As a gamer, you know that every piece of ammunition is going to contribute towards you playing your very best game. Let’s just clarify what we mean when we talk about gaming, we’re not referring to those who play Candy Crush or Toca Tailor every now and then, we’re talking about die-hard gamers who work by day, but by night spend hour upon hour saving mankind from zombies in games like Dead Rising 2.
From your mouse and monitor to the chair you sit in, every element needs to add to the comfort, your level of play and the end result, which is, needless to say, you winning. Otherwise, what’s it all for? But before you pop out and splurge on the latest peripheral you need to decide if you do, in fact, need a keyboard that’s built for gaming. Not all games call for the specific features that are found on a gaming keyboard but if you enjoy strategy games, first-person shooters, and MMOs you’re going to enjoy using a gaming keyboard.
Making the switch
When it comes to keyboards there are three different kinds of switches situated underneath each of the keys on your keyboard: scissors, mechanical and membrane. When you press down on the key the switch completes the circuit, sending a message to your computer that a particular key was pressed. Each of the switch types has its own unique feel and each has its own pros and cons.
Membrane switches are the most common because they are fairly cheap to make. These switches have a rubber bubble underneath the key, and when you press down the bubble collapses. What you get is a bit of a mushy feeling and the pressure needed to suppress the keys varies. Just today I had to use an older keyboard for something and there were a few letters that no matter how hard I pressed on them they didn’t work. When I moved across to my newer laptop it took me some time to acclimatize to the pressure on the new keyboard. For the first 10 minutes, I felt like an elephant in tap dancing shoes. Membrane keyboards can be unpredictable, which isn’t ideal for gaming.
Scissor switches are also referred to as chiclet keyboards, and you’ll find them on most laptop and Apple keyboards. They’re a little more stable and offer a more uniform typing experience.
Mechanical switches are the most predictable of all switches in terms of the actuation point, and it’s this type of switch you’ll find on most gaming keyboards.
Gaming keyboards generally use mechanical switches which are designed to provide both tactile and audio feedback. The keys are more responsive, require less pressure and perform different functions.
Breaking it down a bit more, the majority of these switches use mechanisms from Cherry MX and are identified by Red, Blue, Black, and Brown. Each of the colors represents a different design, with a specific feel.
Hopefully, we haven’t lost you just yet.
The color of the switch determines its feel, and the types of games you play will influence which switches you prefer. Cherry MX Black switches, for example, have the highest activation force, making them ideal for games that aren’t affected by you accidentally hitting a key more than once, whereas Cherry X Red switches are suited to games that demand a quicker response. However, both of these switches lack tactile feedback, which is where the Cherry MX Brown switches come in. These switches have the same response as the Red but also have the tactile bump to assist with typing. If you, like a lot of gamers, need to be able to move between a gaming keyboard and one used for day-to-day work, then this is a good compromise.
Gaming Keyboard Features
Whereas similar features on a regular keyboard would simply add to its aesthetics, they take on a whole new meaning when it comes to gaming. Take backlighting, for example, as well as swappable keycaps, along with macro command customization and dedicated macro keys.
Gaming keyboards will more than likely include completely new features like audio communication, touchscreen displays, and statistic tracking and you can also get gaming keypads that aren’t used for typing at all, but instead, have 10 to 20 programmable keys, that have the same ergonomic design and customization as a gaming mouse.
Here are our top gaming keyboards, from the best of the best to the best keyboard and mouse combo, and everything in between.
Best Overall Keyboard
Corsair K70 Rapidfire
Corsair is a trusted name in all things gaming, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see its keyboard take the title of the best overall keyboard, especially the Corsair K70 Rapidfire. Described by some as the most full-featured e-sports keyboard currently available the Rapidfire is very similar to the original K70, only it’s on steroids.
We know mechanical keyboards are the best when it comes to gamers and even programmers, because of their precision and how springy, for want of a better word, the buttons feel. At first, glance, while the Rapidfire looks similar to the original K70, you’ll soon realize how fricken awesome the “Cherry MX Speed” keys are, only needing to be pushed down 1.2mm.
