This Is the Next Big Thing in Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

Hall Effect switches for the win!

This Is the Next Big Thing in Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

Key Takeaways

  • Mechanical keyboards that feature Hall Effect switches offer precise control with customizable actuation points, enhancing gameplay in fast-paced online multiplayer games.
  • Hall Effect gaming keyboards also include the Rapid Trigger feature, boast a longer lifespan than regular mechanical switches, reduce finger fatigue, and allow for mapping multiple inputs to a single key.
  • Quality software is essential for optimizing the performance of Hall Effect keyboards, so ensure that any gaming keyboards that you are considering purchasing is supported by software that works as intended.

In 2019, a relatively unknown keyboard manufacturer introduced the world's first Hall Effect mechanical keyboard. The company was Wooting, and the keyboard was the Wooting two Lekker Edition. Five years later, HE keyboards are starting to gain traction, and that’s great news for gamers.

Hall Effect Sensors Aren’t Limited to Controllers

Most gamers and gaming hardware enthusiasts are familiar with Hall Effect thumbsticks. These sticks are immune to stick drift thanks to a contactless design that uses a magnet and a sensor. As you move the joystick, you also move the magnet relative to the sensor, resulting in changes in voltage. This change is measured and used to report the position of the joystick.

Aside from joysticks, Hall Effect sensors are also used in analog triggers. This time, each of the two triggers features a tiny magnet. As you push the trigger, the magnet gets closer to the sensor, which measures the voltage change and translates it into positional data.

Hall Effect keyboard switches work similarly to Hall Effect analog triggers. You’ve got your regular mechanical switch housing, but you won’t find the usual assembly that includes metal leaves that activate the keystroke once they touch inside the housing. Instead, you’ve got a tiny magnet placed just below the stem, like in the image below.

This Is the Next Big Thing in Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

The bottom of the switch has a hole so that the magnet can fully bottom out. The sensor—the tiny chip at the bottom of the image—is located on the printed circuit board. This measures the change in voltage and determines the position of the magnet.

The sensor’s measurement accuracy is very high. Most HE keyboards feature a customizable actuation point that can be tweaked in 0.1mm increments. Another feature found in Hall Effect keyboards is Rapid Trigger, which allows you to activate the key as soon as you press it and deactivate it as soon as you release it, once the switch starts lifting.

You can then reactivate the key again as soon as you press it instead of waiting for the switch to pass a fixed reset point. Unlike HE switches, regular mechanical switches have a fixed reset point because the two metal leaves have to be physically separated before the switch can register a new keystroke.

Rapid Trigger is also adjustable. On some keyboards, the lower bound is set at only 0.1mm. This means that after you bottom out a key, the switch only has to lift by 0.1mm before being ready to register another keypress, allowing you to pull off super-precise strafing movements, for instance.

The Benefits of Hall Effect Gaming Keyboards

Adjustable actuation points in combination with Rapid Trigger give gamers much better control over movement in games, providing an edge in multiplayer experiences. For example, if you set the actuation point at something like 0.3mm, your character will move at the slightest press of the key.

Thanks to Rapid Trigger, you can configure the keyboard so that you can bottom out the key then start releasing it just enough for it to travel upwards by 0.1mm, and then quickly activate it again.

This can dramatically improve your gaming experience in fast-paced, movement-based games and titles where strafing is important. This includes most first-person shooters, especially titles like Apex Legends and The Finals. Another genre where the Rapid Trigger in combination with adjustable actuation points can drastically improve your performance is rhythm action games such as osu! where you can improve the timing of your keystrokes and increase your hit frequency.

Aside from these two features, many HE gaming keyboards also allow you to map multiple inputs to a single key thanks to the analog nature of HE switches. For example, at 1.5mm, the key will register one input, and then at 3.5mm or at bottom out, it will register a different input. This allows you to walk when you lightly press a key and sprint when you press harder. The feature is less useful than Rapid Trigger because keyboard switches generally have a short total travel distance, meaning you have to be extra precise to nail the right input.

Another advantage of HE keyboards is the slower buildup of finger fatigue. The adjustable actuation point and Rapid Trigger allow for faster key presses with less actuation force, which can greatly help reduce finger fatigue in rhythm games (or even when typing).

Finally, magnetic switches also have a dramatically longer lifespan compared to regular mechanical switches. Most HE switches are rated for 100 million keystrokes because they register input in a contactless fashion instead of relying on two metal leaves that have to touch.

Here Comes a Flood of Mechanical Hall Effect Keyboards

For a couple of years, Wooting was the only manufacturer of HE gaming keyboards. But after the explosion in popularity of the Wooting 60 HE, the best gaming keyboard you can get right now, other keyboard brands started to offer HE switches of their own.

