Find the right keyboard, mouse or controller for the way you play

When you’re locking down your budget for your next gaming PC or upgrade, make sure you leave enough for your input devices. These might not seem as important as your CPU, GPU, motherboard or monitor, but they can have just as much impact on how much you enjoy your games, and how effectively you can compete in eSports. Without the right kit, you’ll find yourself frustrated or unable to play at your best.

For PC gaming, your main input devices will usually be the mouse and keyboard. Now, you can play games with the most ordinary USB desktop setup, but we’d recommend that you don’t. First, think about the keyboard. What kind of feel are you looking for? Many gamers prefer the clicky, responsive feel of a mechanical keyboard, though finding the right one can be an art in itself, thanks to the different types of switches used under the keytops. Some gamers favour a heavy action and loud click, while others like a speedy actuation and light feel. Do your research and – if you can – try some keyboards out to work out what you prefer.

Gaming keyboards are also preferable, because they poll – or check for a keypress – many more times per second than your average desktop model. Wireless gaming keyboards are also better than standard Bluetooth keyboards, because they’ll communicate using a high-speed, gaming-grade wireless connection rather than the slower, more lag-prone Bluetooth protocol.

Much the same applies to mice. Gaming mice will differ in the number of buttons they offer, how fast or clicky those buttons are, and their resolution or maximum DPI, which sets how sensitive they are to motion. Don’t get too hung up on DPI; it’s great to have a high maximum, but you’ll often find yourself turning the sensitivity down to get the right balance between speed and precision.

Instead, the crucial thing is to get the right shape and feel. Basically, different players will grip their mice in different ways. Some cover the body of the mouse with their palm and let the fingers fall over the buttons. Others, grip the mouse between the thumb and the last two fingers in a ‘claw’ grip, and push downwards on the buttons with the index and middle fingers with a bit more force. Some will hold the mouse lightly and use it mostly with their fingertips. 

Ideally, you need to try out all three styles then find the best mouse to support that style. Try out some different mouse shapes if you can, or try and work out how you naturally grip the mouse, then get some sound advice. Again, it’s safest to go for a fast USB connection, but if you do go wireless, look for a mouse that uses a gaming grade connection rather than Bluetooth; you don’t want any lag.

Finally, controllers. We’re going to leave steering wheels and flight sticks for other articles, but if you play a lot of third-person action games, platform games, sports games or fighting games, then it’s a safe bet that you’ll want a controller. These generally come in two styles: the Xbox controller and its third-party clones, with one analogue stick high on the left and one low on the right, or the PlayStation style with both sticks low and central. This is really a question of preference and what you’re used to, but Microsoft’s own Xbox controller is an excellent option for PCs, and you can use a USB Type-C to Type-A cable to hook it up to your gaming PC, or purchase Microsoft’s PC dongle. If you’re competing in controller-friendly games, you might also want to look at Microsoft’s Elite Series 2 controller, or other pro controllers from the likes of Thrustmaster,  Razer and SCUF.

In the end, you know better than anyone else what feels right to you, but if you need a bit of guidance, our expert advisors can help. Sometimes, switching to a new input device or controller can transform the way you play.