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The best gaming keyboard

We take a look at the best planks you can get.

We spend a lot of time putting together super-powerful rigs that can render beautiful pixels as fast as the eye can see, but it's important to pay attention to your peripherals too. 

Best gaming mice

Need a new mouse to match that mechanical keyboard? Check out our guide to the best gaming mouse.

The right gaming keyboard ultimately comes down to the right feel while you’re playing. Membrane switches are familiar but often spongy. Mechanical keyboards offer key switches that are responsive when typing or moving in a game and feel good to push down. That feel is important, because the keyboard is the peripheral you’ll spend the most time with at your PC, and it has to feel right. 

The gaming keyboard market has undergone some major changes. Some companies have made their products increasingly sophisticated, while others are going back to their roots. We’ve also seen the rise of proprietary switches from a few companies. With all this in mind, here are our picks for the best gaming keyboards:

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Best high-end gaming keyboard

  • Boatloads of features
  • Fast Cherry MX Speed switch
  • Superb build quality
  • Comfy wristrest
  • Extra set of keycaps
  • Comes at a premium
  • Large footprint
  • Shoddy ABS keycaps

While Corsair’s new flagship keyboard, the K95 Platinum, is already here, it simply can’t edge out the original K95 for the price. Until the K95 RGB is discontinued, it will continue to sit on the crown as the top gaming keyboard Corsair has to offer.

We’re glad to see that the K95 Platinum isn’t influenced by an over-the-top look. Though its anodized aluminum cover lacks any flourishment, the K95 RGB is undeniably sexy. It feels durable, too. Our attempts at bending it didn’t faze it much, nor does punching out mountains of text.

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Best overall gaming keyboard

  • RGB Cherry MX Switches
  • Macros
  • USB Passthrough
  • Wristrest
  • Includes a mouse bungee and swappable keycaps
  • Could use a better design
  • Driver software is crap
  • Eats up desk space

It was tough choice between the Corsair K70 LUX and the G.Skill Ripjaws KM780. In the end, the G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 won our vote due to its more robust set of features.

Sporting a design that’s just as eccentric as G.Skill’s memory modules, the KM780 is clad in metal front plate, braided cables, and a metal rail. The metal rail adds a little more convenience when lifting the keyboard. It also doubles as the rail mount for the mouse bungee and the carrying case for the extra keycaps.

The KM780 is available in Cherry MX Red, Blue, and Brown versions. We picked ours to have the Blues. Cherry MX Blue is renowned for its superior tactile feedback and pronounced clicky actuation. While it works great for FPS games and typing, it may not be ideal for spammy games due to its hysteresis. The loud click is also a hit or miss: to some, it’s the symphony of productivity, to others, it’s the bane of concentration.

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Best budget gaming keyboard

  • Extremely affordable for a gaming keyboard
  • Decent build quality
  • Has backlit keys
  • Full numpad
  • Flimsy and slippery keycaps

The Thermaltake Poseidon Z has been around for nearly two years, but its tremendous value still firmly seats it as one of the most popular mechanical keyboards on the market. At the time of writing, you can easily pick one up for around $65.

Those who crunch numbers will definitely appreciate the inclusion of the number pad. At a budget price, this is a huge bonus compared to many of the other tenkeyless (TKL) options in this price category. It also comes with blue backlighting, a feature that’s often lost in the pursuit of lowering the cost.

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Best keyboard for typing enthusiasts

  • Stylish design with thick alloy faceplate
  • Dual USB pass-throughs
  • Dedicated playback controls
  • Oversize volume knob
  • Only available with Cherry MX Brown or Cherry MX Blue switches
  • Magnetic foot bar provides little traction
  • No backlight or macros

The Das Keyboard 4 Professional is replacing the Ducky Shine 5 as the best plank for typing enthusiasts this round.

The Das earned our pick for the same reasons as our best overall gaming keyboard: features and functionality. While the Ducky Shine 5 contests with a detachable cable, RGB lighting, dedicated volume keys, and a DIP switch that changes the location of the FN key, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional’s over-sized volume knob, dedicated playback controls, and dual USB pass-throughs are much more practical. To top it off, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional has a thick alloy faceplate, beating out the plastic-covered Ducky Shine 6.

But you won’t notice the Das’ features first because you’ll be captivated by its stylish design. Its rugged appearance and chiseled lines are reminiscent of Brad Pitt on date night. The bravest of typists may also want to grab the Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate—the variant equipped with blank keycaps.

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Best membrane keyboard

  • Premium, ultra-smooth Topre switches
  • Well-built
  • Extra-grippy, texturized rubber feet
  • Doubleshot keycaps
  • RGB (finally)
  • Expensive...really expensive

The Topre Realforce RGB is the second Topre keyboard we’ve tested. Our previous best, Cooler Master Novatouch TKL, is no longer being produced.

Topre switch has been around for a while now, but it’s new to the backlit scene, let alone RGB. The RGB Topre switches is a fairly significant step forward, bringing some much-needed lights to typists in the dark. 

Whether the Topre switch belongs in the membrane family is a hotly debated topic. On one hand, there’s a conical spring under each cap which detects a keystroke when it’s depressed, on the other hand, the conical spring is covered by a rubbery electrostatic layer that’s responsible for most of the tactile feedback. We like to think of Topre as a more refined version of the rubber dome switch.

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How we test gaming keyboards and others we tested

To make it on to our list, the keyboard has to have a balance of three things: performance, build quality, and features that make sense for what it’s designed to do.

When a keyboard arrives at our office, we first dig up some info on the make and switches to get a general idea of its quality. We then hammer our planks with words and gaming for days on end, often at the hands of multiple people to gather feedback from different perspectives. If it warrants, we’ll even tear the board apart and scrutinize its guts under a magnifying glass.