What does that mean, and why should it mean anything? Well, a shorter key depression is important if you’re in the middle of a match and need quick actuation points, and it’s also kinder on the fingers if you’re a typist, although having said that we found it took a little getting used to and we had to unlearn a few bad habits.
There aren’t too many bells and whistles on this keyboard, in fact, it’s pretty basic, with 107 keys. The layout of the keyboard is very simple, which means you can use it for work and play. There are several media buttons as well as a roll bar to adjust the volume. It’s a nice small gaming keyboard and I found where palm rests on other keyboards left my skin feeling irritated and raw, I didn’t experience it with the Rapidfire, even after typing away for a solid hour or two.
Other features that you might enjoy include the textured spacebar as well as the extra key caps, which are easily removable. This makes for easy cleaning, especially if you’re known to be a little messy around your keyboard (says he removing what looks like strawberry jelly from the “P” key). Also, the compact gaming keyboard boasts lightning fast responsiveness, 100% anti-ghosting technology, and Corsair Utility Engine or CUE, allows for dramatic lighting effects and sophisticated macros and the multi-color, per-key backlighting, offers unlimited customization.
- The gaming keyboard has authentic Cherry MX speed switches
- A brushed aluminum frame
- USB Pass-through
- Vibrant and colorful RGB lighting
- Media keys dedicated to gaming
- Endless customization options thanks to CUE
- ONe of the most expensive keyboards
- We didn’t like that there weren’t any dedicated macro keys
- We found the software wasn’t user-friendly
Best Budget Keyboard
AULA SI-859 Backlit Gaming Keyboard
The AULA SI-859 Backlit Gaming Keyboard with Adjustable Backlight USB Wired Illuminated Computer Keyboard is a membrane switch keyboard, which isn’t 100% ideal for gaming but given its very reasonable price tag, we would recommend it as an option if you’re on a budget, and let’s face it, who isn’t these days?
You wouldn’t say it comes in under $25, not with its sleek, ultra-thin design and user-friendly keys. The large palm rest makes gaming or typing on the keyboard an absolute pleasure, and there are three LED backlighting options including purple, red and blue. A few frenemies (friends who I game against) have moved from Logitech and Razer to the AULA, and are very happy with their decision. Yes, they agree you can’t compare them in terms of quality but for a saving of around $100, it’s a niggle or two they’re prepared to live with.
The keyboard includes a USB connector, 104 keys with six multimedia keys, a user manual, and a 6 ft cable. It is compatible with Mac OS, XP and Windows 10 and has a key pressing distance of 2mm, which isn’t bad at all.
If you’re new to the world of gaming keyboards and haven’t tried any others you will be completely satisfied with your purchase. If, however, you’ve been gaming for a while and have used the likes of Corsair, Logitech, Razer and Redragon you might feel that the AULA falls a little short in some areas. But when, with a hundred bucks you can buy a keyboard, two to three games, and still get some change, you’ll be more than satisfied.
- The affordable price is appealing
- Ergonomic design for comfortable gaming experience
- LED lighting
- There have been reports of overheating which affects the sensitivity of the keyboard
Best Wireless Keyboard
Logitech MK550 Wave Wireless Keyboard
The Logitech MK550 Wave Wireless Keyboard and Mouse combo is another gaming peripheral that looks impressive, delivers on its promise and is easy on the budget.
While a lot of the ergonomic keyboards are fairly difficult to get used to, the MK550 from Logitech manages to find a balance between a regular keyboard and an ergonomic one. While I personally adapted pretty quickly to the wavy design a few people on the review panel didn’t, and they especially didn’t like when it came to straight up typing, but felt it was a nice change for gaming purposes.
Thanks to the mechanical/silicon key switch design we found it to be very responsive – even though it has an actuation point of 3.3 millimeters – it actually felt like a lot less than that when we were typing. Gamers that used the keyboard for work and play commented on the concaved keys which helped keep their fingers in the correct position to minimize typing errors. However there were a few reviewers who said they were unable to get used to the design and layout of the wireless keyboard, but put it down to their personal preference more than anything else.
