are working with student budgets.
Best RGB Keypad: Koolertron Macro Mechanical Keypad
Pros & Cons
- Extremely Compact
- Features a removable USB-C cable
- All keys are programmable Macro-keys
- Features four configurable profiles built into the keypad
- Features vibrant RGB backlighting
- No wrist/palm rest or support
- The software has a bit of a learning curve
- Removable type-c cable
- Built-in MicroController Unit (MCU)
- Four-layer custom configurations
- OEM Outemu Switches
- Interface: USB
- Color: White and translucent
- Weight: 1 lbs / 452.59 g
- Size: 5(L) X 3.5(W) X 1.2(H) inches /127(L) X 88.9(W) X 30.48(H) mm
- Number of Keys: 23
- Key Force: 50g
- Compatible Operating Systems: Windows XP/7/8/10 Mac OS
- Type: Blue Switch Mechanical
Koolertron Macro Mechanical Keypad Review
The Koolertron is both the best RGB and most compact keypad on the list. It also takes the spot for the company with the lamest name (Koolertron).
The 23-key RGB version has a very colorful K-pop-like aesthetic. By default, it comes with white keycaps marked with translucent legends. The Plexiglas base of the keypad is also see-through (basically). With all its vibrant backlights on in the dark, it looks like a flattened disco ball or a unicorn’s calculator. Mind you, I mean that in the most flattering way possible.
For lack of a better word, this thing looks adorable. It is the perfect gift for your cutesy Otaku partner or friend. However, all aesthetics aside. While this thing looks soft, it can actually take quite the beating. Underneath the soft keycaps lies blue mechanical switches. They feel clicky and tough – but not stiff.
I have to commend Kooletron on their scope of delivery here. With the keypad, you get your standard USB-C cable, a keycap puller, and a total of 88 additional keycaps. Twenty-three of the extra keycaps are blank, while the rest are top printed.
All 23 of the keys can be programmed and customized. While you won’t get very in-depth instructions or documentation on how to set the keypad up, the software is pretty simple and straightforward. It’s basically as compact and intuitive as the keypad is.
Like most good gaming keyboards/keypad, the Koolertron comes with a built-in MCU. Which means you can save all your configurations and macro settings on the keypad itself. You also get the option to program four different profiles into the keypad. This means you can switch configurations at a whim, to suit whatever four scenarios you need it for.
For a keypad this size, it is not cheap. But it has great portability, it’s compact and it’s colorful. It also addresses a problem that most gaming keypads seem to have. While it does not feature a wrist or palm rest, it is perfect for gamers with smaller hands.
This is not to say that if you have large hands, you should stay away from this keypad. It actually presents a nice middle-ground for all hand-sizes.
Gaming Keypads: Buying Guide
Because a gaming keypad is smaller than your standard keyboard, you would think that it is easier to shop for one, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In the introduction of this article, we mentioned five points, which can be condensed into the following: compactness, feel, ergonomics, accessibility, and extras.
For example, the top-rated ergonomic keyboards aren’t always designed for gaming when it comes to accessibility. However, they will make your sessions much more pleasant. Ultimately, it’s important to find a balance between what you need and want.
In this section, we will talk about these points in more ‘real-world’ terms. Therefore, if none of the keyboards in our top five list tickled your fancy, hopefully, the following buying guide will help you choose a gaming keypad that you’re more comfortable with.
Keyboard/Switch Type: Determines the Feel and Quality
Keypads are also known as one-handed keyboards so it makes sense that they work on the very same mechanics that standard 101-key keyboards do. You get two main types of keyboards; mechanical and membrane. Mechanical keyboards tend to last longer, are more customizable and feel better (to most gamers) while membrane keyboards are more affordable and a lot quieter.
With mechanical keyboards, you get different types of switches, which all give you a different feel and sound. Buying a mechanical keypad gives you the opportunity to purchase a less expensive mechanical keyboard. If you want more in-depth information on the differences between keyboard types and switches, check out our guide on mechanical vs membrane keyboards.
Number of Keys: Accessibility and Availability
Keypads can have anywhere from 9 to 88-keys. The number of keys does not really determine whether a keyboard is a keypad or not. It’s about whether or not you can operate it with one hand or not.
The number of keys will dictate your typing experience. Most keypads feature dedicated and integrated macro keys to make up for the keys or functions that are missing.
When picking your gamepad, make sure you look at the number of keys and the size of the keyboard. The more isn’t always the merrier. When manufacturers try to fit as many keys or buttons into the keypad as possible, they have to sacrifice key size and spacing. This creates a more cramped typing experience.
Keypad Design: Compactness and Ergonomics
In the previous point, we discuss keypad size and number of keys. This is just one of the factors that determine whether or not a keypad is designed with long-term use in my mind. You have to analyze whether or not a keypad comes with a built-in or removable wrist rest.
It’s important that you also pay attention to the shape of the keyboard. Is it built in such a way that it complements the contours of your hand? Is it too small or too big for your hands? Can you reach all the keys with as little effort as possible? This is very important because it will influence your in-game performance as well as your health.
If ergonomics are important to you (dealing with CTS, for example), make sure to check out great ergonomic mice to complement your keypad.
Additional Features: Extras, Bonuses, and Advantages
Some keypads come with additional buttons or controllers such as an analog joystick or a dial to help you adjust volume and other settings. Some come with a thumb-space button, which you can use for jumping or creating spaces while you type.
Some feature a USB pass-through port that you can use to connect your other peripheral devices. It is important to determine what you want from your keypad and then researching each potential keypad’s feature list. Scope of delivery is also important.
Does the keypad come with additional keycaps, a key puller, extra switches and/or an extra cable? These are things that you have to pay attention to in order to ensure that you’re getting decent value for money.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Purpose of a Gaming Keypad?
The purpose of a gaming keypad is to maximize your efficiency and gaming performance by providing you with a tool that you can use with one hand. It gives you an alternative to standard 100+ key gaming keyboards.
How to Use a Gaming Keypad?
Gaming Keypads work exactly like gaming keyboards. They may feature a few extras like a joystick, but they function similarly to your other peripherals. They can be either wireless or connect through your PCs USB port.
Gaming Keypads usually come with software that contains the drivers as well as a program to help you configure your keypad. If you are lucky enough, you will also get a digital or physical manual to help you set your keypad up.
Are Gaming Keypads Compatible with PS4?
Most gaming keyboards and mice are compatible with Sony’s PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, many keypads aren’t compatible with the PS4 – at least not out of the box. You will have to use an adapter with your PS4 and even then, your keypad may not function correctly. I suggest that you stick to using your PS4’s controller, or why not connect a top-tier gaming mouse and a keyboard?
Hopefully, after reading through this guide, you might see how idiosyncratic and old fashioned gaming keyboard are. Why not save yourself some space and step into the future by getting an awesome gaming keypad. In this guide, we covered five of the very best gaming keypads.
We also provided you with some really cool tips on how to shop for a keypad of your own. If you still feel that keypads are not compact enough, then why not visit our guide on the best controllers for PC? Either way, I hope you’ve found this guide to be helpful. Thank you for reading.