At the moment of writing, in addition to Wooting HE keyboards, you also have magnetic gaming keyboards from Corsair, SteelSeries, Keychron, Akko, Endgame Gear, Monsgeek, KBDFans, DrunkDeer, and others. The HE gaming keyboard market is still in its infancy, but you should soon expect even more HE mechanical gaming keyboards because HE switches make you better at certain multiplayer games.

Razer, on the other hand, still doesn't offer an HE keyboard. Their Razer Huntsman Mini Analog keyboard has the Rapid Trigger feature, but the switches inside the board aren’t magnetic. They are optical, making them less accurate, resulting in a worse experience than what you get with magnetic switches.

Most brands only offer one or a few HE keyboards, meaning there’s not much choice regarding form factors. Also, since HE keyboards are the latest trend in gaming keyboards, most of the models are quite pricey. This should change once we start getting more HE switches, and more gamers become aware of the advantages HE gaming keyboards bring to the table.

One thing you should be aware of is that not all HE switches are interchangeable. You’ve got the regular design with a hole at the bottom, and then there’s the newly released double-rail HE switch design from Gateron that features an extended bottom tube that goes into the PCB. This means that double-rail switches and PCBs are incompatible with other HE switch designs. If you end up getting an HE keyboard, check which magnetic switches it uses before thinking about swapping them for some other flavor.

This Is the Next Big Thing in Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

If you’re thinking about buying an HE keyboard, make sure to read trusted reviews and user comments on forums like Reddit because not all HE keyboards offer the same Rapid Trigger precision and quality.

Hall Effect Keyboards Live and Die by the Quality of Their Software

When it comes to HE keyboards, software is as important as hardware. The Wooting 60HE has a fantastic web-based app that works well and is super accurate at tweaking the Rapid Trigger and adjustable actuation point values.

The Corsair K70 Max, on the other hand, is quite inaccurate when it comes to the precision of the adjustable actuation point, as noted by RTINGS. This means you won’t be able to trigger a keystroke as fast as on Wooting keyboards, impairing your gaming experience and making your movement and direction switches slower than someone using a Wooting 60HE. Then you have the usual bugs and messiness of Corsair's iCUE software that together makes for a fairly worse user experience compared to Wooting’s software.

Then there's the SteelSeries Apex Pro Mini, a well-designed HE keyboard that unfortunately comes with awful software that’s super buggy, inconsistent, and can even break the keyboard.

What I’m trying to say is that if you want to end up with a decent HE gaming keyboard, you have to do your research and find out whether any prospective purchases have quality software that includes a precise Rapid Trigger and adjustable actuation point setup process.

Considering the relatively high average price of magnetic HE gaming keyboards, you don’t want to make a mistake and end up with an expensive keyboard that behaves like a regular mechanical gaming keyboard or comes with an app custom-made for ruining your day over and over again.

Should I Get a Hall Effect Mechanical Gaming Keyboard?

If you regularly play online first-person shooter games, you should at least consider getting an HE mechanical gaming keyboard, especially if you have a competitive mindset. When done well, an HE gaming keyboard can elevate your performance and make switching directions while moving easier, faster, and more precise.

If you’re a casual gamer who likes to occasionally play a match or two of your favorite online shooter, the decision largely comes down to your readiness to spend the money on a keyboard, the advantage of which you won’t see regularly.

If you’re a mechanical keyboard geek and are into the hobby because you’re on a quest for the perfect thock—or clack, I’m not judging—I recommend waiting a bit because all the current HE keyboards have less than impressive sound due to the design of HE switches. Since the switches have a hole at the bottom instead of a firm plastic cover, they tend to be quieter and less crispy than regular switches.

The good news is that the recently released Gateron Magnetic Jade switches feature a regular, closed-out bottom that results in that full switch sound you get on regular mechanical switches. The bad news is that you cannot find a keyboard equipped with Magnetic Jades yet, meaning you’ll have to pay extra to get a better typing sound. In other words, if you’re a heavy typer, wait a bit for models packing “normal” sounding HE switches.

As for the customization, you can lube magnetic switches, but you won’t get the same level of sound improvement as when lubing regular switches. Also, since virtually every type of HE switch features regular Cherry stems, you can swap default keycaps with custom sets.

The HE gaming keyboard market is still trying to find its footing, and I hope that HE gaming keyboards will get the attention of the mainstream online PC gaming community because they offer genuinely useful features, which is a breath of fresh air in a market dominated by mostly aesthetic-related improvements. Take a look at our favorite mechanical keyboards (and non-mehanical keyboards) for more ideas.

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