Because this is a wireless keyboard and mouse combination we need to mention the performance of both. We found the MK550 mouse worked well on the surfaces we tested it on, including wood, glass, marble and even carpeting, with no lagging or jumping, which is pretty impressive for a mouse that’s part of a combo. It also has additional features including extra clicking options, four-way scrolling and in terms of its design, it’s one of the more comfortable to use.
The only negative is the lack of portability due to the size of the keyboard and the irregular shape makes it a little awkward to pack and travel with. But you can’t please everyone all of the time, can you?
- It’s a well-designed keyboard
- The palm rest is supportive while still being soft, which means comfortable playing time
- We liked the wave-shaped keyboard
- There are 18 programmable keys
- We liked the size and design of the mouse
- Great battery life. Both peripherals use 2 AA batteries, the keyboard boasts a 3-year battery life and the mouse has 2
- We missed the caps lock light
- We felt the Home/End/Delete/PageUp/PageDown key layout wasn’t great, with us pressing the Delete key instead of the End key
Best Mechanical Keyboard In 2017
Corsair Gaming K70 LUX RGB
Currently rated one of the best mechanical keyboards for gaming on the market, the Corsair Gaming K70 LUX RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard offers three unique switch types: Cherry MX Blue if you want a high level of resistance, MX Red if you’re a gamer who prefers a light touch and MX Brown if you’re like me, preferring somewhere in between the two.
One of the keyboard’s strongest selling points is its RGB lighting. Straight out of the box without anything set up, the keyboard has a red glow, which is pretty standard, but once CUE or Corsair Utility Engine is fired up there is a range of options to choose from including spiral rainbow, rainbow waves, ripples, visualizers, type lighting plus a whole lot more.
Unfortunately, if you’re into all the bells and whistles you’re going to want to keep on looking. It only has one USB port, which isn’t great, even for a regular keyboard, if you want to plug your mouse in, along with your phone charger or USB and the lack of macro keys put some people off straight away, without them wanting to find out more.
We would happily recommend the Corsair K70 LUX based on its price, its customizable lighting, and user-friendly design. We felt that it isn’t over the top or an ‘in yer face’ kind of a keyboard, but we totally understand why people wouldn’t be completely sold on it. In our opinion it’s the best tgb gaming keyboard out there.
- We loved the RGB backlighting, which is a definite selling point of the Corsair K70 LUX
- Truly excellent performance
- We especially liked the Cherry MX red switches
- We felt that a few important features had been left out
- Might have just been us but we found the software suite difficult to work with
Best Keyboard Under $100
Razer BlackWidow Ultimate
Surprisingly finding a great gaming keyboard for under $100 isn’t too difficult. There’s a wide variety available, we think, and within the price range, there are some very cool products from well-known brands.
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate caught our eye, as did the BlackWidow Chroma. And while they’re very similar, the Chroma has RGB lighting, and a price tag closer to $200. It’s important to note that just because it doesn’t have RGB lighting doesn’t mean it’s crap; you still get the lighting effects, you just don’t get the color options. And in our opinion, if you want a good gaming keyboard, made by a well-known and reputable brand in the gaming industry, for less than $100, there should be one or two things you’d be prepared to forego.
Unlike some of the keyboards on the market that make use of Cherry MX switches, Razer has their own proprietary mechanical switches. Although it’s very much marketing speak, they claim their switches are rated for 60 million keystrokes, which is pretty impressive if not (almost) irrelevant.
The keys are individually backlit and fully programmable and the BlackWidow is durable. What we also liked on the connectivity front, especially for gaming, is the USB port, the mic jacks, and the headphones. And the 2-year warranty sweetens the deal for us too.
- The keyboard has a solid feel to it
- It has mechanical keys
- There is individual backlighting
- The keys have a good tactile response
- Full customization with endless profiles for gaming
- It has a smudge-resistant finish
- A single audio in/out
- We felt the USB pass-through’s speed was low
- Although not a deal-breaker, we found it to be fairly expensive
Best Keyboard Under $50
Razer Deathstalker Essential Gaming Keyboard
For the longest time mechanical keyboards have been considered the only keyboards when it comes to gaming, but as scissor switch and membrane technology improve, it might be time to re-examine that school of thought.
