TODO alt text

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. After all, what use is a top-end rig if you can't control your character with any sort of consistency.

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 best gaming keyboard for most users is the Patriot Viper V770, with Cherry MX Red switches, a dedicated macro column, detachable wrist rest, and USB and audio passthroughs. But it's not the only keyboard you should consider. 

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:

TODO alt text

Best high-end gaming keyboard

  • Fast Cherry MX Speed switch
  • Superb build quality
  • Comfy detachable wristrest
  • Extra set of keycaps
  • Expensive
  • Large footprint

Our previous favorite high-end board, the K95, has been discontinued. Its retirement also marks the end to the epic 18 dedicated macros. From here on out, the K95 Platinum will be inheriting its legacy. 

We’re glad to see that the K95 Platinum isn’t plagued by an over-the-top look. Though its anodized aluminum front plate lacks embellishment, the K95 Platinum is still undeniably sexy. It feels durable, too. Our attempts at bending it don’t faze it much, nor does punching out mountains of text.

Read More
TODO alt text

Best overall gaming keyboard

  • Dedicated macro row
  • USB and audio passthroughs
  • Detachable wrist rest
  • Kailh Reds only

The Patriot Viper V770 replaces the G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 RGB as the best overall gaming keyboard.

The Patriot Viper V770 features a dialed-back look that doesn’t look as jarring as our previous pick, the G.Skills Ripjaws KM780. The top of the board is sealed with a simple aluminum front panel snapped into the plastic bottom. RGB lighting is generously applied throughout the keyboard and even extends into the detachable wrist rest.

Switch selection for this board is restricted; you’re stuck with Kailh Reds whether you like them or not. Kailh Reds provide a smooth, linear travel that offers maximum responsiveness and minimal noise (you can find its detailed characteristics here). Being a gaming keyboard, it makes sense to use the Reds, but more switch types would cater much better to a wider audience. 

Read More
TODO alt text

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.

Read More
TODO alt text

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.

Read More
TODO alt text

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.

Read More

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.

Logitech G213 Prodigy

The Logitech G213 Prodigy is one of the few entries on the list that’s non-mechanical. It’s equipped with the membrane switch with a reinforced housing. While it’s certainly attractive with tunable RGB lighting, media controls, and a commodious wrist rest, it’s a hard sell over the Logitech G610 Orion, which sits at the same price point.

Logitech G Pro

Take the Logitech G810 Orion, slice off the number pad, and you’d get the Logitech G Pro. With portability and performance as its primary focus, the ten-keyless Logitech G Pro uses the tried-and-true Logitech Romer-G switches. Its removable cable uses a trident-shaped insert to alleviate stress from the micro-USB port.

The size-reduction does come at a cost: dedicated media control keys have been omitted, and those who work with numbers will miss the convenience of the number pad. At $129, its price is a bit steep as well. We recommend this one to gamers who strictly need a travel-sized gaming keyboard.

Logitech G413

The Logitech G413 brings an aluminum chassis and Logitech Romer-G switches to a more affordable price. Though it’s great for gamers looking to score Logitech’s precious switches without spending too much money, it’s not as robust in features as other keyboards at similar price points.

Tesoro Durandal

Tesoro shoots for minimalism with the Tesoro Durandal Spectrum, and during our testing period, it performed without a hitch. Though its $130 price is a bit steep compared to its competitors, it still makes on to our list for being a durable keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches.

Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S RGB

The MasterKeys Pro S could be summed up with one word: standard. This compact, tenkey-less keyboard is as formal looking as keyboards can get. But to minimalistic users who like having a detachable cable, driverless macro recording, RGB backlighting, and reliable Cherry MX switches, then the MasterKeys Pro S could be their dream board. We find ourselves looking elsewhere, though, especially for $135.

Tesoro GRAM Spectrum

If you’re jaded by the gloomy paint scheme of most keyboards today, then the Tesoro GRAM Spectrum can almost be described as a breath of fresh air. Fitted in a sleek, pristine white shell and decorated with bright RGB backlights, it protrudes a level of elegance rarely seen in a gaming keyboard.

Internally, the GRAM Spectrum rocks the Agile switches produced by Kaihua Electronics (better known for its Kailh switches). The Agile switches have an actuation distance of 1.5mm and a total travel distance of 3.5mm. Just like the Kailh line, the Agile switches come in Red, Blue, and Brown stem colors. Ours came with the Agile Red, the quickest of the three. 

And it truly lives up to its name. The Agile switch is great for both typing and gaming. The low-profile key caps were surprisingly pleasant as well.

Looking to buy already? Know that there’re some quirks with the GRAM Spectrum. Strangely, you can’t use the Windows key on layers that let you record macros. The long delays between each macro input is incredibly frustrating. Lastly, despite the elegant design of the keyboard itself, the driver software interface is a total mess.

At $140, we hesitantly raise our thumbs in approval. The Tesoro GRAM Spectrum delivers solid performance and is undeniably beautiful, but its software and macro functions really need an overhaul.

Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum

Whereas traditional mechanical switches use a metal contact leaf, the Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum’s optical switch uses a fin that blocks a laser to register a keystroke. This reduces the delay between each keystroke to just 0.1ms. Combo’ed with a spill-resistant design and swappable switches, the Excalibur SE Spectrum makes a compelling offer at $105.

Some areas it could improve on are better macro recording, better lighting management to take full advantage of its RGB backlights, and instructions on how to actually remove the key switches.

HyperX Alloy Elite

The HyperX Alloy Elite aims to be the keyboard the HyperX Alloy FPS wanted to be. With an impressive list of feature upgrades, it’s now far more attractive than its predecessor. It’s still armed with Cherry MX switches, but now also has media controls, lighting controls, and a detachable wristrest. The only things missing are RBG backlights and a dedicated macro row, but for $109, we aren’t going to complain.

Future testing

There are tons of keyboards we still haven’t reviewed but love to get our hands on. If there's any in particular you want us to check out, let us know in the comments.

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info.