Why Do Gaming Keyboards Have 2 USBs?

It seems like USB ports have taken over the world. They’re everywhere – from modern cars and buses to wall outlets and keyboards. But why do gaming keyboards have 2 USBs?

Gaming keyboards have 2 USBs because one is for the keyboard and the other is for the USB passthrough. USB passthrough allows you to plug a USB device into your keyboard. The device will be registered by the computer as if you plugged it directly into the motherboard.

This article will answer a few common questions about USB cables and ports on gaming keyboards. I’ll also explain whether USB ports on keyboards add any input lag.

Why Some Gaming Keyboards Have 2 USB Cables

The most common reason for having two cables in a gaming keyboard is for USB passthrough.

If you’re wondering what that is, USB passthrough is a common feature on keyboards that means you have USB ports on the keyboard.

You need the two USB cables because one cable is for the passthrough, and the other is for the keyboard itself.

USB passthrough is essentially a small USB hub / USB extension cable that happens to be on your keyboard.

You don’t have to use the USB passthrough cable if you don’t want to. Only plug in the keyboard USB cable, and leave the other one dangling.

Some keyboards will have an icon on the USB connector that shows you what it’s for. If there’s a keyboard icon, that’s a tell-tale sign.

Other manufacturers make you play the guessing game. But then again, it’s not that hard to figure it out.

Plug one cable in and test the keyboard. Doesn’t work? It’s the other cable, then.

I should also note that some gaming keyboards have 2 USB cables for power. It’s usually for lighting.

It’s not common, but my Corsair K70 is a good example. It doesn’t have USB ports, but it has more RGB lights than your local rave party.

Why Gaming Keyboards Have USB Ports

USB ports are extremely handy, convenient, and flexible. That’s why we see them everywhere.

USB passthrough on gaming keyboards has a few unique benefits.

If the keyboard has two USB ports and two cables, you’re essentially getting the two ports back. This is crucial if you have too many gadgets or an ITX motherboard.

It also allows you to plug your USB headset in more easily. The cable won’t tangle as easily, and it’ll feel more comfortable for some people.

You can even charge your phone on the USB port if you want to.

You can use almost any USB gadget in the market. A desk fan is the best to use in summer.

If you don’t have one, I recommend the JZCreater USB Desk Fan from Amazon.com. It doesn’t require a lot of power, but it can keep you cool. Plus, it’s very quiet and has 3 fan speeds.

Should I Use the USB Port on My Keyboard?

You should use the USB port on your keyboard for your headphones or mouse. It’s more convenient to plug your gaming peripherals into the keyboard than the back of the motherboard.

USB ports on keyboards are especially useful if you don’t keep your desktop PC on your desk. Even the front USB ports are out of reach when it’s on the floor.

And, as a side note, don’t keep your computer on the floor because it collects more dust and heats up more.

A lot of people oppose USB ports on keyboards, but you should use them if you want to. It’s easier to use it than look for the motherboard ports in the dark.

You could reserve the keyboard USB ports for gadgets you use only sometimes, such as flash drives.

One of the coolest uses is to charge your smartwatch. Plug in the charger and prop up the smartwatch. You won’t miss any notifications, and you can tell the time in the middle of an intense team fight.

Does USB Passthrough Add Latency?

USB passthrough technically does add latency, but it’s minuscule. A USB passthrough adds the same amount of latency as a USB hub. You can’t tell that there’s more latency than when you plug your mouse or headset directly into the motherboard.

Anyone who claims that they can feel or hear the difference has fallen victim to a placebo effect.

Humans are indeed very sensitive to delay; we have lightning-fast eyes. A study found that people can identify an image after seeing it for only 13 milliseconds.

High-end gaming mice have a 1 ms response time. 

If you plug it into a USB port on your keyboard, it won’t magically turn into 100 ms. I can’t give you an exact number, but I doubt it’s more than 1 or 2 extra milliseconds.

Plugging a peripheral into the keyboard is like plugging it into the USB port on your case. Those ports use a cable inside the computer to connect to the motherboard.

And you never hear a delay when you plug your headset into the front USB port, do you?

So, while USB passthrough does add some latency, it’s impossible to feel it. It won’t affect your hardcore gaming sessions whatsoever.

Now you won’t feel guilty when you use the keyboard’s USB port instead of the motherboard one.

USB Devices You Can Plug Into Your Keyboard USB Port

You can use a wide range of USB devices by plugging them into your keyboard. USB is pretty much standard across all devices, save for bandwidth and voltage differences.

You can use the USB port on your keyboard for pretty much anything. Here are a few devices that you can plug into it:

  • Mouse
  • Headset
  • Another keyboard
  • Phone (for charging and data transfer)
  • Earbuds and smartwatch (for charging)
  • USB flash drive
  • Controller
  • Camera
  • Desk fan

The list goes on forever; I actually only mentioned things I plugged in so far, and they all worked as expected.

However, some power-hungry devices may not work, like printers and external hard drives. This depends on your keyboard.

Final Thoughts

Some gaming keyboards use 2 USB cables. One is for the keyboard itself, and the other is for the USB ports built into it.

Sometimes, keyboards use the other cable for additional power, but it’s fairly uncommon.

USB passthrough is a neat feature that you can use to plug in almost any device.

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