To say the Razer Deathstalker is one of the top membrane gaming keyboards on the market at the moment is not entirely untrue, but maybe a little unfair, as there aren’t too many others to compare it to.
Razer seems to have this market covered with four different models available: the Essential, which is considered to be the entry level, with partial anti-ghosting and zero backlighting, the standard Deathstalker has backlighting with full anti-ghosting, the Deathstalker Ultimate and finally the Deathstalker Chroma, that takes no prisoners.
While it doesn’t have extra keys or special functions, it’s a solid keyboard and the keys have a nice tactile feel to them (if you’re a ‘touchy-feely’kind of person you’ll know what we mean). This is a great keyboard for pro gamers and for every day use and very highly recommended if you’re looking for a membrane keyboard.
A negative for some people might be the lack of packaging and colors, but we figure if there was more spend on the box it came in, the price would probably increase.
- We liked that you could see the lighting but it isn’t over the top
- Endless customization options, especially with macros
- Keys are responsive
- Anti-ghosting technology
- User-friendly software
- We liked the design
- Some felt it was a bit too ‘plastic’
- They also felt the macro programming was as intuitive as it could / should be
Best Keyboard Under $30
Cooler Master Devastator II LED Gaming Keyboard and Mouse Combo Bundle
So this is a tough one, because while we feel there isn’t too much to say about a gaming keyboard and mouse combo for less than $30, except “what are you waiting for?” we realize we’ve actually got a bit to say.
We’ll try to keep it short.
As gaming has gotten more popular there has been a flood of new makes and models on the market, all competing for your hard earned cash. What this means is more choice for you, at more competitive prices, which is why we can discuss a keyboard and mouse bundle for under $30.
Cooler Master has identified a gap for budget priced peripherals that don’t feel gimmicky or cheap, and while there are a few things we could complain about, we won’t, because $30.
For one, the Devastator isn’t a true mechanical keyboard but they have what they call “mem-chanical” switches that use a rubber dome with a plunger that has approximately 4mm of travel. It’s this that gives the keyboard a mechanical feel. We also like that the keycaps are Cherry MX compatible, so when you come into a little bit of cash you can replace them.
Every time we think we have something to complain about we remind ourselves we’re talking about a gaming keyboard and a mouse that cost less than $30, which kind of brings us back to our senses. If you consider yourself a pro-gamer you might not like the fact that the CM Devastator has no programming software, it’s very much a case of plug ‘n play.
After testing the CM Devastator one of our reviewers bought one for himself. He liked the edgy look of the keyboard and commented on the accuracy of the keyboard. He did mention the mouse isn’t particularly comfortable, but that could be because it’s designed to be ambidextrous. He also mentioned the optical sensor is pretty accurate, and for the price, he’s more than happy.
- There is a UV coating on the keyboard that gives it additional durability
- We like the unique plunger switches design
- It’s compatible with Cherry MX keycaps
- The mouse has DPI settings between 500 – 2000
- The mouse tracks well on hard mat and cloth surfaces
- It has limited LED modes
- The keyboard only supports a maximum of 6 KRO
- The mouse, while considered an ambidextrous design, is better suited to right-handed users
Best Logitech Keyboard In 2017
Logitech RGB G910 Orion Spark
As we’ve come to expect from Logitech, the G910 Orion Spark is the epitome of a good gaming keyboard designed with hardcore gamers in mind.
To entice pro-gamers away from other keyboard brands it has loads of features including a well-designed layout, RGB backlighting, macro keys, mechanical Romer-G switches and excellent customization options. In our opinion, albeit a humble one, it is one of the best keyboards for gamers currently available.
In terms of design, it’s longer than an everyday keyboard because of the swappable palm rests. There are 9 quick access keys, five at the front vertically and four at the top of the keyboard positioned horizontally, there are media keys, as well as a slot that holds your mobile phone, wait! What? Yes, there’s a slot for your phone and there is an extra game mode key.
