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The technical specifications of a lot of mechanical or gaming keyboards proclaim that they use a braided (covering) cable. For example, see the Technical Specifications section of this Razer Black Widow keyboard.

What exactly is the advantage of a braided cable over the typical cable that is sheathed in rubber/plastic?

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closed as not constructive by Linker3000, random Nov 29 '11 at 15:38

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Sounds like pseudo science to me. The only advantage I can think of is that the cable is less likely to get damaged if the keyboard is moved around a lot. I can't see there being an electronic advantage. –  ChrisF Nov 29 '11 at 9:38
    
@ChrisF braided wires are used a lot when precision and high accuracy matters, and it's not pseudo-science at all. However your scepticism is somewhat justified in this case, see my answer –  stijn Nov 29 '11 at 9:42
    
@stijn - yeah - perhaps I should have said "I can't see there being much of an electronic advantage". –  ChrisF Nov 29 '11 at 9:43
    
does braided is different from twisted, as UTP?? –  Vineet Menon Nov 29 '11 at 10:50
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I have braided cables on my motorbike to stop the brake fluid from swelling the line and make it less efficient, I would assume that on a keyboard it stops the lead going to the PC from swelling and making it less efficient when a gamer gets their butt handed to them by a 13yr old american and they mash the keyboard in frustration –  Mauro Nov 29 '11 at 10:52

3 Answers 3

Braided cables are used to prevent electromagnetic fields entering and exiting the wires inside the braid; when an electric current flows through a wire (call it A) it creates a field round that wire. However the opposite is also true: if you put a wire A inside such a field, current begins to flow in that wire. Mostly you do not want both cases: the first will mean noise is generated in other wires close to A, the second one means other wires can cause noise in A. Putting a braid around the actual signal wire act as a Faraday Cage preventing fields both from entering and leaving the signal wires.

However in this case, I suspect it's more of a commercial point of view. I never ever had problems with noise coming from or messing with a normal keyboard. Als note that from the moment the signal enters the pc case through the connector, it is not shielded any more, and inside your PC case there's a whole lot more noise to be worried about than outside. Which basically turns the shield on a keyboard cable rather useless.

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There is no advantage.

The purpose of the cable is to allow the computer to recognise whether a key has been pressed or not. Conventional cables are more than sufficient for this task.

The term "braided cable" can mean either of two things:

  • braided outer covering. This is the sort often used in electric irons used for ironing clothes. It has advantages of flexibility and resistance to heat damage (if inadvertently trapped under the hot iron). It has no impact on electrical signals as it is non-conductive.

  • braided metallic shielding within the outer sheath but surrounding conductors used for transmission of electrical signals. Often used in high speed signal cables. However note that fast Ethernet cables (Cat5 or Cat6 UTP) are unshielded. It simply isn't necessary. Keyboards do not transmit millions of keystrokes per second even if you are a very fast typist - so there is even less justification for shielding. However, all USB cables, even the cheapest, are shielded.

A cheap USB cable
cheap USB cable

fully-rated and sub-channel construction

"Fully Rated"(12Mbps) and "Sub-Channel"(1.5Mbps) construction - the foil shield provides sufficient shielding for low-speed devices, such as keyboards.

Gamers PCs

Gamers PCs usually have many features that are purely decorative and have no functional purpose. Windows in the PC casing do not improve the performance of the system, they create a potential EMF problem. Neon lamps illuminating the interior do not improve the performance of the system, they create a (small) heat problem. Braided keyboard cables are simply a way of demonstrating to your friends that you are able to afford to waste money on good-looking decoration. Its the same thing as buying an iPhone that has been decorated with rhinestones - it won't increase the "speed" or "accuracy" of the phone.

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true, My pc could be a grey box... my keyboard could do without backlight and the watercooling could just be plain destilled water... But a popular side hobby on gaming is making things look cool so that's pretty much where razer comes in with their braided cable... –  HTDutchy Nov 29 '11 at 14:14

Braided cables tend to be somewhat more damage resistant than the regular rubber sheath thats used in cables (and looks snappier). There's absolutely no other advantage to them other than that.It won't fray, its less likely to break if it gets caught in something, and if it does fray or got cut, hopefully it would just be the outer layer.I'd note in that specific keyboard, the cable is also bolted down to the base, AND glued, so its very definately quite durable.

There is no 'performance' advantage claimed, or is there any.It will not reduce noise, or reduce latency, or cause world peace. Its just cable with nicer clothes.

I do have the fancier version of the blackwidow, and its a rather nice bit of kit (i got the one with the backlight, and USB/headphone passthrough), and its a rather comfortable microswitch keyboard (which is why i bought it) , but it hasn't made me any better a gamer!

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