Keyboard Firmware

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Things you need to know when shopping for a gaming keyboard or programable keyboard.

Firmware is software that's in the keyboard's memory. It controls the device.

All keyboards have firmware. The basic ones just send standard signals of the key when it is pressed.

Examples of Firmware Capabilities

Programable keyboards have firmware that can be configured or updated.

Here is list of what firmware can do:

Note: not all programable keyboard has all these capabilities.

Advantage of Firmware over Operating System Keymapping

Why Programable Keyboards Are Better Than Software Key Remap

Different Firmware Capabilities

Firmware have different levels of power. Here's some differences.

• Most gaming keyboards have pre-set actions and key-remap features. You cannot remap arbitrary keys. For example, you cannot make Space key do Ctrl.

Driverless Programable Keyboard

Some keyboards have driverless programing (aka on-board programing). That is, to program the key, you just press special keys or buttons on the keyboard. No need to launch a “driver” software to program the keys.

This is the best.

Example of such keyboard are:

On-Board Memory vs Cloud

Some keyboard makers force you to have internet connection or install their driver software, in order to use the keyboard as you configured it.

For example,

Razer Orbweaver Keypad forces you to install their “Razer Synapse”. You need to install it, and also register online, and also have internet connection, to use its key-programing features fully. [see Razer Orbweaver Keypad]

Many models of Corsair's Keyboard require you to have their driver software in order to use the keyboard. In particular, Corsair Gaming STRAFE RGB Keyboard. [see Corsair Keyboards]

Usually that means the keyboard is not usable in Linux. In some cases, the keyboard does not work at all in linux, or send weird handshake characters when plugged in.

Avoid any Razer or Corsair keyboards.

Logitech gaming keyboards are good. You still need to install the Windows software to program the keys. (Mac version is available too) But after that, you can use the keyboard on any machine without their “driver” software.

List of Programable Keyboards with Onboard Memory

Programable Keyboards with Onboard Memory

Programable Keyboard User Interface

Great programable firmware need a way to program it.

Here are different methods.

logitech gaming keyboard software 84134
Logitech's software for programing the keys. [see Logitech G910 Keyboard]
ergodox infinity configurator 2017 03 07
ergodox infinity configurator, as of 2017-03-07. [see Ergodox Keyboard]

See also

List of Keyboard with Great Firmware

Many expensive keyboards have powerful firmware.

Gaming keyboards usually focus on key macros, and profiles (which is a set of configurations, that you can switch to on-the-fly.). Gaming keyboard usually does not allow arbitrary key remap, nor creating Dead Keys, nor modifier key layers.

Gaming keyboard examples:

Programable keyboards usually focus on arbitrary remap of keys and key layers with modifier keys.