The Romer-G mechanical switches, exclusive to Logitech, increase the actuation up to 25% faster than other standard gaming keyboard keys and the RGB illumination allows users to customize the keyboard with over 15 million different colors. By downloading the Logitech Gaming Software you can also personalize the backlight illumination for group coloring, different colors for separate keys, and even various color themes.
The Game Mode key keeps you from accidentally exiting a game and also stops unwanted pop-up windows while you’re playing. It has 9 customizable quick access G-Keys that you can program to suit your personal preferences and you can remap important functions to the keys too. We can go on about all the features this pro-gaming keyboard comes with but it would probably be best if you gave one a test-drive yourself.
The RGB G910 Orion Spark has earned its spot as Logitech’s best gaming keyboard around, and we think it will hold the title for some time.
- We loved the design and lighting
- Well designed key placement
- Excellent in-game performance
- Macro-recording is flawless
- We liked the intuitive software
- We thought the lighting options could be tougher
- We felt the Romer-G switches, although unique, felt a little run of the mill
- While not everyone likes it, we felt the keys lack the clicking sound making it a very quiet keyboard
Best Keyboard and Mouse Combo In 2017
Redragon S101 VAJRA
We’ve always had a soft spot for Redragon, the underdog that stood out like a sore thumb next to the juggernauts of the gaming peripheral industry. Their determination, passion, and tenacity have paid off, and we’re proud to be able to feature them in one of our ‘best lists’.
The Redragon S101 VAJRA combo set includes a mouse that is suited to most grip styles and boasts 4000 FPS, a fast game engine, and durable Teflon pads. There are 8 built-in tuning weights, as well as 3 DPI settings from 1000/1600/2000, an 8mm width anti-skid track-wheel, plus 5 foot high-speed USB cable, and a high-strength braided fiber cable that is 3mm in diameter.
One of the guys on our review panel felt the mouse alone was worth the retail price.
The full sized keyboard is fairly simple with no additional keys, except for the multimedia ones linked to F1 to F12 buttons, and the main buttons, WASD, and the arrows are highlighted with changeable colors. The S101 is capable of picking up 19 simultaneous hits, which we think is sufficient and the Windows key blocking function is a bonus.
The mouse and keyboard combo is well-priced, coming in under $25, which we feel is well worth it, and are more than confident when recommending it.
- The keyboard is splash and liquid resistant keyboard
- We like the dual function keys
- It has a braided cable
- The WASD and arrow keys are exchangeable
- It’s well priced
- Our only gripe is that the keyboard is non-mechanical
Buying Guide: What to Look For When Buying a Gaming Keyboard
A keyboard is a keyboard is a keyboard, right? Not in 2017! Although it might have been the case years ago when all you needed was up, down, right, left and fire, today’s gaming keyboards offer so much more.
Whether you’re looking for a keyboard that gives you that extra edge or you’re after a premium peripheral that will serve you well for both work and play, gaming keyboards have come a long way.
So what exactly are you getting with a gaming keyboard that a regular keyboard doesn’t have? A keyboard for gamers will be durable, the keys will feel different, the keyboard itself, to a degree, will look different and it will be customizable. Some might have all four, others two or three, and a few might only have one. The keyboard you choose will depend on your needs and budget.
Once you’ve decided to ditch your regular keyboard for a gaming one we suggest you consider a few essential features that will enhance your gaming experience. We need to reiterate agan, that these are personal preferences and what’s good for one gamer might not work for the next one.
The features are:
- Extra keys
- Wired or wireless
- The design
- Anti-ghosting technology
A feature typical to gaming keyboards is extra buttons, over and above the usual suspects. There are multimedia buttons, programmable keys and possibly a volume dial.
Additional multimedia keys are standard on gaming boards and it’s rare to find one that doesn’t include any of these, even if it’s only one or two. Essentially the difference between high-end and budget gaming keyboards are the number of multimedia keys. For example, a budget keyboard will have a single button to increase, decrease and mute the volume, whereas an expensive option will include buttons and keys to launch apps, control a media player, as well as a separate knob to adjust the volume and lighting.