Judging features is much more finicky. What we think is important may not be important to you. But we always have you, the gamer, in mind when we review a product. Do these features really make a difference? Or are they just here as an artsy excuse to jack up the price? That’s what we try to answer.

Lastly, we always try to choose keyboards with more than one switch type available. The Novatouch was a special case because standard desktop membrane keyboards generally have little variation between one another.

Some games we use to test are: Starcraft 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Battlefield 4, and Witcher 3.

Competitors

We put our hands on a whole bunch of gaming keyboards in the process of testing for this article. Some of the others we tested are worth a mention, even if they didn't make a top spot on our list. After all, keyboards are highly personal devices; what works for one person may not work for another.

Logitech G610 Orion

A previous pick for best overall gaming keyboard, the G610 Orion offers a solid core feature set to satisfy a majority of gamers. It doesn't come with many bells and whistles (and its plain, rugged design would blend right in with an office cubicle), but it's a respectable board with a very appealing price tag.

Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2

Razer’s signature keyboard has finally been updated to Version 2 in 2017. The Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 comes with a new switch flavor and a large wrist rest in exchange for a $30 premium. 

A linear switch from Razer is long overdue. Much like the Cherry MX Red, the new linear Razer Yellow sacrifices the tactile bump to achieve higher responsiveness. Performance is as you’d expect: a very close feel to the Cherry MX Red.

The new switch and spacious wristrest does seem like enticing upgrades, but its price falls directly in-between the Ripjaws KM780 and the Corsair K95 RGB. Winning in neither value or features, the Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 misses the top spot in both high-end and overall categories.

Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum

The G810 Orion Spectrum is the big daddy version of the G610 Orion equipped with Logitech’s proprietary Romer-G switches. While its performance is top-notch, it’s a hit or miss for most people since the G810 offers rather shallow key travel. 

Rosewill RK-9000 V2

The Rosewill RK-9000 V2 is a straight up awesome keyboard. Mounted on its durable dual-layer PCB is a set of either Cherry MX Blue or Red switches. The RGB backlight has plenty of effects to choose from. Its braided cable is detachable for easy transportation.

Some of its regrettable downsides include cluttered keyprints and the lack of any dedicated macros. But even so, it’s still a fantastic buy if you want a quality standard keyboard with RGB backlighting.

Corsair K70 LUX RGB

As the close running second candidate for our best overall gaming keyboard position, the Corsair K70 LUX features dedicated media controls, RGB Cherry MX switches, large wristrest, and a USB passthrough for $131. If it had dedicated macros, it would’ve scored an easy victory against the G.SKILL RIPJAWS 780.

Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS

The Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS is a durable board using Cherry’s MX Blue, Brown, or Red switches. Its no-frills, aluminum-covered chassis relies on the single mode red backlight to turn heads.

But at $99, it doesn’t offer any significant advantage over its competition. The USB port installed at the front is strictly for charging and not for data. Kingston claims that the HyperX Alloy FPS is more compact than its competitors, but a quick comparison against some common keyboards shows that the difference is negligible.

If you’ve bought one already, rest assured: it’s a solid performer and won’t drag you down in whatever you want a standard keyboard to do. But if you value having extra features, look through some other options before swinging back to this one.

Razer Ornata RGB

The Razer Ornata uses Razer’s mecha-membrane switch. Employing a unique construction where a clicky mechanical slider is installed on top of a rubber dome switch, its goal is to mimic the feel of a mechanical switch without actually using a mechanical switch. While the idea is interesting on paper, the switch provides neither the quick actuation of a mechanical switch nor the silence of the rubber dome. And for $99? We say save yourself the trouble and swipe left. 

Ducky Shine 5

Our previous pick for the best keyboard for typing enthusiasts, the Ducky Shine 5 is designed to be the ultimate desk companion. It features a detachable USB cord, switches to change the location of the FN key, and dual-injected ABS keycaps. But while the Shine 5's build quality is superb, we wish that the front plate were made of actual metal instead of plastic with a brushed-metal texture. 

Roccat Ryos MK FX

The ROCCAT Ryos MK FX improves on the ROCCAT Ryos MK Pro by featuring a delicious set of RGB lighting using Cherry’s transparent switch housing and surface mount LEDs. But why leave out the USB pass-throughs?

Tesoro Excalibur V2

The Tesoro Excalibur V2 is a formidable contender to the Thermaltake Poseidon Z. Squeezing itself into the slither of space between budget and midrange, the Excalibur V2 brings dual-injected keycaps into an unprecedented price range. The industrious typeface and blocky keycaps produce a more modernized look compared to the dated Thermaltake Poseidon Z. Unfortunately, its $90 price tag puts it in the same price bracket as the Logitech G610 Orion which, in our opinion, is a superior option.

Roccat Isku FX

The Isku FX has dedicated macros, good membrane switches, and backlighting all for under $90. It would’ve been a promising contender for the best membrane keyboard seat if it weren’t for its rampant ghosting issues.

Razer DeathStalker

The Razer DeathStalker uses a larger, more stable switch housing with its traditional membrane switches. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get used to its flat and slippery chiclet keys.

Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid

Compact, affordable, and high-quality, the Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid used to be the reigning champion in budget mechanical keyboards. This time around though, we think there’s more value to be had in the Thermaltake Poseidon Z with its number pad and backlighting.

Future testing

There are tons of keyboards we still haven’t reviewed but love to get our hands on. Here’s are a few on the top of our list:

  • SteelSeries Apex M800
  • Max Keyboard Nighthawk
  • Topre Realforce (both TKL and full-sized variants)
  • Filco Majestouch 2
  • HHKB Pro 2

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