While the multimedia buttons are nice to have, they’re more for the user’s convenience rather than to improve their game. A word of advice from us: if you’re on a budget we would suggest you forego the additional buttons to save some money or rather put that cash towards a keyboard that offers something else.
Consider the games you enjoy playing. If you’re an MOBA or MMORPG gamer you’ll appreciate a keyboard that has programmable keys that let you map complex commands for you to activate them with the push of a single button. If, on the other hand, you play a lot of FPS or RPG games you won’t need all these keys, which again can save you a few bucks.
You could find yourself saving money on a keyboard that has loads of extra buttons and keys and rather getting one that has RGB lighting or choosing a mechanical keyboard over a regular one.
Wireless or Wired. Which is Better?
There are usually two types of people in the world, those who like wireless and those who prefer wired peripherals. Each comes with their own advantages and disadvantages and it boils down to what you value more: convenience or responsiveness. Ultimately you can’t have both.
Let’s look at what a wireless keyboard offers you. It’s ideal for people who want to be able to use their keyboard wherever they are, whether it’s on a desk, on a lap or outdoors. Because most keyboards have relatively short cables you won’t have to worry about your proximity to your computer case and you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up in all the cables.
But a wireless gaming keyboard has a slower response time, and professional gamers know that a millisecond could be the difference between a convincing victory or utter defeat. With a wired keyboard, you’re not spending money on batteries and you’re not stressing about losing a game because you’re out of battery power.
Again it comes down to what you prefer. If you take your gaming seriously you’re going to understand the value of a responsive keyboard, but if you think convenience trumps everything else you’ll go wireless.
If you’re a gamer who pulls all-nighters (is there any other type?) then ergonomics is going to be of the utmost importance for you if you want to avoid hand and wrist injuries (yes non-gamers, gaming injuries are a very real thing). For the most part gaming keyboards have added safety features like wrist or palm rests and raised keys and there are a few that offer adjustable tilt and height controls, allowing you to place your keyboard in a position that is kind to your wrists.
If you know you spend hours at a time gaming we suggest you choose a keyboard that has an ergonomic design rather than extra buttons and keys.
Anti-ghosting technology allows you to press more than one key at a time and have your keyboard actually register each key press, which you’re unable to do on regular keyboards or older gaming types. This technology was introduced because of the number of games, especially FPS, that have you pressing two or more keys at a time to pull off some pretty cool kick-ass moved.
The majority of gaming keyboards have anti-ghosting technology, but what differs from one keyboard to the next is just how many keys you can press at any given time. High-end keyboards can have you pressing 19 keys at the same time, while your budget ones might only allow four or five.
Once again, if you know you’re going to be playing a game that requires multiple key presses and fast response times then make sure the anti-ghosting technology is a key feature on your chosen gaming keyboard. In the same breath, if you know the games you prefer don’t call for simultaneous key presses then save some cash and get a cheaper gaming keyboard.
It’s crucial you understand cheaper doesn’t mean inferior. It simply means fewer bells and whistles.
So that’s us and our choice of the top gaming keyboards across different categories. How did we get to these results? It’s fairly simple, to be honest. We didn’t use any fandangled methods to test the keyboards nor did we put them through any stringent test conditions. Instead, we looked at how easy they were to set up, from connecting them, downloading software, if necessary, and if we were able to change or adjust its settings with minimum fuss.
Once that part was complete, we conducted a Ten Thumbs Typing Test, using our Dell keyboard as a comparison, to measure which one is easier to type on and which if the two is more accurate. Then we look at the gaming keyboard in terms of its specific features including lighting, actuation and response times, comfort levels and anti-ghosting. We take it a step further by playing no less than three games from various genres on the keyboards to assess how well the keyboard performs and what the pros and cons are.
In order to make sure it’s as fair as possible we cover logos and product names so that our reviewers aren’t swayed by personal brand preferences or associations.
Ultimately, your keyboard is more than just a typewriter and a game controller. It is an extension of yourself, your interface with the digital world, almost your digital signature so to speak. You should spend the same amount of time selecting the perfect gaming keyboard as you would with a monitor, mouse, motherboard and your chair.